“Potosi, Postosi, Potosiiiii”....The voices of Bolivian ladies everywhere shouting the name Postosi to get you on their bus.
We came from Uyuani after visiting the Salt Flats and there is no shortage of buses, and at a decent price too! We got a full cama bus for a 4 hour bus journey for around £2-3 pounds...it made no sense to me, but I was not complaining! It’s quite a pretty drive if you ignore the cliff drops :P
Potosi boasts being one of the highest cities in the world...that’s pretty awesome right? It also used to be one of the richest cities in the world back in the 16th century, and honestly it seems like time has frozen and it still maintains the same decoration, architecture & charm. It is also a UNSECO protected city and you can see why once you arrive.
Now, because of the shear height, there is always the problem of altitude sickness- if you are prone to altitude sickness, then it’s probably best to work your way up to Potosí- so start in La Paz, or Sucre and reach Potosí slowly.
Thankfully, I never experienced any altitude sickness but I was fully prepared, had tablets at hand, received so many warnings and stories that I would feel extremely ill the first day and would need time to adjust, I stepped into the air expecting no air, took a few steps and I felt okay.
I thought surely I will start to feel unwell later, however, later came and nothing. To be fair, I did notice I got out of breath quickly walking up the many hills Potosi has, but apart from that, I was as fresh as a fiddle. But the majority of people I have read about online and spoke to, get altitude sickness, so I am going to count myself extremely lucky.
Moral of the story, be prepared!
Whether you will run out of things to do in Potosí depends on what you like doing.
If you are a museum enthusiast then you are set, there are plenty to look around, and you could spend a full day doing this. However, it’s not really my thing, but I have heard there is a great tour of the San Francisco church and it can only be done via guide. We seen quite a few people at it, so I assume it is very popular! If you enjoy a beautiful church, there are plenty to see, I would suggest just wandering the streets and seeing which ones you come across!
If your Spanish is better than mine...then there is a great cinema that does tickets for 20 Boliviano...around £2.50 for a cinema ticket! Not a bad price and the popcorn smelled pretty great! This is useful if you want to slide back into the Western world and have a taste of home.
There are a couple of amusement shops in Potosí that are clearly aimed at the younger population, although it was filled with young adults smoking, they had classic old school fighter games that worked out 1 Boliviano a game, so if you want to relive your childhood, then call in!
These are cheap, coming in at around £15-18, but I have heard they can be quite controversial and claustrophobic. I, focusing on the second of those things, opted out of the tour, all the signs say, ‘not for the faint hearted’. However, I have friends that have been on the tour and enjoyed it, so if you can handle the small spaces, then it’s a great way to experience the conditions these miners worked in!
It is super cheap to eat out in Bolivia....so when in Bolivia, eat out! In all of South America, this is where you afford to eat out on a backpacker’s budget! If you eat like a local you can get a full size meal of meat, chips and rice for around 10 boliviano, or empanadas for around 2-3 boliviano, and the most important thing...Bon a bon chocolates (these are my drops of heaven) for around 1 Boliviano. If you fancy some nachos, a burger, some pizza, these can all be found at a reasonable price starting from 16-45 boliviano. No need to go hungry in Bolivia! We went to a cafe recommended by our hostel, we asked for cheap, and we got cheap, but with a lovely setting, yummy food, and such lovely staff!
There is a local supermarket that is well stocked and reasonably priced & most hostels come with a kitchen (ours did, although probably the worst stocked in all of South America). We stock up on noodles as our go to food as something quick, cheap and easy.
If you like ice-cream, Potosí has a variety of ice-cream stores, for super cheap prices! We got one for 4 boliviano each, and that was three scoops of three different flavours! How cheap is that!? Granted I have tasted better ice-cream in the world, but for that price, it tasted perfectly fine!
There are a variety of bars, but all of them are dead. According to the locals, Bolivians like to drink alcohol at home. We were here on Halloween and wanted a beverage after mixing with the locals in their Halloween costumes whilst watching an awesome dance off in the centre of town- but the one “sports” bar we found, had ran out of all alcohol apart from beer...which I do not drink. (No alcohol on Halloween, why oh why!)
Many restaurants however serve cheap cocktails and do a 2 -4-1 happy hour offer- and the super market sells all the types of alcohol you could ever want- so buy your own and enjoy it in doors! Non-alcohol wise, you have many Bolivian ladies selling fresh juice on stalls in the streets, it’s warm out here, so treat yourself to a cheap refreshing drink. Soft drinks are fairly cheap to buy on the streets at 5 boliviano, and the same price in the supermarket!
You have plently of choice when it comes to accommodation in Potosi, it all depends on your budget & style. Bradley and I were keeping everything as cheap as possible, so we went for the cheapest place we could find; Hostal La Casona.
We stayed here for 2 nights and it cost us £23 for both for a double room with shared bathroom. (Brad and I go for a double room when it works out the same price as two dorm beds!) Bathrooms were clean, but we struggled to get hot water & rooms were clean also. The internet wasn’t reliable and the breakfast was poor, but it’s in a brilliant location! It has a 6.7 on booking.com & that’s the rating I gave it! One thing I did love was that you can rent out the “cinema” room for 2 Bolivianos, and watch a movie and they have English movies too. I forced brad to watch the “horror” movie ‘Orphan’ because it was Halloween. Needles to say he was not pleased! This place is good for a one or two night stay as it won’t do you any harm and for 5.75 a night it won’t leave you penniless either!
Another hostel that was recommended to us was the “Koala den hostel”, Bradley's friend stayed here and said the best thing about it was they made you crepes for breakfast, included in the price. I would book it for that alone. Crepes in South America, luxury!
After a few days in Potosí, you won’t need more than 2/3 nights here, then its time to move onto the capital of secure, or perhaps straight to La Paz, either way you will usually have the option to book a bus through your hostel, but it’s entirely up to you. Hop in a taxi to the new bus terminal (Taxi is cheap, and uber is unfortunately not available :P ) We got the local bus to Secure which only took around 2-3 hours and was cheap and cheerful!
So if you ever find yourself doing the Bolivia backpacking scene, stop off in Potosí. Its’ cute and quaint, and the people are wonderful, just like the rest of Bolivia.