Take the bus from Uyuni to Potosi

Reviewed

on: 2022-11-23

by: Oliver Williams

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    04 hours 00 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    mining history, museums, rock climbing

  • Best Price

    USD $ 12

  • Maximum comfort or class

    Good

  • Departures

    Multiple departures daily

  • Recommended by

    869 travelers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

All you need to know about the Uyuni - Potosi bus

Casa de la Moneda courtyard, Potosi

Without a doubt, taking a bus in Bolivia will always be the best option because it allows you to witness all the nature for which the country is so famous. And this is what you will experience when you take the bus from Uyuni to Potosi. While the ghostly arid landscape of salt flats and deserted trains will be behind you, the terrain will increasingly urbanize into the fascinating legacy of one of the world’s wealthiest mining legacies and the architecture it created over time.

Traveling from Uyuni starts in a noisy bustle of dusty streets they dubiously call a terminal, and then goes overland through the rocky and stark but mineral-rich desert that is a rock climber’s paradise, and arriving to the densely packed maze of Potosi, famed for its rich history of silver mining that makes it an odd center of culture in the middle of nowhere, but also its artistic tradition of colorfully painted doors. 

To get started on your trip planning, just click Reserve Now above and find the bus that’s right for you.

What are the buses in Bolivia like?

When it comes to bus travel, it’s generally true in Bolivia that you will find the range of comfort and class to be in the low to mid-range. The shorter the distance and the more remote or lesser-known the cities, the buses will be extremely rustic. Likewise, if the distance is both more than half a day and both the origin and destination are the larger cities of Bolivia, then you will get treated to higher quality coaches with better service.

Going from Uyuni to Potosi falls right in the middle, as it’s both remote, only four hours of travel, but highly frequented by tourists, so bus companies pay a little more attention than average to your care.  You can therefore expect cushioned seats and a dry and safe ride, but don’t expect WiFi until it's too late and you’re arriving in Potosi, and they will dispense with any snacks or rest stops.  If you travel at night, plan on wearing a poncho or covering your lap and shoulders with an iconic Bolivian blanket, as the temperatures drop sharply and the heating system on board the bus is not guaranteed to be working well.  But you get what you pay for, and you’ll like the price!

How long is the bus ride?

The ride from Uyuni to Potosi is 204 km (127 miles) and takes roughly 4 hours. The region's environment doesn’t fluctuate much, and there are no chances for traffic congestion besides occasional highway patching.  The only thing that might alter the trip time is a period of festival where the bus driver decides on his own to stop and drop off or pick up people along the way.  Festivals, holidays, or even organized national protests, can shut down bus service altogether, but this is very rare.

The other good thing about the route is that there is plenty of demand, which means schedules are plentiful throughout the day and night. This makes it easy to not worry too much about having to cut your time in Uyuni short or wait too long for the next bus.  

However, expect long lines if you did not reserve a bus ticket in advance to get to Potosi. The bus companies are mostly oriented to helping businesses and commuters get from Uyuni to Potosi and other cities, and so inside the terminal, there is a lot of mayhem of cutting deals and redirecting last-minute buyers to other lines, especially near weekends and on holidays. 

Bypass all this annoyance and pain and get your ticket online here.  We make it our business to fight the lines for you and get you the best seats on the bus. 

What is the cost of traveling by bus from Uyuni to Potosi?

For the most part, the direct routes are all $12, no matter the rating of the bus company, so of course, choose the best-rated company at the time you want to depart. The higher-priced options are simply because those are options that put two buses together going all the way to Sucre and then from Sucre to Potosi.  You would choose this if you want to take a side trip through the constitutional capital of Bolivia and see the difference between the cities.

There are a couple of minor things that affect price variation:

When you go

Weekends and holidays, like most other types of travel, are slightly more expensive. Bus fares between Uyuni and Potosi are cheaper on Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays, but significantly more expensive on Fridays and Sundays.

When you book

If you book these tickets plenty in advance, you won’t have to pay quite so much for them. 

What are the bus schedules from Uyuni to Potosi?

Bolivian buses have improved somewhat over the last ten years, but you’ll still need to keep a few things in mind. 

Most importantly, have a sense of humor and look at things as quirky and odd instead of shocking or irritating. Timetables around South America, not just Bolivia, can be altered in a matter of minutes based on what bus companies determine is best for their specific requirements at the time.  It is not unheard of that a bus company will delay a scheduled departure for hours because of problems with too many goats on the road, or the bus driver sleeping in late and there’s no backup.  Life happens, and it’s all worth a good story to tell.

In addition, not every online booking system has schedules that are up to date; sometimes even the bus carriers' websites are out of date!  However, at AndesTransit we pride ourselves in our vast network of relationships with carriers and their back offices, so you will always have us on hand to figure out what’s going on for you and be assigned a personal assistant to represent you and your bus travel.

Where can I book bus tickets from Uyuni to Potosi?

There are two options you have here:

Online

Without a doubt, this is the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable way of booking a bus ticket these days, making it a total no-brainer. Imagine arriving at the bus station with your ticket in your pocket and everybody in the bus company knows there’s a seat for you. Relax and sit back with some water or coffee while the few seats remaining are sold like bait to a shiver of sharks. 

If you want to book yourself a ticket from Uyuni to Potosi, just click the Reserve Now button at the top of this page to get your reservation done and out of the way in just a few clicks. Nice!

In-person

To be quite frank, we don’t really recommend this option. Yes, it’s doable, but you could easily drag yourself down to the bus office only to find out that the bus time you wanted is no longer available. If a local tells you it is easy and cheap to just go to the bus station, remember, they’ve done it hundreds of times and they are fluent in Spanish, so they can more easily read the lines and boards and know which people to ignore and which other people to ask for advice about unexpected events like sold out buses or changes in schedules. All in all, taxi fees, time, and upsetting changes, will cost you more than getting a ticket online.

What to see in Potosi

Mining tour, Potosi

Most travelers completing a trip to Uyuni simply turn around and go back to La Paz, not realizing what lies just to the east that they could visit on a detour. Potosi has a lot of history and culture in store for them, and it sits in the most surprising environment surrounded by the dry altiplano, but rich in minerals that have pretty much propped up the entire Bolivian economy for centuries. Here are a few of our favorite picks to do when you visit Potosi.

#1 - Cerro Rico

The principal attraction of Potosi is the foreboding and notorious mountain that looms over the city, Cerro Rico.  For centuries, this has been the source of Potosi’s riches, so much so that it has been described as purely made of silver.  Tours start at the market where you can buy gifts of dynamite and coca (that’s correct, explosives and drugs) to give to the miners you will visit.  Then you are guided into the lairs of the mountain to see what they continue to do and their bitter and controversial working conditions.  Most miners even today do not live beyond 40 years of age, but they are attracted to the high pay of the work.  On your way out, you will come to an alcove where a representation of El Tío sits, who is the god of the underworld to whom miners make their own sacrifices in order to keep them safe as they work. So you will see there leaves of coca, bottles of alcohol, and even the blood of llamas or goats on the walls as an homage to the ferocious appearance of this god.  Tours are best arranged directly with your hotel receptionist to make sure you go with someone duly licensed and responsible.

#2 - Potosi Mint

Potosi brought in so much silver for the Spanish empire, it was able to print its own money.  Today, Potosi’s Casa de la Moneda rivals the best of similar mint museums around the world, and you should plan on spending at least a couple of hours here to go through the incredibly vast collection of coinage as well as the most exquisite relics of art produced by Potosi’s wealth.

#3 - Architectural marvels

Thanks to its mining riches, the affluent citizens of Potosi invested heavily over the centuries in their buildings, making them even more grandiose than those in the larger cities of La Paz and Cochabamba. To get an eyeful of the splendor to which we’re referring, we’ll recommend you plan on visiting two churches and two theaters.  Begin your journey at the Catedral Villa de Imperial Potosí on the city’s main square.  Highlights include not only the stunning interior but scaling a tower that gives you an impressive view of the city.  Then walk down Tarija street a couple of blocks to the beautiful Templo y Convento de San Francisco, a whole complex of buildings and the oldest monastery in Bolivia.  It also includes a museum of religious art. Potosi’s theaters were also built similar to the styles you would see only in places like Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Europe for that matter. Even though they have undergone some retrofitting to adapt them to modern performances, much of the original architecture remains and is truly remarkable.  Just one block east of the plaza principal and cathedral is what may look like another cathedral, but it’s actually the grand theater Teatro Modesto Omiste. It certainly began as a church as well as the catacombs for the Spanish nobles of the city but was then redeveloped to house great dramas.  Then venture to the northwest side of downtown to Plaza San Bernardo and the Potosi congress hall where you’ll find something a bit more modern, but nonetheless regal, which is Teatro IV Centenario. The theater is actually part of a whole cultural center complex and houses a variety of music concerts and civic gatherings, but the architecture itself is something beautiful to behold.

#4 - The doors of Potosi

There is no guided tour, although there should be!  So set out on your own to wander the streets of Potosi to see for yourself its penchant for its doors, some elaborately detailed in wood (de madera) and some just beautifully painted.  Start at the Plaza Principal 10 de Noviembre where the cathedral is, and just start making concentric circles outward.  Or, since the tradition is always evolving across Potosi, ask your hotel receptionist if they recommend any particular alleys or neighborhoods for you to concentrate on a walk to see a good concentration of doorways.

Conclusion

Conclusion

Discover Bolivia’s silver capital after visiting Uyuni, only four hours further inland. You will be delighted with the architecture, art, and history of this remarkable place in the high desert. If you are an avid rock climber, feel free to get off the bus at the many outlets along the way to scale natural escarpments and canyons that are perfect for the adventure. Get on the next bus from Uyuni to Potosi and let the fun begin!

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are the hot springs still available in Tarapaya outside Potosi?
There were several problems with travelers getting hurt in Ojo del Inca lagoon, and so that part of Tarapaya should be avoided. Check with your hotel receptionist before going.
Are there shuttles or private transfers from Uyuni to Potosi?
Not at this time, and the buses run frequently enough over the relatively short trip that a shuttle would not be necessary on this route.
Can I get off the bus to go rock climbing?
Yes, this is a rock climbing paradise, and you can get off the bus anywhere on the route, just make sure you are climbing on public land.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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