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PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Bolivia is the Bolivianos (BOB). I will refer to them as ‘B$s’. At the time of writing, US$1 = B$6.95.
In Tupiza, I booked myself on a 4 Day / 3 Night Uyuni Salt Flats Tour. The tour ended in Uyuni. From Uyuni I wanted to get to Sucre. I decided to stop off in Potosi along the way …
In Uyuni, I was staying at the Joya Andina Hostel which was only 1.5 blocks from the Bus Terminal.
UYUNI TO POTOSI:
The day before, I went down and checked out the buses to Potosi. You find ‘local buses’ canvassing for customers early in the morning. I saw 2 there before 9am. I don’t know what time they actually leave nor the price.
The bus journey from Uyuni to Potosi is 4 hours, so I decided to try and get a bus that was a bit more comfortable than the standard ‘local bus’. Diana Tours have an office at the Bus Terminal and advertise a ‘VIP Tourist Bus’ that leaves at 9am and 7pm. I bought my 9am ticket for B$30. I turned up the next day at 8:30am to find my bus waiting.
To be honest, it didn’t look much different from the ‘local buses’. It was not ‘VIP’.
The bus was only half full, so I had 2 seats to myself all the way to Potosi. On the journey we picked up and dropped off all of the locals that flagged us down. It was not a ‘direct’ nor a ‘tourist’ bus either. We arrived at the Potosi Bus Terminal at about 1pm.
We were dropped off at the OLD terminal located in the centre of town. My hotel was only about 1.5kms away so I decided to walk. MISTAKE! It was nearly 2kms away and the walk was all up hill. Potosi is at 4,000m above sea level. I was puffing my lungs out and knackered by the time that I got to my hotel.
MY ADVICE: Get a taxi. It should only cost about B$5 to get from the Old Terminal up the hill to the Historical Centre.
I didn’t get to see much of Potosi. I had cracked feet (caused by the dryness of high altitude living) that I needed to medicate. I had to keep my walking to a minimum.
There was something about this small historical centre that I liked. It was ‘rugged’ but had ‘character’. The problem, for me, was that I didn’t like the hills! At 4000 metres above sea level … I only had to walk a few 100 metres to get puffed out 🙂
MY POTOSI ACCOMMODATION:
As usual, I booked myself into the Historical Centre. I booked 4 nights in the Hostal Tukos La Casa Real.
It was quite expensive for a place like Potosi. I paid US$25 / night including Breakfast.
POTOSI TO SUCRE:
To get to Sucre, you need to make your way to the NEW Bus Terminal on the northern edge of town. It was too far away for me to walk to, so I just took a chance and turned up in the morning looking to buy a ticket. A taxi fare was B$8.
On the 1st Floor you find several companies selling tickets to Sucre. Between them, you can get a bus to Sucre every 30-60 minutes. I bought a B$20 ticket from Trans Villa Imperial because it was the next one scheduled to leave. You pay B$2 to get on to the platform (to help pay for the new terminal?); they give you a ‘platform ticket’ – keep it. When I saw my bus, I was a bit worried … I thought that, maybe, we were going to take longer than (the normal) 3 hours or break down along the way!
The driver arrived at 9:05. He stowed my luggage underneath (no receipt) and wasted no time in getting on the road. As you exit the Bus Terminal you are boarded and you have to show you B$2 ‘platform ticket’. There were only about 6 people on the bus.
It was just a little bit too far away from my hotel to walk and, after Potosi, I didn’t want to risk it anyway 🙂
I caught a taxi to my hotel for B$6.
Sucre was founded by the Spanish on November 30, 1538. The narrow streets of the city centre are organised in the grid-style that typifies Spanish Colonial towns in Latin America.
For much of its colonial history, Sucre’s temperate climate was preferred by the Spanish aristocracy.
Sucre is a very nice little city. You often see people walking around with big sacks sweeping up all of the street rubbish.
This is what you can expect online 1 week before your arrival.
PLEASE NOTE: BOOKING displays prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. Taxes are 13% but, surprisingly, only Bolivians pay this tax. Tourists are exempt. BUT, watch out for the ‘City Tax’ … it is 10% and some hotels don’t include it.
PLEASE NOTE: AirBnB displays prices INCLUSIVE of taxes but EXCLUSIVE of ‘Service Fees’ (which can add as much as 16%) and ‘Cleaning Fees’ (some places charge 1 day’s rent!).
Two GRANDPAckers should be able to find a Double Room for B$140 / night (US$20) including taxes and Breakfast.
I knew that I was catching a night bus from Sucre to Cochabamba. This impacted on my options … for instance, I couldn’t choose an apartment, I needed to choose an hotel where I could ask for a late checkout and / or to store my belongings until I headed for my bus.
PLEASE NOTE: If possible, search for your hotel in Bolivianos. If you search in any other currency (and pay at the hotel instead of in advance), the hotel will (usually) convert that currency to Bolivianos at an exchange rate favourable to themselves.
I booked 4 nights in a ‘One Bedroom Suite’ at the Casa de Huespedes Isabella for US$15 / night (single occupancy). I paid on arrival and the Casa Isabella was the first hotel in Argentina and Bolivia that used the correct exchange rate without any attempt to over-charge me. The rooms face a central courtyard which doubles up as the Breakfast area.
I couldn’t get a reliable wifi signal in my room, but it was reliable most of the time in the courtyard.
All-in-all, the Casa Isabella was one of the best value for money accommodations that I have stayed in for quite a while.
WHERE TO STAY:
You want to stay within walking distance of Plaza 25 de Mayo (the central park). How far from the Plaza depends on how far you are prepared to walk.
SUGGESTION: For the highest density of budget restaurants and bars, look south of the Plaza (see Eat & Drink, below).
Have a look yourself:
EAT & DRINK:
Nowadays, I tend to do this before booking my hotel … because it helps me identify where I should stay. My chosen hotel was located close to several budget options.
I had to try a steak. I walked down to the El Parrillin near the Central Market. It gets good write-ups. It was closed. I implemented ‘option B’ and doubled back up to the Churrasqueria Maderos. They do Almuerzos for B$14 and they were still serving them at 7pm when I arrived. They also do a 1/4kg steak meal for B$27. But, I tried their 1/2kg steak meal for $45. A 1L Potosina beer was B$25. It was a good price, but my steak was a little bit fatty and chewy. Not the best steak that I’ve ever had … and nowhere near as good as the one that I had in Cafayate, Argentina.
Chifa & Thai are one of the few Asian restaurants in town. I had their Mussumam Curry (B$48) which came with a free dip starter. The serving was small and the curry average. I left slightly disappointed.
The ‘Cheap Eats’ in Tripadvisor never really mention the ‘really cheap places’ to eat. If you want ‘really cheap’ get down to the Central Market. Upstairs is a food hall. I tried one of Bolivia’s traditional dishes: french fries and rice topped with salad, fried egg, fried onions, fried banana, meat, and sauce (B$14).
A cheap bottle of wine in a shop costs B$23. Expect to pay B$60-B$80 for a bottle in a budget restaurant.
A 1 litre local beer in a shop costs B$17 plus B$5 deposit on the bottle. Expect to pay B$25 in a budget restaurant.
Expect to get a simple Breakfast included in you hotel room rate.
Expect to pay an average of B$15 for a cheap Almuerzo Lunch with fruit drink.
Expect to pay an average of B$40 for a cheap Dinner (B$25) with a Fruit Juice / Small Beer (B$15).
BANKS / ATMs / MONEY:
There are ATMs everywhere. There is no Bureau De Change.
I went to 2 different ATMs and withdrew B$2,000 out from each: BancoSol and BancoBisa. They charged me B$17.50 for the privilege.
INTERNET / WIFI:
Your accommodation should provide free wifi but don’t expect it to be very good in our price range.
I bought an ENTEL chip (B$10) and 1 month 2GB Data Plan (B$50) back in Villazon. I had a 4G signal in Sucre. I bought ENTEL because it has the best overall coverage in Bolivia.
The sign-up process is quite complicated. You will need your passport. To purchase an ENTEL chip & plan find the nearest ‘Multicentro’ (the name of ENTEL’s official outlets).
PLEASE NOTE: ENTEL do not allow you to have a zero balance … a positive balance must remain. I had a balance of B$50 and tried to renew my B$50 1 month 2GB Data Plan using the ENTEL mobile app. I failed. After topping up with another B$10, I succeeded.
WHAT TO DO:
Sucre has a big list of things to see including many free museums. It is, also, nice to just walk around the central streets.
There is plenty of colonial architecture to look at.
I targeted the 11am bus. It arrived at about 10:40am and started loading. Within 5 minutes the upstairs was full. If you want to be upstairs, get there early.
When finished, you return the way that you came … including climbing back up all of those steps! It is now that you have 30-45 minutes to look around the exhibits before making it back to the Tour Bus to head home.
I am glad that I did it … but, I wouldn’t go again.
HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Latin America. Don’t leave anything unattended. Lock up your hotel room. Lock up your valuables within your hotel room (single lock hotel room doors are notoriously easy to break into without a key).
I didn’t notice any mosquitos, but there was a fruit fly (sort of thing) that liked the taste of my arms and the back of my neck.
Don’t drink the tap water.
WHEN TO GO:
Sucre is classified as having a ‘subtropical highland’ climate.
Read About – GRANDPAcking Costs if you don’t know how to interpret my figures.
MY ACTUAL COSTS:
My costs are broken down into:
- Cost of Existence: The basic costs of just being there
- Cost of Living: The additional costs that make being there fun
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
I lived to GRANDPAcking standard. However, please note that I was travelling alone and I get ‘Single Occupancy’ rates in my GRANDPAcking Double Rooms … and I take advantage of ‘last minute discounts’.
My accommodation was B$104 / night. It included Breakfast.
I didn’t use any public transport.
I already had a B$50 balance on my ENTEL chip. I topped it up with another B$10 so that I could buy a 1 month 2GB B$50 Data Plan.
I averaged about B$63 / day on meals. I don’t really eat Lunch anymore but I tried some street food one day. I averaged about B$62 / day on Dinners (but these usually included a 1 litre bottle of beer). Drinking water was free at my Hostel.
My COE worked out to be about B$135 (US$21) / day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
In / Out Costs: It cost me B$36 to get from Potosi to my Sucre hotel.
Living Costs: I averaged about B$20 per night on drinks. I spent B$64 on doing my laundry (B$9 / kg). I spent B$45 on the Dinosaur Footprints Tour. I spent B$54 on replacement equipment. I spent B$51 on odds and sods.
My total COL was about B$200 (US$32) / day.
COSTS FOR 2 GRANDPAckers:
Again, costs are broken down in Cost Of Existence (COE) and Cost Of Living (COL).
COST OF EXISTENCE (COE):
Accommodation: I have booked you into something decent for B$140 / night for the first 2 nights. Thereafter, you should be able to find something long term for B$100. Both include Breakfast.
Transportation: I have budgeted a weekly day trip for 2 people to a nearby town / attraction.
Communications & Fees: I have budgeted an ENTEL SIMcard (B$10) and a 1 month 2GB Data Plan (B$50).
Food: Your budget averages about B$110 (US$18) / day for 2 people. This is to eat all of your meals in Budget Restaurants. Water should cost you under US$0.50c / day.
Your COE is about B$216 (US$34) / day.
COST OF LIVING (COL):
This leaves you B$127 (US$20) / day to LIVE on. You should be able to LIVE well on that.
THE GRANDPAcking ACID TEST: Can a retired couple with no assets live easily, comfortably, and happily here with their only source of income being a standard NZ Married Couple’s State Pension? YES.
Monthly Retirement Costs will be similar to your Holiday Costs.
Many ‘City Lovers’ will fall in love with Sucre.
Sucre has an almost perfect climate and the altitude (although high at 2,800 metres) is not very noticeable.
The Historical Centre is pretty and the surrounding areas are tidy (for Latin America).
Costs are low.
Sucre is definitely worth a look.