Getting around Peru
When travelling through Peru, it’s good to have some ideas about the transport you will take during your trip. We’ve compiled some easy-to-digest information to get you started.
New bus terminals are popping up all over the larger cities in Peru and there are separate terminals for long-distance and local buses. If you’re travelling via a bus terminal, you’ll need to pay a terminal tax (clever way to get some return on their investment!), though it’s a marginal fee. In Arequipa for example, the tax is US$0.50. The tax needs to be paid locally and is not included in your ticket, even if you book it through us.
You’ll find that the terminals- especially the newer ones- are clean and airy, and the stations are well guarded with plenty of information desks on hand. When you ‘check-in’, you’ll also check in your luggage and get a receipt which you’ll hand in when you pick up your bags again at the end of your bus trip. Your bags will be stowed at the bottom of the bus or in a separate baggage carriage.
We recommend booking bus journeys in advance. We can make the reservations for you and we’ll arrange reserved bus seats wherever possible.
Local buses are very popular, so they’re always crammed full and there’s no reserved seating. So, we recommend getting there early to avoid standing the whole way.
Travelling this way is a great way of mingling with the locals, although because there are a lot of stops along the way, it is considerably slower than the express buses. If you’re travelling around lunch or dinner time, the bus will stop for food and there are also toilet stops every two hours or so.
Express buses (long distance)
These scheduled buses are very comfortable, and we like using them as transfers in many of our Peru trips. There are just a couple of departures daily, so it’s good to know seats can be booked in advance. The buses are air-conditioned, there’s a toilet on board and snacks (tea, coffee, crackers) are served during the trip.
Royal Class overnight buses
These are luxury buses with very comfy reclining chairs so you might actually be able to catch some sleep! That is if you’re not captivated by the riveting on-board martial arts movie. Earplugs (to block out the sounds of Chuck Norris) and an inflatable pillow can come in handy, and you can buy some snacks, water or soft drinks at the terminal before you leave.
The privatised rail system run by Perurail has chartered services between Cusco – Aguas Calientes, Cusco – Puno and Puno – Arequipa. Routes have improved dramatically since the privatisation, and the Backpacker and Vistadome trains from Cusco to Aguas Calientes now offer on-board snack carts. You can book ahead for the Vistadome which is more comfortable with panorama windows and spacious seats- a great way to travel in Peru! Officially the baggage limit is 5kg, and although they rarely check, it is something to bear in mind.
Domestic flights around Peru and Bolivia are quite affordable and can help save time and long uncomfortable bus journeys. These can be booked and included in your Peru itinerary or as part of your international flight ticket.
For a more authentic experience, we actively encourage people to travel by local transport in the towns and cities. It also has the added benefit of being very cost effective and gives you the opportunity to meet the locals. The reception staff at your accommodation can provide a map of the local transport network and advise on the best way for you to travel around.
Colectivos, Taxis & Rickshaws
Colectivos are shared minibus taxis for longer distances between (nearby) cities or within the city and are a cheap and fun way to travel with the locals. Generally, taxis in Peru are unmetered, so be sure to agree on a price first. Airport and hotel taxis are more expensive, but if you walk on a bit you’ll find cheaper options. In the main cities you can choose between the larger more comfortable taxis or smaller (cheaper) taxis and in some of the smaller towns along the coast, you can take a trici-taxi, a kind of rickshaw for smaller distances.
Travelling with Meaning
In Peru we suggest taking overnight buses to Arequipa, trains to Cusco, collectivos in the sacred valley and local buses to Puno in order to avoid not only the higher cost but also to reduce your carbon footprint of too many domestic flights. It’s also a great chance to interact with locals and practice your Spanish. Along the way you’ll pass through lots of local villages and non-touristy towns too.