May 29, 5 years ago

Peru by Bus

Countryside of Peru with Andes Mountains

CC Image courtesy of Emmanuel Dyan on Flickr

Bus seats on Cruz del Sur

CC Image courtesy of Stefan Krasowski on Flickr

Unlike its northern neighbor of Ecuador, traveling by bus in Peru is convenient and comfortable, yet still affordable. A class of companies has emerged providing exceptional customer service and prioritizing safety.  Traveling on these long-distance buses feels more like being on an airplane than a bus, with the addition of an eclectic selection of dubbed movies.  South America doesn’t have the market for the budget airlines like Europe, so domestic flights are expensive.  With this in mind, bus travel can be an efficient option to see the beautiful country of Peru.

Below are some important considerations and questions to ask when buying your bus ticket:

  • Buy your ticket directly from the bus company.  Travel agents also sell tickets, but they are often over-priced.
  • Unless it’s a national holiday, don’t worry about booking your tickets in advance.  With the better companies, you can purchase tickets online but these systems are much easier to navigate in person, as the agents can provide suggestions and additional help.
  • Ask if the bus is “direct.”  Although this term is loosely interpreted by bus companies, it is important to ask.  Often, regional buses stop at every city along the route to pick up and drop off passengers, which adds a significant amount of time your journey.  For example, the 20+ hour bus ride from Lima to Cuzco could stop at Chincha Alta, Ica, and Nazca which could add 2-5 hours to an already long journey.
  • How comfortable do you want to be?  When asking about the fare to your destination, it is important to understand which class or rate you are given.  Most bus companies offer a ‘First Class’ or Salón Cama option, which includes a seat that reclines fully like business-class international flights.  At times, the agent will offer the higher price first as if it’s the only option, so always ask if there is a cheaper seat if you’re on a budget.  For the regular fare, Semi Cama, seats recline nearly horizontal at 150 degrees with a leg rest, rather than the flat 180 degrees of the Salón Cama.
  • Is there an on-board bathroom and air-conditioning?  These are standard for any decent bus company, but it never hurts to verify.
Hot meal onboard a Cruz del Sur bus

CC Image courtesy of kudumom on Flickr

  • Consider if food will be served and bring your own if the answer is “no,” you don’t like ham and cheese sandwiches or you want something specific.  Depending on the company, a meal can range from a hot dinner followed by tea or coffee to a bag of cookies and a juice box referred to as “lunch.”  These meals and snacks are often complementary, but not always, so ask.

To note, the better companies in Peru can operate out of their off-site offices.  For example, in Piura, Lima, and Cuzco you depart and arrive from the office of the individual company rather than a bus terminal.  This has its perks: offices are cleaner, safer, more comfortable than large municipal bus terminals, and allow customers to ‘check’ their luggage well ahead of their trip (just like at the airport) for it to be guarded until it is ready to be loaded on the bus.  Although several bus companies are within close proximity, be aware that they can be a hassle to find.

Traveling by bus in Peru is safe, efficient, and surprisingly comfortable.  Doing a little research before will make your journey smooth and safe from hassle. Some of the most reputable companies include Cruz del SurOrmeñoCiva, and Oltursa.

ryan

Ryan is a writer, photographer, and teacher living and volunteering throughout Latin America.

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