Time and distance
Almost all cities outside Lima had a flight time of between 1 and 1.5 hours. It is recommended to use the airlines. For example, from Lima to Zorritos in Tumbes (beautiful beach with modern resorts), the bus trip takes 21 hours.
- Yurimaguas-Iquitos(water): 2.5 days
- Quito-Lima(Bus): 27 hours
- Lima-Cuzco(Bus): 21 hours
- Lima-Cuzco(plane): 1 hour 30 minutes
In and around the cities
In the cities, there is usually no problem getting around by bus or taxi. Buses cost between 0.70 and 1.50 soles (0.20-0.40 USD) in one city, taxis between 7 and 8 soles (2-2.60 USD) in Lima, usually less in other cities. The term “taxi” does not necessarily mean a car; it also refers to bicycles, rickshaws and motorbikes for hire. Taxis are divided into two categories: “formal” taxis, which are painted and marked as such and carry a sticker with the word SOAT on it, and informal taxis, which are simply cars with a sticker on the windscreen saying “taxi”. The latter are best left to the locals, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. With the exception of the more upscale (even the more expensive) radio taxis, the fare is not fixed or measured, but negotiated with the driver before you get into the vehicle. Ask your hotel or guesthouse how much you can expect to pay to get to a particular place so that you have a reference point. There is no tipping for taxis.
“Micros” (from microbús), “combis” and “coasters”:. They have bus stops. The direction is indicated by signs in the windscreen or painted on the side. If you want to catch a bus, just signal the driver (by raising your hand, like hitchhiking) to stop. If the bus is not completely full (and sometimes if it is), it will stop to pick you up. During the journey, the ticket inspector will ask you for the fee or, if there is no inspector, you will pay the driver when you get off (this is more common on long journeys where most people go to the last stop, for example from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba). When you want to get off, you have to press the button or simply say out loud “¡Baja paradero! “(BAH-ho), and the driver will stop at the next paradero. They are cramped, dirty and not very useful, except in small towns or during off-peak hours. They also stop in the middle of the road, so be careful getting out.
Note: microphones are very common, but known to be quite dangerous, and various government programmes are trying to reduce the number of microphones. It is not advisable to bring a microphone with you.
Because of the distances and the state of the roads in some remote areas (or lack thereof), it may be preferable to fly, which is what most people do, especially when travelling between Lima and Cuzco. In some places, such as Iquitos, flying is the only way to get there, as there are no roads and the number of river boats that ply the waters is limited (or non-existent). Note that some major airlines, such as LAN and Avianca, have a dual pricing system where foreigners pay more than Peruvian residents. Currently, the following airlines offer domestic flights to Peru:
- AviancaPeru (formerly Taca Peru). is the other major airline offering domestic and international flights to other parts of South America. International flights to/from North America are usually via El Salvador, Colombia or Costa Rica and to/from Europe via Avianca Colombia.
- LATAM (LAN Peru), (Miraflores sales office) Av. José Pardo 513-Miraflores;, +51 1 213-8200. The national airline offers domestic and international flights to other parts of South America and beyond.
The following are smaller airlines operating mainly in Peru:
- LC Peru (formerly LC Busre), (sales office in Miraflores Lima) Av. Jose Pardo 269 – Miraflores /, +51 1 204-1313. It is planned to offer international services to/from Bolivia, Ecuador and the USA (Miami).
- Peruvian Airlines, (Mega Plaza Sales Office) Av. Alfredo Mendiola 3698, Mega Plaza Shopping Centre – 2nd level; (Miraflores Sales Office) Av. Jose Pardo 495 Miraflores, +51 1 716-6000.
- Star Peru, +51 1 705-9000.
Most airlines operate on a “hub and spoke” paradigm via Lima rather than point to point. So, to get from a city like Iquitos to Cuzco, you may have to go to Lima to change planes, even if Lima is in a different direction from the two cities the traveller is heading to.
Some main roads, especially along the coastal strip, are tarred, but there are still many unpaved roads in very poor condition. During the rainy season, landslides can even block the main roads.
Traffic between cities is mainly by bus, in some cities there are also rail connections. Unlike colectivos, buses, and of course trains, leave from a fixed point, either the central bus station or the depot of the bus company concerned. It is advisable to buy your ticket a day in advance to be relatively sure of finding a seat. If you arrive just before the bus leaves, you may run out of seats. In most bus terminals you will have to buy a separate departure fee of 1 or 1.5 soles.
If you are unlucky enough to be taller than 6ft, you will probably be uncomfortable behind the wheel as the seats are much narrower than in Europe or parts of North America. In this case you can try to get the middle seat in the back, but on unpaved roads the back will tip a lot. In older buses, the front row seats are best, but many buses have a driver’s cabin separate from the rest of the bus, so you are looking at a screen or dark curtain rather than the front windscreen. On older buses you can get a seat or two next to the driver, which gives you a good view of the scenery as it passes by.
First-class express buses with video, luggage storage and even catering services run between major cities, but remember to bring earplugs as the video on these buses can be played very loudly for most of the journey. You may need to show a passport to buy a ticket.
Make sure your luggage is waterproof, as it is often carried on the roof of the bus when travelling in the Andes.
Avoid bus companies that allow passengers to board buses outside the official stops. They are generally poorly managed and can be dangerous, both in terms of unsafe driving practices and street robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This is something that women travelling alone or people travelling at night should take to heart. There are many clandestine bus services in Peru, and it is best to opt for one of the major companies such as Cruz del Sur, Oltursa or others. Check with your hotel, hostel or tourist information booth before taking a tour. The following are the main bus companies that cover a large part of the country and are more reliable (the addresses given are for their terminals in Lima, around San Isidro and La Victoria):
- Cial, Av. Republica de Panamá 2469-2485, La Victoria, +51 1 207-6900.
- Civa/Excluciva, Paseo de la República 575, La Victoria (corner of Paseo de la República and Av 28 de Julio), +51 1 481-1111 They also have another terminal for their ‘Excluciva’ brand in Javier Prado Este #1155.
- Cruz del Sur, Av Javier Prado Este 1109, La Victoria (Javier Prado Este & Nicolás Arriola à La Victoria), +51 1 311-5050, 431-5125, gebührenfrei : 72-0444 oder 0801-1111. Bedient Arequipa, Ica, Cuzco, Puno, Chiclayo, Trujillo, Pisco, Arequipa, Tacna, Cuzco, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires, Cali, Nazca, Guayaquil, Quito, Bogotá und Máncora.
- TransportesFlores, Paseo de La Republica 627 & 688, La Victoria (Paseo de La Republica & Av 28 de Julio), +51 1 332-1212, 424-0888. They also have another station at 28 de Julio #1246.
- ITTSA, Av. Paseo de la República 809, +51 956 487-989, from Lima only to Chimbote, Chiclayo, Piura, Sullana, Talara and Trujillo in the northern parts of the country.
- MovilTours, Paseo de la Republica 749, La Victoria (Frente al Estadio Nacional. In front of the national stadium), +51 1 716-8000. They also have another station nearby, Javier Prado Este 1093, La Victoria, in front of Clinica Ricardo Palma and next to a KIA car dealership. (updated April 2016 | edit)
- Oltursa, Av. Aramburú 1160, San Isidro (SE of the intersection Av Republica de Panama next to the Derco Center dealership. ), +51 1 708-5000.
- Ormeño, Av. Javier Prado Oeste Nº 1057, La Victoria – Lima 13, +51 1 472-5000, 472-1710.
- TEPSA, Av Javier Prado Este 1091, La Victoria (west of the intersection of Javier Prado Este and Paseo de la Republica. ), +51 1 617-9000, 990 690-534.
You can also find more information on BusPortal.pe, which compares the large number of companies.
Even if you travel by train, it is best to buy your ticket in advance. Buy 1st class or buffet class (or even higher), otherwise you risk being completely covered in luggage. People put their luggage under your seat, in front of your feet, next to you, and everywhere there is a little room. This makes the journey quite uncomfortable as you can’t move around and the view of the landscape is poor.
There are five railway lines in Peru:
- Cuzco – Machu Picchu – For more information on [Trains to Machu Picchu], visit the PeruRail website.
- Cuzco – Juliaca – Puno
- Arequipa – Juliaca – The service has been interrupted since the beginning of 2007.
- Lima – Huancayo – The Ferrocarril Central Andino, the line between Lima and Huancayo, is the second highest railway in the world and the highest in South America. The journey on the Andes train through the heart of Peru is simply breathtaking. It is an 11 hour experience where the train reaches an altitude of 4781m.a.s.l. and passes through 69 tunnels, 58 bridges and 6 zigzags. In 1999 the company was privatised. In 2005, Ferrocarril Central Andino renovated its passenger carriages in a luxurious and comfortable way, which places the railway in the list of the most famous trains together with the Orient Express and the Transsiberian. Unfortunately, the service is irregular. You can find out more on the website
- Huancayo – Huancavelica
Besides the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, there are many other treks in the Sierra, preferably during the dry season. The Mecca for hikers is Huaraz, where you will find many agencies offering guided tours and/or equipment rental. The thin vegetation of the high sierra makes off-trail hiking easy. Good maps are hard to find in Peru. It is best to bring them from home. Make sure you have enough iodine to purify your drinking water. When hiking at high altitudes, it is essential to be well acclimatised. Bring a good sleeping bag, as nights in the Sierra can be freezing (-10°C at 4500m is normal, sometimes colder). Beware of thunderstorms, which can come on very suddenly. Rapidly falling temperatures and heavy rain are a serious danger at high altitude. Remember that night lasts 12 hours all year round, so a torch is a good idea. Water can be scarce when hiking on higher, non-snow-covered mountains. Alcohol for the stove is easily available: you can buy blue quemar alcohol or, better still, pure drinking alcohol. You can get it in any town for about 3 soles (US$0.85) per litre. (Don’t even think about drinking it). It will not be so easy to find special fuel for petrol stoves. Petrol for cars is also available in many hardware stores (ferreterias) which sell it in litres, but you can also buy it directly at petrol stations, provided you bring your own bottle.
It is also possible to travel inland by car. This gives you the opportunity to drive “off the beaten track” and explore some of the areas that have not yet been changed by tourism. An international driving licence is required to drive in Peru.
Peru has three main roads running north-south: the fully paved Panamericana Sur/Norte (PE-1S/1N), which crosses the entire country; further east, the partially paved Longitudinal de la Sierra Sur/Norte (PE-3S/3N), the Interoceánica Sur (PE-26) and the Interoceánica Norte (PE-5N). Most of these roads are toll roads to the north and south. The main roads are connected by 20 roads from west to east.
Note that, with the exception of a few main roads in good condition, most roads are unpaved and your speed is severely restricted. A 4WD is required for these roads. This is especially true during the rainy season, from November to April. You should travel with a good knowledge of your route. Carry a good road map (for example, the ITMB waterproof map of Peru). On the Internet, cochera andina offers useful information on road conditions, driving times and distances for over 130 routes in Peru.
Make sure you take enough petrol with you, as petrol stations in unpopulated areas are very rare and often closed. Buying petrol late at night can be an adventure in itself, as even in more populated areas, petrol stations often close early and the pumps are locked. The owner of the petrol station may be asleep inside and if you manage to wake him up, he will come out and let you fill up. Be aware that fuel consumption is higher in the mountains, often reaching over 20 L/100 km (12 MPG) (5 gal/62 mi).
The traffic rules are almost the same as in Europe and the United States. However, people tend to interpret them freely. It is best to honk your horn in unclear situations, such as on bends and at intersections, to signal right of way. Also note that roadside checkpoints are scattered throughout the country and police may try to bribe foreigners to pass. It is advisable to travel with a native speaker who can navigate the roads and deal with the police.
As in most countries, Peru has a large number of touts who hang around airports and bus stations or terminals. The wise decision for any traveller is not to deal with people who try to sell you their wares on the street/bus station/airport. First of all, if they had a decent place, they wouldn’t have to sell it to unscrupulous tourists who try to pull them from anywhere. More importantly, it’s really not a good idea to hand over money to the first person you meet when you arrive somewhere.
TIP: When you arrive in a city, make sure you have already decided which hotel you are going to stay in. Do not mention this or any other information to the touts waiting for you. They will construct lies out of anything you tell them to change your mind and convince you to follow them. If you have already chosen a decent hotel, chances are you will be fine there and it will have all the (additional) information you need, such as tour or ticket reservations.