Many people who fly into Lima, Peru quickly catch the next flight out to sites like Cusco and Machu Picchu. Vacation time is limited and they want to spend as much time as possible seeing the amazing sights. But not everyone is looking to get there as quickly as possible; for some, the trip is the journey, not the destination. If you’re one of those people, you may be looking into traveling through Peru by bus. Bus travel in Peru is not something to be taken lightly. While it is cheaper and more adventurous, it is definitely more dangerous. Peru has one of the highest highway fatality rates in the Americas, due to careless regulation and dangerous mountain routes. However, if you’re looking for a way to really get a view of the country, traveling by bus is a viable choice.
The Peruvian highway system has a total length of about 75,000 km (46600 miles) and includes national routes, departmental highways and city streets. Before the early 90s, most of the highways were in chaotic shape. However, over the last 15 years, the state has invested significant sums into improving the roads, especially the Panamerican highways – the northern and southern routes that connect ten coastal departments and also connect the country with Ecuador and Chile.
There are several major bus lines which transport passengers around the country. All the bus lines are generally low cost, but be aware that there is a wide difference in the quality of service. Some lines stand out for their new and well maintained buses which feature comfortable semi-reclining beds, air conditioning, on-board movies, bathrooms and attendant services to include meals, snacks and drinks. You’ll often find the better buses traveling on the Panamerican highway, and into some of the larger cities.
Buses that travel off the coast into the mountains generally seem to be in poorer condition, in part due to the state of the roads over which they travel. Some of the lower cost bus lines also likely to have poor business practices such as picking up fares along the route and overselling tickets. The cheaper bus lines also tend to have a higher accident rate, in part due to poor maintenance, but also because of driver fatigue or carelessness. Because even the best bus lines are low cost, it is worth paying the slightly higher fare for a more secure trip.
The most recommended bus lines are Cruz del Sur, Oltursa and Soyuz. Cruz del Sur and Oltursa offer VIP seating for a very small upcharge. The limited VIP seats sell out quickly, so you’ll need to make your reservations early. The VIP seating is in a smaller, semi-private section on the bottom part of the double decker bus and features wider seats which recline into near beds. It is worth the extra cost if you can get it. While traveling on the bus, keep a close eye on your luggage while waiting in the bus terminals, and make sure your baggage is loaded onto the bus. You’ll be given a luggage receipt, keep it in a safe place. Travel with a little cash on hand as possible keep any valuables hidden away. It’s best to put your hand luggage under your seat out of reach rather than in the unsecured overhead bins.