Peru is a breathtaking country. From its long stretches of desert coastline, past the Andes Mountains, to the lush Amazon rainforest in the interior, from its thriving cities to some of the world’s most ancient sites; Peru’s diverse geography and mystical history draw visitors from every corner of the planet.
The same spectacular topographical features that make Peru such an appealing place to vacation, also present some unique challenges when it comes to getting around. This is a country that has rugged mountains, deep valleys, rushing rivers, and impenetrable forests. All that natural wonder can play havoc with roads and railways, so here are a few tips for getting around in Peru.
Travel in the Cities
Peru recently licensed all of its cabs, so keep an eye out for the right kind of taxi. Licensed taxis are either yellow or white, look clean, and have official documentation. Many have visible GPS so the taxi company can monitor the cab’s whereabouts. These cabs will be more expensive than an unlicensed taxi, but they will also be more reliable and safer. Cab drivers do not speak English, so have a few Spanish phrases ready, and know where you’re going. Don’t travel alone at night. Keep your valuables with you. Never get into a taxi that has another person already in it.
There are also “micros”, or microbuses, which you can catch by flagging down on the side of the road. When you want to get off, just shout “Bajo”, and the driver will stop at the next location. These microbuses are often crowded, and can be less than safe. Female travelers should take a cab.
Travel by Bus
Most locals travel from city to city by bus, and in many cases, it could be the only way to get to certain areas. Buy your ticket in advance at the bus terminal, and make sure your luggage is waterproof, as it may be stored on top of the bus. There are some excellent first-class express buses, which offer meal service and checked luggage. Do not buy bus tickets that are sold away from the official bus stations, as these unregulated buses are dangerous and accident-prone. If you need help, ask at your hotel or at the local tourist information booth.
Train service is fairly limited in Peru, covering only the major tourist routes. While the trains can be slow, tickets are cheap, and the views can be spectacular. Buy a first class or buffet class ticket, so you’re not totally cramped for space. The train ride from Machu Picchu is a beautiful trip. The route from Cusco to Puno on Lake Titicaca is one of the prettiest and most popular journeys in Peru.
Renting a Car
This is probably the least advisable option for getting around in Peru. The terrain is tricky, the roads are not good, and there are a lot of accidents. The U.S. State Department warns its citizens not to drive in Peru, especially not at night or in the countryside. It’s also very expensive. Skip the car, and take a cab or the train.
Flying is becoming an increasingly popular way to get around in Peru. Considering the geography and vast distances, hopping a flight can be the fastest, most cost-effective, and safest way to travel. As well, many parts of Peru are only accessibly by plane, particularly when you’re traveling to the Peruvian Amazon. You can buy tickets on any number of airlines at any travel agent or airline office in the major towns and cities. Book a few days in advance.