For many travelers, a trip to Peru is synonymous with visiting Machu Picchu. Thousands of visitors cross the ancient citadel off their bucket list with a quick 7-10 day trip to the region. Unfortunately, many of them don’t travel far beyond Cusco, missing out on a number of beautiful destinations that lie along the Southern Coast.
In an attempt to see as much of Peru as possible in our short month-long stay in the country, we opted to explore Peru by bus. Overland travel has always been our favourite. It’s more environmentally friendly than flying and it gives us an opportunity to see so much more than we ever would from 35,000 feet in the air.
Bus Travel in Peru
Bus travel in Peru is the most common way of transportation for Peruvians as well as intrepid travelers. Dozens of companies operate short and long distance buses, making it fairly easy to get around the country. Comfort levels and thus prices for each leg of the journey can vary (from chicken bus style to comfortable executive style seats), as can safety. Uncomfortable rides are common (especially on overnight buses) and road accidents/theft happen more frequently than anyone would like.
Purchasing a more expensive class ticket, going with a more reputable company, being extra vigilant about your belongings and avoiding traveling at night are all small things travelers can do to minimize risk and maximize comfort when traveling on local buses in Peru.
But if you don’t need to take the chance, why would you?
Hop on/Hop off with Peru Hop
After researching bus companies in Peru, we came across a fairly new player in the market, Peru Hop. The company was started in 2013 by two Irish backpackers who back in 2012 found it hard to get around Peru without a help of a local and were inspired to start a company to help other independent travelers see the beauty of the lesser known spots in Peru. (Now known as the gringo trail)
Today, Peru Hop offers a number of Hop on/Hop off route options from Lima to Cusco, Cusco to La Paz, Bolivia and Cusco to Lima, allowing travelers to experience the Southern Coast of Peru and the Altiplano region without much hassle. Peru Hop’s main route runs from Lima along the Pacific Coast with stops in Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco.
Peru Hop – Our Experience
Our overall experience with Peru Hop was definitely a positive one.
- Buses were comfortable: Wide semi-bed seats, toilets on board, blankets, and great movies on board to keep us entertained on long journeys
- We felt safe: buses are monitored 24 hours by a GPS system and there is a local guide on board to answer any questions
- We were in good company: met some fun fellow travelers along the way
- We loved the extra stops: we got a chance to visit some cool destinations that would be a real hassle to visit on your own
- It was super easy: everything was organized but the trip still allowed for flexibility, the online booking system was awesome, buses were on time, our hotel pickups and drops offs were smooth
- Great value for money: if you add up the costs of traveling by local bus, plus the cost of taxis, extra trips, and the value of hassle free travel, the price that you pay on Peru Hop is totally worth it!
But we’d be lying if we said that everything was picture perfect. The truth is, as much as the owners and the entire staff work hard to ensure that Peru Hop service is up to Western standards, this is still South America and in South America things never really go according to plan. The staff know it isn’t perfect and being able to admit their imperfections is one of their great traits!
None of the hiccups we experienced along the way really hindered our trip, but they are worth mentioning just to manage expectations.
- Not all buses were the same: we had a super nice luxurious double-decker bus en route from La Paz to Cusco, but when we traveled in Southern Peru, our bus was single decker and much smaller in size.
- Sometimes things got confusing. Everyone on Peru Hop was traveling on their own itinerary, so knowing where to pick up the next bus or when to meet for the next free tour, was a bit confusing at times. Luckily, the guides on board were always super helpful!
- The suggested hotels weren’t always a good fit. It’s not a knock on Peru Hop, they cater to a largely young backpacking crowd, so of course, most of their hotel recommendations are lively hostels, which is no longer our choice of accommodation on the road. Call us old, or boring, but a hostel with loud music until wee hours in the night is no longer a good option for us.
Of course, no one was forcing us to stay at suggested hostels, so it’s our own fault for not doing a bit of research before booking one of their suggested options.
A Note on Sustainability
If you are actively looking for a sustainable transportation option in Peru, Peru Hop is definitely a good choice. While the company is owned by foreigners, Peru Hop does have a very positive impact on the local communities.
- They staff a great team of young local guides, who love their jobs and are incredibly grateful for an opportunity to show travelers their home. They also help provide employment opportunities to other members of the community.
- They pay Peruvian taxes, helping grow the local economy
- They often take passengers to small locally owned restaurants en route so that more locals can benefit from travelers coming to visit their country
And, most importantly, Peru Hop encourages overland travel, which in an of itself is a much better alternative to flying!
Would you consider exploring Peru by bus?
Disclaimer: We experienced Peru/Bolivia Hop as guests of Peru Hop, but all opinions expressed in this article are, as always, our own.