The fastest, cheapest and safest ways to travel through different parts of Peru. Details on all types of transportation and tours.
Peru is the country of all things magical. The minute you hop off the plane you will be able to feel the immense power emitted from this ancient country. Peru has a very different feel from the rest of the world, and a very unique culture. It's not often that we are able to get so close to ancient ruins, and old cities that are still very much intact. This country is filled with so many sacred memories that you'll want to travel all over just to take it all in. So book off some extra work days so that you can traverse through this glorious country without any hassle or rush.
No matter what transportation method you choose, it's best to book a few extra days for your trip to accommodate for travel times. Inland flights are often delayed, and with the road conditions, driving can take quite a bit longer than expected. Be prepared for anything, have a flexible schedule to make sure that you don't miss out on anything important, such as tours, and sightseeing!
From City to City
If you're in it for the long haul and want to get from one side of the country to the other, you have a few options. Keep in mind that no matter what transportation you choose, you may be a little later than planned, keep a buffer of a few hours before you book any important tours!
If you're going from Lima to Cusco, or across the country, it's best to grab a cheap inland flight. These flights normally take an hour or so, meaning that you spend less time in transport. Be warned, all of the flight companies have frequent delays, so expect that your flight my not leave on time. The delays are often caused by unpredictable weather patterns in the mountains and at places with high altitudes. If you are flying from Lima to Cusco, for example, try to get on that early morning flight!
TIP: When you book a flight, be aware that most airlines include a single, very small, carry-on bag. If you need checked bags, make sure that you pay in advance when you make the booking! This will save you quite a bit of money as well as the hassle of a language barrier.
Busses are a popular option too. Tourist busses are generally comfortable enough to sleep on, if you're okay with roughing it a little bit. You will be able to find many hop-on-hop-off bus tours. These will go to many tourist sites, stop for a few hours to let you explore and then continue to the final destination. Tourist busses are generally more safe than public transportation and can be cheaper than a flight. The only downfall about busses is that they are time consuming. The speed limits and road conditions are inconsistent.
The company that we booked with is PeruHop. They offer a safe Lima to Cusco bus that will give you a chance to see the top attractions in Peru. Although we find them to be a little bit pricey, they do offer some perks. They have quite a few free stops included with each booking, and they give you a discount booklet so that you can get a cheaper rate on hotels, hostels and restaurants.
TIP: If you're planning to grab a bus to get to your next destination, get on an overnight bus. This way it's one less night that you have to pay for a hotel.
Train is an option to get from some areas to others. These are a little bit nicer than the busses tend to be, and they usually run on a tighter schedule. You will need to book well in advance for tickets on the PeruRail and IncaRail. Train travel is a little bit more pricey than bus and even air travel. The rides are much shorter and can become expensive for what you get. There is not a well established railway throughout the country, so train travel is a little bit limited.
TIP: If you don't plan on hiking to Machu Picchu, then train will be one of the safest, most efficient ways to get there from Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
Collectivo's are essentially shared taxi's. They have enough room to fit about 14 passengers inside. Collectivo's are generally quite cheap and can get you to most popular destinations just as quickly as a car. If your collectivo doesn't go directly to the place you want to visit, then they will drop you off as close as possible and you'll be able to catch a taxi from there.
Catch the collectivo in Cusco at the corner of Pavitos St. and Lechugal St., be warned, on your way to the collectivo station you will run into many taxi drivers who will try to get your business.
TIP: This type of transportation is perfect for day trips. Get from Cusco to the Sacred Valley, or from Lima to Huacachina. I wouldn't recommend taking this form of transportation for destinations farther than a few hours. There are no bathrooms on board and the driver typically won't stop for requested breaks. We took a collectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and it was definitely worth it. We found out that you can get a collectivo bus on the corner of Pavitos and Lechugal street in Cusco. We have attached a map below to help you find the bus station!
Around the City
If you're staying in a touristy area in any of the bigger cities, getting around by foot will be quite easy. Most of the main attractions are close by and easily accessible via walking, especially if you are in Cusco. If you need to travel around farther than walking distance, then you have quite a few options!
If you thought that I was going to avoid putting this one in there then you're wrong. Many cities around Peru are made to be experienced on foot. If there is a nearby attraction - meaning a 30 minute walk or less - it will most likely be better to just walk. You will save money and possibly even time rather than waiting for a taxi or bus.
Walking around places like Huacachina and Aguas Callentes is practically mandatory. These small cities are made for tourism and are quite small, getting around by foot will be incredibly important.
TIP: Make sure that you are in good enough shape to get a decent walking tour of the ruins throughout Cusco. Cusco in particular is swamped with hills, so walking around will give you a workout, but trust me, this city is better appreciated on foot. If you are feeling the altitude during the first few days of your trip, it may take you a little bit longer to walk around the city. This is completely normal and you will frequently notice other tourists stopping to catch their breath along the stairways.
As mentioned above, busses are a popular way for tourists to get around. Busses in the Cusco region are relatively inexpensive and can get you to your destination with relative ease. Buses and combis are most frequently used to travel from Cusco to towns in the Sacred Valley, such as Pisac, Calca, and Urubamba.
In other, large cities around the country, busses are generally used by locals. The busses in Lima for example, can be a quite chaotic because there are many privately owned busses and some very interesting routes. Riding around the cities by bus is best done if you have plenty of time to spare and are in the mood for a very cheap sight-seeing tour. Keep in mind that there is generally no schedule for when the busses arrive and depart, and it will be hard to find a itinerary of any type.
Locals can be very helpful if you happen to find anyone who speaks and understands English. But don't count on getting anywhere fast by bus!
TIP: Buses from Cusco to the Sacred Valley depart from small terminals on Calle Puputi, Cdra. 2 - via Pisac and Grau Avenue, Cdra. 1 - via Chinchero.
The most popular way to visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley sights is by train. PeruRail trains from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and Aguas Callentes - the closest city to Maccu Picchu - leave from Estación Poroy, which is a 15-minute taxi ride from downtown. Reservations for these trains, especially in high season (May-Sept), should be made several days or weeks in advance. Make reservations online at www.perurail.com.
Taxis are generally inexpensive. A registered taxi will be one of the safest ways to travel around. In Cusco, taxis are standard rates with regulated charges so you don't have to worry about getting ripped off or overcharged. In Lima, this is not quite the case, you will need to do some bargaining in order to get the best possible rate. If your plane lands in Lima, make sure that you stop by one of the taxi booths and order a cab before you leave the airport. These fairs will be predetermined by the taxi company to ensure that you don't get ripped off. The best way to track down a taxi is to call one directly and order it. You may need to wait a few extra minutes, but you will get to your destination safely and with a little extra cash.
If you are in Lima or Cusco, make sure that you are getting into a safe, registered taxi. There have been plenty of warnings about the safety of unmarked taxi's throughout the cities.
TIP: It is only legal to get into a taxi through the door that is closest to the curb, so be sure to keep this in mind if you plan on hailing one.
A tranvía is a vehicle designed to look like the old mule-pulled streetcars that once traversed Cusco; they cart visitors around the city on sightseeing tours for a modest sum. Catch the Tranvía de Cusco on the Plaza de Armas, departing at all times of the day: 10am, 11:30am, 2, 3:30, and 5pm. Tours last around an hour and a half and cost S/15 for adults and S/8 for students. Tranvias are a unique way to get around Cusco, and are quite thrilling. So I'd recommend these to anyone who wants an exciting authentic tour for a low cost.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section!