Unless you came specifically and only to climb the Machu Picchu, chances are you will see a lot of bus travel in this country. Major roads are in very good condition and long-distance buses are much more comfortable than in the US or Canada, for example. Bus companies to choose from are legion, so here are some tips to make planning bus trips easier:
- Buy your ticket a few days in advance. Generally give yourself a 2-5 days. Too early is not good either, because many things can change and no scheduleis carved in stone, least of all your own. Even though buying on the day of travel is possible, it may be harder for larger groups or around the time of holidays (28th of July is a big one, always keep in mind).
- Always make sure your seat is a reasonable distance from the on-board bathroom. On one-level buses the bathtoom is at the back, while on two-level ones it is on the first floor, between the driver’s compartment and the passenger section. So if you opted for the first-floor seats, give yourself a space of at least one row between your seat and the compartment door.
- First-level seats are more expensive, because they are more comfortable. The seat is larger and wider, it reclines more, and there is usually more leg-room than on the upper level. This is usually worth the price difference on long trips, although they serve the same food and refreshments on both levels.
- However, there is nothing wrong with opting for the second-floor seats, even for 24-hour rides. Those seats are still very comfortable, especially for a shorter person. If you do opt for the upper level, try for the very front in order to get the best views. In case you like watching TV (and most buses are equipped with TV sets that will show movies and Peruvian music videos for hours), make sure your seat has a good vantage point.
- Always carry toilet paper on you. This point cannot be emphasised enough. Always have a roll in your backpack, but especially on a long bus ride.
- Bring enough water, as you will be served one glass of gaseosa with each meal. However, calibrate how much you drink, because you don’t want to visit the on-board bathroom too frequently.
- Bring a pillow for long rides, especially if you have a long neck.
- There have been cases when the luggage compartment opened mid-ride and people’s baggage fell out of the bus on the highway.
- Of course you will have to check your big backpack, but make sure it is put in a secure corner and will not easily fall out in case the compartment opens. It might be a good idea to wait until they have finished loading the luggage and watch to make sure everything is properly closed before boarding the bus.
- On some buses they will video every passenger’s face. Do not be startled. This is a fairly common practice for security reasons.
Extra tip: When reclining your seat, be courteous to the person sitting behind you.