Peru is a great country to backpack in as it is rough, cutting edge and still very unexplored. Add to this the wild life, wonderful people and untouched nature and you have a summary of all the great things that make Peru so unbelievably great to travel. But as in any other country and big cities, always be careful for potential incidents. To give you a helping hand, you can find some practical pointers here to ensure you enjoy your Peruvian adventure well prepared, safe and sound.
We will give you a quick run-down on every day travelling issues when taking long distance buses or local means of transport in Peru and Lima.
Peru is a huge country, which means that you will be moving quite frequently if you see yourself going to places like the mystical Northern Highlands, active capital Lima, or even all the way down south to old Inca capital Cusco and Machu Picchu.
Getting into Peru, or going out
Primarily, always ensure you have a copy of your passport available, either digital or physical. If you do lose your passport along the way, a copy is still generally considered a valid form of identification in most places (hostels, clubs, buses, etc).
If you enter Peru from another country by bus, make sure you guard the little visa paper you get at the border properly. If you lose this, a fine will be the result when exiting Peru when leaving by bus or flight. In this case, it unfortunately does not matter what customs has registered in their computer, as you are prompted to take good care of your loose visa paper. Furthermore, having a visa exempts you from paying local taxes in a hostel!
When you want to go to Brasil, keep in mind you need to have your documents for yellow fever vaccination at hand. This is an entry requirement for Brasil and without it, crossing the border can become very difficult, if not impossible. For the other bordering countries (Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Chili), this is not an entry requirement, but obviously a vaccination is always recommended!
Long distance buses
The long distance buses are a great way of making distance for a very affordable price. And as Peru is big, there is a huge range of different transport companies, comfort and prices available to pick from. Be smart and pick one in the safe upper price class when travelling long distance – upper price class still means a very affordable backpack price as Peru is luckily still very cheap.
Lower priced buses usually tend to pick up random travellers on the side of the road, which increases chances on theft, so be cautious when going for these cheaper alternatives. Upon entering a bus your ticket will generally be checked and, depending on the amount of stops, also along the way by the bus attendant. Don’t forget to take a water bottle to prevent hydration and some toilet paper always comes in handy as well, in case the toilet runs out!
Also make sure that the company you travel with ensures that every backpack/suitcase gets properly tagged before stowed in the bottom compartment of the bus AND ensure to receive your ticket from the attendant! This makes sure that your bag will only be released in exchange of the ticket on upcoming stops and you can hang back relaxed in the bus.
On the other hand, please do not put all your valuables in these bags, but keep them with you in a smaller bag or on your person, in a money belt or purse. Put this away properly and do not leave it unattended on the shelves above your head, as you might fall asleep on overnight buses. From all bus companies, these two probably stand out as most reliable: Cruz del Sur and Ormeño. Read more about different Peruvian bus companies right here!
When you are finding yourself in a local city bus, be mindful (as always) for pickpocketing, using your cell-phone or having your bag lying loosely on your lap. Peruvian city buses can be crowded and do stop everywhere, which means people get on and off quickly. It does happen that people get their phones stolen out of their hand when calling, or that somebody tries to grab your bag through an open window. By simply paying attention in these buses and securing your items you should have an easy and safe trip!
For flights (from Lima) please take it serious to arrive on time at the airport. The increasing tourism is getting controlled better and better, which also means that for example arriving less than 2 hours before an international flight might result in not being allowed onto your flight. We unfortunately do see this happen to some travellers every couple of weeks that expect 1 hour beforehand is fine enough. Also, traffic can be very busy in Lima, so make sure you leave in time!
Lastly, taxis can offer you an unlimited range in fares. In general, it is handiest to take a taxi that clearly shows a taxi sign and number on the side of the car. Inside, a taxi driver should always have his license on display, as is quite normal in taxis all over the world. These type of taxis have standard rates. Specifically in Lima the taxis with the name “Metropolitana” printed on it are considered the safest with good rates, these, however, are not found frequently at the airport.
Also make sure you ALWAYS agree on a price before getting into a taxi and if you can’t agree, just look behind the taxi, where there is usually a cue of taxis lined up trying to win your business. And, of course, if you think the rate sounds too cheap to be true, or you simply don’t trust a taxi driver, do not get in!