Peru’s buses are run by a variety of private companies, all of which offer remarkably low fares , making it possible to travel from one end of the country to the other (over 2000km) for under $30. Long-distance bus journeys cost around $1.50 per hour on the fast coastal highway, and are even cheaper on the slower mountain and jungle routes. The condition of the buses ranges from the relatively luxurious Cruz del Sur fleet that runs along the coast, to the scruffy old ex-US schoolbuses used on local runs throughout the country. Some of the better bus companies, such as Cruz del Sur, Ormeño and Movil, offer excellent onboard facilities including sandwich bars and video entertainment. The major companies generally offer two or three levels of service anyway, and many companies run the longer journeys by night. If you don’t want to miss the scenery, you can hop relatively easily between the smaller towns, which usually works out at not much more.

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As the only means of transport available to most of the population, buses run with surprising regularity, and the coastal Panamerican Highway and many of the main routes into the mountains have now been paved (one of President Fujimori’s most successful construction programmes), so on such routes services are generally punctual. On some of the rougher mountainous routes, punctures, arguments over rights of way and, in the rainy season, landslides may mean you arrive several hours late.
At least one bus depot or stopping area can be found in the centre of any town. Peru is investing in a series of terminal terrestres , or terrapuertos , centralizing the departure and arrival of the manifold operators, but it’s always a good idea to double-check where the bus is leaving from, since in some cities, notably Arequipa, bus offices are in different locations to the bus terminal.

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Lima has so many buses that the major companies are in the middle of rationalizing their own private terminals and departure points (presently incredibly complex) while the rest still cling to depots mostly in the heart of Lima Centro and traffic congestion. If you can’t get to a bus depot or terminal terrestre, you can try to catch a bus from the police control on the edge of town, or flag one down virtually anywhere, though there’s no guarantee of getting a ride or a seat.

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For intercity rides, it’s best to buy tickets in advance direct from the bus company offices; for local trips, you can buy tickets on the bus itself. On long-distance journeys, try and avoid getting seats right over the jarring wheels, especially if the bus is tackling mountain or jungle roads.

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