Peru’s spectacular train journeys are in themselves a major attraction, and you should aim to take at least one long-distance train during your trip, especially as the trains connect some of Peru’s major tourist sights. At the time of writing, the Central Railway , which climbs and switchbacks its way up from Lima into the Andes as far as Huancayo on the world’s highest standard-gauge tracks, is currently operational for passengers only on the last Sunday of the month (returning Monday); but this situation is likely to improve.

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The Southern Railway , starting on the south coast at Arequipa, heads inland to Lake Titicaca before curving back towards Cusco, from where a line heads out down the magnificent Urubamba Valley, past Machu Picchu, and on into the fringes of the Amazon forest. The trains move slowly, are much more bumpy than buses, depending both on the level of track maintenance (presently poor between Cusco and Puno, for instance) and, of course, the state of the comparative road the bus is taking. Trains, however, generally allow ample time to observe what’s going on outside, but you do have to keep one eye on events inside, where the carriages – often extremely crowded – are notorious for petty thefts . Wherever possible tickets should be bought in advance by at least a day.
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Most trains in Peru offer three different classes. Ecomonico is the cheapest and most basic, usually with hard seats, overcrowding and a reputation for pickpockets and petty thieves. Pullman costs substantially more, but is still cheap by European or North American standards; this has better security, is more comfortable, has waitress service and tends to be less crowded. Inca or Turimso class is pricier still, has waitress service, a bar and dining, very comfortable seats and generally has more empty seats.

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