Peru — Transportation
Peru Taxis and Car Rental
Taxis are readily available in all cities in Peru. In Lima, Arequipa and Cusco, they are usually painted yellow and have a sticker displaying “SOAT.” In smaller towns, a taxi may be a motor-rickshaw or even a regular rickshaw. Cabs do not run on a meter so you will need to negotiate the fare before you get in and tipping is not expected.
Car rental is possible in Peru, although the quality of the road network is poor. Some improvements have been made recently, although falling rocks from the mountainside remain a danger. During rainy season, driving independently on Peru’s roads is best avoided as passes can become blocked or dangerous. If you do decide to rent a car, Europcar (+11-51-1-222-1010) has locations in Lima, Cusco,and Arequipa. Budget (+11-51-1-517-1880) and Hertz (+11-51-1-517-2402) also offer a range of vehicles.
Peru Water Taxis and Ferries
There are no coastal boat services in Peru, but if traveling in the jungle toward Iquitos, there are several motorized canoes to take you down the river between towns. The fast ones contain an outboard motor; while the others have what is known as a peque-peque engine. This can be an enjoyable journey if you’re not in a hurry with connections further along the Amazon River.
Navigating Lake Titicaca by boat is also possible. There are small boats you can charter around the lake and islands, although they cannot take you across the international border to Bolivia.
Peru Trains and Buses
There are currently four operational railroads in Peru: Lima to Huanacayo, Huanacayo to Huancavelica, Cusco to Machu Picchu, and Cusco to Puno. Each line has rewarding scenery and is a great travel experience, albeit the distances are long. The service between Lima and Huanacayo is the second highest railway in the world and the tallest in altitude in South America. The journey takes 11 hours high into the Andes, and you can be assured a comfortable and hospitable ride through Ferrocaril Central Andino with breathtaking views. You can continue deeper into the white snowy mountains by taking one of the five-hour rides to Huancavelica that are offered twice a day.
The rail trip between Cusco and Machu Picchu is considered to be one of the greatest trains in the world, largely due to the scenery as you criss-cross the altiplano. The service is really only run for tourists, with prices that reflect this. The route runs only three times a week and takes about 12 hours. This is the only way to reach Machu Picchu from Cusco outside of trekking the Inca Trail. Even if hiking is part of your tour, you will likely be booked for the train on the way back down. The journey is spectacular as you sweep your way past glorious Andean peaks, visible from specially designed panoramic windows that allow you to gaze partially through the ceiling.
The other form of ground transportation around Peru is bus. Buses come in many shapes and sizes, the smallest being a micro, which is really a minivan, also known as a combi or custer. They display their route in the window and usually only leave when they have a full load of passengers. Maximum capacity is about 11 people, although they may stop to pickup more along the way. A variation of this is the tourist van, which will be an express service specifically for travelers.
Otherwise, inter-city travel is typically by large 10-wheel buses managed by several companies. They each have their own depots in different city and some only run certain routes. It is best to ask a travel agency to book your bus ticket and then get directions to the station to save time. Comfort levels vary as there are usually different classes of travel; if on a double-decker, the bottom floor is usually slightly more luxurious than the top.