Etiquette

  • Manners Peruvians are well-mannered. Transactions begin with a formal buenos días or buenas tardes.
  • Photos Ask before photographing people in indigenous communities – payment may be requested.
  • Antiquities It is illegal to buy pre-Columbian antiquities and take them out of Peru.

Getting Around

Air

Domestic-flight schedules and prices change frequently. New airlines open every year, as those with poor safety records close. Most big cities are served by modern jets, while smaller towns are served by propeller aircraft.

Bicycle

Safety The major drawback to cycling in Peru is the country’s bounty of kamikaze motorists. On narrow, two-lane highways, drivers can be a serious hazard to cyclists. Cycling is more enjoyable and safer, though very challenging, off paved roads. Mountain bikes are recommended, as road bikes won’t stand up to the rough conditions.

Bus

Buses are the usual form of transportation for most Peruvians and many travelers. Fares are cheap and services are frequent on the major long-distance routes, but buses are of varying quality. Don’t always go with the cheapest option – check their safety records first. Remote rural routes are often served by older, worn-out vehicles. Seats at the back of the bus yield a bumpier ride.

Many cities do not have a main bus terminal. Buses rarely arrive or depart on time, so consider most average trip times as best-case scenarios. Buses can be significantly delayed during the rainy season, particularly in the highlands and the jungle. From January to April, journey times may double or face indefinite delays because of landslides and bad road conditions.

Car & Motorcycle

  • Distances in Peru are long so it’s best to bus or fly to a region and rent a car from there. Hiring a taxi is often cheaper and easier.
  • At roadside checkpoints, police or military conduct meticulous document checks. Drivers who offer an officer some money to smooth things along consider it a ‘gift’ or ‘on-the-spot fine’ to get on their way. Readers should know that these transactions are an unsavory reality in Peru and Lonely Planet does not condone them.
  • When filling up, make sure the meter starts at zero.

Train

The privatized rail system, PeruRail (www.perurail.com), has daily services between Cuzco and Aguas Calientes, aka Machu Picchu Pueblo, and thrice-weekly services between Cuzco and Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca. There are also luxury passenger services between Cuzco, Puno and Arequipa twice weekly. Inca Rail also offers a service between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.

Train buffs won’t want to miss the lovely Ferrocarril Central Andino, which reaches a head-spinning altitude of 4829m. It usually runs between Lima and Huancayo from mid-April to mid-November.