Public transport can often be unreliable, crowded and slow, and travelling by plane is not exactly budget or environmentally friendly. Getting from place to place in a different country can be stressful at the best of times, so we chose to travel with Peru Hop. It allows you to see the beauty Peru has to offer without all the drawbacks of coach travel. During our time in Peru we travelled separately for three weeks, and before reuniting in La Paz we travelled two of the routes Peru Hop offers. So we feel quite qualified to give a comprehensive view of the company. Here is a breakdown of our experiences:
Wait… so How is peru hop different to local buses?
Set up in 2013, Peru Hop ‘offers all the benefits of traveling alone (you choose where to go, how long to stay there) combined with the benefits of a tour (meeting other people and a local guide on board giving you local insights to their country). Our unique hop on hop off system allows you to travel as quickly or as slowly as you want. You choose what to do, where to eat and where to sleep… our onboard guides just give you tips and advice. Whether you want a one week trip fully planned in advance, or just hop on a bus and decide as you go, Peru Hop is perfect for every type of traveler.’
As it was the first time travelling solo for both of us, we decided that it sounded like the perfect way to get to La Paz.
Peru Hop operates on routes between almost all of the main travel destinations in the South, and allows you to change your route with very little notice. One of our routes took us from the Incan capital of Cusco, West into Arequipa, across the border into Bolivia to visit Copacabana, then finished the journey in La Paz. The other route taken was along the West coast to see the Nazca lines and the oasis of Huacachina, among other stops. Watch this space for another blog post with more detail on each destination.
Start: Lima/cusco (depending on your route)
End: La Paz
life on board
Peru Hop doesn’t just go from A to B. The bus will make stops at some hidden gems and photo stops that wouldn’t have necessarily been on your list otherwise.
Another point that gives the service the edge over public buses is the benefit of having a bilingual guide on the bus at all times. This is extremely convenient if your Spanish skills are a bit rusty. All guides are Peruvian, meaning you get the best experience and insights.
All Peru Hop buses have comfortable, reclining seats, USB ports, and AC. They also have clean toilet facilities which are always unlocked, something that is unfortunately not always available on local buses – I (Elliot) travelled on a public night bus where the toilet was not accessible. One thing to note is that once crossing the border, the Bolivian buses are smaller with no facilities, so make sure to go before departure.
‘Hopping’ across the border to bolivia
The Peru-Bolivia border crossing can be a hassle. Delays and complications are common and there is very little direction on what you actually need to do. Peru Hop makes the experience as stress-free as possible. We were taken off our coach and told to carry our bags to the border where we were greeted by an employee that talked us through documentation process. It was possible to change your money from Soles (PEN) to Bolivianos (BOB) here, but you may be able to find a better exchange rate elsewhere. We were then stamped into Bolivia and walked across the border.
Once in Bolivia, there was a form to fill out detailing how long you intended to stay in the country, and where you would be staying next etc. – we were then escorted onto another bus. The experience was incredibly convenient and made crossing the border an almost pleasurable experience, if there is such a thing.
When you book your ticket, Peru Hop provides you with a PDF containing top tips for each location, recommendations for hostels, and activities at discounted rates at each stop. This was one of the most helpful parts of the experience. Some activities included a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands (Paracas), Sandboarding (Huacachina), or a flight over the Nazca lines. A full blog post about these excursions is on its way! As well as the optional activities, there were often free stops along the way to see beautiful scenery, or learn more about Peru’s history, which are great for the more budget-conscious traveller.
Unlike public buses that may have multiple stops along the way, each journey has passengers going to the same location. Make the most of this! It is so easy to talk to your fellow passengers, especially as solo travellers. It was a great idea to share a dorm with fellow Peru Hoppers to make your experience less isolating, and try activities/foods etc that you may not have tried on your own. I (Ellie) met a group of people in Paracas, and travelled with them until Arequipa! Less daunting, especially as a female solo traveller.
Before reaching each destination, your guide will walk along the aisle asking which accommodation you’d like to book for the night. This means that you will never arrive anywhere without a place to stay. In our opinion, the best part about Peru Hop is that you can rearrange your bus up to 24 hours before its departure through their online portal. Therefore, you are free to spend as long, or as little, as you want in a certain place. The route Elliot took (Cusco to Canyon to La Paz), can be completed in as little as 5 days if you’re in a rush, or you can extend your stay in each location if you’re less pressed for time.
In Puno, I (Ellie) slipped up after booking an overnight excursion on Lake Titicaca, and forgot to change my bus before the 12 hour cutoff point. However, after multiple very stressed emails to the customer service team, they were able to book me a space on the bus i needed, (provided that I didn’t mess up again!). Overall, the customer service with Peru Hop was fantastic.
Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for buses to crash in Peru. The combination of poor roads and driving standards with the minor inconvenience of the odd landslide can make travel unreliable and even dangerous at times. Despite this, the company has a fantastic safety record, with ‘Highest quality brake and suspension system‘ according to the website, and at no point did either of us feel unsafe on the journey.
In addition to this, all the buses are GPS tracked to prevent unscheduled stops.
In terms of personal safety, there is also a helpline and live chat service available for all Peru Hop travellers.
- Cusco is the only stop where hostel pickup is not possible, due to the tiny streets. The bus terminal is rather difficult to find so make sure you arrive in good time before your scheduled departure. My taxi driver had never heard of the terminal and took me to the train station instead.
- If you decide to change your bus departure, make sure you do it at least 12 hours before to secure your seat.
- The Bolivian buses do not have toilets on board so ensure that you go prior to departure.
- Depending on your route, overnight buses can be common, meaning that arrival in the new city could be as early as 05:30. Most hostels will not allow you to check in until the afternoon, however it is worth checking to see if an early check-in or luggage storage is available.
- Make friends! Some journeys are many hours long, and whilst books/music/podcasts/netflix are a great way to pass the time, speaking to your fellow passengers is a great way to learn about different cultures, and find people to spend time with at your next destination!
Elliot’s route: (minimum 5 days) Cusco to Canyon to La Paz – $99
Ellie’s route: (minimum 6 days) Lima to La Paz – $219
Obviously it’s more affordable to miss out the coastal stops and head from Cusco, however as I (Ellie) had more time, I wanted to see as much of Peru as I could before meeting back up with Elliot in Bolivia.
Including the discounted hostels and activities, the ease of the border crossing, and all the free stops along the way, we would definitely say that it is worth the money, no matter which route you choose. Be sure to check out the Peru Hop website here to browse all of the different routes available.
Most passengers on the Peru Hop buses spoke English, meaning that you’re not in for the most ‘authentic’ experience. But despite it feeling quite touristy, it was a great choice for us as first-time solo travellers, and we would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to travel the south of Peru.
Have you ever taken a Peru Hop Bus? how was your experience? Let us know in the comments, or leave us any questions!
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