Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 3, 2009

Two months in Peru, PART 2: Trains, Buses and Automobiles.

After two months in Peru, Rob and Jessie take a look back and try to put their fingers on just what it is that’s kept them here so long. Click here for part One (Peruvian People).

In Part 2: How did we get here from there?

We’ve moved around a fair amount here, be it from city to city or within each city. We’ve written about some specific trips, such as the train from Lima to Huancayo, and our Bus ride to Chachapoyas (BTW, I also just published an article on that trip on Living in Peru).

Today we wanted to write more generally about what it’s like to travel in Peru, via Bus, Train, Taxi, Combi, Mototaxi, and all the rest.

Peru’s buses have the best movies, hands down.

bus ticket to Tarma Peru

Let me clarify: of any buses that I’ve been on. Grayhound? No movies, and the seats weren’t comfortable. Venezuela? The air conditioning froze your ass off, and then you were expected to sleep through a terribly dubbed Van Damme trio played at maximum volume. Baja California? We had to watch an edited version of Crash twice (in Spanish) while waiting for our driver to finish chatting up his waitress.

Overnight bus rides aren’t expected to be pleasant—that’s just part of the deal. But in Peru? Even on the cheapest line you get seats that recline almost horizontally, dinner or snack service, and a reasonable movie selection played at a volume you can sleep through.

Just some of the movies we’ve watched: A Beautiful Mind (in Spanish), A Knight’s Tale (yay!), How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (surprisingly good). Only once did we get what’s considered the classic bus movie: some strange Spanish-dubbed remix of The Mummy XXVII and a Japanese slasher flick where everyone screamed for the entire 120 minutes.

Anyone want to challenge Peru for best bus movies? Leave ’em in the comments below.

Rules of the road are different here, but there are rules.

traffic cops in Lima Peru

You can turn left from the right-hand lane, and you can cross a busy intersection one lane at a time while stalling oncoming traffic, and no one gets mad at you. In general, the bigger you are the more right of way you have (pedestrians, alas, are quite small). Turn signals, headlights, hazard flashers and hand signals are not at all used for what we use them for in the US, but they do have a specific code and understood use.

We’ve moved ourselves slowly into this world, first by taking taxis in Lima, then by trying to crack the code of combis and microbuses. The most dangerous place to be, we’ve decided, is on the sidewalk. Remember: when crossing the streets, run!

Seattle’s bus system sucks, but at least they give us a map.

on the bus from Huanchaco

If you’re used to standing at an empty bus stop for 25 minutes past the scheduled time on a daily basis (ahem, Seattle), you can imagine how bewildering it must be to arrive in Lima. Every minute a half-dozen brightly-painted buses pull to a shrieking halt at the bus stops, jostling for position while their wranglers shout unintelligible destinations and try to hustle you on board.

At first Rob and I were mystified by the system, but on this last trip to Lima we decided it was time to hop on the bus.

Hungry? Why wait?

lamborgini ice cream vendor

We’ve been traveling on the nicer night buses lately, but the first bus we took from Huancayo to Tarma was a good introduction for us to something I talked about yesterday: If it can be carried, someone will try to sell it to you anytime, anywhere. Here’s some video that Rob shot of the bus vendors.

Someday soon we’ll put together a guide to Peruvian street food. So many tasty things, so little knowledge of what they are!

Speaking of food, tune in tomorrow for our special food installation of our Two Month Recap. We’ll be starting a weekly Wednesday food column, and tomorrow will serve as an introduction to Peruvian cuisine.



  1. Hello fellow bloggers! Your blog is very interesting, as is your adventure! I find myself in a similar situation as you, except that I am living in Lima for a year.

    Beautiful photography, guys. I’ve even bought some Fairmail cards so it’s interesting to find (one of) the guys behind it.

    Have you been down to Huacachina, near Ica, yet? It’s awesome if you like adventure sports. Boarding on the sand dunes and riding in a dunebuggy.

    Feel free to check out my blog if you want, It’s creepy, we have the same theme. Keep up the awesome adventures!

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