It is unsurprising that a visit to Peru makes it at the top of many traveler’s bucket lists. A country rich in culture, history, and landscape; their cuisine is an epicure’s dream come true, and they house one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Machu Picchu. It’s not expensive, and the country takes the international cake for geographic diversity.

I had the privilege of calling Peru home for thirteen months, and it remains mi querencia (place where one feels most in their element). However, my stay wasn’t all sunshine and fairy dust. It pains it pains me to say that the travel advisories aren’t exaggerating.

It is hardly news that public transportation in Peru is a major concern, but that doesn’t mean that you are helpless. Taking certain precautions will greatly reduce your risk of crime and accidents.

Shot from the road on the way to Colca Cayon, near Arequipa, Peru.
Shot from the road on the way to Colca Cayon, near Arequipa, Peru.

Buses:

Overland travel in Peru is dicey. Ambushes happen in many regions of the country, and accidents are common due to long driving shifts and poor road conditions. Traveling with a credible company decreases the risk since many companies restrict the number of hours that drivers are permitted behind the wheel per shift.

Many people recommend Cruz del Sur as the safest and most reliable company. However, they were targeted multiple times last year, including an incident in July 2013 where thieves successfully stole items that added up to a $50,000 value from a Cruz del Sur bus filled with tourists that was heading to Cusco.  

These targeted assaults on tour buses is due to the assailants assumption that the buses would be loaded with tourists transporting expensive gear. I would suggest traveling only slightly down the ladder with either Cromotex or Oltursa or break the route from Lima to Cusco up in sections. Once on the bus, it is recommended to keep your backpack under your seat with the strap hooked around your leg.

There are seldom day routes between cities, but if you have the option you should always take the day bus.

Taxis:

Taxis are a serious issue in Peru, as they are notorious for express kidnappings. Lima, Trujillo, and Arequipa all have a bad reputation for not having their taxis under control. Express kidnappings are short-term, opportunistic abductions aimed to extract money from victims. Victims are usually held while the criminals empty their bank accounts with their stolen credit and debit cards. Victims can be held for days at a time; as a result travelers are advised against carrying around debit or credit cards in their pocket. Nonetheless, these cities also all have lucrative cab companies that are easily identified, and can be called to arrange a ride. Companies vary from city to city, so be sure to ask a local or your hostel’s staff for specific names.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to take a taxi on the street, be careful. Check to make sure that the numbers on the outside match the numbers on the inside, write down the plate number, and look for the driver’s ID on the dash and a radio in the center console. Also take a quick look in the back seat and (if you can) in the trunk, to make sure there is nobody hiding there. As always, listen to your instincts and agree on a price before getting in the cab.

Lastly, travelers arriving in Lima should plan in advance and be ready to fork out the cash for the most expensive taxi ride of your Peruvian adventure. Some hostels/hotels may offer the service of arranging the taxi in advance. Do not cheap out on the cab and get one outside of the airport. It is an incredibly bad idea. For more information check out the airport’s comprehensive list of safe cabs

Obligatory Machu Picchu shot.
Obligatory Machu Picchu shot.

The unfortunate truth about the road to Machu Picchu:

Peru has to keep Machu Picchu safe. However, Peru is struggling to keep the routes to Machu Picchu safe. It’s unfortunate, it’s not fair, and there isn’t much that can be done to avoid this other than fly from Arequipa or Lima to Cusco. You can do this without too much of a shakedown through either LAN or Peruvian Airlines. Additionally, if you are flying into Peru specifically for Machu Picchu, it really just makes sense. The bus ride to Cusco from Lima is long, and you will lose time that could be better spent exploring all of the beauty that the Sacred Valley has to offer.

Armed robberies of tourists are fairly common and there have been a lot of reports of petty crimes that have turned violent. If you are EVER faced by a thief, DO NOT FIGHT BACK, just give up all your stuff. Remember that cameras, credit cards and phones are replaceable, you aren’t. 

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madhatter

Guest Post Provided by: Tina from Full of Wanderlust

Tina Stelling is a traveling freelance writer wandering Latin America. A blogger, a backpacker, an expat, a hooper, a feminist, and a connoisseur of all things delicious, you could find her harvesting apples this week, and dancing in five inch wedges until sunrise next weekend. For more vicarious living, visit her site or follow her on Facebook.

7 Comments

    1. This is so sad to hear. We went to Peru for our honeymoon in 1982. There were problems then also, but it sounds like the situation has deteriorated.

      1. Yes, it is incredibly sad. But if you do your research and keep an eye out, then your chances of getting in trouble are greatly reduced.

      1. It’s better to break up the route or take the plane because Cruz del Sur is getting targeted more and more for the sole reason that many tourists take those buses when going from Lima to Cuzco.

    1. Wow. Most of this advice is over the top. I’ve been to Peru like twelve times and never been robbed.
      Learn Spanish and be shrewd. Ask locals what things should cost and you won’t get screwed. Also just take a plane to Cuzco or Iquitos. It’s inexpensive and nobody is going to jack you on a plane. It’s not that dangerous. Just don’t carry around anything worth stealing. Use disposable cameras and don’t carry tons of money. Again, be shrewd. Don’t go around looking like a prime target or walking in places you have no business being in–like dark alleys, barracones or residential areas you are not staying in.

    1. Totally agree with what you say here. I travelled with Cruz del Sur and had a mostly great experience, but had heard there can be some issues especially in northern Peru. Taxis were also definitely a little dicey- including one driver who apparently didn’t know where the airport was- huh?! You definitely need to stay alert when using transport in Peru.

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