Lima Stories and Tips

Bus Travel

Tourist Photo, Lima, Peru

It is always difficult using the local bus system when you first arrive in a new city. You are never sure where the buses go, you don’t know the fare payment system and you don’t know the frequency or hours of operation. The difficulties generally put me off bus travel until you become more familiar with the city and the system.

Almost every corner of Lima is linked by a regular municipal bus service, known to everyone as El Bussing, with flat-rate tickets. We were told these are bought from the driver as you board but the first time we tried to use one, everyone boarded by the back door and there was a conductor who came and collected fares. In tandem with these are the privately owned microbuses, smaller, more colourful and equally crowded, but again with flat rates.

Quickest of all Lima transport, combi colectivos race from one street corner to another along all the major arterial city roads. You'll see "Todo Arequipa" or "Todo Benavides", for example, chalked up on their windscreens, which indicates that the colectivo runs the whole length of Avenida Arequipa or Avenida Benavides. Colectivos dash dangerously fast, frequently crashing and speeding off before their passengers have got both feet into the vehicle. You wave one down almost anywhere and pay the flat fare to the driver or fare collector.

All visitors need to understand that driving in Lima is incredibly anarchic - it's not that fast, but it is assertive, with undertaking happening as often as overtaking and drivers, especially taxistas, finding gaps that don't appear to exist (one reason why there are so many damaged cars). If you are in the front seat of a taxi or bus, you should probably keep your eyes closed to avoid undue stress.

If you are staying in Miraflores, the best way to get to the historical center is by public bus. There are several buses that follow the "Via Expresa" urban highway, and others run along Avenue Arequipa. In 15 minutes you will be at the center for a 1.20 soles fare. What no-one told me was that there was another bus that starts in Avenue Arequipa but quickly turns off and takes a circuitous route around half Lima’s suburbs before finally reaching the centre. Naturally, that was the one we took. It took about 50 minutes to get where we wanted to go, but it was certainly a cheap tour.

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