Coming from a country where you can get almost anywhere by bus or train and where especially in cities you have great organized public transport connections, coming to Lima was a big change.
At first our host in Lima talked us a little bit out of taking a bus to town and instead take a taxi, so it would be much safer and also a little faster. But soon we wanted to know how it was to ride on a bus.
The public bus system is really not developed, however there is one publicly operated company that has secured gates and frequent busses that have their own lanes on the street which they only share with the firefighters, the police and the ambulance. With a traffic like in Lima this makes a tremendous difference and the busses actually go really fast. The problem with them is they are always full and sometimes you even have to wait in line a for a few busses until it’s you’re turn to get on the bus. Those busses go the main route from Barranco up to the north and from there you can get smaller busses that go on fixed routes.
But I wouldn’t write this post if it was only for this “almost-up-to-European-standards” bus system. The main way people get around in rural areas is with little colectivos. Those are little busses with the names of the places they might, and this is very important, MIGHT drive by written outside. So it is always better to ask first if this bus is even going to your destination. Usually they are from private companies but sometimes it is just a guy that has a bigger van and decided to make a living off of it. They are operated by the driver and another person that collects the money, informs you about where you are at the moment and shouts the bus’s destinations of the route repeatedly out on the street while driving to attract potential customers. Sometimes a vendor of drinks or ice cream can jump on the bus as well and will try to sell his stuff. Surprisingly a lof of Peruvians do buy from those people. These busses can get as full as the other public ones and you are just crammed into you’re little seat if you are lucky or you can enjoy your ride over those bumpy roads while standing and trying not to fall off the bus. If you take a van the doors often stay opened the whole time and a quick jumping on and off the bus while it is driving is completely acceptable.
Of all the cheap means of transportation we got to know in the last few weeks, like mototaxis or the public busses, this is probably the cheapest one. Mostly you only pay an average of 1 Nuevo Sol for a ride. In Arequipa for example we took a bus from the bus terminal to the center for about 30 minutes and it cost us 80 cents, which is around 25 Euro-cents. It is a great way to save money and still get around fast, but always keep in mind that when you are heading to a poor region, which is the case for most rides, the busses are not safe and you could be a victim of a burglar. Always keep your eyes on your valuables. And at nighttime it is always better to hail a taxi.
In the end we got to take our busses around Lima and learn how it all works and by now I can say that we are pretty comfortable going by busses in the city.