Peru Hop is a hop-on hop-off bus system that makes traveling in Peru convenient, safe, and fun. There are a few different options to choose from, but basically they hit up the most popular stops on the way from Lima to Cuzco (or vice versa). You stay in those places as long as you want and Peru Hop hooks you up with optional recommended local tours. They also make a few select free stops along the way which add a lot of value to your trip.
After picking us up at our hostel in Lima, we drove to the Christ statue above the city. This is just an example of one of the little freebies that they throw in to make your trip better. We took in the view over the city and drove a couple hours south to Chincha where we stopped at Hacienda San Jose. This was a quick but interesting (and free) pause in our drive to see some of the Afro-Peruvian history in the area. Hacienda San Jose was a sugarcane and cotton plantation that imported slaves from Africa and has an underground network of tunnels.
We stopped overnight in Paracas and visited the gorgeous coastline of the Paracas reserve and the “poor-man’s Galapagos” or Islas Ballestas, which was an inexpensive and worthwhile add-on tour. The next day the bus made the short journey to Lago Huacachina and the gigantic sand dunes where we did a little crazy dune buggy riding and sand boarding (add-on tour). Then the bus made the overnight journey to the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa, stopping at the observation tower (free) to view to Nasca Lines at sunset.
From Arequipa we booked a two-day trek into the Colca Canyon, and other ‘hoppers’ did an all day tour or two-day canyon tour. The trek is strenuous, but a great way to get inside the canyon. After the trek we had a smooth six-hour journey to Puno to rest our legs. We used Puno as a base to explore Lake Titicaka. We opted for the full-day tour of Titicaca, but others stay overnight on Isle Taquile with a local family. Our day trip visited Uris Island as well as Taquile.
On the final overnight we crossed the high-altitude plain between Titicaca and Cusco. First thing in the morning we arrived in the ancient capital of the Inca and set out to explore its cobbled streets and masterful stonework.
Riding the hop-on hop-off is not for everybody, but those who have been using it, love it (myself included). It’s safe, convenient, and we’re seeing a whole lot more than we would have otherwise. Although other country’s have similar services (South Africa, New Zealand) this was my first time using a hop-on hop-of bus.
There’s no doubt about it, Peru Hop is convenient. It saves time, hassle, and may even save money. They pick you up and drop you off directly at your hostel, so there is no need to use taxis.
One of the main reasons I choose to use Peru Hop is because I had a limited time and wanted to see the most of Peru. Peru Hop buses make little stops along the way that make the trip more interesting and fun and may be difficult to see if using other traditional type long-distance buses.
Did I mention no more taxis?! Plus they hook you up with good deals at various hostels and book your room or bed for you. $199 for the “full south” may look expensive at first, but you gets lots of extras and I believe it’s a good value overall.
South America has got some crime issues that you should be aware of. It’s always important to keep a close eye on your bags in overnight buses and there have been issues with crimes involving unlicensed taxi drivers. As a hopper, you don’t have to worry about getting your backpack slashed open or fall asleep clutching your bags.
If you’re concerned about your level of or lack of Spanish, don’t worry. All your travel logistics are taken care of. Peru Hop guides speak English.
If you’re trying to learn Spanish and mingle with locals you’re not going to get that experience here (although sometimes other South American backpackers use Peru Hop). But let’s be honest, most long distance buses are luxury coaches filled with tourists anyway, so unless you go hard-core short-distance local buses, you’re not going to get that experience.
Some people like the challenge of negotiating bus terminals and dealing with taxi drivers and finding their way to the hostel. After all, this is the essence of travel, and some travelers might want this experience. They might feel that Peru Hop puts a barrier between them and the local culture they traveled so far to witness. Fair enough.
For most travelers, myself included, Peru Hop buses provide enough comfort. We went overnight on the buses two times and had no complaints. Other bus companies that run long distance buses, however, use luxury buses that recline to nearly 180 degrees, serve meals, and provide more elbow room with only three seats across. Peru Hop buses don’t have this.
Using Peru Hop is an excellent choice if you have limited time in Peru. It cuts out all the wasted time waiting at bus stations and taking taxis. It also safer. Other long-distance buses have issues with bags being stolen or slashed open overnight. Peru Hop is also definitely a cool way to meet other travelers. There’s no denying the convenience factor of visiting all the stops along the way that most travelers want to visit anyway.
However, die-hard independent travelers might consider this form of traveling ‘cheating’. A few years ago I may have scoffed at the idea of using a hop-on hop off bus, but with my limited time in Peru and limited Spanish skills, I thought it would be something worth checking out. If I were a long-term traveler making my way overland across South America in several months, I might stick purely to independent buses.
Peru Hop is an excellent concept and is right for many travelers and many situations. So consider it. http://www.peruhop.com/
Disclosure: Peru Hop provided me with a full south bus pass to write this review, but all opinions here are my own.