After six months travelling, having belongings stolen on a bus and going with all the most public buses I was getting to a point where I wasn’t able to sleep on buses. I would check my bag was firmly between my feet every two minutes and would come away from the journey exhausted from it all. This is not including the effort it takes sitting on a terrible quality bus for 10+ hours. It was in Southern Ecuador a girl mentioned Peru Hop to me. I was skeptical, I had done six months of public Latin American transport, I could easily handle more and I didn’t need to spend that amount of money. But then the idea of good quality buses, the security of knowing my stuff would not be stolen by locals and that I would actually be very comfortable while travelling drew me in. I also did the maths as to what they offer and I was surprised. So I decided to make the journey from Lima to La Paz with Peru and Bolivia Hop!
What is Peru and Bolivia Hop?
It is a hop-on, hop-off service that runs throughout the southern area of Peru and the most northern stops of Bolivia. Peru and Bolivia Hop are different from all other options provided in these countries due to the fact that it is solely catering for international travellers, thinking about hostel drop-offs, food on the journey and guides to the tours you have the choice of doing. Once you are signed on, wrist band firmly in place, you have an entire year to stop at the main spots travellers want to visit in both Peru and Bolivia. They time the buses to fit in tours that travellers may want to do in certain cities along with considering the safest routes to take for the tourists throughout the countries and crossing the boarders. Adding to this, especially for solo travellers they have thought about the safety and social aspects with discounts on hostels, food and excursions at the location stops, along with free tours provided with there service. There are loads of different routes to pick and choose from, but I chose the entire journey with them, from Lima to La Paz. The route had all the stops I wanted to cover, but with the variety of options they have, it would be a good idea to check out what they have on offer.
What is Peru Hop good for?
When you are wanting safety.
Travelling alone, safety is something that is always at the forefront of my mind, particularly being female. While it will never ever stop me from travelling it does heavily lead many of my decisions when I’m travelling. Despite this, I still had stuff stolen from my bag travelling on a bus. So the first concern Peru Hop stops is safety in terms of robbery while you are travelling. They have a list of every person travelling on the bus, full names and passport details of all passengers. For the first time in months I had a few hours of blissful relaxation not worrying about the security of my belongings. Southern Peru is also known for its hold ups (hijacking vehicles and armed robberies) and it was reassuring to know that the buses all have around the clock GPS monitoring. This means that if a bus is going off course, head office know about it and can react accordingly.
The second is safety on the road. The roads of Peru and Bolivia are chaos. Before we started on Peru Hop we had to get a taxi from Lima bus station to Peru Hop office, we had to walk away from one and get out of another taxi because we could smell alcohol and it was fairly obvious both drivers were drunk. One taxi driver also laughingly said in a husky Bolivian accent, that you don’t need to wear a seat belt to the English guy I was travelling with while he was doing up his seat belt up in another incident. We also had a sobering incident of seeing a man knocked off his moped, bleed out and die on the road infront of the bus*. So in conclusion, these countries roads are seriously not the safest to travel on. But Peru Hop has two drivers, to avoid tiredness and systems in place to make sure the bus is being driven correctly and at the right speeds.
*In this instance, the bus stopped and the tour guide of our bus rang the appropriate services, while stopping the man wanting to move the body and calming the woman down who unfortunately saw the entire incident.
When you are wanting reliability
Whenever you think travel in Latin America and it says ’10 hours’ most travellers know to add on a few hours to this timeframe. Not with Peru Hop, it is one smooth, slick, operation that was on time with every single journey I made with them. If anything, most of the journeys arrived ahead of time.
When you are short on time
They have this route and all the others, to fit in with a time squeezed schedule down to a fine art. It says the minimum time you could do this tour in is ten days. Which to me is mental! But if you are really struggling for time and want to fit everything in, Peru Hop is the only service in terms of reliability of timings in Peru and Bolivia that could deliver. Not one other provider could come close to the reliability Peru Hop provides.
I did this journey in over a month but I spent four nights in Arequipa, and over two weeks in Cusco, visiting the Amazon and Machu Pichu. But thats the beauty of Peru Hop, whatever your schedule, no worries. It all fits in.
When you are wanting to socialise
Being a solo traveller knowing there was a service that would help you out to meet people to travel with, was an instant eye-brow raiser for me. It is a very social service, organising all you can eat and drink group dinners, giving discounts to bars and having some of the most approachable guides I have spent the evening with in the entirety of my travels!(Shout out to Aldo, working for Peru Hop because he just loves the company and the life it gives him. Reassuring they treat their employees as well as their customers.)
Aside from the actual travel with the amount of tours, even if you don’t want to be particularly social you will run into the same people time and time again. Really, not making friends is harder to do while you’re on Peru Hop than making them. This social aspect is a large reason many travellers chose to go with Peru Hop, everyone I met were super friendly from all areas of the globe. Not even being on the bus, getting a bottle of water in a small shop a dutch guy saw my Peru Hop wrist band. We spent the next half an hour walking around town with him with recommendation after recommendation coming from him and vice versa because I was heading south and he was heading north.
When you are wanting convenience
I hate feeling like I am being ripped off. I’m always the one to say ‘we can manage it’ to save pennies. I am the one to take on more responsibility and organise in order to not feel as if I have been mugged off or ‘gringo’ed’ as someone endearingly termed it for me in Mexico. I was travelling with an Irish girl who had exactly the same opinion as me on this. But oh my god, did Peru Hop win us over by the end.
It is an all encompassing service, you are picked up and dropped off at your accommodation.* Yay! After six months of weary 4am taxi haggling at bus stations this is a delight.
*Except Cusco & Huacachina
They took the stress out of planning my stops at each place, already having things sorted for you. Not sorted your accommodation? No worries, you can do it on the bus over. Not thought of things you can do in that town or city? No worries, they have a listed itinerary that you can take a look at, with the times that it can be provided so you can see how it can fit into your schedule.
Meal times while your on a journey is something else that worry me wayyyyy too much, being allergic to gluten and needing to eat regularly with my illnesses. On public buses, do you bring snacks? Are they going to provide meals no doubt containing gluten? Are they going to make stops for meals? It’s safe to say when travelling, I get next meal anxiety! But with Peru Hop that is not a worry, I knew they stopped as they organised all meal requests a few hours before we stopped for the said meals.
When you are wanting to be comfortable.
Yes, there are bus services that are also comfortable in Peru, but you will be paying a premium for them, namely Cruz del Sur. If you decide on Cruz del Sur for every leg of the journey it actually ends up being more expensive than Peru Hop and that’s not even including hostel pick ups and free tours! The buses are of high quality, having done a short stint in the truck industry (not something I shout at the top of my lungs about, but money for travel is money for travel!), I know what a good quality and bad quality engine sounds like along with what it feels like to sit in a vehicle with a good one. Being in a good quality vehicle, particularly while it is moving makes for a quieter, smoother journey. Something that goes a long way when you are doing overnight and long journeys.
On top of this they provide lots of small extras that just go so far to make life comfortable on the bus. The chairs recline to around 140 degrees and they have thin duvets with each chair. I was lucky enough with every journey to have two chairs, my nights sleep on the Peru Hop buses were arguably better than many evenings I’ve had in hostels around Latin America! They also give extra added comforts such as English movies, bottles of water and on the odd occasion a bag of popcorn to go with the film.
The maths of the money:
Before doing the maths I was skeptical, I didn’t want to waste my money on something that seemed like a luxury. After doing the maths I was persuaded, here was my break down:
- Lima-Paracas $8
- Paracas-Huacachina $15
- Nazca-Arequipa $25
- Arequipa- Cusco $35
- Cusco-Puno $30
- Puno-Copacabana $8
- Copacabana-La Paz $7
- Ferry journey needed to La Paz $1
- Taxis to get to accomodation* $35
- Pisco Wine tour $18
- Paracas nature reserve $5.75
- Nazca viewing tower $1
*Taxi value is based on the prices I have experienced (around $2.50 for a taxi), considering there are 7 legs of this journey to and from accommodation meaning 14 journeys in total (14x$2.50=$35)
The cost of a Peru Hop ticket is $228. Which means that I was paying an extra $5.50 a journey for comfort, convenience and most importantly for me, safety. Shannon O’Donnell from the travel website ‘A Little Adrift’ gave me a few paragraphs of advice on solo female travel with the first sentence being ‘Always pay the extra few dollars for your safety’. I got this advice the day before going to the Peru Hop office. In London I paid $5 for a hot drink, why would I not pay that for my safety? To me as a solo female traveller it was a no brainer. This also wasn’t considering the convenience, comfort and social aspects of it.
What Peru Hop isn’t good for.
The tight budget traveller.
If $40 extra over five weeks is alot then Peru Hop isn’t for you. This price difference is for comfort, convenience and safety. Everyone puts a different monetary value to these elements depending on there travelling style. If you style is public transport, with no time constraints then really Peru Hop will not be suitable for you and you will probably not appreciate these extras.
If your looking to avoid the tourist trail.
If you are wanting to avoid the touristy crowds, the biggest stops in Peru and Bolivia, with traveller hostels then again this will not be for you. The bus route is the travellers route in Peru. If you are wanting to go to the more obscure towns and villages in South America, then it might not make sense to pay for Peru Hop and then the extra travel needed to get to the ‘off the beaten path’ towns and villages.
If you want real flexibility to your travels.
The bus times and the tour times they provide are absolutely fixed, there are not alternatives to the times they offer. They are a business trying to cater for people with limited time, along with people who can take all the time in the world. Some tours start at 7am so travellers pushed for time can get lots done in one day, along with 10 hour journeys during the day instead of the night, but again there is a reason for this schedule.If you have amble time, don’t like feeling organised by someone else and want your days to just go with the flow, then you might feel constricted by Peru Hops schedules.
Would I recommend Peru Hop?
For me and the girls I met on Peru Hop, we were so happy to have the organisation aspect taken off our hands for those blissful five weeks. But it did mean, I felt I had less flexibility as I was being organised by someone else. But the ease of the whole service completely overweighed the feeling at times of being bound by timings someone else had set for me. However, I would only recommend Peru Hop to certain types of travellers. This is a well run business with easily the best customer service in Latin America but just because a business is well run doesn’t mean every traveller is an appropriate customer. There are friends currently travelling with Peru Hop as we speak because I recommended it and others who haven’t done based on how they travel. It completely depends on what you value most as you travel. I had the most amazing five weeks experiencing Peru and Bolivia, Peru Hop added to that amazing experience and that’s the whole point of travel right?
While I had a complimentary price thanks to Peru Hop, my opinions are my own.