Because most Peruvians travel by bus, the country has an incredible network of frequent, high-quality buses—much better, in fact, than in the U.S. or Europe. You will be safer if you avoid the dirt-cheap bus companies that pick up passengers along the way. Some of these buses have been adapted (stretched) to the point where they are structurally unsound.
Bus companies in Peru have a confusing variety of labels for their deluxe services, which include Imperial, Royal Class, Cruzero, Ejecutivo, Especial, and Dorado. The absolute best services, comparable to traveling business class on an airplane, are Cruz del Sur’s Cruzero or Cruzero Suite class and Movil’s better service 180° Bus-Cama class, which unfortunately only serves Huaraz. Deluxe bus service means nonstop (only for driver shifts), more legroom, reclining seats, on-board food and beverage service, videos, safe drivers, and clean bathrooms.
Reputable bus companies in Lima are Cruz del Sur (Lima tel. 01/311-5050, www.cruzdelsur.com.pe), Ormeño (tel. 01/472-1710, www.grupo-ormeno.com.pe), Movil Tours (tel. 01/332-9000, www.moviltours.com.pe), and Oltursa (tel. 01/225-4499, www.oltursa.com.pe).
Bus travel is easier in cities like Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco, where all the bus companies are consolidated in a main bus station, which is usually known as the terminal terrestre. Travelers can arrive there, shop around, and usually be on a bus in an hour or two. In other cities, such as Lima, each bus company has its own bus terminal, some even with VIP lounges, and travelers can save time by buying a ticket through an agency or at a Wong or Metro supermarket through Teleticket.
Luggage theft can still be a problem for bus travelers, especially for those who travel on the cheap bus lines. Always keep your hand on your luggage at a bus station. Once on the bus, the luggage that is checked underneath is usually safe because passengers can only retrieve bags with a ticket. The big problem is carry-on luggage. Place it on a rack where you can see it. Some people bring oversized locks to chain their luggage to a rack, but thieves will just razor through your bag and take what they want.
Assaults on night buses are still a problem in Peru, especially on less expensive buses. Highway bandits hold the bus up by force or sometimes board as normal passengers and hijack it en route. Passengers are not hurt, but are shaken down for their money and passports. Though some companies use a camcorder to film all passengers getting on board, no company can eliminate the risk entirely.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition