Getting around Peru and Bolivia: to Hop or not to Hop?

Taking a bus was our main type of transportation in South America. We only took one flight – from Buenos Aires to Santiago, to get there in time for Lollapalooza. We took one train – from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. And two boats: from Buenos Aires to Colonia and from Montevideo to Buenos Aires. All the rest of the way during 9 weeks between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Peru we spent on a bus.

Buses in South America are quite cheap, and some of them very comfortable (oh, Argentina, I’m gonna miss your buses). So, if you have a long drive and a tight budget, you can have an overnight bus and save on accommodation for that night. If you are short on time or you are not willing to say goodbye to certain comfort level, flying is a great option. Money wasn’t the only reason we were so attracted to taking buses: trips were simply beautiful! There is so much you see from the bus – natural scenery, people’s homes outside big city, wildlife and more. But there are also challenges: some of the buses are better than others; certain places can be unsafe, and buying a ticket at the bus stop without speaking Spanish can be quite hard.

Read more about buses in South America on Exploring Kiwis.

By the time we reached La Paz, we got tired of going from company to company at a bus station, so we decided to buy Bolivia Hop/Peru Hop ticket all the way through La Paz to Cusco to Lima with stops in Copacabana, Puno (that one we didn’t do), Arequipa, Nazca, Huacachina and Paracas. There are many pros and cons of Peru Hop, and here is our truthful opinion about it.

Why did we go with Peru Hop?

Honestly, partially for the ease of it. It wasn’t particularly cheap ticket (199 USD per person), but it seemed to include pick ups and drop offs as well as some extra tours. At that point we were so fed up of having to book a bus and accommodation in every place we go to that we just wanted at least part of it to be figured out upfront. So we went with Peru Hop.

Peru Hop pros

  • if you book one ticket, you can change your dates up to 12 hours before departure, so it’s flexible, but at the same time you don’t have to spend time hunting for tickets around bus stations.

  • they offer pick ups and drop offs, however it’s only for certain cities and in certain locations.

  • their guides speak English, so if Spanish is not your forte, this can be very helpful.

  • they organize some free tours, and you can book some trips for the extra fee with them – again, that can make your life a little easier.

  • you meet people on the way, your paths might cross later and you end up hanging out with them again and again, which can make you feel like you are travelling with friends.

  • somehow it seems more safe than some other bus companies, which is a big plus.

  • in the end you get a cool llama T-shirt.

Peru Hop cons

  • drop offs and pick ups only happen in certain areas:

    • in La Paz we weren’t picked up as they only do it downtown.

    • in Copacabana the pick up and drop off is near the anchor, but luckily it’s not a big town so we could just walk there.

    • in Cusco, since buses are too big to drive on small streets, they arrange a taxi to drop you off which is included; the pick-up is not happening in Cusco.

    • in Arequipa we got dropped off at our hostel and taxi picked us up.

    • in Nazca, taxi dropped us off but had to make our own way to the pick up point.

    • in Huacachina there is only general drop off and pick up because come on, it’s tiny.

    • in Lima we stayed downtown, and they only drop you off at Miraflores and Barranco districts. We paid for our own taxi to our accommodation, which was 30 soles extra for us.

    • all in all (not including Huacachina), even though we didn’t stay outside the city, Peru Hop picked us up only one time out of 5 and dropped us off 3 times out of 5. So if you are going with Peru Hop, it’s recommended to book your accommodation in the areas where they operate.

  • you don’t know which bus you are getting on. We had a very nice and comfortable experience, but we also had a terrible night drive with uncomfortable seats and super cold bus. Also, “full cama” is not an option with Peru Hop.

  • you cannot book your seats. Come on! I know it’s a bit messy, because buses continue to other destinations and people come on and off. With proper online booking system it should be possible though. It’s a bummer when you travel together and can’t seat with your buddy/partner in a bus. This is normally an option with ordinary buses in South America.

  • some of the offers they have are not exactly the best in our opinion.

    • free tours: while we really enjoyed going to slave tunnels, we found that national reserve in Paracas was a bit boring for a tour. It’s beautiful place, but by that time we have already seen so many even more stunning places in Peru! Stopping for pictures at these 3 viewpoints just didn’t seem good enough.

      Paracas Peru

      Peru spoiled us with fantastic experiences, but of course we enjoyed every minute of it – Paracas National Reserve

    • paid extra activities: we absolutely loved Ballestas islands tour in Paracas. It was such a nice and refreshing ride; we saw dolphins, sea lions, penguins, interesting birds like pelicans and more. But I cannot say the same for the Isla del Sol in Copacabana. It takes way too long to get there and back! Meaning that the time you spend on an island doesn’t seem to be nearly enough. In a little over an hour you just walk from one harbour to the other with a quick stop somewhere. That’s my one regret about Isla del Sol: I wish we had more time there. The suggestion is either to book with another company that offers more time on the island, or to spend the night on the island and go back with Peru Hop next day. This way you get to enjoy it longer. On the other hand, Copacabana is worth exploring. If you only have one day there, I would recommend staying in the city.

      Paracas

      A group of dolphins passed right next to our boat while we were riding to Ballestas Islands

      Ballestas Islands

      Can you spot penguins?

      Ballestas Islands

      Sea lions are among the inhabitants of Ballestas Islands

      Isla del Sol

      The view of the green hills of Isla del Sol

      Copacabana Bolivia

      Copacabana and Lake Titicaca

    • hotel offers: Peru Hop has some partner hostels and hotels. But make sure you check these places at other websites like booking.com or hostelworld.com. Sometimes special offers they have for the same places are better than the ones with Peru Hop.

    • times are not flexible, which means normally buses go only once per day. Not all locations have everyday busses, and it’s a continuing bus with stops. So, for example, from Nazca to Paracas the 10 hour bus drives during the day. Normally we’d prefer to do it at night so we don’t lose another vacation day.

      Nazca Flight

      We didn’t regret taking a flight over Nazca lines. This is the only way to see the lines that made sense to us

To summarize, I would say that if you no hablo espanol at all and just want to have some fun and make your life easy, go with Peru Hop. But if you want more flexibility and control over conditions of your travels, try to arrange your own trips. You don’t have to buy your bus tickets weeks in advance in South America. Be aware, however, and make sure you travel safe! Big thanks to Bolivia Hop/Peru Hop for the experiences we had and for trying to make travellers’ lives easier.

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