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cruz del sur bus in peru

My curiosity about bus travel in South America was satisfied on an epic 18 hour, 1000-km journey from Lima to Arequipa by Cruz del Sur bus. I’d read so many glowing reports about the experience, I couldn’t wait to try it myself.

cruz del sur bus in peru

South American bus travel was something I definitely wanted to experience!

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Altitude Adjustment in Arequipa

As the date of my Inca Trail Trek loomed, my nervousness began to grow in magnitude. Let’s just say I’m not the most naturally athletic of people. The prospect of hiking 42km over 4 days did not fill me with glee and anticipation, like it does most people. For me, the feeling was more of trepidation. Or dread. Yes, dread pretty much sums it up.

The prospect of also potentially getting altitude sickness while trekking didn’t make me feel much better.

The thing is – my sister-in-law Melissa had a major bout of altitude sickness while trekking Kiliminjaro. It involved vomiting, passing out and having to descend from altitude as quickly as possible. The consequences of not doing so? Dire. The fact that Melissa is at least 500x more athletic than me was not inspiring much confidence, despite reading that fitness level has nothing to do with getting sick. Apparently.

Needless to say, the last thing I wanted, was to suffer from altitude sickness while hiking the Inca Trail. It would be like adding an unnecessary trial on top of an already physically demanding challenge…one that I wasn’t sure I was up to in the first place.

Lima to Arequipa | Bus vs Flying

Arequipa is situated on the bottom of a geographic triangle, with Lima and Cusco making up the other corners. Arequipa’s altitude is 2335 metres, so it seemed like a good middle ground after sea-level Lima, to adjust to the even higher Peruvian altitudes of Cuzco.

civeche in lima peru

Leaving the ceviche in Lima for Arequipa was hard, but I managed.

These days, it’s possible to get one-way flights from Lima to Arequipa on a budget airline for as little as $50, but when I made this trip, that price was unheard of.

In retrospect though, I’d probably STILL choose to travel by Cruz del Sur bus. While the cost is pretty similar, traveling overnight by bus, also saved us the cost of one night’s accommodation in Arequipa, and included all meals (in the Cruzero Suite).

All that time on the bus from Lima to Arequipa would also help me acclimatize even more slowly to the altitude, so the decision was easy.

landscapes on the way from lima to arequipa

Desolate landscapes out the bus window on the way to Arequipa from Lima.

Lima to Arequipa by Cruz del Sur Bus | My Experience

The 18 hour overnight bus journey from Lima to Arequipa in Cruz del Sur’s first class, Cruzero Suite service cost $55. It included almost fully flat wide sofa bed seats, in-seat entertainment, a hot meal and a whole host of security features, like non-stop service and 2 drivers that alternate in 4 hour shifts of driving.

lima to arequipa on a cruz del sur bus

18 hours on a Cruz del Sur bus from Lima to Arequipa was a breeze!

I was a little hesitant about 18 long hours on a bus, but having done it, I can safely say that it was one of the easiest trips I’ve ever made.

After watching a few movies and being served a hot chicken meal (decent, not amazing), I pushed my seat as far back as I could, covered myself with the blanket they provided and promptly fell asleep. I’m not sure if it was the motion of the bus, or just tiredness from so much traveling, but I was out in a way I never am on a plane.

18 hours passed while I slept soundly in my plush, leather seat, and before I knew it, I’d traveled 1018 km and arrived in Arequipa safe and sound. I didn’t feel the trip at all.

streets of arequipa peru

The deserted streets of Arequipa, Peru. Altitude: 2335-m above sea level.

Traveling Peru by Cruz del Sur Bus

There are a million bus companies in Peru, and many of them are cheaper and probably just as good as Cruz del Sur. However, most online reviews in english recommended Cruz del Sur, so we stuck with what we knew, whenever we could. With our Canadian currency, the difference in cost ended up being pretty minor anyway.

During my time in Peru, I took Cruz del Sur buses on 3 separate occasions. The process of booking tickets was simple and hassle-free, and the bus journeys were excellent.

Lima to Arequipa by Cruz del Sur Bus

In this instance, we had our hostel call and book the tickets for us, and Cruz del Sur delivered them, at no extra cost.

Arequipa to Puno by Cruz del Sur Bus

Because I wasn’t traveling in Cruzero Suite for this trip from Arequipa to Puno (only 6 hours), I bought a ticket at the bus terminal 15 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave. No problem!

Cuzco to Lima by Cruz del Sur Bus

On my final journey from Cuzco to Lima (23 hours!), I booked bus tickets online in advance, to ensure that I would get a seat in the Cruzero Suite. I was able to reserve and pay for the ticket online using my Canadian credit card and pick them up at the terminal with a confirmation code on my day of travel.

Have you ever traveled by long-distance bus? Would you recommend it?

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