Travelling by bus is very common in Peru. There are several agencies offering bus rides into all parts of the country. Some of the busses are even outfitted with so called cama seats, in which you have space comparable to that of business class seats on an airplane.
Since it is much cheaper than travelling by plane we also decided to use busses for our journey through Peru. After doing my research on the internet and reading some comments I quickly realized that this is not only dangerous* but also unreliable depending on the bus operator you choose.
In the end we decided to use Cruz del Sur for nearly all of our travel segments because they have the best reputation. They even have a working homepage that offers the option to book online and because we already knew our travel dates well in advance we used it.
This was a mistake!
It all started out well. Our bus from Lima to Paracas and later to Ica left nearly on time, we got the seats we had booked and the driver even drove with reasonable speed. The controlls during check-in were ridiculous, but at least they tried to create the impression of safety with their sketchy security check.
But then came Ica and our longest and most expensive travel segment to Cusco. We arrived at the terminal as usual well in advance with more than one hour to spare. We had printed our tickets and there was no problem when we checked our large bags – same procedure as during our first two rides.
Then as we wanted to board the bus we suddenly were told that our tickets were cancelled and our seats already taken by others. How could they be cancelled I thought. Long story short, we weren’t allowed on that bus, talked to at least 5 different employes of Cruz del Sur including the manager of the terminal in Ica and were faced with unfathonable incompetence, ignorance and indifference.
In the end we got only a very vague explanation what had happened. Supposedly something went wrong with the payment and our money had not arrived. The funny thing is that I had checked all transactions on my VISA account and made sure the payments went out. Also we got a confirmation mail containing the tickets for each of our bookings.
So the error, if any, was clearly in the system of Cruz del Sur. But nobody in Ica cared and so we ended up buying our tickets again, only for the next day. We also had our follow-up bookings checked and believe it or not, our second most expensive booking from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco was also cancelled.
The whole situation cost us around 250 dollars for new tickets, additional taxi rides and another night in a hotel. Plus we lost one day of our travels. I didn’t bother to contact Cruz del Sur afterwards because I had gotten a clear impression of how they work and honestly I didn’t want to waste more energy on them.
Now after a few months I at least want to share my experience and a few tips, in case one of you plans to travel with them. Because despite our negative experience they might still be the best option to choose.
- If possible, try to book your tickets in a Curz del Sur office once you arrive in Lima and get them printed there. This seems much more secure than online booking
- On the day of your travel, be at the terminal well in advance and first thing go to the counter and get your tickets confirmed. Make sure they not only look at the ticket but also check in their system. In case something is wrong you at least have a chance to get new tickets then.
- Make sure to learn some spanish, because in case something goes wrong nobody at the terminals will understand one word english.
If you remember, in my first article I wrote something about staying relaxed when things don’t go as planned. I have to admit it was very hard when talking to the Cruz del Sur employees in Ica. But we managed to get to Cusco in the end and this is what counts and what my next article will be about.
* Dangerous refers the street conditions, the speed with which most of the drivers navigate those streets and also the possibility of robbings on night busses. We experienced none of those though and I wouldn’t label our bus rides through Peru dangerous.