Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Transportation (Getting Around Peru)

Updated 15 April 2014

You have many options: combis (buses) mototaxis, taxis, and motorcycles (in smaller cities, you ride on the back of motorcycles like a taxi), and planes.

Problems with Transport
I wrote about the problems with transport before in think carefully before marrying a Peruvian. I said that transport is cheap in Peru, if you want to take combis. I did and they took forever, stopped at green lights, went at red, were driven by maniacs with dirty finger nails, had people crouching down in mini-vans, fighting over fares, bribing police officers, making me angry and stressed out. Many expats drive or take taxis due to this.

Things are slowly changing. There's now the Lima Metro, the Metropolitano Bus, and the Huancayo Metro is in the works. That being said, a friend of mine recently told me that you can tell a country is a developed, first world country when everyone takes public transport. For that to happen, public transport should be:
  • Safe
  • Convenient
  • Reliable
  • Organised
  • Clean 
  • Affordable, with fixed prices
And most public transport in Peru isn't like that. At least not yet. Taxis and mototaxis do not have meters, so you have to agree on the prices beforehand. If you use taxis, try to use safe ones. There are tons of informal taxis, don't use these. Look at the driver and the condition of the taxis as well. When in doubt, don't take it. Try asking a person at a restaurant or hotel to call you a safe taxi.

Is Peru Too Laid Back?
Latin America is known for its laid back lifestyle, but this could be too much of a good thing. This lackadaisical attitude meaning that planning is thrown out the window and things are done in a slipshod manner. This goes for roads, bridges, buildings as well as the future, such as planning for retirement. However, you have to take things into stride and try to understand more about Peruvian culture.

While it's getting better, bribery is still commonplace. I'll never forget the day that I was on a combi that got pulled over by a police officer. The driver took 20 soles in his filthy hands and put it in the documents that he handed over. The policeman held it up, told the driver that he couldn't accept bribes and stuffed it in his shirt pocket. Classic. This is why Peru will not achieve first world status in my lifetime.

Recommended Taxis
If you prefer arranging for a taxi beforehand rather than hailing one on the street, try one of the following taxi companies below.
  • Estrella: 362-6258
  • Molina: 348-988 or 348-6465
  • Molitaxi: 479-0030. Cell: 422-3322 or 422-6899
  • Peru: 3653958 or 3652285
  • Real: 4706263
  • Seguro: 241-0290 or 241-9292
  • San Borja: 476-8945 or 475-5630
  • Surco: 275-0017 or 279-0431

Recommended Drivers
These drivers can help you as a chauffeur would, or might be able to give you tours of Lima.
  • Juan Moron: 241-6752 or 99-857-4243
  • Jose Rojas: 998-959-482
  • Guillermo Llanos: 998-611-655
  • Luis Menacho Valverd:e 998-714-909 or 262-5024
  • Jorge Malca: 999-700-550 or jenniejoous@yahoo.com
  • Peru Van: 574-5340 or 998-335-908

Rental Cars
Although you could drive in Peru, unless you’ve driven here before or have very good reflexes, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll probably pay about $200 a week plus taxes. If you don’t want to drive, you could hire a driver.

Buying a Car
If you're looking to get a car, a good place to start is by buying El Comercio on Sunday. You can also try looking online. If you own a car, you will have to take it once a year to get a technical revision. You can find more info at this post.

Getting a Driver's License
Updated for 2012: how to get a license. For tips on how to pass, see this thread (Stuart has lots of good info). See Touring Peru for more info. The Touring and Automobile Club (MTC)is in Lince, Lima. You can find requirements in English at this post.

There's a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting a Peruvian driver's licenses. It's probably easier to maintain your foreign driver's license and renew or repurchase your international license each year. In the United States it only costs $15 for the international license from AAA.

You have three tries at the rules and three tries at the practical. If you fail all three then you have to wait another three months and try again.

You can do a mock driving test. It's a good way to see what they're looking for (They want you to use indicators going around a bend with no intersection and slow down at green lights.) And also to practise diagonal and parallel parks as the area you have is tiny and you are only allowed one shot at it in the official test. If you're doing it Saturday morning get there early. All your windows have to be down and sunshade up. If you do the driving exam and your car is not super small then you will HAVE TO rent one of their vehicles at Conchan in order to pass the parking portion of the circuit. Once you pass you will need to go to the MTC on the backside of the building shared by Touring.

You'll need
  • Original and copies of your passport or CE.
  • 2 carnet sized photos
  • Proof of high school education, (at least high school - certified copy or original and photocopy.
  • Pay the fee for the medical exam at Scotiabank
  • Pay the fee for the driving test at the Banco de la Nacion
  1. Pass the medical exam. Keep the receipt. (allow at least 2 hours - includes written psychological test, hearing/sight and general well-being (this can be done opposite Touring in Lince). You pay there).
  2. Pass the written exam (Licencias Peru and learn the list of 260 rules - click on "Balotario de Reglas". Sign in online and do the mock tests as many times as you like - click on "Simulacro Virtual".)
  3. Pass the Driving exam. (For expats you can get exonerated from the driving portion of the test if you have an international license. For the exoneration you need to legalize the copies of your International license and your Country driver's license. You can ONLY get a license this way if you have a certified official document from the location where your license was issued to prove your license is true and valid. You present this at Module 4 at Touring in the office that is second from the right. If you don't have the Foreign License exemption then you need to go to to the centre in Conchan - KM 21.5 Panamericana.)
  4. After you do the driving test you have to wait for the results - if you get called to the box you've failed, if you get called when the guy is standing up you've passed. You have to show all the documentation all over again (including photos) on a different day, go early. They open at 9am. The normal wait for foreign licenses is 2.5 hours.

Combis (Intracity Buses)
Combis are a bit difficult to get used to. Rutas Recomendables has fantastic combi maps. Combis stop where they want, so that means that they can stop five times on a block. Basically people flag them down and don't bother to use bus stops. Same goes for getting off the combis. But then won't stop when there are police or security guards. There are no meters either. There's a cobrador, who is someone who charges the bus fare. They also weave in and out of traffic, and honk constantly. They cram people in and tell you that there's plenty of room and that the bus is empty. In the little combis (which are like vans) 4 or 5 people will literally be doubled over and the cobrador will cram more people in. And I'm not even going to mention the horrible cumbia music that they constantly blash. They are cheap though. Try watching this video to find out more about what combis are like.

If you use combis, ask other passengers how much the fee is, because what people actually pay and the posted price is usually different. If you go a short distance, you can often pay 50 or 80 cents. Just be sure to ask before you get on. Other than that, most combis charge about 1 or 1.20 soles. Another problem is they charge what they want. One bus may charge 1 sol while another charges 1.20 for the same distance. A bit ago they tried to raise the bus fares, but people fought against it so much that they gave up. Combis take some getting used to, but once you learn where they go, you can get anywhere. Reading the side of the combi will tell you the main route. Complete routes can be found at GTU. While on combis, it's not uncommon for people selling things, such as candy to come on. Beggars often may also come on. It's your choice whether you give them something or not. If you do, please keep your small change separate from your wallet.

Tours and Trains

Coaches (Intercity buses)
Most flights land at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, LIM. Flights usually cost about 5 times as much as taking the bus. For example from Lima to Piura, 14 hours in bus costs about 60 soles, or about 20 dollars. Flying from Lima to Piura is about 2 hours and around 90 dollars. For flight information see Lima International Airport .

Vacations aren't cheap. Try taking a look at how to find cheap flights and the best travel hacking guide so that you can save money when you travel. For more tours and flights info check section getting ready and tourism.
Peruvian Airlines



  1. Hi There,

    I need to get a peruvian motorbike and also a car licence out here asap. Could you confirm that you are able to get these using a Passport as ID. Some people say yes, others no.

    Any help much appreciated

    Freddie @



  2. I honestly don't know. I know for foreigners you need an international license in order to get a Peruvian. However, if you're just here for a short time, you can drive on your home country's license for about 90 days and an international one for 6 months to a year. If you're going to be here longer, check with the driving license place.

  3. What is the going rate for taxis in Lima? I'm moving there soon and I hate it when taxi drivers (all over the world) try to take advantage of foreigners. Thanks.

  4. There's no going rate. There are no meters. You have to know how much it costs to get from X to Y.

  5. Dear Sharon,
    I noticed that you are maintaining this website with every possible information about Peru. In this section about transport, you correctly point out that traveling around Lima in combi is sometimes very confusing. This was also my experience when I came to Peru. SO I decided to do something about it and I have researched and designed a Combi Map: Rutas Recomendables. If you like, please take a look at www.rutasrecomendables.com for further information. I intend that website to contain information about traveling in Lima in combis as well as a medium to sell the Rutas Recomendables map. Perhaps it is worthwhile to make a mention about this within your website.

    Regards, Jeroen Prinsen

  6. Wow! That's fantastic. I'll let to your site. How often do you update it?


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