Disclosure: I received a complimentary Peru Hop bus pass in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own. This post also contains affiliate links.
When I decided to hike the Inca Trail with Intrepid Travel, I impulsively added ten days to my trip to explore the rest of the country. However, when I started researching how to visit all the best places in Peru, I started doubting my decision. There are lots of horror stories online about the local buses, and the trains are expensive. Thankfully, a friend of mine recommended Peru Hop.
I was looking for an easy way to get around Peru that was both safe and affordable and Peru Hop offered all of that and more. This Peru Hop review includes exactly how Peru Hop works, who it’s good for, and what I loved (and didn’t) about Peru’s hop on hop off bus service.
Table of Contents
Peru Hop Review: Traveling Peru on a hop on hop off bus
What is Peru Hop?
Peru Hop is a hop-on, hop-off bus service that takes you from Lima to Cusco (or vice-versa), stopping in various cities along the way. You also have the option of adding on a side trip to Bolivia via Bolivia Hop as well!
How does Peru Hop work?
Peru Hop offers flexible solutions to get you from one destination in Peru to the other. You can choose from a large variety of bus passes, depending on how much time you have to travel, which city you want to start your journey, and whether you want to visit Peru, Bolivia, or both. Each pass indicates the minimum amount of time you’ll need to complete the route, but all passes are valid for a year, so you can theoretically take one year to complete your route.
What’s the Peru Hop itinerary / route?
The full Peru Hop itinerary includes Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Naza, Arequipa, Cusco and Puno. If you’d like to add a bit of Bolivia onto your tour, you can also Bolivia Hop over to Copacabana and La Paz. The shortest time commitment is 24 hours and the longest is 10 days, but again, all the passes are valid for one year.
I wanted to see everything in Peru but didn’t have time to visit Bolivia, so I chose the Full South to Lima Pass, which took me from Cusco, stopped in all of the above-mentioned cities and ended in Lima. I had initially flown to Cusco to do the Inca Trail before doing Peru Hop. However, the route going in the other direction, the Full South to Cusco, is more popular amongst travelers who land in Lima and want to end in Cusco.
I personally did the hop without spending any extra time in any city (it took me 7 days / 6 nights) as I was short on time. If you have a few extra days, I recommend adding an extra night in Arequipa and another in Paracas.
Pssst: Before you head to Peru, check out all these Peru travel tips you should know before you go!
What are the Peru Hop buses like?
I’ve been on my fair share of buses around the world and in South America, and I’ve got to say, I was really impressed by the bus quality – especially the overnight buses. All of the buses are equipped with air-conditioning, semi-reclining chairs, comforters, USB plugs, and a bathroom (that’s strictly for number one).
Overall, they’re about as comfortable as planes, except with slightly wider seats and more movement (turbulence?), of course.
How does accommodation work?
Peru Hop has exclusive discounts with hotels and hostels in every city (except for Lima and Cusco) that Peru Hop passengers can take advantage of. You just have to email the accommodation in order to get the discount (and book direct). If you’d like to book different accommodation outside of the Peru Hop network, you’re free to do so as well. I’m a fan of both Hostelworld and Booking.com.
Many Peru Hop passengers choose to book their hostel / hotel last-minute, especially if they’re flexible with their travel time. I preferred to book ahead so I could compare prices. No matter where you stay in each city, you’ll get picked up and dropped off at your accommodation, which is awesome. With Peru Hop, you don’t have to constantly worry about getting to and from your accommodation to a central bus station early in the morning or late at night.
I was traveling with a friend and we opted to stay in twin rooms the whole time. We didn’t stay in any of the recommended Peru Hop accommodation options except in Paracas (we stayed at Kokopelli Paracas and loved it) because we found better deals elsewhere. If socializing is particularly important to you or if you’re staying in shared rooms, definitely consider the Peru Hop partner accommodation.
Note: If you’re planning on staying in hostels, be sure to read the descriptions. Peru is a popular backpacker and partying destination, and a lot of the hostels cater to partying travelers. I’ve included my personal recommendations for the people that want chill accommodation at the end of this post.
How does booking tours work?
One of the coolest things about Peru Hop is that most of the bus departures and arrivals are timed with tours in mind. For example, we arrived to Puno at 5 am, had breakfast at our hotel drop-off point and were ready for an all-day Lake Titicaca tour that started at 7 am. We arrived back to Puno with plenty of time to have dinner and explore the town, then hopped on the next Peru Hop bus at 10 pm. You can book your tours ahead of time online or on the bus. I booked ahead so I could use my credit card.
Peru Hop does not run most of the tours. Instead, they recommend specific tours through their partners at Find Local Trips. I booked all my day tours through them and thought they were great! The only tour I’d book through an alternate company is the sandboarding tour due to less-than-ideal safety standards. This is the tour I recommend booking instead. Everything else (Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, and Ballestas Islands) was awesome!
As part of your bus ticket, there are a few optional, free tours that are included such as a Pisco vineyard visit in Huacachina (we skipped this as we were both sick and don’t drink), a Nazca Tower ticket to see the Nazca Lines, a visit to the Paracas National Reserve, and a stop at the Incan ruins at Tambo Colorado enroute to Lima. The Tambo Colorado stop isn’t optional if you’re coming from Paracas but can be skipped if you’re departing from Lima. You don’t need to book these tours ahead by the way – you’ll get asked on the bus ride if you’d like to participate and you can opt in or out. These free tours are a really awesome perk that make Peru Hop stand out compared to its competitors.
Is Peru Hop safe?
One of the biggest reasons I decided to travel with Peru Hop was for safety. Public buses in Peru, albeit slightly cheaper, are notorious for pickpocketing. Peru Hop is the complete opposite of that. There’s a sense of camaraderie amongst the travelers, so you don’t have to worry that someone is going to swipe your stuff (of course, take necessary precautions).
Plus, you aren’t allowed to even board the bus unless your name is on the check-in list, so the guide on the bus knows who is on it at all times. Oh yes – and there’s a guide on the bus, along with two bus drivers so there’s no worry that one will fall asleep or drive like a maniac or something.
Lastly, the bus doesn’t stop to pick up and drop off people along the way except for twice on the route: once in Nazca and once between Puno and Arequipa, when half the group was going to Bolivia and the other half was continuing to Arequipa. This lessens the likelihood of someone stealing something at an opportune moment, since you know exactly when the bus will stop.
Can Peru Hop save you money?
Yes, Peru Hop is actually very budget friendly and saves you money. Here’s how:
- The bus ticket includes hotel pick-ups and drop-offs: not only is this incredibly convenient due to the odd arrival and pick-up times, but it also saves you the money and hassle of haggling with taxi drivers at odd hours or walking long distances from the bus station to your accommodation.
- The cost of booking tickets separately is actually not that much cheaper. You can use Rome2Rio to check out all your transportation options.
- Two of the buses are overnight buses, saving you money on two nights of accommodation.
- Three additional tours – plus the Nazca Viewing Tower – are included in your ticket: the Paracas National Reserve, a Pisco Sour tasting tour, and a visit to Tambo Colorado.
Note: If you’re on a very tight budget and would prefer to book local buses, that is indeed the cheapest option. However, it’s not the safest option and it involves multiple transfers (especially for places like Nazca and Tambo Colorado). Plus, you miss out on all the other perks that come with the Peru Hop bus like the free tours, the hotel pick-up and drop-off, the guides, and the sense of community.
What I loved about Peru Hop
The tour guides
Each bus has a guide who is an expert on specific parts of Peru. Not only is it nice to have someone on the bus in case you have questions or issues, but they’re also amazing sources of information in general. I always got the best restaurant recommendations from the guides and they were all incredibly friendly and fun. I could tell that they all loved their jobs – special shout out to Alex, who always made sure we were having a good time.
The Peru Hop ticket includes free tours to the Paracas National Reserve, the Inca ruins at Tambo Colorado, the Nazca Lines Tower, and a Pisco Sour vineyard tour (which I skipped). Are the tours the best ones I’ve ever done? No. But it was really cool that they had all these additions. I particularly liked seeing the Paracas National Reserve.
Flexibility and online booking
One of the coolest parts about Peru Hop is the flexibility you get with your ticket. You have an entire year to use it, so you can stay in each city for as long as you’d like and you don’t pay any additional fees to do so. All you have to do is book your spot on the bus online at least 12 hours before you want to leave and voilà! You’re good to go.
Ease of booking tours
Peru Hop doesn’t run additional tours but they have recommended partners that run tours in each destination for very reasonable prices (I price-shopped, naturally). All of our bus stops were timed so we had plenty of time to do almost all the tours we wanted and get back on the bus without missing a beat. There wasn’t a single instance where we had to stay an extra night in a city *just* so we could do a tour. Win!
Hotel / hostel pickup and drop off
I’ve done my fair share of bus travel and let me tell you – the last thing I want to do after a long bus journey is figure out how to get to my accommodation. Walking with a large backpack is about as fun as haggling with a taxi driver at 6 am. The fact that Peru Hop drops you off and picks you up is a serious lifesaver. Note: There’s no pick-up / drop-off in Cusco due to city bus regulations.
Despite traveling frequently, I still haven’t mastered the art of sleeping on buses. Peru Hop was no exception, but that isn’t their fault. In fact, quite the opposite: the buses are equipped with everything you need to be comfortable: bathrooms (for number one only), duvets to keep you warm (a lifesaver since I’m always cold), USB ports to charge your phone, and movies during daytime rides (democratically chosen by voting).
Note: the buses were also very reliable! We took multiple buses on this trip and only experienced one 30 minute delay. That’s amazing for South America.
Lunch stops and snacks
The day we traveled between Arequipa and Huacachina started really early – too early for hotel breakfast. When we got on the bus, our guide, Alex, handed each of us a bag of snacks and juice and water – SO thoughtful! Plus, he took all of our orders down for lunch and called the restaurant ahead so we wouldn’t have to wait forever for our food upon arrival. Win! I was pretty happy with the lunch stops overall: the food was always reasonably priced and delicious.
Peru Hop emailed us mini-guides to each city before our trip. It was super handy to have them so we could quickly and easily figure out where to go and what to eat in each city.
Discounts with partners
Although I only took advantage of the partner accommodation in Paracas, I admit it’s a really nice perk. Not only can you save money but it’s also especially great for solo travelers who want to stay where most travelers are staying (a lot of passengers do actually stay in the recommended accommodation in each city).
As an added bonus, tours booked with select Find Local Trips operators allow date changes right up until the day before your tour begins at no extra cost – an exclusive Peru Hop perk!
You get a free t-shirt in Lima with a llama on it! SO cute. I’m a sucker for that stuff.
Things I didn’t love about Peru Hop
Don’t get me wrong, the Peru Hop bus is as comfortable as a bus with semi-reclining chairs can be, but I still had a really hard time sleeping on the bus. The trip also calls for two overnight trips in a row if you don’t spend the night in Puno, which was rough. This wasn’t Peru Hop’s fault but if you have a really hard time sleeping on buses, it might be worth spending a night in Puno to break up the two overnight buses.
The Puno stop
Most of my major qualms about Peru Hop were related to Puno and that stop. Basically, if you aren’t spending the night in a city, you get dropped off and picked up at a partner hotel. In Puno, that hotel is Suites Independencia, which was the worst waiting place in my opinion. It has a small lobby and just one somewhat dirty bathroom. It was also incredibly full of Peru Hop passengers, especially in the evening, since passengers going in either direction board at the same time and on the same bus. Thankfully, all the other stops are much more organized but Puno was a struggle.
Bus from Puno to Arequipa
The bus from Puno to Arequipa was our second overnight journey, which I was mentally prepared for. What I wasn’t prepared for was learning that everyone in Puno would be boarding the same bus for a few hours and then the group heading to Arequipa (us) would have to switch buses in the middle of the night, while those headed back to Cusco would remain on the bus. Not cool. It’s one thing to have to switch buses in the middle of the day but it’s an entirely different scenario to have to do it in the middle of the night (read: it was miserable). We were incredibly lucky that our Arequipa hotel let us check in at 5 am so we could get some extra sleep!
Other things to note
Peru Hop typically recommends 2-3 accommodation options in each city. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully, since a lot of the hostel partners are party hostels. This was no big deal for me as I did my research beforehand but if you want a good night’s sleep, be sure to plan your accommodation ahead. Note: I’ve included my accommodation recommendations in the section below.
No pickup in Cusco
This is more of a mild inconvenience than a complaint, but due to city regulations, the Peru Hop bus can’t pick up in Cusco. It’s easy to get a cab to the bus stop (which is different than the central bus station) but just a friendly heads up.
Cusco to Lima vs Lima to Cusco
The most popular route takes travelers from Lima to Cusco. I’m guessing it’s because most people land in Lima and want to end up in Cusco for The Inca Trail, but I actually did the route in reverse. It worked out in my favor because there was only one bus ride that was full the entire time we did our Hop. If you take the more popular Lima to Cusco route, however, your bus is more likely to be full. Keep this in mind both when planning your trip and when booking your spot on the bus (book ahead, especially during busy season).
Be sure to pack…
Stay comfortable on the bus! Be sure to keep the following handy on the bus: a USB charger, a neck pillow, socks, toilet paper, a Kindle (for the long rides) snacks, a TEP Wireless Hotspot, and water. Also – get travel insurance! You never know what can go wrong and it’s a must-have for every trip (trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way). Pssst: If you’re hiking the Inca Trail, check out my comprehensive packing list.
Is Peru Hop good for solo travelers?
I admit that I was a tad worried that Peru Hop was going to be a giant backpacker party bus, which is so not my vibe. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that although the majority of travelers are in their 20s and 30s, Peru Hop caters to every kind of traveler: solo travelers young and old, couples, backpackers, and more. I didn’t see any families on the bus when I was traveling but families can join as well.
And yes – Peru Hop is excellent for solo travelers. It’s safe and it’s easy to make friends, as you tend to see the same people on the bus, on the tours, and at your accommodation.
Peru accommodation: where to stay in Peru
If party hostels and hotels aren’t your vibe, these are my top picks (including places that I stayed on my trip) for where to stay in Peru for every budget!
- Backpack: Milhouse Hostel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Illa Hotel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Belmond Palacio Nazarenas | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Backpack: Pariwana Hostel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Ife Boutique Hotel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Belmond Miraflores Park | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Backpack: Econunay | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: La Hosteria | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Casa Andina Premium Arequipa | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Backpack: Wild Olive Guesthouse | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Hotel El Huacachinero | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Backpack: Kokopelli Hostel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Casa Paracas | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
Puno / Lake Titicaca
- Backpack: Kantaya Hostel | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Save: Uros Qhota Uta Lodge | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
- Splurge: Titicaca Lodge Peru | Read Tripadvisor reviews | Book a Stay
Which cities to spend extra time in
Unfortunately, due to limited time, I had to follow the Peru Hop itinerary exactly and wasn’t able to spend any extra time in any of the cities except in Cusco, where I started and Lima, where I ended. If you happen to have extra travel days and are wondering where you should spend them, I recommend:
The town is small but it’s a great place to relax, swim, and eat good seafood. If that’s your vibe, definitely consider an extra day or two here.
This is hands-down my favorite city in Peru (Cusco is a close second). It’s the perfect medium-sized city with plenty to do. We spent two nights here and did the one-day Colca Canyon trek. I would recommend adding another day or two here as well, especially if you’d like to do a 2-day Colca Canyon trek or if you’d like to see more of Arequipa.
There isn’t much to do in Puno as a city, if I’m being honest. However, if you want a break between the two overnight buses, consider spending a night in Puno. If you’re fine with overnight buses, then no need.
Whether you start or end in Lima, there’s plenty to do in Peru’s vibrant capital city! Check out my 2-day Lima itinerary to plan your time there.
Peru Hop: the best way to travel around Peru
All in all, Peru Hop exceeded my expectations. It is the best way to travel around Peru if you want flexibility or are short on time. A Peru Hop ticket allows you the flexibility to stay in cities as long as you’d like, while offering the perks and comforts of an organized tour. If a safe and budget-friendly mode of transportation is what you’re after, then I definitely recommend Peru Hop.
More Peru ResourcesPlanning a trip to Peru soon? Check out ALL my posts on Peru below:
- Peru Travel Guide
- Peru Travel Tips: 28 Things to Know When Traveling to Peru
- The Complete Inca Trail Packing List: What to Pack for Trekking Machu Picchu
- The Perfect Lima Itinerary: 2 Days in Lima
- An Honest Peru Hop Review of Peru's Hop On Hop Off Bus
- Exploring and Hiking in Peru with Intrepid Travel: A Review
Tell me: would you consider using Peru Hop to travel around Peru or would you prefer an organized tour instead? Share in the comments below!
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