Take the Bus to Callao?


Which Bus? Going Where and When? And Taking Which Route?

Which Bus? Going Where and When? And Taking Which Route?

I enjoy taking public transportation in other countries, even in Argentina, which manages to make sense out of several hundred bus lines. But in Lima, you pretty much have to know in advance which bus to take. There is no handy-dandy website as in France or Iceland which makes you feel confident that you’ll get where you want to go.

The street above—Avenida Jose Pardo—is probably Lima’s most European-looking thoroughfare. Both of the above buses are going to Callao (pronounced Cah-YOW), Lima’s somewhat grungy seaport, and the location of its classy airport, but I could not find any body of information that helped me decide to take the bus.

Instead, I took cabs everywhere. Even an hour-long ride from the Plaza Major to Miraflores, where I was staying, in heinous rush hour traffic cost me only about 40 soles, or about $14-16. Although one has to be careful about taking an unregistered cab, one quickly becomes used to telling the difference. When approached by a tout, who wants to take you for a roundabout walk to his ramshackle vehicle, it is best to just say no and run like hell.

Most cabbies, however, were competent and friendly and drove newish cars. No one who takes pride in his vehicle is likely to “express kidnap” you and take you a series of ATMs, where you will be forced at gunpoint to drain your bank account(s). This practice is sometimes known as the “millionaires’ tour.” Trust me, this is one tour you don’t want to take.

In addition to taking cabs, I walked for miles in Lima, Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa. By evening, I was so tired that I had no trouble sleeping for nine or even ten hours.


Bad Taxi!

Beware of Unregulated Taxis

Beware of Unregulated Taxis

In many countries, taxicabs are unregulated. There are no meters. What is worse, many of them are looking for victims to rob, rape, or kidnap. According to the PeruNews website:

In the taxi robbery, a driver takes you to where his accomplices are waiting and then stops, sometimes pretending to stall the engine or run out of fuel. Then, you get mugged or kidnapped. Nice.

Many of the cabs used in these crimes have just been stolen, so don’t get into a vehicle with e.g. a broken window. You can reduce the chances by taking a cab from a company that you call up.

On the street, one cab is as good as another. The fact that it’s yellow, has a phone number written on it, is parked by the cinema rather than being driving past when you flag it down, a driver with official-looking ID; none of these means a safe taxi.

Many of the worst instances take place from Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Of course you can get a better deal if you walk past the legitimate (and more costly) taxi stands in the airport’s international arrivals area, but you can also get driven to ATMs and requested under duress to drain your bank account with the maximum permissible withdrawals.

That’s one of the reasons it’s a good idea to have a cellphone in Peru. This way, you can get a list of legitimate taxi companies from your guidebook and call for pickup. So what if it costs a few soles more! Your security is worth something, no?

Another problem, even with legitimate taxis, are thieves that break windows and grab the passengers’ bags. Make sure your luggage is securely locked in the trunk, and keep any bags with you on the floor and between your legs. You might even want to get a strap that attaches them to your legs. I plan to do that, even though I am taking a Taxi Verde or a Mitsui Remisse from the airport.

In one sense, Peru is a dangerous place. In another—wherever you are in the world—you have to keep your eyes open and be ready.