Safe. Flexible. Reliable.
That is the catchphrase that the Bolivia/ Peru Hop use to pique the interest of ardent travellers setting forth into Bolivia and Peru (I am going to call it the Peru Hop for the ease of this article).
Costing 199$ USD if you do the full service from La Paz in Bolivia right through Peru to Lima, it is certainly a rather large sum to fork out for the frugal backpacker.
The service offers seamless transport through all major locations in Bolivia and Peru through day and night buses organised through your own individual portal on which you can update the days you wish to depart to your new destination and alter your pick-up location.
There are plenty of different ticket and price options depending on your travel plans. We did the full La Paz to Lima to Cusco and therefore, this review is based solely on this experience though will give you an idea of what to expect no matter what ticket you go for. You can find a full run through of this experience (all the stops and some tips) right here.
So is it actually worth it? Having experienced the Peru Hop for myself, I have weighed up the pros and cons so you can decide whether it is the right service for you.
The online portal granted to every single person who buys a pass is definitely a plus. Easy to use, the portal can be accessed from a laptop, desktop or phone pretty easily.
The goal of the online portal is to reduce your time spent on emails or talking to staff, instead you can just login to update your dates and stops online.
You are issued an ID number that you use to login and from the portal you can update your day of departure and your pick-up location if relevant (the bus picks up from many of the main hostels in each locations, check the portal to make sure you book into one of them).
Bear in mind, the portal locks your itinerary twelve hours before you board your scheduled bus so be organised and schedule your bookings at least twelve hours before you plan to leave.
Pick-ups and Drop-offs
Getting picked up from your hostel or hotel is definitely a plus of the service. It just makes your whole journey that bit more seamless when you don’t have to worry about getting to a bus station.
A couple of stops have central pick-up and drop-off locations (Copacabana, Nazca, Paracas, Huacachina) but this is only because they are very small. Therefore, your hostel is probably within a five minute radius of the pick-up location and you will be directed to your accommodations by the ever-helpful guides.
Most of the buses also provide drop-offs straight to your hostel after the journey.
Every single bus has an English and Spanish speaking guide who works for the company. They are there to assist and certainly do come in useful.
They will take note of your pick-up and drop-off locations and give some useful information about the place you are heading to visit.
They will also be your guide when you stop-off to do any tours along the way. Shout-out here must go to Gabriel from our Paracas to Lima bus. Despite getting us lost in underground tunnels at Casa Hacienda San José, we had a great laugh with him.
If for any reason you have to contact Bolivia/ Peru Hop (missed your bus, can’t use portal etc), they are very responsive via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Any time any of our group had to contact the team, we received responses in less than an hour. There seems to be someone constantly manning the inbox which is great.
While you still have to sort out your own accomodation, the beauty of Peru Hop is that you can just relax instead of frantically planning the next leg of your journey; something backpackers know well.
All you have to do is decide how long you want to stay in each place and Peru Hop looks after the rest.
Having extra free tours included in the trip is a bonafide bonus. Though there are not particularly many, they are welcome when on offer.
The best is perhaps being able to see the Nazca Lines on route to Paracas. While you can choose to stay in Nazca to see the lines from the sky, we decided to skip it. So we really appreciated being able to see the main attraction there.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoy the novelty of watching a movie while on a bus. Especially when said bus journey is over six hours long.
All the long-haul bus journeys played a movie (in Peru only, not in Bolivia). We have enjoyed such cinematic feats from the Lion King and the Hangover to Men of Honour (to give you an idea of the range they have on offer…)
While all the buses for long-haul journeys have toilets which are appreciated, the buses are not the most comfortable (especially on the Bolivia side).
The night buses in particular leave a lot to be desired. I would describe them as ‘cama’ style buses rather than ‘semi-cama’. (These are bus seat styles on offer across South America; semi-cama is pretty much a fully reclined seat akin to a bed while a cama is just a reclinable chair with a foot rest).
We unfortunately spent many an uncomfortable night on these with Peru Hop and have experienced much more comfortable night buses along our travels. On the double-decker buses, the downstairs offer much better seats but these are difficult to get.
Prepare to be completely squashed and unable to move your legs when the person in front of your fully reclines.
The buses all provide blankets but be sure to inspect them thoroughly. One member of our group enjoyed a couple of suspicious bites on her legs from her blanket…
More Expensive Tours
One unfortunate thing about Peru Hop is that the tours they offer are significantly more expensive than buying them with local tour operators upon arrival. And in most cases, the tours on offer seem to be all the exact same… so why pay more?
It is convenient to have your tours organised before you even arrive at your destination, but for us the extra cost was just not worth it.
By the end of my Peru Hop experience, I insisted on bringing my own food and snacks.
When the bus stopped for food, the options were always on the pricier side for a backpackers budget. The one time I was given food (a breakfast bag on the bus from Arequipa to Nazca), it was incredibly basic. I was glad I had picked up fruit the day before.
I cannot say that we would have spent less or more had we booked all of our own buses and I certainly can’t say that I am unhappy that we went with Peru Hop.
However living on a backpackers budget, the price of the tickets are steep especially for the longer stints (our one was $199 USD La Paz to Lima). It certainly saves on time and effort and considering that many night buses cost up to $40 USD each in Peru, I reckon you could organise your own buses for around the same price or even a little bit cheaper.
Though there are many things that could be adjusted to better suit the backpacker and their budget, I can’t say that I regret buying the Peru Hop ticket. I would definitely recommend it as a safe option for travelling especially as a solo traveller.
For a full run-through of the journey on Peru Hop from La Paz to Cusco to Lima and some helpful tips, click here.