The intercity bus system in Peru is extensive, and fares are quite reasonable. Remember, however, that mountain ranges often sit between cities, and trips can be daunting. It's best to use buses for shorter trips, such as between Lima and Ica or between Cusco and Puno. That way you can begin and end your trip during daylight hours. If you stick with one of the recommended companies, like Cruz del Sur, you can usually expect a comfortable journey.
Second-class buses (servicio normal) tend to be overcrowded and uncomfortable, whereas the more expensive first-class service (primera clase) is more comfortable and much more likely to arrive on schedule.
Bus fares are substantially cheaper in Peru than they are in North America or Europe. Competing bus companies serve all major and many minor routes, so it can pay to shop around if you're on an extremely tight budget. Always speak to the counter clerk, as competition may mean fares are cheaper than the official price posted on the fare board.
For the 15-hour journey between Lima and Arequipa, Cruz del Sur's fares for its top service, called Cruzero, are $55 USD. Its less expensive service, called Imperial, is $22-$39 USD. Inka Express, which promotes itself to tourists rather than the local market, uses large, comfortable coaches for the popular eight-hour journey between Cusco and Puno. Tickets are $55 USD and the trip includes snacks and brief rest stops at points of interest along the way.
Tickets are sold at bus-company offices and at travel agencies. Be prepared to pay with cash, as credit cards aren't always accepted. Reservations aren't necessary except for trips to popular destinations during high season. Summer weekends and major holidays are the busiest times. You should arrive at bus stations early for travel during peak seasons.
Cruz del Sur (Javier Prado 1109, La Victoria, Lima, 13. 01/311–5050. www.cruzdelsur.com.pe.)
Inka Express (La Paz C-23, Urbanización El Ovalo, Wanchaq, Cusco. 084/247–887. www.inkaexpress.com.)
Ormeño (Javier Prado Oeste 1057, La Victoria, Lima, 13. 01/472–5000. www.grupo-ormeno.com.pe.)
CIVA (Javier Prado Este 1155, La Victoria, Lima, 13. 01/418–1111. www.excluciva.pe.)