Riding Batman (How to catch a bus in Peru)

A guide to catching a bus in the city of Cusco, Peru.

STEP 1: Admire the names on Peruvian buses. While buses elsewhere make do with pedestrian names like "Number 33," buses in Cusco proudly wear exciting monikors like “Zorro,” “El Dorado,” and, best of all, “Batman,” complete with Bat Symbol. 

If you are very lucky, you may get to ride Batman.

STEP 2: When the bus stops, a conductor will hop off and begin herding people aboard. The conductor will not have any kind of uniform, but you’ll be able to recognise them by their jangling money-belt and harried expression. Approach this conductor and say the name of your stop. If they recognise the name, they'll usher you aboard the bus.

If they don’t, wait for the next bus and repeat.

(Beware: buses have the names of some of their stops on the side, but not all of them.)

  Nanananananana...

Nanananananana...

STEP 3: You are now crammed onto a tiny mini-bus with several dozen Peruvian citizens, all jockeying for space and trying to make sure their pockets aren’t picked. The conductor will be standing near the doors of the bus, shouting out the names of stops as they approach. You may not be able to hear the names of the stops over the sounds of other people chatting.

Don't panic. You may miss your stop, but there's nothing you can do about this, so there’s no point worrying.

STEP 4: If you hear the conductor shout the name of your stop, force your way through the crowd by liberally shouting “Permisso,” and “Perdón,” and possibly waving your arms for the conductor’s attention.

A bus trip should cost 0.70 Soles before 10pm, and 1 Sol after. As you exit the bus, press some money into the conductor’s hands, and be sure to wait for your change.

STEP 5: Congratulations, you have now ridden the bus!

Examine your surroundings, as it is possible the bus has deposited you in the wrong place. Occasionally and somewhat inexplicably, you may be let off a stop early or late. If so, don’t worry, as another bus will probably be along shortly. 

EXTRA TIPS: 

> If you are lucky enough to get on a Peruvian bus with empty seats, a word of caution. Most buses have three red seats toward the front; these seats are reserved for the elderly, infirm, women and children. If you are not one of these, do not sit there, as you are liable to get sorts of nasty looks.

> In fact, Peruvian citizens are generally impeccable when it comes to giving up their seats for the infirm or elderly. It helps to blend in if you follow suit. 

> The buses in Cusco really are an excellent way to get around, once you get the hang of them. They cost much less than a cab (which charge about 5 Soles for a trip from Plaza de Armas to Santa Ursula, after haggling).