picture by nicolasnova

Public transportation in Lima consists primarily of buses, micros (minibus or microbus) and combis (small vans usually painted white with capacity for up to 20 people). This overwhelming vehicular fleet is omnipresent in Lima’s streets and mastering its secrets is a discipline based on trial and error. Lima in my personal opinion is not rental-car friendly. Trying Lima’s public transportation can be a frightening experience but hopefully my tips will chip away some of that natural apprehension and give you the confidence to try it at least once.

1. Choose the safest and most forgiving time.

Don’t try taking a bus for the first time during peak traffic hours (5 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 6 pm) and never after dark. Buses and micros will be packed with frenzy people trying to get to work or school and you will not be able to enjoy the experience.

2. Don’t try to understand the transportation system or lack thereof.

For a tourist coming from countries like the United States, Canada or any of the European nations there will be an expectation of some kind of order, you will be looking for bus stops, terminals for all the buses and micros, printed itineraries, ticket booths, transfer guidelines, etc but instead you are presented with a web of buses, micros and combis with no organization or information anywhere. Well, actually what you don’t see is an agile fleet of buses, micros and combis adapting to dynamic changes in routes, traffic and passenger loads. A bus stop is nice but the convenience of being able to take a bus, a combi, a micro in every corner will hit home quickly.

3. There are no itineraries for buses, micros or combis.

I remember missing the bus when going to college a couple of times, but the next one is at most 5 minutes away. Not only that, but another bus or micro with a similar route will most likely arrive in a couple of minutes. When you have so many choices at all times there is no need for an itinerary.

4. There are no ticket booths because it will impossible to sell tickets for the many types of transportation. Buses, micros and combis from so many private companies will require to many ticket stations. Another reason for having ticket machines is for the buses not too loose any time when a good amount of passengers are boarding but don’t worry buses in Lima do not wait… more on that later.

5. No transfers.

There are no transfers between buses or micros or combis. It will be too difficult to get all the companies to agree on terms. For a tourist this should not be an issue as most of the time the major arteries are well cover from beginning to end, for example there are many buses traveling from Lima to Miraflores.

This was only the first part. Don’t miss the second part: “10 Tips about Public Transportation in Lima: Buses, Micros and Combis – Part 2

2 thoughts on “10 Tips about Public Transportation in Lima: Buses, Micros and Combis

  1. It’s best to take taxis. They are cheap, and range from 3 to 11 soles. (Exchange rate varies but it’s roughly 3 soles per 1 US$).

    If you feel adventurous and want to take a bus, ask for a local friend to guide you and explain what bus to take and where to get off. Passengers, drivers, etc. generally enjoy helping foreign tourists with directions. But remember that crowded buses attract pick pockets.

    1. Excellent comment Diego. You are correct, it is best to take taxis. Only if you feel confident or in company of local friends take a bus. And definitely NEVER take anything that you don’t consider safe.

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