The Cost Of Things: Missing Your Night-Bus In Peru

by Laura Chanoux

I just got back from a two-week vacation in Peru with my husband Eric. We traveled from Lima down the coast to Arequipa during our first week and planned to meet two friends in Cusco midway through the trip to hike Machu Picchu. We bought tickets on an overnight bus that would get us into the city a little before their flight landed.

Our bus was scheduled to leave at 20:00 hours. Since our first overnight bus from Nasca to Arequipa left at 10:00 PM (22:00 hours) we both assumed the second one would as well. Stupid, stupid, stupid. When we realized at 8:15 how wrong we were, we raced to the bus station and arrived at 8:35 to find that the company’s second bus to Cusco had left at 8:30. We ran through the terminal to see if we could get on any other bus to Cusco that night and arrived at the stall selling 9:00 tickets at 9:02.

Once we accepted defeat, we took a cab back to Arequipa to figure out our next move.

While we were in Peru, the exchange rate was roughly 3 Nuevos Soles (S/.) to $1.

Cost of original bus tickets: S/.260

Taxi to bus station: S/.10

Taxi from the bus station: S/.8 (So the last guy overcharged us! Jerk!)

Two beds at a hostel: S/.25 each in a twelve-bed dorm

Large beer to drown sorrows: S/.10

Taxi to airport: S/.20

Morning flight to Cusco on Avianca: $208.00 (not actually charged)

While at the hostel, we bought tickets for a 7 AM flight to Cusco. Our plans to meet our friends in Cusco would have continued to work perfectly had we been able to take this flight. However, when we got to the Avianca desk to check in, the attendant let us know that our confirmation number actually indicated that we had reserved the price, but not the tickets. In the six hours between when we purchased the tickets and when we arrived at the airport, apparently the flight had sold out. Since there had been at least a half-dozen seats available, this sounded like bullshit. We tried to get on any other flight to Cusco with the two other airlines at the airport, but all of them claimed their flights were full.

Taxi back to Arequipa: S/.15. What is up with getting charged more when you’re trying to leave?

Omelets, coffee, and wifi: S/.24

While I ate and messaged our friends to let them know we weren’t going to make it on time, Eric visited a travel agent down the street. He offered to find us a private car to Cusco or purchase overnight bus tickets. After some debate, we decided the private car would cost the same as plane tickets but only buy us a few more hours with our friends. We opted for overnight bus tickets and spent the day on the couch at the hostel, reading, dozing, and getting updates on how much our friends were enjoying Cusco.

Two VIP seats on an overnight bus and fleeting relief: S/.90

Departure tax: S/.2 each, because Arequipa will not let you leave without a fight

As the bus was pulling out of the station, a woman and her four children sprinted to get on the bus, made it, and then let us know that we were sitting in their seats. Though the travel agent had told us we were getting VIP seats, he had reserved us coach-class seats on the top floor of the bus. We took our tickets upstairs, moved the girl who had taken up our row, and settled in for the ten-hour drive. She complained to the bus attendant about not getting a row to herself while I waited for what felt like the next inevitable disaster. I guessed we’d get dropped off by the side of the highway while the bus drove off with our bags. Finally at 6:30 AM we arrived in Cusco.

Taxi to our friends’ hotel: S/.8

Cost of the hostel we were supposed to stay at instead of riding an overnight bus: $38.20

Total cost: $204.53

Bonus round: The Cost of Spending a Day in the Cusco Airport

Our flight from Cusco to Lima at the end of our trip was scheduled to leave at 12:55. Our friends were flying earlier in the day and we intended to meet up in Lima before their overnight flight back to the US. When their starPeru flight was delayed, they caught an earlier LAN flight. We were not as smart. Our flight was originally pushed back until 2 PM, and we finally left at 4 PM and arrived in Lima at 5:20.

StarPeru’s system was down when we checked in. After ten minutes of fiddling with their computers, the agent hand-wrote our boarding passes in the same bright blue ink I used for my seventh grade spelling tests. He then escorted us to security to reassure the guard that we were actually passengers and should be allowed into the gate area. Our backpacks were too large for the overhead bins, so we had to check them. I was so relieved to be getting on a flight after the debacle of leaving Arequipa that I forgot to sort out the items I don’t usually leave in checked luggage. During our multi-hour flight delay, someone rifled through my checked bag and took all the electronics that I had stupidly left in my backpack.

Wifi at the one coffee shop so I could let our friends know that we weren’t going to make it to Lima in time to see them: S/.3

Empanada, ham and cheese croissant, and two coffees: S/.18

Camera I bought in 2010: $200

Sucks to be you, thief — I forgot to charge the battery before the trip and also forgot the charger at home.

Kindle e-reader: gift from my husband in 2012, will probably cost $80 to replace

Also sucks to be you, thief — you left the Kindle charger in my bag and I’d already used up most of the battery life. Have fun running out of power midway through one of the mysteries I downloaded! You’ll never guess who the murderer was!

iPhone charger: $19 for cord, $19 for wall plug

Headphones: originally included with my phone, $29 to replace them

Total cost: $356, six hours of my life, and any chance of flying starPeru again

Laura Chanoux works in higher education in Chicago and will hopefully learn from her travel mistakes before her next vacation.

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