Riding the city bus system in Lima, Peru can be a nerve-wracking experience for a variety of reasons. First of all, there are the buses themselves. The fleet consists of a combination of privately owned buses of various sizes: full size buses, mid-size combis and the small micro vans. Whatever the size, they’re generally old and not well maintained, and while buses cover nearly of all of Lima’s major avenues , it can be difficult to decipher the routes. That said, the smaller units are surprisingly speedy (earning the nickname “combis asesinas”).

Articulated bus of the “Metropolitano” system. Lima, Peru. ©Pagiusalvi

There are a few things to know that can make city bus travel a little easier. It’s important to have a good idea of the main streets near your destination before you get on the bus. Most buses have the name of the main avenues they travel painted onto their side. You can also look on the front of the bus for the route number – it will appear as a combination of letters and numbers, like IO-50. Additionally, you’ll find the start and end point of the route posted on the front. Buses that travel the same route will be painted with the same colors.

You can confirm you are on the right bus with the bus conductor, or cobrador. The cobrador’s job is to attract passengers to the bus by calling out the streets and neighborhoods that the bus passes through, and also to collect fares from the passengers. Fares are inexpensive; traveling from one district to the next will only cost one sol. To travel the full distance of a route, you may pay anywhere from two to three soles. School children pay fifty cents, regardless of distance. There are no transfers, so if you need to take two buses to get to your destination, you will need to pay for both buses. When riding the bus, it’s always best to have change in hand. It’s considered bad form to give the cobrador large bills. When you pay your fare, the cobrador should give you a small ticket in return which acts as your receipt and is also your insurance in case of an accident.

When the bus arrives at your destination, you’ll want to shout out “¡Baja aquí!” (I want to get down here!) or “Baja a la esquina” (Let me down at the corner). Traditionally buses would stop wherever the passenger requested, but this has changed in the past few years and many buses will only stop at the pre-ordained bus stops.

There have been recent improvements in the city’s public transportation. Besides bus lanes and more bus stops, the city started the service of a rapid transit system called the Metropolitano. “El Metro” – as it is usually called – is a fleet of new double-length buses that run on a dedicated lane that runs from the south of Chorrillos through the center of Lima, then up north to Comas. During the weekdays, there are some express buses which only stop at certain platforms, while other buses stop at each platform along the route. Six more routes are planned for the future. Payment is made using an “e-card” which can be purchased or recharged at vending machines on the platform for S./5., each trip currently cost S./ 2.50. You can see the routes of the Metropolitano here.  

To learn about the different bus routes around Lima, visit our article TuRuta.

We’d like to hear from you. If you have had some experience with the bus system in Lima, Peru, what advice would you give folks just starting out? Let us know in our community forum. Check the topic: Using the bus system in Lima