Most international travelers arrive in Peru via Lima. Arequipa is located about 15 hours from Lima via bus. If your budget will support it, it is highly recommended you fly to Arequipa from Lima – as this time is about 1 hour 20 minutes and will save a lot of hassle and time on windy roads (we’ve flown and also used a bus from Lima before).
Arequipa is a great “departure” city for elsewhere in Peru. The reason we say this is it is quite centrally located for central and southern Peru destinations including the coast, Cuzco, and Lake Titicaca. The train no longer runs between Arequipa and Puno/Juliaca which are towns near Lake Titicaca. Instead, there is a nice new road and its only about 4.5 hours to these cities from Arequipa. The train ride used to take about 11 hours.
There are two main bus stations in Arequipa both located near each other on Avenida A Avelino Caceres – this is about 1.5 miles south of the Plaza de Armas. There are many bus tour companies who have small booths in these bus stations. You will find the prices and the quality of buses vary dramatically, so shop around at several booths before you make your decision. If you are taking an overnight bus consider using one of the double decker ones and pay a little more for the bottom 1st class section. The price isn’t a lot more and you get seats that ‘really’ recline, a larger seating area and much more privacy, plus you are located near the bathroom.
It usually pays to visit the bus station early to get your tickets in advance even if your trip is a day or two away. This can save you a lot of hassle and stress of last minute shopping for tickets. In addition, you have to pay a departure tax of 1 sole – and you should get this taken care of as soon as you purchase the tickets from one of the booths so as to avoid lines at this booth right before the actual departure. The departure tax is paid in a stand alone booth.