Most international travelers arrive to Peru via Lima. Arequipa is located about 15 hours from Lima via bus. If your budget will support it, we highly recommend flying to Arequipa from Lima – as flying time is only 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 an ideal “departure” city for traveling 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 – towns near Lake Titicaca. Instead, there is a well-maintain road – with little traffic takes about 4.5 hours to these cities from Arequipa. The train ride used to take about 11 hours.
Two main bus stations are located in Arequipa – both located near each other on Avenida A Avelino Caceres – this is about 1.5 miles south of the Plaza de Armas. Many bus tour companies have small booths in the stations. Travelers will find the prices and the quality of buses vary dramatically, so shop around at several booths before making any purchase decision. For those 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 if you have an active bladder, like we do – being located near the bathroom on a night bus is important.
It usually pays to visit bus stations early to secure tickets in advance even if trips are a day or two away. This can save a lot of hassle and stress centered around 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. A departure tax is paid in a stand alone booth.