If you are bussing from Peru to Chile, Arequipa is certainly a worthwhile detour. From Cusco you can catch a bus to Arequipa, and then another bus to Tacna on the border of Chile. At Tacna you can get a taxi that will take you across the Chilean border to Arica. Beware of overstaying your Peruvian Visa, or you will have to pay $1USD/ day.
In Arequipa, some quick worth while activities:
- Take a tour of the Museo de Assiento de Universidad where you can see the 500-year-old preserved body of an Incan girl named Jaunita who was sacrificed to the gods around the year 1450. There is something intriguingly eery about staring at the remains of a girl who lived over 5 centuries ago and still has skin and hair! There are also other unique artifacts on display that were found in the surrounding regions of the Andes and the tour guides are knowledgable and speak English.
- Visit the famous Santa Catalina monastery where a community lived completely isolated from the world for centuries, until recently when it was opened to the public. Once inside, you can stroll through the colorful streets and corridors and have a cappuccino in a flower-filled courtyard with the nuns.
Since I am often on a budget, a tactic I often use to save money while backpacking is booking overnight buses. That way you don’t waste daylight hours traveling and you save money on a hostel/hotel if you sleep while you are in transit.
With that being said, here are some lessons I learned in the process:
1. Sometimes it is better to splurge on transportation (especially if it means safety and comfort)
When traveling in South America by bus, ALWAYS PAY A LITTLE MORE FOR THE “CAMA” VS. THE “SEMI-CAMA”. Trust me, you will thank yourself and me when you are reclining flat in your comfy chair snuggling into your wool blanket for a good night’s rest.
2. Book a hostel in advance or don’t arrive late at night expecting to find something safe and comfortable.
Try to avoid arriving late at night in a new town without booking accommodation. Otherwise, you might find yourself wandering around at midnight, settling between two bad options and 12,000 Chilean pesos (16 USD) later you end up curled in a ball in your sleep sack trying to avoid bedbugs, hugging your belongings to avoid theft scenarios considering the flimsy plywood door that stands between you and the world.
Random Warning: Eat any fruit you have before crossing South American borders by bus or car.
When crossing through border towns, you can be subject to a random inspection where fruit is confiscated due to “Fruit fly free zones.” Not much explanation is given, but the signs are pretty clear “NO FRUIT.”