Getting around in the Sacred Valley

One of our favorite things about living in the Sacred Valley was that we could get around fairly easily without having a car. This was greatly facilitated by being in Urubamba, which is a little larger than some of the neighboring towns, but generally speaking, things wouldn’t change too much elsewhere in the Valley.

Our primary means of transportation day-to-day was the mototaxi. These are small, three-wheeled vehicles with low-powered motors. Commonly they are called tuk tuks or rickshaws in many other parts of the world, but we heard them called mototaxis or just motos in Perú. You can comfortably fit two people in the back, three adults or two adults and two kids starts to get a little tight. However, we would often see locals stuff five or six adults in the back with some sitting on laps.

Within town, two soles (about $0.60) will get you just about anywhere. Longer distances or more passengers will push the price up, short distances or taking the moto from a rural location to a busy stop like the bus stop or the market will get you a lower price. We found that it was best not to ask the price in advance as you would usually get quoted something on the higher end. Of course, as with most everything else, the price is negotiable. We often felt bad for negotiating over a sol or half a sol but, as our local friends told us, if we don’t negotiate for a fair price as tourists, that pushes the moto prices up for the locals themselves.

Overall the motos aren’t the fastest way to get anywhere, but they are definitely inexpensive and very ubiquitous. Catching one is usually a simple matter of standing at the curb with your hand raised and yelling “moto!” at any that pass.

A moto taxi in Urubamba.

For longer distances, such as between towns, the motos don’t make a lot of sense and likely the driver won’t want to take you that far. In these cases, a combi or small van/bus is a better option. These combis (sometimes called colectivos, though more commonly we heard shared taxis being referred to as colectivos) are privately owned and operated, but seem to operate as part of a collective that coordinates the routes and such. Even though they are privately operated, we found them to be readily available and quite efficient. Waiting at one of the stops, you’d typically see a van come every 5-10 minutes. They are usually priced based on distance and are fairly inexpensive. An hour long trip between towns may cost two to three soles per person, with kids often being free. The downside to combis are that they make frequent stops, some stops are at designated locations, but in more rural areas, people just flag them down on the side of the road. There were some routes which didn’t include as many stops and were more direct, but we never really figured out how to tell the difference if you didn’t know the particular route. Generally a quick question to the driver will tell you if they stop as your desired destination or not. While you are riding, you can indicate your stop by shouting “bajo!” and getting ready to jump out. Try not to forget to hand the driver your payment, as close to your actual fare as possible so they don’t have to waste a lot of time making change.

Another downside to the combis is that they will pick up about as many people as can be squeezed inside as long as the door can still be slammed shut. They will also transport your goods for an extra fee, either inside or strapped to the roof.

A combi in Urubamba. The window sign states what route it follows.
The inside of a combi. They can become cramped as they don’t really have limits for how many people they will pick up.

For faster rides or longer distances, there are buses or taxis. The buses are still fairly cheap, often a several hour trip will be in the range of 20 soles per person. They don’t move the fastest, but will have fewer stops. You can find them by visiting the dedicated bus station as they aren’t as likely to pick you up along the side of the road.

Taxis offer a more private option but are of course more expensive. A one-way trip between Urubamba and Cusco (takes about 1.5 hours) will set you back 70-100 soles. Though if you go down to the grifo (gas station) in Urubamba, you can often catch a taxi that is making their way back from dropping people off in Ollantaytambo and are looking to collect some fares on their way to Cusco. In these cases you can share a taxi to Cusco for 5-8 soles. The drivers will cruise by slowly yelling, “Cusco, Cusco, Cusco” out the window.

Published by devinberg

Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

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