I walked to the bus station and after paying 250 Chilean pesos tax (NZ$0.60 – have no idea what kind of tax it was), I then had to stand in line for about an hour to wait for a colectivo (taxi) that ferries five people at a time across the border to Tacna, Peru. The trip is 400 Chilean pesos (NZ$9.70), but because I had a heavy bag I had to pay 600 Chilean pesos (NZ$14.50). I was in a taxi with a Chilean couple, a young Peruvian guy and a lovely older Peruvian lady who could speak really good English. She had worked as a tourist guide for a year. It was so helpful having her on this trip!
At the border control, because it was winter holidays, it was extremely busy. A lot of Chilean’s go over the border to Peru to buy cheap items. The young guy was sent to stand in line to save our place while the car slowly got nearer where the driver could park. Once through the border control, we had to go to the car, get our bags, go back to the office and put our bags through the x-ray machine. I thought it was all over and we would soon be in Tacna…wrong! We had to go through some other kind of control after that and the queue was huge! We got dropped off at the national bus terminal.
I had been told I had to cross the road to the International bus terminal to get a bus to Arequipa. First thing I needed to do was get some Peruvian sols from the ATM. Before I know it, I am falling into the old trap of getting hustled to get a bus to Arequipa! All I heard was “Arequipa”. Yes, that was me! This guy who could speak very little English leads me across the road and he’s trying to tell me the time the bus is going. However, I’m no good on the times in Spanish yet, so it meant nothing. I guessed from the rush, it was leaving soon. We got to the counter of the Moquegua buses which looked nice in the picture so that was a relief. My bag was being pushed under the rail to get it on the luggage trolley. I had to say “espere” (wait) because I didn’t even know the cost! It turned out it was 20 Peruvian sols (NZ$9.00). That was ok, then he escorts me to another counter where I had to pay tax of 1 Peruvian sol (NZ$0.44). We then go back to the bus counter and I’m told I have to pay more because of my heavy bag! He said he would take Chilean pesos and it would be 2,000 (NZ$5.00), more than half the bus ticket cost! He just stuffed it into his pocket. I’m sure I got ripped off on that one. Then the guy who hustled me wanted a tip (it’s all coming back to me now, you NEVER get anyone to help you with anything, unless you want to give them a tip). I had a few Chilean pesos so gave him some of them.
I had a window seat and lucky enough not to have anyone sit by me the whole way. We seemed to stop a number of times just in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. One place however, was like a bus check. An official got on and was collecting all the locals’ identification cards. I just had to show my passport. We had to get off, walk through the building to the other side of the gates. The luggage hold of the bus was open, they seemed to be doing a good old check. After about 10 minutes the gates were open and the bus was allowed to proceed.
After six hours in a semi-cama seat, I arrived at Arequipa bus station. I had been warned not to get a taxi outside the terminal because they are renowned for taking you somewhere and robbing you. There were several legitimate taxi drivers at the entrance to the bus terminal. I asked one “cuanta cuesta” (how much) and showed him the address of the hostel. He said 10 sols. The hostel had said it should only be 5 – 8 sols. I said to him it was too much. He pointed in the direction of outside the terminal and I guessed he was saying I could get cheaper if I wanted to go outside. But of course I didn’t, because I was likely to get robbed! I walked away and composed myself and then went back and asked another driver. He also said 10 sols but we ended up agreeing on 9 sols. I was to find out later, because it was the holidays they charge more! At least I got to the hostel safely.