Nervous mothers fret at the thought of their inexperienced offspring traveling alone through South America, a faraway continent with an unenviable reputation for crime. But fear not, anxious relatives, for a popular new service is now offering intrepid youngsters a safe and hassle-free foray into the continent’s most unmissable locales. Best of all, it’s fully flexible, meaning there is no need for them to stick to the rigid schedule of a standard group tour.
Known as Peru Hop and Bolivia Hop, these twin companies offer tourists safe passage between each country’s main attractions as well as a few lesser-known destinations. Aimed at travelers who want the safety and convenience of a tour along with the flexibility to choose their own route, this hop-on hop-off bus pass is fast becoming the region’s hottest ticket.
Culture Trip spoke with co-founder Conor McAteer to see what all the fuss is about.
How did the company first come about?
“The company was started by myself (Conor) and my fellow Irishman and friend Will back in October 2013. He first had the idea after moving to Peru to be with his girlfriend. He noticed some of the amazing hidden gems around Peru that he hadn’t come across as a backpacker and that weren’t in LonelyPlanet or any other famous guidebooks. He’d taken a hop-on hop-off service in New Zealand and thought it was a concept that would work very well in Peru, including these hidden gems on the route. I was travelling at the time and had also taken a hop-on hop-off service. When Will rang me with the idea for the company I made the decision to move to Peru and start the company with him.”
How long has it been running?
“The company has been running for 4 years and growing at a steady rate ever since. More and more travelers are realizing the many benefits that truly come from traveling with Peru Hop….”
What advantages do travelers have with the service other than regular bus travel?
“…Our extra stops and free tours are our main focus, this is what really makes us different. We introduce you to local food places and have stops in places such as the Hacienda slave tunnels, Paracas National Reserve, Traditional Bread ovens, Nazca Lines Viewing Tower, etc., amazing places that people would probably skip if they had to go alone, so we made it easier. Then there are other advantages of using our service like the hotel/hostel pick-ups and drop-offs so our passengers don’t have to spend time and money going to and from bus terminals between each destination. Peru Hop passengers also get discounts on accommodations at each of our destinations.”
How does the service make travel safer?
“Our pick-ups and drop-offs make our buses a much safer option. We get our passengers from door to door of their hostels safely and then it is up to them to decide what they want to explore of each destination. Our buses also don’t take any dangerous off-course routes, to avoid running the risk of being hijacked. We also have GPS monitoring on the buses and constant contact between our guides on the buses and our offices…”
How is the service more fun?
“The stops and tours along the way get our passengers really talking to each other. This results in a fun, open, friendly atmosphere on the buses. Our enthusiastic bilingual guides also add to the fun on our buses as they are eager to meet new people and introduce travelers to their beautiful country. A huge part of the fun atmosphere on our buses is down to our amazing guides.”
How do your buses differ from regular public buses?
“As well as the social features of Peru Hop, mentioned above, we also provide duvets on our night buses. Many other companies offer blankets on their journey but our duvets are of much better quality making it easier for people to sleep through the night trips. We also play classic movies – Mrs. Doubtfire, Top Gun, Shawshank Redemption. Most buses in South America only play bad Jean-Claude Van Damme movies dubbed in Spanish and often don’t even have English subtitles…”
What sort of challenges have you come up against over the years?
“Teaching South Americans the importance of punctuality is a daily battle.”
What is the average age of the passengers?
“We get passengers of all ages from kids with families to travelers in their 60s. The average age of our passengers is 27.5 and just under 65% of our passengers are female.”
What is the most common nationality on the service?
“We have a very wide range of nationalities on our buses at the moment. We’ve had over 85 different nationalities to date, so hopefully we can continue to grow this number and keep our buses as diverse as possible in both nationality and age range as we continue to grow as a company. We get a lot of Europeans, Brazilians, Australians & Kiwis.”
What locations are currently covered?
What locations do you plan to include in the future?
“We hope to gradually expand bit by bit and discover new destinations in South America for our buses to venture to…”
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Conor. Travelers interested in the service can get all the information they need directly through their website.