Getting there & away
Most travelers fly here from Lima or Cuzco. The long road or river trips are only for travelers prepared to put up with discomfort and delay. A new highway is slowly being established to link western Brazil with the Andes. When complete, road travel from Cuzco to Puerto Maldonado will be a viable option.
Trucks, minibuses and colectivo (shared) taxis leave Puerto Maldonado for Laberinto (US$2, 1½ hours), passing the turnoff to Baltimore at Km 37 on the road to Cuzco. They leave frequently during the morning and less often in the afternoon from the corner of Ica and E Rivero. Colectivo taxis to Iñapari (US$8, four hours), near the international borders with Brazil and Bolivia, leave from Empresa Transportes Imperial (57 4274; Ica cuadra 5) when they have four passengers. Some other companies on the same block also advertise this trip.
Although it’s only about 500km, the road to Cuzco is so rough that the journey by truck can take 60 hours or more, depending on weather conditions. During the rainy season, the journey can take days longer. That said, plans are well underway to upgrade the road as it will necessarily become part of the Interoceánica link previously mentioned. Until then this option is for the severely travel-struck or highly budget-minded. It is an incredibly scenic drive and in the future will undoubtedly become a great and much easier journey. During the highland dry season, trucks to Cuzco leave from the Mercado Modelo on E Rivero, or from outside the public swimming pool, which is located two blocks south of the mercado (market) on the same street.
Motocarros take two or three passengers (and light luggage) to the airport for US$2. Short rides around town cost under US$1. There are also mototaxi Honda 90s that will take one passenger around town for about US$0.25.
You can rent motorcycles if you want to see some of the surrounding countryside; go in pairs in case of breakdowns or accident. There are several motorcycle-rental places, mainly on G Prada between Velarde and Puno. They charge US$1.20 per hour and have mainly small, 100cc bikes. Bargain for all-day discounts.
Hire boats at the Río Madre de Dios ferry dock for local excursions or to take you downriver to the Bolivian border. It’s difficult to find boats up the Madre de Dios (against the current) to Manu. Cuzco is a better place than Puerto Maldonado from which to reach Manu. Occasionally, people reach Puerto Maldonado by boat from Manu (with the current) or from the Bolivian border (against the current), but transportation is infrequent. Be prepared for waits of several days.
At the Tambopata dock, several kilometers south of town and reached by motocarros (three-wheeled motorcycle rickshaw), there are public boats up the Tambopata as far as the community of Baltimore. The Tiburon leaves twice a week (currently Monday and Thursday, but subject to change) and can drop you off at any of the lodges between Puerto Maldonado and Baltimore. The fare is US$5 or less, depending on how far you go. All passengers must stop at La Torre Puesto de Control (checkpoint) where passports and Inrena permits (US$8.50) are needed.
When transporting visitors upriver, some Río Tambopata lodges avoid the first two hours of river travel by taking the bumpy dirt road to the indigenous community of Infierno, almost an hour away, and continuing by boat from there. Going to Infierno needs to be arranged ahead of time because there is nowhere to stay there and no boats await passengers.
The airport is 7km out of town. Scheduled flights leave every day to and from Lima via Cuzco with LAN Peru (57 3677; Velarde 503) and AeroCondor (57 1733; Loreto 222). Schedules and airlines can change from one year to the next but numerous travel agents in the town center have the latest details. At the time of writing rates are US$112 one-way to/from Lima and US$84.50 one-way to/from Cuzco.
Light aircraft to anywhere can be chartered as long as you pay for five seats and the return trip. Ask at the airport.