Getting there & away
About 2km southeast of the Plaza de Armas, Terminal Terrestre (36 4733; Primero de Mayo 703) houses Puno’s long-distance bus companies. There is a departure tax of US$0.30 for all passengers.
The roads to Arequipa and Cuzco are now paved, and fast and efficient services run to Lima (US$11 to US$45, 18 to 21 hours), Arequipa (US$3.60 to US$7.50, five to six hours) and Cuzco (US$4.50 to US$10.50, six to seven hours), almost all going via Juliaca (US$0.60, one hour). To get to Tacna (US$7.50, 10 hours) via Moquegua, San Martín (36 3631) has a few daily and overnight económico buses that stop at Desaguadero on the Bolivian border. Warning: this is a rough trip that’s only for hardy shoestring travelers. It’s far more comfortable to go to Arequipa, then change to another bus bound for Tacna.
Inka Express (36 5654; www.inkaexpress.com; Tacna 314B) and other companies run luxury tour buses sporting panoramic windows to Cuzco, with departures every morning. The splurge-worthy US$25 fare includes beverages and an English-speaking tour guide, who talks about sites that are briefly visited en route, including Pucará, Abra la Raya, Raqchi and Andahuaylillas.
Minibuses to Juliaca (US$0.50, one hour), towns along Lake Titicaca’s south shore and also the Bolivian border leave from Terminal Zonal (Simón Bolívar), a few blocks northwest of Terminal Terrestre.
Following the suspension of services to Arequipa, Puno’s train station (36 9179, 35 1041; www.perurail.com; Av La Torre 224; 7am-noon & 1-5pm Mon-Fri, 7-11am Sat & Sun) only has trains to Cuzco via Juliaca.
Fares to Cuzco have skyrocketed in recent years – they are now US$119 for first-class ‘Andean Explorer’ tickets, which include a glass-walled observation car and complimentary lunch, or US$17 for non-reservable seats in the more basic ‘Backpacker’ carriage where drinks and snacks are sold.
The train is scheduled to leave at 8am daily, supposedly arriving at 5:30pm in Cuzco, though it’s often hours late. Departures are also subject to whether there are enough passengers, so the line suffers routine cancellations. Extra trains occasionally run for group bookings made by travel agents. It is therefore essential to check schedules in person at the station.
The journey to Cuzco has great views along the shores of Lake Titicaca and of the Andes, but note that even in the best class, seats are not very comfortable and the ride is known for being a bit of a bone-shaker. Most travelers now take the faster (and almost as scenic) bus services to Cuzco.
Boats from the Puno dock leave for various islands on the lake. Tickets bought directly from the boats at the dock are invariably cheaper than those bought from agencies in town.
There are no passenger ferries across the lake from Puno to Bolivia, but tour-bus services connect with expensive hydrofoil and catamaran services on the Bolivian side of the border. Transturin (35 2771; www.transturin.com; Ayacucho 148) offers catamaran trips to Bolivia (US$120 to US$180). Groups leave Puno by bus between 6am and 6:30am and go to Copacabana, Bolivia, from where a catamaran sails to the Isla del Sol for a quick but interesting visit before continuing to the Bolivian port of Chua and on to La Paz by bus, arriving around 5:30pm. This service includes hotel transfers, lunch and a guide. Transturin also offers longer trips including an overnight stay and buffet breakfast on board a catamaran with comfortable private cabins (US$185 to US$235). Last-minute discount tickets may be available (US$70/90 for day/overnight tours). These trips can also be done in reverse from La Paz, where there’s another Transturin office (591-2-242 2222; firstname.lastname@example.org; Alfredo Ascarrunz 2518, Sopocachi).
Arcobaleno Viajes y Turismo (35 1052, 35 1884; Lambayeque 355) is the Puno agent for Crillon Tours (www.titicaca.com), which has thrice-weekly tours to Bolivia via Isla del Sol and the Bolivian port of Huatajata, departing Puno at 7:30am on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and arriving in La Paz around 6:30pm. Full-day tours cost US$175, while the two-day tour (US$250) overnights in a hotel in Copacabana, Bolivia.
The nearest airport is in Juliaca, about 45km away. Several travel agents in Puno will sell tickets and provide a shuttle service direct to the airport for about US$3 per person, though these services can be painfully slow. LAN (36 7227; Tacna 299) is currently the only airline with an office in Puno.