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There are no passenger services along the Peruvian coast. In the Andean highlands, there are boat services on Lake Titicaca. Small motorized vessels take passengers from the port in Puno to visit various islands on the lake, while catamarans zip over to Bolivia.

In Peru’s Amazon Basin, boat travel is of major importance. Larger vessels ply the wider rivers. Dugout canoes powered by outboard engines act as water taxis on smaller rivers. Those called peki-pekis are slow and rather noisy. In some places, modern aluminum launches are used.

Cargo Boat

Some travelers dream of plying the Amazon while swinging in a hammock aboard a banana boat with cargo on the lower deck. It’s possible to travel from Pucallpa or Yurimaguas to Iquitos and on into Brazil this way.

Departures At ports, chalkboards with ships’ names, destinations and departure times are displayed; these are usually optimistic. The captain has to clear documents with the capitanía (harbor master’s office) on the day of departure, so ask the captain directly for updates. Nobody else really knows. Departure time often depends on a full cargo. Usually, you can sleep on the boat while waiting if you want to save on hotel bills. Never leave your luggage unattended.

Sleeping Bring your own hammock, or rent a cabin for the journey. If using a hammock hang it away from the noisy engine room and not directly under a light, as these are often lit late at night, precluding sleep and attracting insects. Cabins are often hot, airless boxes, but are lockable. Sanitary facilities are basic and there’s usually a pump shower on board.

Eating Basic food is usually included in the price of the passage, and may be marginally better on the bigger ships or if you are in cabin class. Finicky eaters or people with dietary restrictions should bring their own food. Bottled soft drinks are usually available.