Take the Bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado in 2023


on: 2022-12-24

by: Alice Silva

Quick Facts

  • Duration

    10 hours 0 minutes

  • Rating

  • Experience

    jungle tours, nature hikes, wildlife

  • Best Price

    USD $ 29

  • Maximum comfort or class


  • Departures

    3 Departures Daily

  • Recommended by

    797 Explorers

Price may fluctuate due to seasonal demand and other market-driven and regulatory events.

Learning about the bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado

The clay licks make Puerto Maldonado a popular place attracting macaws.

The allure of Puerto Maldonado has been an open secret for many years now, and getting there from Cusco is actually easy.  Puerto Maldonado couldn’t be more different than Cusco. The latter is high in the Andes and known for ancient Inca cities and temples, while the former is a jungle paradise known for terrific wildlife and nature excursions.

Let’s go deeper into not just what the fuss is all about and why you would want to go to Puerto Maldonado, but also how you can get there from your base in Cusco without any trouble, whether as a side trip from Cusco or as a stop on the way to entering Brazil. 

What are the buses from Cusco like?

Cusco has a robust land transportation terminal that is accustomed to servicing both tourists and regular Peruvian commuters alike.  Buses from Cusco head to Lima, Arequipa, and Puno regularly, as well as many international carriers going to La Paz, Bolivia.  Many carriers provide both regular coach service as well as VIP cabins to make the longer distances more comfortable.  Standard services include semi-recline cushioned seats, on-board wi-fi except in the most remote stretches of wilderness, and pressurized climate control the same as you would expect on an airline.  VIP services, if the route is long enough, have wider seats that recline to a full sleeping position, additional onboard customer service, and quieter cabins with fewer passengers to share the space.

If you are going on a shorter trip like to Puerto Maldonado, you still might get choices between standard and VIP accommodations, but it’s not as common unless it’s a peak tourism season.  Nonetheless, Peru’s buses live up to a higher standard than other neighboring countries like Bolivia or Ecuador, and you can expect clean and comfortable travel no matter what.  Many bus companies also have their own “micro terminals”, which means they prefer to depart from their own city offices instead of a common municipal bus station, but this practice is increasingly getting discontinued except in Lima as cities build full-service bus terminals that are easily accessible, which is the case in Cusco.

How long is the bus ride to Puerto Maldonado?

The ride from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado is 477 kilometers and takes between 10 and 11 hours. If that seems long, remember that Peru is a huge country with a lot of mountains and deserts between major cities or points of interest. For example, a large number of travelers every day take the 23-hour trip from Lima to Cusco or back, so getting to a destination like Puerto Maldonado in half that time feels short in comparison. Plus, good Peruvian buses are really cheap (we’ll cover more on that in the next section), so the economic savings over flying easily persuade most budget travelers to a clear choice for public buses.

There’s also only one practical highway route to and from Puerto Maldonado, so the only cause for a variation in time is that some bus services make more stops, while others are either exclusively direct or just make fewer stops or shorter rest breaks for passengers.

What is the cost of traveling by bus from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado?

Tickets range from $29 USD on the low end to $40 on the top, with the higher range largely driven by carriers that have better ratings, or by some other pricing mechanism of their own determination.  Only the CDS service has a consistent VIP cabin available on every trip for about 25% more than the coach fare.

Some other factors can affect the price:

When you go

Weekdays are the best days to travel. You stay away from the crowding caused by the natural rush of families seeking to escape the city for the weekend, which also raises the cost because each ticket becomes more valuable. Additionally, Puerto Maldonado is a tourist hotspot with its primary nature show running continuously, so there are lots of things to do all week long without having to wait for the weekend. If you must travel over the weekend, do go on a Saturday since by that day most weekenders will have already arrived at their location.

When you book

Do not wait until the last minute to make reservations. The majority of the time, you will encounter closed offices that have finished all of their sales, or agents who will give you the protracted runaround due to their general busyness or dislike of dealing with desperate people. There will be many people in line ahead of you and swarming the ticket booths with their more fluent use of Spanish and better negotiation strategies.  

When you can think more clearly and the bus operators are in a position to serve and satisfy so they can reach their early targets, booking further in advance and online is the far superior option. If so, you can enter the station without girding yourself to fight anything because you have your ticket in hand.

What are the bus schedules from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado?

There are not that many, and they all leave at night.  This clearly underscores what bus companies have learned from the demands of their passengers over time, that they want to sleep on the bus to perhaps avoid paying an extra night’s lodging in Cusco and wake up in Puerto Maldonado around breakfast time. 

There are currently four scheduled departures leaving Cusco between 19:00 and 21:00 (7-9 pm). So, basically, there’s a relatively compact night caravan with limited options to choose from, which is why you want to reserve in advance. 

Where can I book bus tickets from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado?

You have two options here:


Purchasing a ticket online is the quickest, most affordable, and most reliable way to reserve a bus anywhere in Latin America. Select the date, time, and price that works best for you by clicking the Reserve Now button above. You can board the coach as soon as you arrive at the terminal and present your ticket on your phone.


As previously stated, the only true benefit of booking in person is that it enables you to be more spontaneous, which is definitely all well and good. If you decide to visit the terminal in person to shop, plan to arrive several hours early, and carry all of your luggage with you. It can take a lot longer than you anticipate, and you won't have time to go back to your hotel to recover your belongings. In addition, bus terminals, particularly those in Peru, are sizable establishments, and you won't want to exert yourself by slogging through lines only to discover that by the time you reach the front, all seats have already been claimed. It is a terrible way to spend your time in Cusco.

What to do in Puerto Maldonado

Empty boats near Lago Sandoval, Puerto Maldonado, Peru

Don’t come to Puerto Maldonado unless you have every intention of getting wet and wild. The stage is set for you to get the most out of connecting with an amazing array of wildlife species, birds, and freshwater marine life. This is also the perfect place for escaping to an off-grid Amazon lodge, paddling up river tributaries to see the teeming and steaming richness of the rainforest. Cross mazes of bamboo bridges into the jungle as you go hiking on foot or by bicycle, take classes in medicinal herbs and healing or just get the best photographs of your entire vacation from the intense and vibrant colors of the jungle here.

Bear in mind that many come to Puerto Maldonado with a multi-day package of excursions already assembled for them by a lodge or outfitter, and those will often include the following suggestions.  But if you want to be more independent and put together your own itinerary, then definitely consider what we recommend as you don’t have to do them as part of a packaged tour.

#1 - Amazon Shelter

If you have limited time or budget, but want to see the wildlife of the Puerto Maldonado area, simply head to the Amazon Shelter on the edge of town. Volunteers here care for rescued tropical mammals and birds and rehabilitate them until they can be released back into the wild.  Take classes, interact with the animals, and learn about the stories of each animal’s journey, its environment and habitat, and the challenges that brought it here.

#2 - Get the birdseye view from The Obelisk

Right in the middle of the city, engineers have built a tall spire called Obelisco that you can easily ascend to the top.  Simply go to the street corners of Fitzcarraldo and Madre de Dios, but don’t worry, you can see the spire from a long way out. There is a nominal admission fee to visit, and once you get to the top you can see across the entire city and the surrounding rainforest and meandering Madre de Dios river.

#3 - Puerto Capitanía and the ferry dock

It is true that the jungle areas immediately outside the town of Puerto Maldonado are where all the magic is, and for the most part, they are all accessible only through tours run by the local lodges. However, what is even larger is that they exist within national parks which are public spaces, and so with a little bit of simple curiosity and charm, you can go down to the ferry dock, called Puerto Capitanía, and just ask the local boatsman if they are offering non-package tours to a single destination, like Lago Sandoval, or up and down the river Madre de Dios to see monkeys at Monkey Island or ask them about the famous clay licks that attract huge numbers of parrots, like Colorado and Chuncho. There’s a good chance you’ll find independent tour guides and open seats, but have something precise in mind and don’t expect to see all the things that are on tours that take two to five days.

#4 - Multiple day tours

You don’t necessarily have to stay in a lodge (you could stay in a hostel in town instead) to go on the much preferred multi-day tours. When you give Puerto Maldonado a minimum of three days of your time, the possibilities for incredible encounters unfold. There are several guides and tour providers who will either pick you up from your hotel or hostel and then embark to more exotic and remote destinations where you can go on nature walks, walk above the forest canopy on specially made bamboo catwalks, or go ziplining across the forest to see the primeval forest underneath your feet.

#5 - Mercado Modelo

It’s not always about going out to the jungle to see what’s there, but you would be surprised at what the jungle brings into the city.  Stroll through the city’s principal open market to get a visual feast of the fruits and vegetables, fish, and, medicines that the Amazon and its people bring to sell. Have lunch, look for souvenirs, and engage with locals as they swap stories and suggest other hidden places to visit.


Puerto Maldonado has so much to offer for travelers, whether you’re coming to visit for a single day or going to a lodge for several days. You will nearly forget the dramatically different Cusco that you left just nine hours before, and the night bus trips will be smooth and reliable, allowing you to wake from one dream and into a paradise where dreams are real.

Route Map

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does the bus go onward to Brazil from Puerto Maldonado?
No, Puerto Maldonado is the end of the road for reservations that you can make online. However, small local buses can be located around the market or at the terminal that makes the additional three-hour journey to Iñapari, Peru, and the Brazilian sister city of Assis.
What about the return route from Puerto Maldonado to Cusco?
Similar to getting to Puerto Maldonado from Cusco, there are three buses daily returning from Puerto Maldonado back to Cusco, and these all fall in the later part of the day or at night. There are no morning or mid-day buses.
Does the bus to Puerto Maldonado stop along the way in other small towns?
It shouldn’t, but bus drivers are not consistent or very regulated in what they decide to do on any given day. For the most part, they go directly to the bus terminal in Puerto Maldonado on the north side of town. If getting off early is important to you, you would either need to arrange that directly at the terminal in Cusco before you leave, or privately negotiate with the bus driver.
What are the ticket policies?
It depends on the carrier you choose, but their specific policies can be previewed during checkout or in the summaries printed on your ticket email. For a general overview, see the Ticket Policy page.

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