The Colectivo Experience

There are several ways to get around the city here in Arequipa and we have been trying as many as we can. So here I will attempt to introduce them to you in order of convenience.

Type 1: the missionary’s car. Always a good choice if available. Very comfortable, roomy, safe driving, free and everyone speaks English.

Type 2: the taxi. Although more expensive, usually costing around 4-6 soles (~$2) to get just about anywhere we need to go, it is a comfortable way to travel around the city.

Type 3: the combi. These are small buses that are made to sit 15, but in Peru can carry up to 30. So what this means is that if you are not one of the first 15 on the bus, then you stand hunched over, holding on with the other 14 people that weren’t lucky enough to catch the combi at an earlier stop. However, they are cheap, costing 80 centimos (32 US cents).

Type 4: And then there’s the colectivo. The colectivo is a cultural experience in and of itself, which brings me to my experience yesterday when Megan decided I needed to have the colectivo experience. Let me set the stage. You pay 1 sol per person. The colectivo is a taxi that has a certain route and picks up people until the car is “full”. “Full” in my North American need of personal space would be 5 people in this car made to carry…oh 5 people.

So here’s the story: This morning, Megan, her two girls, and I head out to catch a colectivo. After a few minutes a colectivo pulls up already carrying 2 women, 1 prepubescent boy, one baby, and the driver, but they had room for the four of us! And so we all squeeze into the back seat with the two Peruvian women, kids on our laps, somehow get the door shut, and all 9 of us are off!

When our stop came, the opening of the door and exiting the vehicle were simultaneous, all while holding a 3 year-old with one arm and saying gracias.