Guide to Peru: Travel Tips
Pura Aventura's brief guide to the practicalities of travelling to and around Peru. We've included practical tips on money, health and vaccinations, safety, language, and airports to help you plan your holiday to Peru.
Peru is GMT -5 (i.e. the same zone as US Eastern Standard Time). That is to say that when it's midday in the UK, it is 7am in Peru.
220V, 60Hz, American Style two-pin plugs.
In the popular tourist spots, local people will often pose (old women, children, llamas!) for photographs for a couple of Soles. Ask permission first.
Telephones & Internet
The internet craze has hit Peru and you can find internet access everywhere. Most internet cafes also offer cheap international calls.
Phone cards (Telefonica) can also be bought and used for international calls. Note: 'Alt' '6' '4' on the number keypad will produce the'@' sign for emails.
Peruvian mobile networks operate at 1900Mhz which means that tri-band GSM phones work. The main carrier is TIM.
There is good coverage across Lima. In Cusco there is good coverage just in a narrow band around the town.
Elsewhere, there's little coverage.
Open from 09:00-17:00. Stamps also available in shops. Hotels will usually mail postcards for you or use the 'Ser Post' boxes.
Spanish is the official language but Quechua is common in the Andes. Some English is spoken, particularly in and around Cusco.
English is not widely spoken outside the tourist industry & normal tourist routes. 'Por favor' (please) and 'gracias' (thank you) will go a long way.
Unless you are quite proficient in Spanish you might at times feel a bit helpless and pestered by street sellers or beggars, a polite but firm 'no gracias' will help.
Peruvians are generally friendly and helpful and often people, especially children, are just keen to practice their English and find out where you are from, aside from selling you a postcard or two!
Tipping and taxes
Service is sometimes included in the bill in restaurants, otherwise add 10%. A normal tip for a cloakroom attendant is US$1. Baggage porters will expect in the region of 1 sole per bag. Taxis do not expect tips.
The domestic flight departure tax is US$6.05, international US$30.25.
Sales tax is included in the price of goods.
What to wear
Please refer to individual destination notes for advice relating to your specific holiday.
However, you will find that Peru is generally fairly high altitude so days can be warm with fierce sun and nights cold and clear.
In towns and cities you will find that Peruvians tend to dress relatively smartly.
For time spent in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and Puno you are going to fit in better if you wear the same sort of smarter casual clothes that you would expect to wear to dinner in a restaurant in the UK.
This applies to Cusco, Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The driest months are May to September, although even in these months it can rain. It can get hot during the day in the strong sunlight with temperatures of 20°c -25°c.
Conversely the altitude means very cold nights, sometimes below zero. November to April is the wet season with temperatures being on average 18°c.
Summertime is from December to April when the temperature is from 25°-35°c on the coast. The rest of the year the temperature drops and it is usually overcast and misty - not usually very lovely weather.
November to April is the wetter season with frequent heavy rain, humid with temperatures of around 25°-30°c.
From May to October it is a little dryer with clearer skies and less humidity but it gets very hot.
The weather in Puno and Lake Titicaca is mostly dry and quite cold year-round as it is inland and at high altitude (around 3,800m).
The average temperature is around 8ºc, with a maximum of 15ºc and a minimum of 1ºc in winter.
Arequipa and Colca
Arequipa has a famously pleasant and stable climate.
From January to March you have a mild rainy season but other than that clear sunny days are the norm with temperatures ranging from 10°c to 25°c.
Colca has more in common with climate in the Andes.
The dry season runs from April to November during which time temperatures usually fall to below zero at night and reach 15°c - 20°c during the daytime.
The rainy season runs from December to March and temperatures are more moderate, varying between 5°c and 15°c.
In Peru the Peruvian New Sol is the current currency, though many prices are also quoted in US dollars.
The New Sol (s/) is divided into 100 centimos. Current exchange rates: US$1 ~ 3.5 Soles. Euros can also be exchanged.
Bring US$ and credit cards. ATM machines are plentiful (in the airports, main plazas etc) and you can choose to withdraw US$ or Soles (1USD ~ 3.5 soles approx).
In main tourist centers such as Cusco, US$ and Soles are largely interchangeable.
Travellers cheques are largely obsolete but can still be changed at banks.
Soles are particularly useful for smaller purchases, markets and in more remote towns. In the Sacred Valley it is difficult to withdraw or change money.
We recommend that you do it in Cusco and take plenty of small change. Hotels, restaurants and shops in the larger towns will usually accept dollars and Visa/Mastercards although at a poorer exchange rate.
Cash is easy to exchange at the hotels and in money changing houses - 'Casa De Cambio' which usually give better rates than banks. Never use street changers as many counterfeit notes exist.
Never accept notes that are torn as they are impossible to use.
Although credit/debit cards are the best means of accessing money, you should also have some US cash as a backup in case card authorization is denied, poor computer connections or other problems.
Only carry as much US dollars cash as you feel comfortable with. We recommend that you advise your bank/credit card company of your trip as most companies have security stop measures that are automatically triggered by foreign withdrawals.
In Peru, if you find an ATM doesn't work, try another one or request a smaller amount as occasionally they do run out of cash!
Your main expenses will be the cost of meals (dinners generally 10-20US$) snacks, drinks, souvenirs, laundry, locally payable flight taxes and tips.
For up to date, journey specific health advice, consult your GP.
You might also like to visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
When travelling throughout the Andes in Peru everyone will suffer to some degree the affects of altitude sickness 'Soroche'.
It's caused by the lack of oxygen in the thin mountain air, it can affect anyone, regardless of physical condition.
Symptoms include headache, shortness of breath and loss of appetite.
Drink plenty of bottled water. Walk slowly and take things at a relaxed pace. At least for your first few days avoid alcohol, smoking and heavy food.
Altitude can aggravate any pre-existing medical condition. Travellers with heart conditions and high blood pressure should check with their doctors before undertaking travel at altitude.
Most health problems are minor stomach complaints. Wash hands regularly. Exercise reasonable caution when eating: avoid undercooked or reheated meats and fish, drink bottled water and make sure that ice is made from purified water.
Other things to guard against are sunburn and de-hydration.
Insects can be a nuisance in some areas - a DEET based repellent is worth taking.
Most medicines are widely available in pharmacies without prescription.
We recommend that you use an antiseptic handwash (the sort that you rub in and it evaporates) during your travels, not just on the trail.
If you apply the handwash in the morning and then do not wash your hands, the antiseptic continues to work.
Any time you wash your hands with water you will have to reapply.
This trick does more than anything else to avoid stomach bugs whilst on your travels.
Peru is, in parts, very poor. As a result, opportunistic robbery is a potential problem. Use your common sense to make yourself less of a target.
You must exercise caution by spreading money and credit cards across several pockets and don't wear jewellery or expensive watches or sunglasses.
When traveling in taxis, lock the doors and keep bags on the floor, at your feet rather than on your lap.
Arriving by Air
Flights and baggage
Whilst international flight allowances vary between 20kg (European carriers) and 64kg (US carriers) Peru domestic flight limits are 30kg.
Passengers are responsible for their own excess baggage - currently $2.50 per kilogram on domestic flights. Hand luggage is limited to 5kgs, not much more than a small day-pack.
For domestic flights 2 hours in advance, for international 3 hours.
Remember to pack any pocket-knives and sharp objects in your check-in luggage as security is tight in the airports.
All flights within Peru are taxed; these taxes are paid after checking in at the airport. Domestic tax is $6.05, international $30.25 though that varies by airport, these figures are for Lima, the most expensive.
Must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of completion of your visit and you should have at least one blank page.
UK, European and US passport holders currently do not need visas for Peru.
Your passport is your most valuable and important document when travelling. NEVER store your passport in any part of your luggage.
You may need to show your passport when checking into hotels, changing money. We suggest that you deposit your passport in the hotel safe while in cities and carry a photocopy of it around as identification.
You should carry a photocopy of the main page of your passport and take it away with you, stored separately from your actual passport. A good idea is to scan a copy of your passport into your computer, should you lose your passport you have a copy which can be emailed to you.
Flying via the USA
If you are flying via the USA you must have a machine-readable passport otherwise you will need a full visa. If you have a line of chevrons and numbers on the photo page of your passport then it is machine-readable.
If you have not entered the USA within the last couple of years you will be asked to provide a scan of all 10 fingers (light scan, so at least no mess). Those who have previously entered the USA will only be asked to scan one finger.