Are you traveling to Peru soon? Whether it’s your first time or you’ve been before, there are some things you should know before you go. In this blog post, we will discuss 10 of the most important things every traveler should know before traveling to Peru.
1. You likely won’t need a Visa:
Peru is a country that offers visitors an incredible and free opportunity to explore its ancient culture. With no visa requirement for most Westerners (just make sure you have your passport valid for at least 6 months), travelers will be granted up to 90 days within which they can travel in Peru without worrying about visas–and if overstaying becomes necessary then there’s only one small fine of 4.4 Soles per day (US$1.15 approximately).
2. Don’t drink tap water:
Very important to know before traveling to Peru: Even though water in Peru is drinkable, we recommend you to avoid drinking faucet water in Peru, and instead, either drink bottled, purified, or boiled water to stay extra safe during your trip to Peru (washing your teeth with tap water is completely fine).
We also recommend taking other related precautions such as making sure that the ice in your drink comes from purified water and washing your fruits and vegetables before eating them.
3. Tipping etiquette:
Peru is a country with lots of friendly people. You’ll find that no matter who you meet, they will be happy to help and offer advice or offer a service always with a big smile! But when it comes time to tipping, how much should you leave?
Generally speaking, most locals leave about 5 to 10% in tips when dining out and drinking and it is also customary to tip travel guides and housekeepers fixed amounts of money ranging from 10 to 50 soles depending on the duration of your stay/tour.
Finally, keep in mind that tipping taxi drivers isn’t a common practice but of course you can always leave a small tip to show your appreciation if they helped with something in particular (such as carrying your bags or waiting for you).
4. Avoid street taxis:
Unfortunately, taxis in Peru aren’t metered and so you’ll need to negotiate the price for every single ride, meaning that you’ll need to communicate with drivers in Spanish and know the rates to different parts of the city ahead of time to know you are paying a fair price.
In order to avoid the hassle of bargaining every single time, we recommend you to use a ride app such as Uber, TaxiBeat, or InDriver. This way you’ll be able to get a fair rate and make sure you are getting around the city safely and efficiently.
5. Travel by bus or plane?
The general rule when traveling is that flying costs more, and taking a bus costs less, but the general rules do not always apply to Peru, as things work a little differently here as well as available options, costs, and itineraries.
Traveling by bus in Peru:
When it comes to taking a bus, many local companies such as “Cruz del Sur” and “Oltursa”, offer a wide range of options to travel all over the country. From basic bus seats to high end lie-flat seats with personal TV screens, you’ll be able to travel comfortably anywhere in Peru.
However, the downside is that routes to many Andean cities (such as Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa) take much longer compared to the average time it’d take you to travel by air. For instance, traveling from Lima to Cusco by bus takes about 22 hours, compared to about only 1 hour and 20 minutes. This is because traveling through the mountains by bus involves a lot of “zig zagging”, which doesn’t happen by air.
Bus rates (as of February 2022), range anywhere from 130 to 200 Peruvian soles (US$30 to US$55) for a one way ticket.
Traveling by air in Peru:
When it comes to traveling by air, the most affordable, flexible, and reliable airlines include Viva Air Peru and Sky Air Peru, which offer basic airfares as cheap as US$46 for one way tickets from Lima to many destinations such as Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo, and Juliaca (the nearest airport to Titicaca Lake). These fares usually include a personal item (such as a regular size backpack), and it’ll cost you about US$19 extra for a carry on.
Other airlines such as LATAM, unfortunately charge higher rates ranging from US$130+ for one way tickets and will not offer you many more benefits other than an included carry on.
Another advantage of taking a plane are the breathtaking views of the Andes mountains. Gliding down to the airport in between the soaring mountain crests rising above you, you will see sun sparkle on both the snow covered peaks in the distance and, below you, on the traditional clay tiles covering the houses and church domes of the old city. If you’re very lucky, you might even be able to see some of the ruins in the middle of your flight, such as the enormous agricultural terraces that the Incas built near the top of mountain peaks to catch more of the moisture passing over the Andes from the jungles of the Amazon.
6. Pack clothes for every weather
Did you know that Peru is one of the most diverse countries in the world in terms of climates? It could be the same season, but the contrast in weather between different cities in Peru could be so drastic that one would feel like summer, while another would feel like winter. Depending on how many cities you visit while traveling in Peru, we recommend you to pack clothes for both summer and winter, and check the forecast ahead of time.
Other cities such as Cusco also have drastic changes in temperature depending on the time of the day, and for instance, it’d feel like winter in the morning, and then feel like summer at 3pm, so pack accordingly and get organized ahead of time.
7. Don’t skip Lima
Is it worth visiting Lima? It is true that all travel guides printed 10+ years ago didn’t recommend travelers to make a stop in Lima, but times have changed and now Lima has become one of the most vibrant, attractive, relevant, and multicultural cities in the world, and a unique destination worth visiting you wouldn’t want to miss during your time in Peru.
From colonial buildings adorned with carved wood balconies to many of the world’s best restaurants, Lima is a city that offers a bit of everything for everyone. A city where all cultures from Peru have met to create a unique and fresh identity you won’t be able to find anywhere else.
If you are a foodie in particular, there’s no better place to visit than Lima, which is also known as the “Gastronomic capital of Latin America”. From hidden gems also known as “Huariques”, to the world’s top restaurants such as Central , Astrid & Gaston, Fiesta, Maido, and many more, Peruvian cuisine will be the ideal vehicle for you to truly connect , understand, and identify with Peruvian culture and its people.
8. Taking a Spanish class will be incredibly beneficial
Did you know that Peru has some of the best Spanish schools in the world? This is because most Spanish schools in Peru are very dedicated at what they do and hire fantastic and passionate Spanish teachers who have also specialized and attended University to do so. Something else very important is that Peru offers some of the most affordable prices to learn Spanish in South America, which makes it an ideal place to learn Spanish before starting your trip through Peru or South America.
Although you’ll be able to get around Peru without speaking the local language, learning Spanish in Lima will be incredibly helpful to get around more easily, communicate with locals, and most importantly connect with the local culture at a whole new level while enriching your experience.
You may sign up for small group classes for one or more weeks, or take one-on-one lessons for as few as a single day, a single week, or as long as you’d like to.
9. Don’t bring thorned or old bills
Something important to keep in mind when preparing for your trip to Peru is to avoid bringing thorned or damaged bills (American Dollars, Euros, or any other currency) as they unfortunately won’t be accepted at banks, exchange houses, vendors, or basically anywhere else.
If you need some cash to get around, we’d recommend you to either bring a small amount of cash with you (new bills only), or either get some cash at a local ATM (by the way, ATMs are easily found everywhere in Peru). You’ll be able to get Peruvian Soles, US Dollars, or Euros at most ATM machines across the country and then exchange them for a better exchange rate.
Related to this, credit cards are broadly accepted in Peru, so you’ll be able to use any credit or debit Visa, Mastercard, or Amex cards while traveling in Peru, however, make sure your bank doesn’t charge any international or exchange fee before using them abroad.
10. Voltage in Peru is 220v
If you travel from the US or Canada, keep in mind that the voltage in Peru is 220v, so avoid bringing hair dryers or any other artifact/tool that uses a different voltage (in the US, the voltage is between 110 to 120v). On the other hand, most laptops and phones that use a charger or adapter, are OK to use in Peru, as they are compatible with any voltage ranging from 100 to 240 volts. Also, electric outlets are similar to those in the US, so you likely won’t need any plug adapter.
If you travel from Europe or Australia, voltage will be very similar (with a 10 volts difference), however, we recommend that you check the voltage compatibility of any tool you want to bring before traveling. As for electric outlets, Peruvian outlets are different to those that you’d commonly find in Europe or Australia, so you’ll likely need to bring some plug adapters with you.