Know Before You Go - Peru
PASSPORT & VISA
United States citizens do not need a tourist visa prior to visiting Peru.
HEALTH & SAFETY
Organized crime is still prevalent in certain area of Peru. If you are planning to go outside of the typical touristed areas, or areas where such activity is higher such as the border with Columbia, make sure to do your research prior to booking and understand the risks. Otherwise, Peru is perfectly safe. Use common sense and don't make yourself a target.
If you plan to visit any of the popular areas in the Andes such as Cusco/Machu Picchu, Arequipa, or Lake Titicaca, altitude sickness will likely be your biggest concern. The best preventative measures you can take are to be in good physical condition prior to traveling and to give your body time to acclimate to the altitude prior to attempting any physically exerting activities.
Consult your doctor prior to traveling to Peru to ensure you are up-to-date on all standard vaccinations. If traveling outside of the common areas of Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu, certain diseases transmitted by mosquito may be prevalent, and as such it is prudent to obtain vaccinations as applicable.
In general, do not drink tap water while in Peru as it is not potable. This includes being mindful when brushing your teeth, taking a shower, drinking a beverage with ice, and even eating a cold salad which may have been washed with tap water. Nothing ruins a trip faster than a stomach illness.
METHODS OF PAYMENT
The national currency in Peru is the Sol. You can also use all major credit cards or withdrawal Sols at an ATM using your debit card. Additionally, wherever possible, try to have and use small denominations. Vendors typically have a small amount of change, and are hesitant to accept large bills as it would require giving the buyer all of the smaller bills they have in their till.
Bartering is accepted, and anticipated, all over Peru. As always, be respectful, and remember that vendors need to make a profit.
Tipping is generally expected and recommended at restaurants and bars, and for tour guides. A tip of 10-15%, where warranted, is average.
When traveling long distances within Peru your options are plane or bus. Traveling by plane remains the safest option, but if you're on a tight budget, buses are much cheaper. Don't scrimp too much though. Going with the cheapest bus likely means you're giving up safety and/or reliability, so stick with the main carriers. For shorter distances, taxis are your best bet. When taking a taxi, stick to licensed, reputable organizations and always set the price in advance.
WHEN TO GO
To give yourself the best odds for clear weather, travel during Peru's winter months (May to October). While you may have slightly cooler temperatures, the winter season also means clearer skies. Summer in Peru is wet, and hiking to Machu Picchu in the rain is not a pleasant experience.
WHAT TO EAT
Peru has a thriving food scene. It is well worth traveling here to experience the food alone. For a few unique dishes you won't find anywhere else:
Pachamanca - a uniquely Peruvian meal, it consists of different meats, vegetables, and potatoes cooked on a bed of hot stones buried underground.
Cuy - guinea pig. Yes, you probably think of them as pets, and the people here treat them as such until it is time for a special meal. When prepared well, this is worth a taste, but we won't judge if you decide to pass it by. Cuy is typically part of pachamanca, but you can also find it prepared various ways on menus throughout the Andes.
Dress in Peru is casual, but conservative. If you're traveling to experience the Andes, prioritize function over form.
Spanish is the primary language of Peru. In certain areas you will find indigenous languages, such as Quechua, are still spoken alongside Spanish. A few basics:
Thank you: Gracías
Please: Por favor