Peru is a country in South America, situated on the western side of that continent, facing the South Pacific Ocean and straddling part of the Andes mountain range that runs the length of South America. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Peru is a country that has a diversity and wealth not common in the world. The main attractions are their archaeological patrimony of pre-Columbian cultures and the hub of the Inca's empire, their gastronomy, their colonial architecture (it has imposing colonial constructions) and their natural resources (a paradise for ecological tourism).
Although Peru has rich natural resources and many great places to visit, the poverty scale reaches 25.8% of the population. The rich, consisting mostly of a Hispanic (or "Criollo") elite, live in the cities. Nevertheless, most Peruvians are great nationalists and love their country with pride (largely stemming from Peru's history as the hub of both the Inca Empire and Spain's South American empire). Also, many Peruvians separate the state of Peru and its government in their minds. Many of them distrust their government and police, and people are used to fighting corruption and embezzlement scandals, as in many countries.
The Peruvian economy is healthy and quite strong, however, inequality is still common. It is indebted and dependent on industrial nations, especially China, Russia and the United States. The US foreign policy decisions in recent years have contributed to a widely held negative view about the US government in Peru, but not against individual citizens.
The word gringo is used commonly but is not generally intended as offensive. The original meaning encompassed all white people who do not speak Spanish. Many people use the word gringo exclusively for Americans or American look-alikes. It's not uncommon for blonde people to be called gringo. Peruvians do not hesitate to greet you with "¡Hola, gringo!".
Generally, people are very friendly, peaceful and helpful. When in trouble, you mostly can rely on getting help. But as with any setting, it is always good to watch out for yourself and try to avoid bad situations. If you get into an argument, it is a good idea to remain amicable, but firm. Most of the time, you can find a compromise that satisfies everyone.
Peru is not exactly a haven for efficiency. Do not expect things to be on time, or exactly as they intend to be. Outside of the more upscale tourist services and big cities like Lima, English is uncommon and the people, trying to be friendly, can give wrong or inexact advice, a translator can always be helpful in this cases. Plan ahead and leave plenty of time for traveling. Indeed, in recent years English has been teaching in most of the schools as a requirement of the peruvian government, most people can understand English but they do not speak. As in other latin and European countries, peruvian people prefer that tourists use their language. The Mobile Technology and the internet ease the learning of the English language nowadays.
You may also want to see Tips for travel in developing countries for some useful hints.
Most of Peru uses 220V, 60Hz. Talara uses a mixture of 110V, 60Hz, and 220V, 60Hz. Arequipa uses 220V, 50Hz. Most outlets are Type A and Type C, that is they will accept either plug, however, sometimes they will either be Type A or C and will not accept the other style. It's uncommon to find grounded outlets (Type B) but you may come across them occasionally. It's not recommended to adapt a three pin plug for use in a two pin outlet.
Peru Time or PET.
UTC/GMT -5 hours.
No daylight saving time.
Tourists from North America, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the European Union (and many others, check with the nearest Peruvian Embassy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for most updated information, although in Spanish) need no visa for visits up to 183 days. Tourists from Russia get up to 90 days.
When entering the country, you need to pass the immigration office (inmigración). There you get a stamp in your passport that states the number of days you are allowed to stay (usually 183 days). You can no longer get an extension, so make sure that you ask for the amount of time you think you'll need. When those 183 days are up and you would like to stay for longer, you can either cross the border to a neighbouring country (Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia or Chile) and return the next day and obtain another 183 days or simply overstay and pay the fine when you exit. The overstay fine is only USD1 per day overage, so if you stay 30 days longer it's USD30. Many people do this, since it's much cheaper than leaving the country and returning.
You will receive an extra official paper to be kept in the passport (make sure you don't lose it!). When leaving, you need to visit the emigration office (migracion), where you get the exit stamp. Imigracion and migracion are found on all border crossing-points. Travelling to and from neighbouring countries by land is no problem.
The capital city of Lima has the Jorge Chávez International Airport with frequent flights all over the world. Main airlines are American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Lan, Lan Peru, United, Iberia, Copa, Taca and others. There are non-stop flights to Lima from Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, New York City, and San Francisco in the United States. There is also a non-stop flight to Toronto, Canada with Air Canada Rouge. There are five different airlines that offer non-stop service to Europe. In the future there may be non-stop flights from Oceania or Asia but for now travellers usually connect through Los Angeles (non-US citizens have to pass immigration even for transfer, consuming 1-2 hours - so ensure your stop-over is long enough!) or through Santiago de Chile.
There is an internal flight tax, around USD6, same conditions as the international one.
When booking domestic flights, there are several Peruvian travel agencies that can get you your plane tickets for the "Peruvian price" for a fee of about USD20, you'll notice that the prices can vary by several hundred dollars for the SAME flights when looking at LAN's Peruvian site and the LAN.com site. You'll find that if you try to book the cheaper flights from the Peruvian site, they won't accept payment from American bank accounts (this is why you do it through a Peruvian travel agency).
To get from Lima Airport to Miraflores, there is a new official airport bus service, called Airport Express Lima. This option is cheaper and safer than a taxi or shuttle. Buses run every 30 minutes and they have 7 stops in Miraflores that are less than 5 minutes walking from most hotels. Their buses have usb ports, free Wi-Fi and A/C. They have two counters inside Lima airport but also sell tickets on their website and bus. Their staff speaks English and Spanish.
Another easy and affordable way to get to/from Miraflores (where most tourists stay in Lima) is QuickLlama Airport Shuttle. Their vans are new, large and spacious (there is enough space for 2 pieces of luggage per person), and come with A/C and free WiFi. The value for money is excellent since the service costs only 15 soles per way per person, and 10 soles if you travel in a group of three or more. They have three stops in Miraflores, within walking distance of most hotels in the area. Tickets can be bought in person or booked in advance online. This sevice is also safer than a taxi.
Although Ecuador borders Peru, it is hard to find cheap flights connecting anything but the capitals. In particular, flying from Ecuador to Iquitos is not possible directly, nor can you travel directly from other large towns across the border.
There are three road crossings from Ecuador to Peru. The two closer to the coast are the more conventional ones. The crossing from Loja / Vilcabamba into Jaén is off the beaten track, more challenging but offers incredible vistas all the way. From Loja / Vilcabamba it is 7/6 hours and 9/8 dollars by bus to Zumba, a few times a day (5am, 8, 10.45, 12.50pm, 14, 17.30, 21.30). The last 50km are very curvy; some landslides and stones cover the road. Mainly in the raining the road might sometimes be closed for buses and you then need to change in one of the towns to take a collectivo pick up for the final part to Zumba. From Zumba there are two to three (earliest at 8 am) rancheras (trucks with wooden benches in the back) for 2.25 dollars to the border (up to two hours over a bumpy road - wait with breakfast). Border crossing formalities are a breeze. The border is only open during daylight hours. From the border shared taxis leave to San Ignacio and charge 15 soles pp. You need to walk through town or take a mototaxi for 2 soles to take a combi to Jaén (10 soles 2 hours). From Jaén, again walk through town or take a mototaxi for 2 soles to take a 5 sol combi to Bagua Grande, which is a biggish town on the main road going east to Tarapoto or west towards the coast and Lima. The bus station is on the east side of town. From Bagua Grande there is also direct transport to Chachapoyas. There are decent hotels in Zumba, San Ignacio, Jaen and Bagua Grande. If you leave early from Cuenca you can make it in one day to Zumba and the next day to Chachapoyas. You can change money at the border or the bigger towns along the way. This description is as of February 2016.
Peru Hop offers bus passes that can take you from La Paz to Lima with beautiful and unique stops along the way. Ordinary buses are also available, however, they provide a direct service, with nothing to see along the way.
Times and distances
In cities and around
Inside the cities, there is usually no problem getting around on city buses or taxis. Buses cost PEN0.70-1.50 (USD0.20-0.40) inside a city, taxis PEN7-8 (USD2-2.40) in Lima, normally less in other cities. "Taxi" does not necessarily mean a car; the term also refers to bicycles, motor rickshaws, and motor bikes for hire. Taxis are divided between "formal" taxis, painted and marked as such and have a sticker with SOAT, and informal ones, that are just cars with a windshield sticker that says "Taxi". The last ones are better left to the locals, especially if you don't speak Spanish. Apart from the more upscale radio taxi (also the more expensive ones), the fare is not fixed or metered, but it is negotiated with the driver before getting into the vehicle. Ask at your hotel or hostal about the rate you may expect to pay to ride to a specific location to have a point of reference. There is no tipping at taxis.
"Micros" (from microbus), are small minivans or Coaster buses, also known as "combis" and "custers". They do not have actual bus stops (they exist, although in practice the driver won't stop unless you ask), but fixed routes. The direction is shown by boards in the windscreen or painted on the side. If you want to catch a bus, just give the driver a sign (raise your hand similar to hitch-hiking) to stop. If the bus is not completely overfilled (and sometimes when it is, too), it will stop to pick you up. During the ride, the ticket collector will ask you for the fee or, if there is not a ticket collector, you pay the driver when you get off (this is more common when taking longer trips where most people are going to the last stop, for example from Ollantaytambo to Urubamba). If you want to exit, just say loudly "Bajo!" (BAH-ho) or "Esquina baja!" (s-KEE-nah BAH-ha), and the driver will stop at the next possibility. They are cramped and dirty, and not helpful unless in small towns or during off peak hours. They also stop in the middle of the road, so be careful when getting down.
Please note: Micros are very common but known for being quite dangerous, different government programs are trying to reduce the amount of micros, it is advised to not take a micro.
Some main roads, especially along the coastal strip, are paved, but there are still a lot of dirt roads in very poor condition. In the rainy season, landslides may block even major roads.
Inter-city travel is mostly by bus, and some cities have train connections. In contrast to colectivos, buses, and of course trains, start from fixed points, either the central bus terminal or the court of the appropriate bus company. It is a good idea to buy your ticket one day in advance so that you can be relatively sure of finding a seat. If you come directly before the bus leaves, you risk finding that there are no more seats available. In most bus terminals you need to buy a separate departure tax of PEN1 or PEN1.5.
If you are so unlucky as to be taller than 1.80m (5 ft 11 in), you will most likely be uncomfortable on the ride since the seats are much tighter than in Europe or some parts of North America. In this case, you can try to get the middle seat in the rear, but on dirt roads the rear swings heavily. In older buses, the seats in the first row are the best, but many buses have a driver cabin separated from the rest of the bus so that you look an a dark screen or a curtain rather than out the front windshield. In older buses, you can get one or two seats beside the driver, which gives you a good view of the passing landscape. In this case, don't be too surprised when the driver is chewing his coca leaves.
First-class express buses, complete with video, checked luggage and even meal service, travel between major cities, but remember to bring ear plugs as the video on these buses may be played extra-loud for the majority of the trip. You may need to present a passport to purchase a ticket.
Make sure that your luggage is rainproof since it is often transported on the roof of the bus when travelling in the Andes.
The most popular bus company to use to get around Peru is Cruz del Sur. Their busses are comfortable and air conditioned, and they provide meals and toilets as well. They also offer two price levels. The more expensive level offers extra large seats that recline even farther back than the regular level.
Avoid bus companies that allow travellers to get into the bus outside the official stations. They are normally badly managed and can be dangerous, due both to unsafe practices or to highway robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This should be heeded especially by female travellers going on their own. There are many shoddy bus services in Peru, and it's best to go with one of the major companies such as Cruz del Sur, Peru Hop, Linea, Movil Tours, CIAL, OLTURSA, Ormeño, TEPSA, and ITTSA. Get information at the hotel, hostal or tourist information booth before catching a ride. The below are the Lima office & terminal of some of the bus companies.
Other bus companies
Below are the current domestic carriers operating in Peru:
Because of the distances involved and the conditions of the roads in some remote locales (or lack of) it may be better to fly, which most people do, especially in getting between Lima and Cuzco. To some places such as Iquitos in the Amazon region flying is the only way possible due to the lack of surface access in getting there. Beware some major airlines such as LAN have a dual pricing system in which foreigners pay more than residents of Peru.
Even when going by train, it's best to buy the ticket in advance. Buy 1st class or buffet class (still higher), or you risk getting completely covered by luggage. People will put their luggage under your seat, in front of your feet, beside you and everywhere where some little place is left. This makes the journey quite uncomfortable, since you can't move any more and the view of the landscape is bad.
There are eight rail lines in Peru operated by four companies:
Service between Arequipa and Juliaca was suspended in 2007.
The Ferrocarril Central Andino, the line joining Lima to Huancayo, is the second highest railway in the world and the highest in South America. The journey through the heart of Peru is simply breathtaking. It is an 11 hour experience where the train reaches an altitude of 4,781m (15,681 ft) and goes through 69 tunnels, 58 bridges and makes 6 zigzags. In 1999, the company was privatized, in 2005, Ferrocarril Central Andino renovated their passenger wagons in a luxurious and comfortable way which puts the railway in the list of the most famous trains alongside the Orient Express and the Trans Siberian.
Beside the famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu, you can do a lot of more hikes all along the Sierra, preferably in the dry season, recommend to book in advance, because there are 500 spaces availalbe for day. if you would like to book the Inca Trail, the minimun is 6 month in advance. The hiker's Mecca is Huaraz, where you can find a lot of agencies that offer guided tours and/or equipment to borrow. The thin vegetation in the higher Sierra makes off-trail hiking easy. Good maps are hard to find inside Peru. It is better to bring them from home. Make sure you have enough iodine to purify your drinking water. When hiking in higher altitude, good acclimatisation is absolutely necessary. Take a good sleeping bag with you, since nights in the Sierra may become bitterly cold (-10°C in 4,500m altitude are normal, sometimes still colder). Beware of thunderstorms that may rise up very suddenly. Rapid falling temperature and hard rain falls are a serious danger in higher altitudes. Don't forget that the night lasts for 12 hours year-round, so a flashlight is a good idea. When hiking on higher, but not snow covered mountains, water may be rare. Getting alcohol for stoves is easy: Either buy the blue coloured alcohol de quemar or, better, simply buy pure drinking alcohol. You can get this in every town for about PEN3 (USD0.85) per litre. (Don't even think about drinking it). It won't be so easy to find special fuel for gasoline stoves. Gasoline for cars can also be found in many hardware stores (ferreterias) sold by litres, but you can actually buy it directly on gas stations, provided you bring your own bottle.
It is also possible to tour the interior of the country by car. This gives you a chance to get "off the beaten track" and explore some of the areas that haven't been transformed by tourism. An International Driving Permit is needed for driving in Peru.
Peru has three main roads which run from north to south: the fully paved Panamericana (RN 1) which passes through the whole country; more to the east there are the partially paved Carretera de la Sierra (RN 3) as well as the Carretera Marginal de la Selva (RN 5). Most parts of these roads are toll roads in the direction from north to south. The main roads are connected by 20 streets from west to east.
Beware that, aside from a few major roads which are in good condition, most roads are unpaved and your speed on them will be severely restricted. For these roads a 4WD is necessary. This is especially true during the rainy season from November to April. You should travel very well informed about your route. Take a good road map with you (e.g. Waterproof Peru Map by ITMB). On the web, cochera andina provides useful information about road conditions, travel times and distances for more than 130 routes in Peru.
Be sure to bring plenty of gas, as gas stations in unpopulated areas are very rare and will often times be closed. Purchasing gas late at night can be an adventure all its own, as even in more populated areas gas stations tend to close early and the pumps are locked. The owner of the station sometimes sleeps inside and, if you can rouse him, he will come out and let you fill up. Be aware of the higher gasoline consumption in the mountains which often increases to more than 20L/100km (12mpg) (5 US gal/62 mi).
The traffic regulations are almost the same as in Europe and the US But locals tend to interpret them freely. You better honk in unclear situations, e.g. in curves and at crossings to indicate the right of way. Also note that traffic checkpoints tend to be scattered throughout the country and the police may try to extract bribes from foreigners for passage. It would be wise to travel with a native speaker who can navigate the roads and deal with law enforcement.
Like in most countries, also in Peru there is a vast crowd of touts hanging around the airports and bus stations or bus terminals. It is any travelers' wise decision not to do business with the people that are trying to sell you their stuff on the street/bus station/airport. First of all, if they would have a decent place, they wouldn’t have to sell it to non suspecting tourists trying to drag them off from wherever they can find them. More important, it really is not a good idea to hand out money to the first person you meet upon arriving somewhere.
TIP: When you arrive in any town, be sure to have already decided what hotel you will be going to. Don't mention this or any other information to the touts awaiting you. They will use whatever you tell them to construe lies to make you change your mind and go with them. If you’ve already picked a reasonable hotel chances are that you will be OK there and they will have any (extra) information you’d be looking for, like bookings for tours or tickets.
Like most of South America, the official language of Peru is Spanish.
English might be understood by youth in Lima and to an (even) lesser extent in tourist centres like Machu Picchu. Outside of that, you'll need Spanish. Like every other Latin American country, Peruvian Spanish replaces vosotros (and its 2nd-person plural conjugations) with ustedes (3rd-person plural). For example: ¿Cómo están? instead of ¿Cómo estáis?. Peruvian Spanish likes diminutives (gringuito is more affectionate than gringo).
If you learn languages easily, try to learn Quechua, the language of the Incas. It will be highly appreciated in the countryside of the Sierra, where many indigenous speak it as a first language, though most also speak Spanish. On the Altiplano, the language Aymara is widely spoken. Aymara was the language of the Tihuanacu culture.
With 84 of the earth's 104 known life zones, Peru is rich in wildlife diversity. The Amazon basin is home to pink dolphins, jaguars, giant river otters, primates, 4,000 types of butterflies and one-third of the world's 8,600 bird species.
The diversity of Peru's people and cultures is reflected in a rich tradition of festivals, dance and music. In the Andes, the plaintive wail of the flute and beat of the drum accompany songs depicting indigenous life while dancers masked as devils and spirits are a marriage of pagan and Christian beliefs. In the jungle, ceremonial music and dance are a window into tribal life. And along the coast, a blend of elegant Spanish sounds and vibrant African rhythms reflect the Conquest and later slave labour of the New World.
Trekking is a great way to see the country. The most widely known route is the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Other popular routes include Cordillera Blanca - Huaraz, Colca Canyon - Arequipa, Ausangate Trek, Salkantay trek (also spelt Salkcantay), Choquequirao trek and Inka Jungle trek to Machu Picchu - an adrenaline trip to Machu Picchu.
Trek prices can vary considerably between companies, as can their respective porters' working conditions (no pack animals are allowed, hence equipment is carried by human porters). Although there is a minimum porter wage (PEN42/day, about USD15) and maximum load porters can carry (25kg/55 lb), not all companies keep to their claims!
Peru offers a big variety of adrenaline sport such as rafting, kayaking, biking, zip line, horseback riding, surfing, ATV, motocross, paragliding, canopy, canoing, sandboarding, etc.
Another popular activity to do in Peru is to visit its wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest that can be also considered as an adrenaline sport thanks to spending time among wild animals.
An up-and-coming way to explore Peru is to get to know its coffee plantations and producers. In several regions of the country including Cusco and San Ignacio there are now day and overnight tours visiting coffee farmers' plantations, locally known as "Chacras." For those short on time, quick 2-3 hour roasting and tasting tours are even available in Lima.
Peru has traditions in tourism and be prepared to be viewed as a walking ATM virtually every step of the way. Everywhere they've seen a tourist before, they switch to "milk the tourist" mode once they see you are not local. Inform yourself well about prices, best by asking locals.
The currency of Peru is the nuevo sol, symbolised by placing the three capital letters of PEN before the amount and with no intervening space. Locally, you'll sometimes see this written as "S/" before or after a price.
USD1 = PEN3.34and €1 = PEN3.81
Coins are available in five, two and one sol, and in 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 centimo. 5 and 1 centimo coins are not normally accepted outside of big supermarkets or banks, so avoid them (or bring them home for a collection or to give to friends). Notes are available in PEN10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 denominations; PEN200 notes are uncommon and will not be accepted in the same places that will not accept a USD100 or GBP50 banknote.
Counterfeiting is common: take time to get familiar with the money and do not hesitate to reject any note or coin (especially the PEN5 coins) that look suspicious, just like any Peruvian would do. In other words, if you want to look like a savvy foreigner, take 10 seconds any time you receive a paper note to look it over. All bills have a watermark and security stripe, and the large number on the extreme right denoting the denomination of the bill will change from purple to green when viewed at an angle. Don't take any note that is ripped; you won't be able to use it anywhere else but a bank.
If you are stuck with a counterfeit coin or note, if you try to use it at big stores they may want to confiscate it. Don't accept damaged/ripped bills, since you will have to take them to a bank in order to change them into new ones before you can spend them. Be especially careful when exchanging money with money-changers on the street (a common way for counterfeit money to enter the money supply) or at the border (notably the one with Ecuador).
Typically, small bills are very helpful to carry around. Change large bills into small ones as often as possible. If you only have 50 and 100 Soles notes on you, consider changing them at a bank. Local merchants and taxistas often claim to not have any change on them, forcing you to wait in public while they search for some (potentially dangerous) and sometimes with the hope that you'll grow impatient and let them keep the change.
Travelers checks or credit cards are usual. Although cash has a ca. 2% better change rate, you are strongly advised not to carry large amounts of cash on your journey. The Banco de Credito (BCP) gives good rates on traveler checks. Rates in change offices are often somewhat worse. It's always worth comparing them before changing your money. When changing your money in change offices, check their calculations. Most of them make calculations on the fly for the amount you want using an electronic calculator in plain view, even showing you the process step by step (unless they are brutally obvious, like changing tens or hundreds). If they don't show, keep the money in your pocket and find someone that does. Even in the bank, check your bills for authenticity.
ATMs and Credit Cards
ATMs are available in big cities, upmarket hotels, and touristic areas. With a Cirrus or Maestro sign on it, you can withdraw cash easily. Make sure nobody is trying to see your PIN code. Some banks (MultiRED) do not charge a fee for getting cash from their ATM's, however most do.
BBVA Banco Continental ATM's charge a 14 soles fee for withdrawals, and have a maximum withdrawal of 400 soles. Via BCP ATMs charge a 13.50 soles fee for withdrawals, and have a maximum withdrawal of 700 soles. Banco Interamericano de Finanzas charge a 14.50 soles fee for withdrawals, and have a maximum withdrawal of 700 soles. MULTIRED ATMs (found inside Banco de la Nacion) have zero withdrawal fees (as of Oct 2015), and have a maximum withdrawal of 400 soles.
There are no ATMs in the tourist town of Huacachina, near Ica. The closest ATMs are in Ica.
In smaller towns, it can happen that there are nobody who will accept your credit card or traveler checks. For this case, you should have taken care that you have enough cash with you. Nice new Dollar bills (not too high,10 or 20 USD bills are fine) can help, too, since they are easier to change than travelers checks. In Peru, it's not as common for US$ to be accepted in transactions as in other countries (such as Ecuador). Often in small towns, local shops will change money for you. If so, it will be clearly marked. Take only US$ bills in good condition since bills slightly torn or even old-looking will not be accepted.
As a low budget traveller, you can live on US20 per day without problems. Basic hotels or hostels (hospedajes) can be easily found in all Peru. The cost per night is about USD3-5 for a shared room in a youth hostel.
There are a lot of very cheap restaurants (USD0.50-1.50), but maybe this is not the best place to save your money. In somewhat better restaurants you can get lunch and dinner menus for USD2 -3. Of course, in every city you can find restaurants where you can spend USD20 and more if you want.
Buses are not very expensive. The usual price for a 10h bus ride in a normal bus (not "Royal Class" or something like that) is about USD6. However, you'd do well in paying the extra buck, the difference between a USD6 ticket and a USD12 is enormous. Again, avoid bus companies that allow travellers to get into the bus outside the official stations. They are normally badly managed and can be dangerous, due both to unsafe practices or to highway robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This should be heeded especially by female travellers going on their own. Get information at the hotel, hostel or tourist information booth before catching a ride.
Trains (except the ones for Machu Picchu, which are relatively expensive) run for similar fees.
Although most airlines include the exit fee in the ticket price, some may not. If it does not, don't forget to retain your exit fee of USD30.25 They do accept USD or PEN for the fee and be sure to pay the exit fee before you get in line for security checks or you'll get to wait again.
Peru is famous for a lot of different, really nice and relatively cheap handicrafts. Keep in mind that buying handicrafts support traditional skills and helps many families to gain their modest income. Look for:
Do not accept any handicrafts that look like (or actually are) pre-Columbian pottery or jewellery. It is illegal to trade them and there is the possibility not only of them being confiscated, but of being prosecuted for illegal trading, even if the actual artifacts are copies or fakes. Dealing with the police from the criminal side is messy and really unpleasant.
Buyer beware: Watch out for fake (Bamba) Alpaca wool products many items sold to the unsuspecting gringo are actually synthetic or ordinary wool! That nice soft jumper in the market for USD8 or so is most certain to be acrylic. Even in places such as Puno there is no easy way to tell if it is made from Alpaca, sometimes it might have a small percentage of Alpaca mixed in with other fibres. Baby Alpaca is not from baby animals but the first shearing and the fibre is very soft and fine. Generally Alpaca fibre has a low lustre and a slightly greasy hand to it and is slow to recover from being stretched. Shop and compare; real Alpaca is expensive.
Bargaining is very common. If you are not used to it, respect some rules. If you intend to buy something, first ask the price, even if you already know what it actually should cost. Then check whether everything is all right. (Does the pullover fit you? Do you really want to buy it? Is the expiration date on the cheese exceeded? etc.) If the price is OK, pay it. If not, it's your turn to say a lower price, but stay realistic. First get an idea about how much you would expect to pay. Then say a price about 20-30% lower. It's always good if you can give some reason for that. Once you have said a price, you cannot give a lower one later. This would be regarded as a very impolite behavior. If you feel that you can't get your price, just say "No, gracias." and begin to walk away. This is your last chance. If you are lucky, the seller will give you a last offer, if not, say "No, gracias." again and go on walking. Realize that most of the products in touristy markets (i.e. the market in Pisac) will be sold in nearly every other market throughout your travels in Peru and South America, so try not to worry about never again finding that particular alpaca scarf.
You have a way for bargaining without saying an exact price, and it's saying "¿Nada menos?", then you will be asking just if they can lower a bit the price.
Keep in mind: Never begin to bargain if you don't really want to buy.
Supermarkets can only be found in cities and are somewhat expensive. In every town, there is at least one market place or hall, except Lima that has a dense concentration of supermarkets, malls and department stores. In cities, there are different markets (or sections of one big market) for different articles.
Stores with similar articles tend to be grouped in the same street. So, if you once know the appropriate street when looking for something special, it should be no more problem to find it quite soon.
Giving tips in restaurants (at least when basic or middle-range) is not very common but 10% for good service is polite. In the cities, you will always find some beggars, either sitting on the streets, or doing a musical number on the buses. Many of them really need help, especially the elderly and handicapped. Usual donations are about PEN0.10-0.20 (USD0.03-0.06). This is not much, but some unskilled workers don't get much more than PEN10 for a hard working day. Whether you want to give money to child beggars or not is your decision. But consider that doing so may make it more attractive for parents to send their children begging in the street instead of sending them to school. Buy them food instead, they do need it.
Peruvian cuisine is among the most varied in the world. Not only does the country grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does so throughout the year. Peruvian geography offers at least 8 different climates (desert along the coast, steep and high mountains, the Amazon basin). In Lima, due to its history as an important Spanish colonial port, the dishes are a mixture of amerindian, spaniard, african, asian and even italian influences that contribute to the ever changing platos criollos (creole dishes). Rice is the staple foodstuff, and expect many dishes to include rice, in the Siera it's corn and potatoes, and in the Jungle yuca. Meat is traditionally included in most Peruvian dishes. Chicken (pollo), pork, sheep and beef are common. Alpacas are actually kept for wool, not for meat. Mostly, you will find that alpaca meat is rather tough. An Andean delicacy is guinea pig (cuy). Peruvian cuisine includes dishes which use various organs, including anticuchos, a kebab made from very marinated and spicy beef heart, and cau-cau (sounds like cow-cow), made from cow stomach served in a yellow sauce with potatoes. Anticuchos are a standard street stall food, but be careful with it.
Fish can be found along the coast (of course), but also in the jungle area since the rivers supply fresh fish (but beware of contamination in the area known as high jungle or selva alta, where most of the cocaine is made and strong chemicals get dumped into rivers; mining is a minor source of pollution in this area). In the Sierra, trout (truchas) are bred in several places. A very common fish dish is ceviche, raw fish prepared by marination in lime juice. Popular variations of the dish can include shellfish, and even sea urchin. The exact recipe and mode of preparation of ceviche will vary from region to region. Definitely worth a try, especially in summer, but cleanliness and sanitation make all the difference. Use care when buying from street vendors and remember that it is often served spicy.
Throughout Peru there is a wide variety of potato dishes (papas, not patatas as in Spain), the traditional Andean vegetable. Papa a la Huancaina is a tasty dish of potato slices and diced boiled egg topped with a thin, creamy yellow sauce, and usually includes a lettuce leaf and an olive or two. (A similar green sauce, called Ocopa, can be served over potatoes or yuca.) Papa rellena is mashed potato reformed into a potato-like shape, but with meat, vegetables, and other spicy filling in the middle. Aji de gallina is shredded chicken in a thick, spicy, cheese-based sauce over sliced potatoes, often with an olive and slice of hard-boiled egg. Causa is mashed potato layered with mayonnaise-based tuna or chicken salad mixed with hot peppers.
Many Peruvian dishes can be very spicy and heavy, so if you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution.
Nowadays, the transport routes from the flat jungle areas are good enough to supply all the country with vegetables and fruits. Nevertheless, vegetables still have the status of a garnish for the meat. Vegetarian restaurants exist in all cities, but are relatively rare. In most areas, there is a rich offering of tropical fruits and fresh squeezed juices.
The natives typically eat in small restaurants or Chinese eateries ("chifas"); a menu there costs 5-8 Soles and includes a soup, a choice of main dish, and a drink.
If you count on international fast food chains, you will be disappointed. You find them almost nowhere except in the largest cities, and the prices are uniformly astronomical.
Peruvians are quite proud of their desserts, especially in Lima. Try them with care, since they tend to be extremely sweet and loaded with sugars, eggs yolks and similar ingredients. Try mazamorra morada, or purple custard, made from the same purple corn used for chicha morada drink; together with arroz con leche (rice with sweetened condensed milk) is called a combinado (combination). Picarones are a sort of donut, made from fried yams dough and served with chancaca, a very sweet sugarcane syrup. And the sweetest dessert suspiro Limeño is perfect if you are in sore need of a high-calorie glucose shock. Panetón is a type of sweet bread with dried fruit. It is usually served for breakfast around Christmas with a cup of hot chocolate. They used to come in big boxes only with huge panetóns inside but now they also sell personal portions. Chocotón is variety of panetón that replaces the fruit with chocolate bits. The bread is very light and sweet. Because Christmas is the hottest time of year, people often replace the hot chocolate with coffee or a drink that's served cold.
The Pisco-Nasca area is famous for wine cultivating. Their more expensive vintages compare favorably against Chilean imports. Beer is nice, stronger than American brands but less full bodied than European ones. Most of Peruvian beers are made by Backus, currently owned by SAB Miller.
When drinking at bars and/or restaurants, be aware that Peruvian "Happy Hour" is a little different than in most countries. Prices for drinks will usually be posted on the walls and be a little cheaper than normal. Also, most places leave their Happy Hour sign or flier up all day, so it's always Happy Hour in Peru -- so it's more like a list of their special offers and changes the meaning of Happy Hour entirely. The real difference is that you will be served 2 drinks, instead of one, for the listed price -- giving a new meaning to the term "half price." This can be a great way to save money (if you are traveling with a group) or to meet locals (if you are traveling alone). It can also lead you to get completely falling-down-drunk by accident, so be careful.
Some large towns have their own brand of beer which is hard to get elsewhere in the country. Cusqueña is one of the most popular beers while Cristal is known as the beer of Peru, both can be found nation wide.
In some cities, you can also find some local breweries:
Hotels in Peru are very common and fairly cheap. They range from 1 - 5 stars. 5 star hotels are normally for package tourism or business travel, and very uncommon outside of Lima. 4 star hotels are usually a bit on the expensive side (>USD60 per night) and not common, but in large cities. 3 star hotels are a good compromise between price and quality and usually USD30-50. 2 and 1 star hotels are very cheap (<USD30), but don't expect hot water or a particularly safe neighbourhood.
You can find hostels for 5 USD. Some locals may try to divert you to more expensive hotels, where they get payed a comission.
Peruvian Spanish, particularly in the Sierra and jungle, is pronounced much less clearly than European Spanish and Spanish from other Latin American countries, especially Mexico, Colombia and Chile. People don't tend to speak too fast, although in coastal areas, especially Lima, people speak considerably faster than in other areas, and they also use slang quite liberally as foreigners. Amazon people, in fact, have a better Spanish pronunciation than other people from other peruvian regions. On the whole, Peru is a good and cheap place to embark on Spanish courses (once you are there).
Some slang terms:
chévere, bacán, cool.
chela, Helena(Cerveza), a beer.
Me da cólera, Me llega, it pisses me off.
Ya, right, sure (sometimes "ok" or "yup").
Loco ,crazy person.Usually said in a friendly manner, also means "mate, friend, buddie"
Tombo, is cop (and cops don't like hearing it).
Chibolo(a), a kid.
Bamba, pirata, fake, counterfeit goods & products
Money is often referred to as, Lana (as wool), plata (as in silver). Mucha plata = too much money ("that's expensive!").
Some slang terms come from Quechua:
Que piña, Que salado: means 'what bad luck' even though 'piña' in Quechua means 'coraje' or in English 'infuriating'.
Tengo una yaya: means 'I'm injured'. In quechua 'yaya' means injury. And 'yawar' means blood.
Work & Volunteer
While there a very limited options for unskilled work and local wages are very low, teaching English or other language tutoring is an option.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know a country and its culture. In contradiction to some believes, paying for volunteering is actually quite common and most of the times a necessity for the local NGOs to survive and to keep up their work. The organizations are coordinating, organizing and processing the stay of the volunteers joining them. Furthermore, they help and guide the volunteers once they are on site. In exchange, many of the organizations provide accommodation, food, drink and airport pickup. All these expenses need to be covered. To get a better overview of the NGOs available and their causes, there are comparison platforms such as Volunteer World, . edit, where interested volunteers can search and compare different volunteering opportunities.
In Lima ring 105. In Lima and some of the larger cities there is a sort of local police called "Serenazgo": you may ask for help but they have no tourist oriented services.
Possesion for personal consumption of Marijuana in Peru in the maximum amount of 8g is legal according to the Peruvian Penal Code article 299. What is considered illegal is the trafficking part, that is: buying, selling or having more than 8g. So be careful who you buy from and do not buy more than 8g per person.
Dealing with the police can take a lot of time. In order to get a copy of a police report you need to go to a Banco de la Nación and pay PEN3. Without this the police won't give you a copy, and obviously you can only arrange this during working days.
Vaccinations and Prophylaxis
Vaccine requirement The quantity and type of vaccines necessary to travel to Peru depend on several factors, like medical antecedents and locations included in the trip. The most habitual vaccines needed to travel to Peru are against tétanos, diphtheria, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, yellow fever (it is obligatory to present the certificate of vaccination against yellow fever to enter in some countries of Africa), rabies and meningitis. Some of these vaccines require more than a dose or a major time to be effective. For that reason, it is recommended to inquire on necessary vaccines with an advance of 6 to 8 weeks before your trip. The CDC also has these recommendations for vaccines and staying healthy when traveling to Peru.
Hepatitis A Recommended for all travelers.
Typhoid fever Recommended for all travelers.
[Yellow fever]Vaccination Center Perú  The government of Peru recommends the vaccine for all travelers who are going to visit forest areas (Amazonia) below 2,300 m (7,546 ft). Travelers that only visit Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu do not need vaccine for yellow fever. Vaccine for yellow fever is also required for all travelers who arrive from other countries infected with yellow fever in Africa and America. In recent years, there has been reported yellow fever in Cusco (Concepcion 2007), San Martin, Loreto, Pasco, Amazonas, Ancash, Ayacucho, Huánuco, Junín, Madre de Dios, Puno and Ucayali.
Hepatitis B For Travelers who could have sexual relations with local people, especially if the visit is by more than 6 months. Rabies For travelers who could have near contact with animals and have not get access to medical services.
Measles, Parotiditis, Rubella (SPR) If they have not been vaccinated before, two doses for all travelers are recommended.
Tétanos - diphtheria Recommended re-vaccination every 10 years.
What should I take in the suitcase? It is recommendable to travel with a small medical kit (Traveler Kit) that includes some basic medicines like antacid, analgesic pills, NSAIDs and antihistamine drugs. Also it is necessary to take some dehydrated solutions for oral hydratation in case of severe diarrhea. Also, It must include first aid articles as sterile strips, antiseptics and bandages. Do not forget to put some antibiotic against severe diarrhea or dysentery and other infections, as well as sterilized needles (because they are difficult to find in some isolated zones). Finally, you must put into your luggage scissors, clamps, a thermometer, lip balm, a suntan lotion, purifying water tablets and cleanliness equipment. If you use contact lenses or glasses, take an extra pair. You must also carry a small flashlight and a Swiss Army knife. The Traveler Kit must be prepared by your physician according to your health and destination.
Malaria Malaria is a disease that can be fatal and is transmitted by mosquitoes. This mosquito specially pricks by night. If you are going to travel to Peru, it is very important to know what areas present a high prevalence of malaria.
The prevention of the disease is made through a medication against the malaria (prophylaxis) and the protection against the punctures of insects.
There are many antimalarial medicines. The optimal choice depends on the characteristics of the trip and the traveler. So, it is important to have some medical advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each medication. The more effective drugs are:
MEFLOQUINE (LARIAM): very extended use. Side effects include visions, and more serious neurological reactions. Those people with psychiatric and neurological problems must not take this medication.
DOXYCYCLINE: Side effects include cutaneous reactions by contact with the sun or the risk of fungal vaginitis in the women.
MALARONE: highly effective, few side effects, expensive and difficult to obtain in Peru, only in specialized Travel Medicine CenterTravel Medicine Peru 
CHLOROQUINE: low risk of side effects and the most useful until years ago. Nowadays, they only have 50/60% of effectiveness for malaria in Peru (specially for the south zone where malaria falciparum has not been reported).
Whatever your choice you need to take antimalarial medicine if you are going to travel to a zone affected by the disease, and continue with the medication beyond your return. The risk of malaria, or any other disease in Peru, is much greater for a tourist than for local people. Do not suspend your medication before the indicated period.
In Peru there is no risk of malaria in the big cities. No risk in Lima and surrounding areas or in areas above the 1500 m (4,921 ft). There is a risk: On the coast north of the country (Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque). In the Amazon region: Loreto department (Iquitos) with 97% of cases of falciparum country, San Martin, Ucayali, Just as Amazon (chachapoyas), Cajamarca (Jaen).It was also reported cases of vivax malaria (falciparum not) in Cuzco Department (Province of Concepción away from the tourist area of Machu Picchu) and Madre de Dios.
It is recommended that: The precautions to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes are essential especially in the evening and night (especially when visiting rural or peripheral). Use a repellent (on exposed skin) containing DEET (N, N-diethylmetatoluamide to 30% -50% are effective for several hours) or Picaridina (7-15%).
Tap water. Drink water only when you are certain it is safe. Don't drink tap water. If you are using tap water to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth, spit as much out as possible. Tap water can be made drinkable by boiling it (bringing it to boiling point in a kettle should be sufficient) or by purification methods such as iodine tablets or UV light. Bottled water is cheap and tastes better than boiled water. Check the bottle to make sure that it has not been opened and refilled. In restaurants, (if you don't trust them) you could request the bottle to be opened in your presence and never take ice in your drinks (ice cubes are often made with tap water). Remember, alcohol does not make tap water drinkable!
Insect bites Avoiding insect bites reduces the risk of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquitos such as yellow fever, dengue fever, leishmaniosis and malaria. Wearing long sleeves is a good idea. Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Directly apply it to your skin and clothes. Use a mosquito sleeping net impregnated with repellent, as well as other anti-mosquitos stuff in your room or tent (spirals or electrical mosquito repellents) at night.
Rabies In Peru there have been reported cases of rabies in animals even in small zoo parks, so you should avoid to touch or to play with any type of animal. Rabies is not only transmitted through biting, but also by scratches and licks. In case of wound, it is necessary to clean it with an antiseptic lotion. If the wound is deep it is recommendable to examine it by a doctor. Take some advice about anti-rabies vaccines before starting off, mainly if your trip is long.
Heat and sun Do not expect to become quickly acclimated to the heat (specially in Amazonia). It will take at least 3 weeks to obtain it. During this period, avoid physical fatigue, use fresh clothes, mainly during the warmest hours of the day. Avoid direct exhibition to the sun.Use a solar cream and a hat.
Thirst is a very poor indicator of the amount of water that human needs. It is very important to take a sufficient amount from liquid (not alcohol, coffee or tea, because they are diuretics and causes a greater loss of water). The best probe that you are well hydrated is when your body produces clear abundant urine.
AIDS and other diseases
As in any another country, please take the necessary precautions to avoid HIV infection and other sexual diseases.
Accidents and injuries Accidents and injuries produce more deaths of travellers than diseases. Please be in constant alert.
Do not drive in bad illuminated streets by night. Do not drive a bicycle or a motorcycle. Do not drive in a drunk condition and moderate your speed. If you take a taxi, ask the driver to go slowly. Use the security belt and, if you travel with children, use an adaptable chair Take a small medicinal kit: small wounds can become infected very easily. If the wound is deep it is recommendable to examine it by a doctor.
Back to home If you have contracted malaria or another tropical disease, it is possible that the symptoms do not become evident until much after your return to home and you may not even associate them to your trip. Visit your physician and remember to tell him/her about your trip to Peru.
Common medicines, like antibiotics, can be bought in pharmacies (farmacias or boticas) quite cheaply and without restrictions. However, make sure the expiration date has not been reached. Pharmacists are mostly very helpful and can be consulted if needed. For less serious illnesses, they may replace a doctor.
Electrolytic drinks help guard against dehydration. You can get powders to dissolve in water in almost every pharmacy. If not, just dissolve sugar and salt in water. Bacterial diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics, if it doesn't vanish during a week. Usually, pharmacies are quite helpful.
Food and drink
If you stay in good hotels you may be able to avoid catching diarrhea, otherwise you might. Just don't worry too much about. There are some rules that could avoid the worst:
If you do not have experience with higher altitudes above 3,500m (12,000 ft), don't underestimate it! Collapses of unacclimatized tourists are not unusual. If coming from sea level, stay at medium height ca. 3,000m (10,000 ft) for at least one week. Then, altitudes of around 4,500m (15,000 ft) should not be a risk, although you still will strongly feel the height.
See also: Altitude sickness
Since Peru is close to the equator, the sun can become dangerous for your skin and eyes. Especially in the Sierra, the strong UV radiation due to the height in combination with the rather cold air may burn your skin before you notice it. Sun-blockers are easy to get in drug stores (boticas). If your eyes are sensitive to light, better bring good sunglasses from home. Of course, you can buy sunglasses in Peru, too, but you should really be sure that they block the whole UV spectrum, otherwise, they might be worse than none.
Outside of obviously well-set up restaurants and hotels in cities and towns, toilets are often quite primitive and sometimes really dirty. It's a good idea to bring your own paper with you,as Peruvian toilet paper maybe too rough as well as being one ply. It's usual. Toilet doors are marked with "baño", "S.H." or "SS.HH.". The latter two are abbreviations for servicio higienico, which is the rather formal expression. Expect to pay no more than 20 centimos at public restrooms for paper. You will find it handy to keep a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your backpack.
In hostels or budget hotels, you cannot rely on having water all the time. In the Andean region, it also can easily happen that showers have more or less hot water only in the afternoon since the water is heated by solar energy only. Electrically heated showers are widely spread, but the electric installation is sometimes really dangerous, since the water heater is mostly situated at the shower head. Have a look on it before turning on the shower, especially if you are tall enough that you could touch the cables or other metal during showering which can electrocute you. Don't be too paranoid though, an electric shock is mostly painful.
As woman, if you use tampons during your period, you should bring them with you from home, because they are not very popular in Peru. In Lima, you'll be able to find them in supermarket chains like Santa Isabel or Wong or at drug stores / chemists, known as farmacias and boticas. When you find them, buy enough for the rest of the trip, they are virtually unknown in the rest of the country. Alternatively you could pack a menstrual cup because they are re-useable and compact.
Don't use the word "indio", although it's Spanish. For locals, it's very much like the deeply offensive English word "ni***r" since it was used by Spanish conquerors. The politically correct way of speaking is "el indígena" or "la indígena" - although, like "nigger", very close people inside a circle of friends can get away with it. Another word to be careful with is chola/cholo or cholita, meaning indígena. This may be used affectionately among indigenous people (it's very common appellation for a child, for instance) but is offensive coming from an outsider.
Even if you have about 20 "No drugs" T-shirts at home, accept that especially people from the country side chew coca leaves. See it as a part of the culture with social and ritual components. And keep in mind: Coca leaves are not cocaine and they are legal. You can try them to experience the culture. If you don't like to chew them, try a mate de hojas de coca. Also quite effective against altitude sickness. However, the use of coca leaf tea may lead to testing positive on North American drug tests within the next few weeks.
Officially, most of the Peruvians are Roman Catholic, but especially in the countryside, the ancient pre-Hispanic religiosity is still alive. Respect that when visiting temple ruins or other ritual places and behave as if you were in a church.
In all towns and villages that are not too small, it is no problem to find public telephones for national and international calls. Usually, you find them in bars or stores. Some of them accept coins, but watch out for stuck coins or dodgy-looking coin receivers as these might make you lose your money. Don't worry if your 1 Nuevo Sol coins don't get through at first, just keep trying and it will eventually work. Many public phones can be expensive, and an attractive alternative is a Locutorio, or "call-center". Typical rates include .2 Nuevo Sol/minute for calls in the country, and .5 Nuevo Sol/minute for most international calls.
You also can buy phone cards with a 12 digit secret number on it. Using a phone card, first dial 147. When done so, you will be told how much your card is still valid and be asked (in Spanish, of course) for your secret number. After having typed it, you are asked for the phone number you want to connect to. Type it in. Then you get told how much time you can talk. After that, the connection is tried.
For international calls, it is often a good idea to go to an Internet cafe that offers Internet based phone calls. You find them in the cities. Internet cafes, called in Peru cabinas públicas, grow like mushrooms in Peru and if you are not really on the countryside, it should not be a problem at all to find one. Even in a smaller town like Mancora or Chivay you can still find Internet cafes with 512kbps ADSL. The connection is quite reliable and they are cheap (1.50-3 Soles, US$0.40-0.80 per hour). Just don't expect most of them to actually sell coffee - or anything at all but computer time or services like printing. It is not uncommon to find cabinas that burn CDs directly from SD, CF or Memory sticks. Many internet cafes have headphones and microphones, for free or for an extra fee. See also Online telephone service for travel.
If you have a smartphone (unlocked if you bring it from home) it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network (pretty good quality 3G most of the time). You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer (watch carefully how much you use if you don't want to bust your budget!). Claro seems to have the most extensive coverage.