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Trip Advisor 2019

Peru Travel Information

CONTENTS

Introduction: “So, you want to visit Peru?”

 

1 - TRIP PREPARATION

  1. Passports, Visas & Immigration Cards
  2. Travel Insurance
  3. Vaccinations
  4.  Weather  / When to Go
  5. Packing Tips

 

2 – PRACTICALITIES ON THE GROUND

  1. General Flight & Baggage Information (arrival and departure)
  2. Airline Security
  3. Customs & Immigration
  4. Getting Around (trains, planes and automobiles)
  5. Communications (phones, Internet and mail)
  6. Emergency Contacts
  7. Health Matters
  8. Safety
  9. Money
  10. Shopping
  11. Dining & Food
  12. Etiquette

Miscellaneous Travel Notes (electric current, time, laundry...)

 

SO, YOU WANT TO VISIT PERU

 

Peru offers much more than most travels could even hope to provide: enchanting Andean highland villages with colonial architecture, remote jungle lodges in the Amazon rainforest, soaring snow-capped mountains and volcanoes, a Pacific coastline extending 3,220 kilometers (2,000 miles), and of course Machu Picchu and the stunning legacies of the Incas and other advanced pre-Columbian civilizations.

 

This is a country bursting with opportunities for memorable travel experiences and outdoor adventure. A country with more than 5,000 years of history, Peru is one of the most diverse nations on the planet and a destination that holds infinite travel-experience destinations. There’s a Peru for everyone and we invite you to discover yours.

 

We at Surtrek have provided personalized, luxury services to travelers to this amazing country for more than 25 years. As a company that’s large enough to flawlessly coordinate even the most complex travel plans — yet still small enough to know our clients by name — we pride ourselves on our ability to lend you our services in helping to customize your Peru itinerary based on your individual needs and interests.

 

We maintain an uncompromising dedication to authenticity, exceptional service and the “little details” that we believe make the difference between an ordinary vacation and an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

We hope that this Peru travel guide will serve as a reference for you to prepare for and undertake an exceptional and seamless journey through this “Empire of Hidden Treasures.”

 

From here, in the “middle of the world,”

Alfonso Tandazo 

President & CEO

Surtrek South American Travel

 

1 – TRIP PREPARATION

 

A) Passports, Visas and Immigration Cards

 

Entering Peru is a straightforward process for most tourists. Visas are not required for tourists entering Peru from most countries in the Americas and Western Europe, regardless of whether they enter through the Lima airport or arrive in Peru overland from a neighboring country.

Entry is a simple matter of presenting immigration officials with the following:

 

  • Your passport, which must be valid for six months beyond your return date. (Children must have their own documentation)

 

  • A “Tarjeta Andina de Migración” (TAM, or Andean Immigration Card), which will be given to you, usually on your flight into the country. Fill this out and give it to the immigration authorities, who will review it and return it to you. This form MUST be returned when leaving Peru, so hang on to this white international embarkation/disembarkation form to avoid any delay or to prevent having to pay a pay a small fine when you exit the country. If you do lose your tourist card, visit an immigration office (oficina de migraciónes) for a $4 replacement.

 

  • A return ticket or an “open-jaw” onward ticket is required from foreign travelers arriving in Peru by air, though usually travelers are never asked to produce proof of this by their airline or immigration officials. Don’t show up with just a one-way ticket to South America. (A refundable ticket out of the country may be an option; once you've arrived, you can cancel it and you're good to go. Likewise, an e-ticket for an onward leg of your journey might suffice. This detail can be worked out with your Surtrek travel planner).

 

  • Customs officials will ask you to fill a form declaring any taxable items. Tax-exempt articles include personal clothes and belongings, laptop computers and adventure sports gear - see customs regulations below (page 11).

 

Tourists are permitted 30- to 90-day stays. The length of stay is determined by the immigration officer at your point of entry. Your visa will be stamped both into your passport and onto your “Andean Immigration” tourist/landing card.

 

Before leaving home, make two photocopies of the data page of your passport and your itinerary – one for someone at home and another for you. It's safest to carry photocopies of your passport photo ID page and your TAM tourist card, while keeping the originals in a safe place (a hotel safe, etc.). Except for when traveling on the Inca Trail, you are NOT required to carry your actual passport on your person in Peru. You MUST, however, carry some sort of identification with you.

 

For additional security, it's a good idea to store a scanned copy of your travel documents online in your email account or with Google Cloud.

 

If you lose your passport, call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police. Also, never leave one city in Peru to go to another city (even for just an overnight or two) without carrying your passport with you.

 

[For information on “Customs and Immigration,” see page 11 (section 2-C)]

 

 

B) Travel Insurance

 

Most insurance plans do not provide coverage for foreign travel, and the ones that do often require you to pay for services upfront and reimburse you only after you return home.

 

Therefore, as a safety net, we encourage travelers to purchase of travelers insurance to provide coverage for unexpected medical expenses, travel cancellation, and travel-related emergencies while on a trip – particularly if you're traveling to a remote or higher-risk area of Peru where emergency evacuation might be necessary (costing tens of thousands of dollars).

 

For such protection, Surtrek has partnered WorldNomads.com so that you can travel in safe and secure conditions. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is designed for independent travelers and provides coverage for international medical costs, trip cancellations, loss of baggage and personal belongings and other expenses.

 

 

C) Vaccinations (also see the section “Health Matters” below)

 

Peru only requires a yellow fever vaccination certificate from people coming from infected countries in Africa and the American continent. The table below shows often-recommended vaccines for visiting Peru:

 

Vaccine

Recommended for...

Destinations where vaccinations recommended

Chickenpox

Travelers who have never had chickenpox

Country-wide

Hepatitis A

All travelers

Country-wide

Hepatitis B

Travelers who will be in prolonged contact with the local population

Amazonas, Loreto, San Martin, Ucayali, Junin, Madre de Dios

Yellow fever

Travelers in the Amazon region areas below 7,450 feet (2,300 m.). You should get your vaccination at least 10 days before your trip.

Amazonas, Loreto, San Martin, Ucayali, Junin, Madre de Dios

 

 

D) Weather / When to Go

 

Peru has three main climatic zones:

 

  • The arid coastal desert to the west
  • The Andean mountains and the highlands in the middle of the country, and
  • The tropical Amazonian rainforest to the east

 

In turn, the coast and the Andean highlands have two very distinct seasons: dry and wet. In the highlands, December to March is the rainy season, while April to December is mostly dry and sunny. On the coast, the climate is driest and hottest between December and March; the rest of the year is cooler and frequently misty. In the country's third region – the Amazon rainforest – it rains almost daily in this hot and humid region, but the less rainy months there are from June to September.

 

Peru's high travel season coincides with the driest months: May through October, with by far the greatest number of visitors in June and August. Airlines and hotels also consider the Christmas/New Year’s period, from mid-December through mid-January, as a peak season – even though this time period falls during the wet season.

 

In summary, there is no ideal month to see the whole country, but to reduce the risk of seeing Machu Picchu in the rain, go between May and September.

 

Highlands:

 

In the Andean highlands, which have altitudes over 11,500 feet (3,500 meters), there is a sharp contrast in temperature between sun and shade, and temperatures can often vary widely during the same day — from 68ºF to 35ºF (20ºC to 2ºC) — and overnight temperatures can dip well below freezing.

 

The peak tourist season (in the middle of the dry season, from June to August) is the best (and busiest) time to go trekking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, or for climbing, hiking or mountain biking elsewhere in the highlands. During this time you will experience sunny days and scant rainfall, however the nights can be quite cold (near freezing) – especially in June and July.

 

People can and do visit the highlands year-round, though the December to March season is the wettest and muddiest. While rainfall is abundant, the wettest months are January and February. Most mornings are dry, but clouds move in during the afternoon and produce heavy downpours.

 

(Also: Travelers flying straight into Cuzco – situated at an altitude of 10,912 feet / 3,326 m. – should allow time to acclimatize.)

 

Pacific Coast:

 

There are two clearly defined seasons on the coast: the dry season, or “summer” (late December-March), with temperatures reaching 77°F to 95°F (25°C to 35°C) – or more along the north coast; and the wet season, or “winter” (May-October), which is damp and chilly, with temperatures falling to 12ºC (53ºF). Although it rarely rains on the coast, mist and drizzle are common during the winter. In fact, much of the coast, including Lima, becomes shrouded in this gray winter mist called the garúa. Only the extreme northern beaches — that enjoy sunshine all year round — are warm enough for swimming.

 

Amazon Jungle:

 

This consistently tropical and humid region has a well-defined rainy season (November to March, with frequent showers and high river levels), as well as a summer or “dryer” season (April to October, with sunny days and temperatures reaching 86°F to 100°F [30°C to 38°C]). This less rainy season is generally considered the best time of the year to visit the Amazon basin, as there are fewer mosquitoes and much of the wildlife can be found close to the rivers.

 

Nevertheless, some people prefer to travel in the jungle during the wet season, when higher water levels allow for more river penetration. There’s still plenty of sunshine to enjoy, as the frequent rain showers rarely last for more than a few hours at a time.

 

Note:

 

  • The El Niño effect, which occurs on average every seven years, is when large-scale changes in ocean currents and rising sea-surface water temperatures bring heavy rains and floods to coastal areas, as well as plunge tropical areas into drought and disrupt weather patterns worldwide. The name “El Niño” (literally “the Child”) refers to the fact that this phenomenon usually appears around Christmas. Forecasters are giving El Niño an 80 percent chance of developing sometime before the end of 2014.
  • For current weather conditions, please see the weather-underground web page or visit Peru’s government weather authority: http://www.wunderground.com/weather-forecast/Peru.html (weather conditions by city, in English) / http://www.senamhi.gob.pe (in Spanish)

 

 

E) Packing tips

 

What you pack depends on when and where you travel, whether to La Costa (coast), La Sierra (mountains), and/or La Selva (the Amazon rainforest) – see “Weather” section above. In any case – pack light! Most people take far more than they need.

 

Depending on when you visit Peru, regardless of the region, you may need to pack rain gear and a few plastic bags to protect cameras and other items. Also, in the cool mountains and highlands, it's best to bring a good mix of clothes that go well together so that you can layer, since a mountain day begins briskly, but quickly warms; though once the clouds roll in or the sun gets low, you'll need a raincoat or a jacket.

 

Sunblock and insect repellent are essential everywhere, as are a well-broken-in pair of walking or hiking shoes (often even hiking boots, to provide solid ankle support).

 

Experienced travelers suggest that you also consider bringing the following accessories:

 

  • Rolling suitcase: As you will be traveling with lots of pick-up services, a high-quality rolling suitcase works out better than a backpack. Don't forget to leave room for gifts and souvenirs. Packing cubes and compression bags are also useful.
  • A daypack: Remember, the weather — especially in the highlands — can change almost by the hour. Therefore, carrying a microfleece jacket and an umbrella/Gortex rain jacket in a small daypack is suggested. This pack should also accommodate your water bottle, sun hat, sunscreen, chapstick, pen, USB pin-drive, sunglasses, bandana, camera, hand sanitizer, tissue paper, insect repellent, feminine products, document copies, guidebook, etc.
  • Micro- or polar-fleece jacket: These are lightweight, quick-drying, easy to wash, and warm (even when wet) though the material melts easily when it is exposed to a flame or an ignited cigarette.
  • Clothing: Should be lightweight, breathable, hand-washable, and quick drying – better to leave your jeans at home. Also, pack with your destination(s) in mind – as mentioned above. Rather than packing a sweater, hat and gloves, you may want to buy them in Lima or Cusco, where the shops and markets hold a kaleidoscopic selection of sheep and alpaca wool clothing.
  • Region-appropriate footwear: Comfortable walking shoes with good traction are a good idea (as are leather boots for additional ankle support). For the coast and the Ballestas Islands, you will find that lightweight, slip-resistant and well-secured Teva-style sports sandals also work out well. In the Amazon rainforest, while flip-flops (or thongs) are great for the shower, neither they nor sports sandals are appropriate, as these offer little protection from snakes and bugs. Most Amazonian lodges supply high, rubber boots for exploring the jungle.
  • Sunglasses: Polarized lenses are the best for water reflection, especially during rainy season. Bring an extra pair if prescription.
  • Money belt: For carrying your passport, Peruvian immigration card, credit/debit cards and airline tickets, USB PIN drive, etc. – particularly when traveling between cities and hotels.
  • Plastic bags: Various sizes of Ziploc bags for protecting cameras and electronic devices, as well as for packing creams and toothpaste.
  • Unlocked cellphone: these can be purchased in Peru (see “Cellphones”)
  • Keychain LED flashlight
  • USB Flash drive
  • Camera, w/battery charger, memory cards, lens tissue
  • 220/110 V electric adapter: For recharging directly from Peruvian electrical sockets.
  •  Small packets of tissues: Always carry these since bathrooms don't always have toilet paper.
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine (such as Imodium): Just in case.
  • Toiletry kit: Including a toothbrush, dental floss, nail clippers, shaving gear, insect repellent, deodorant, earplugs, lip balm, Q-tips, nail brush, etc.... Consider these kit items especially for traveling in the countryside or the Amazon, since some lodges and haciendas don’t offer them in the room.
  • Documents: Passport (make sure it is valid for six months after your departure), airline tickets, e-tickets (make sure the name on ticket matches name on passport), a copy of your Surtrek travel itinerary, travel insurance/medical insurance card, address book, business cards, driver’s license, credit cards (and copies of fronts and backs), travelers check numbers, frequent flyer numbers, and emergency contact information. Bring originals and copies of each.
  • Insect repellent: Preferably with DEET (local brands aren't as good as what you can buy at home).
  • Earplugs
  • Sunscreen: With a protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, in addition to a hat.
  • Skin moisturizer: If you plan to spend much time in the mountains between May and October.

 

 

2 – PRACTICALITIES

 

A) General Flight and Baggage Information (arrival and departure)

 

Almost all international flights into Peru touch down at Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chavez (LIM), on the northwestern fringe of Lima, generally 30 to 50 minutes from the downtown areas of Miraflores, San Isidro or Barranco.

 

Most of these international flights are from other Latin American cities, but plenty are from the U.S. (around a 6-hour flight time) and Europe (usually 12 to 15 hours).

 

If you're flying from other Latin American cities, you will have a wide range of regional carriers at your disposal. LAN has flights from most major airports in the region, as does TACA. COPA, affiliated with United, flies from its hub in Panama City. TAME and Avianca fly from Quito. Your Surtrek travel planner will assist you with these arrangements.

 

The Lima international airport is thoroughly modern with plenty of options for dining and shopping, in addition to its flights arriving and departing 24-hours a day. In the main terminal and the arrivals terminals, you’ll find ATMs and currency exchange offices. None of these is located in the departures terminal, so you need to do your banking before heading through security.

 

Baggage: The weight limit for your baggage depends on your airline; there is no standard baggage allowance to Peru. If you fly via the USA, you are typically allowed two pieces of luggage, with up to 70 pounds (32 kg) per piece. However, US airline companies are usually a bit more expensive, but if you are traveling with a 90 lb. (40-kg) bag of climbing gear, it may be worth looking into. On flights from Europe, the weight allowances that range from 20 to 23 kg (44 to 51 lbs.), although some carriers out of Europe use the two-piece system, this may not apply in both directions. At busier times of the year, it can be very difficult and expensive to bring items such as bikes and surfboards along. Many airlines will let you pay a penalty for overweight baggage, but this usually depends on how full the flight is. Check first before you assume you can bring extra luggage. (The weight limit for domestic flights is usually 35 to 44 pounds [16-20 kg] per person, so keep this in mind if you plan to take any internal flights).

 

 

B) Airline Security

 

The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport works in concert with the European Union Member States, European industry, citizens and stakeholders to promote efficient, safe, secure and environmentally friendly transportation. Please see its information for travelers for its suggestions and recommendations.  Similarly, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for security screening operations at all airports in the United States. However, because its rules change rather frequently, we urge you to review TSA’s current regulations and restrictions.

 

 

C) Customs & Immigration

 

While getting yourself into the country is fairly straightforward, what can cost you both time and money is getting your belongings through customs – both when arriving and when departing.  Before heading to Peru, it's good to take a look at the country's custom's restrictions to know what you can pack (as well as later bring home) without running into any additional duties.

 

What you can bring to Peru: According to the Peruvian customs regulations, travelers can take the following items to Peru without paying any customs duties upon arrival: one of each type of electronic device (for example, one laptop or one tablet (which must be registered with SUNAT [customs authorities]), one cell phone, one photographic camera, one DVD player). Other goods can be brought in for use or consumption by the traveler or be given as gifts (as long as they are not intended as trade items, and as long as the combined value does not exceed US$300).

 

What you can take out of Peru: Exports of protected plant and endangered animal species — live or dead — are strictly prohibited by Peruvian law and should not be purchased (including handicrafts made from insects, feathers, or other natural products). It is also prohibited to take pre-Columbian archaeological items out of Peru. To be safe, look for the word “reproduction” or an artist's name stamped on reproduction ceramics, and keep business cards and receipts from shops where you have purchased them. Particularly fine items might require documentation from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) verifying that the object is a reproduction and may be exported.

 

What you can take back into your country: You're always allowed to bring goods of a certain value back home without having to pay any duty or import tax. However, there's a limit on the amount of tobacco and liquor you can bring back duty-free, and some countries have separate limits for perfumes; for exact figures, you should check to see what your own country allows you to bring back from your vacation or business trip. For this information, contact one of the following agencies:

 

 

 

D) Getting Around

 

As Surtrek Tour Operator is a South American tour operator specializing in customized luxury travel for groups and individuals, we and our partner organizations will see to virtually all of your transportation needs. Notwithstanding, most of the following information is provided for those visitors wishing to do some traveling on their own.

 

i) Surtrek Ground Transportation to Your Hotel: After clearing immigration and picking up your baggage, bilingual Surtrek drivers and guides will be waiting outside the customs area holding a sign with your last name on it. They will be there to welcome and assist you with your transfer to the hotel. Be aware that this area can be quite busy with many other travelers, so try to be patient while looking for your guide or tour leader. It is then a 20-minute drive to El Centro, or a 30 to 50-minute drive to the upscale Miraflores, San Isidro or Barranco neighborhoods. During rush hour (8–10 am and 5–9 pm), driving times in Lima can double.

 

ii) Taxis: Taxis are one of the main forms of public transport in Peru, and they're generally safe and cheap. Peruvian taxis don't run on meters, so you need to arrange a price with the driver before accepting the ride. Depending on the distance, a street taxi costs between 5 and 15 nuevos soles (US$2 to $6), except to and from the airport, which ranges between 30 and 60 nuevos soles (US$11 to $22). You are not required to tip taxi drivers, nor do they expect a tip. Taxi drivers usually try to overcharge, especially when presented with a foreign tourist. Therefore, it's always a good idea to ask someone beforehand, such as a hotel receptionist, how much a taxi to your destination should cost. Never just get in the cab and go without establishing the fare first, though be aware that English-speaking taxi drivers are rare. Also, hiring a private taxi for long-distance trips typically costs less than renting a car.

 

Always use officially licensed taxis in Peru. Safer, these regulated taxis usually have a lit company number on the roof and are called for by telephone. At the very least, there should be some sign of documentation in the front window or on the dashboard. Solo women travelers especially should stick to licensed taxis, particularly at night.

 

Unmarked or unlicensed jitney taxis are potential security risks (these are merely private cars that have a small taxi sticker in the windshield). In this same vein, snatch-and-grab theft is common in Peru, so be careful if you're stuck in traffic with your windows down – traffic jam thieves might be on the prowl.

 

iii) Car rentals: In general, it's not a great idea to have a car in Peru. With so much honking, tailgating and last-minute lane switching, city driving can be a traumatic experience. Then too, there are a few places in Peru where having a car is a benefit. Massive road-building programs have improved highways. Nevertheless, even in some parts of Lima, the roads are cluttered with potholes. Outside of the cities, street signs are rare, lighting is nonexistent, and lanes are unmarked. Fuel is pricey in Peru, with a gallon costing upwards of $6. Check carefully to see if your home-country auto insurance coverage really applies in Peru. Also, keep in mind that emergency services, both vehicular and medical, are extremely limited once you get far from the major cities. If you can, leave the driving to someone else. As outlined in the section immediately above (“Taxis”), hiring a private taxi for long-distance trips costs less than renting a car and takes care of many of the headaches (though you should carefully check the taxi driver’s credentials and vehicle before hiring).

 

iv) City buses: The city bus system in Peru consists of a combination of privately owned buses of various sizes – generally old and not well maintained. There are few regular bus stops, although this has improved recently. These buses cover nearly of all of Lima’s major streets, though it can be difficult to decipher the routes since there are no official bus-route maps. This means that it's important to have a good idea of the main streets near your destination before you get on the bus. Most buses have the name of the main avenues they travel painted onto their side. Also, look on the front of the bus for the route number – it will appear as a combination of letters and numbers; additionally, you’ll find the start and end point of the route posted on the front. Buses that travel the same route will be painted the same color. The normal fare is 1.20 soles ($0.40 USD), but you might be charged less if the distance isn’t very far. Upon boarding, indicate your destination and the driver will tell you the fare. Again, a taxi will likely be a better option.

 

v) Lima's “Metro”: In 2008, the government introduced a viable mass transit system: the Metropolitano, a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system of articulated buses running along special lanes. Consisting of only one major 16-mile (26 km) line, the Metropolitano connects Lima Sur (southern Lima) with Lima Norte (northern Lima), in addition to various outlying northern and southern districts. Its 38 stations include the stations serving the tourist-attracting neighborhoods of Barranco, Miraflores, San Isidro, La Victoria, Central Lima and Breña. Riding the Metropolitano is a fairly simple process, and far more comfortable, quick and secure than a trip in one of the city’s many battered minibusses. The first thing you’ll need is a Tarjeta Inteligente, an electronic card that functions as your (rechargeable) ticket. The current price for a mainline ticket is 2 soles (about $.70 USD); this can be purchased at one of the card vending machines found in each station. You’ll also need to put an additional charge on the card to cover your rides on the Metropolitano. Swipe your card at any station entrance to enter and wait for the Metropolitano bus. These buses normally come along every five to ten minutes. All stations and buses have wheelchair access.

 

vi) Between-city buses: Buses are an inexpensive way to travel outside of Lima to almost anywhere in the country, with the exception of Machu Picchu and the Amazonian jungle. Remember, however, that mountain ranges often sit between cities, and trips can be harrowingly long. It's best to use buses for shorter trips, such as between Lima and Ica or between Cusco and Puno. This way you can begin and end your trip during daylight hours – a safer option. Among the most popular bus companies leaving from Lima is the efficient and relatively luxurious Cruz del Sur (www.cruzdelsur.com.pe offering “bus camas” [deeply-reclining “bus beds”] that allow for a more comfortable, spacious ride) and Ormeño (grupo-ormeno.com.pe, providing excellent onboard facilities including sandwich bars and video entertainment). On long-distance journeys, try to avoid getting seats right over the jarring wheels, especially if the bus is tackling mountain or jungle roads.

 

Note: What may appear on the map to be a relatively short distance can take hours more than you might expect due to the quality of the roads or large changes in altitude along the way.

 

vii) Train Travel: Peru’s spectacular train journeys are in themselves a major attraction, and you should aim to take at least one long-distance train ride during your trip, especially as the trains connect some of Peru’s major tourist sights. These trains move slowly, allowing ample time to observe what’s going on outside. The few train lines that exist in Peru offer travelers an interesting — and at times spectacular — alternative to domestic flights and long-distance bus travel. These train lines cover five different routes:

 

  • Cusco to Machu Picchu –- This 4-hour journey (which technically starts from the town of Poroy, about 20 minutes outside of Cusco), passes through the Sacred Valley towns of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba, leaving out every hour or two. The Machu Picchu station is not at the ruins themselves, but in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes (also known as Machupicchu Pueblo). “Presidential,” luxury, mid-range and tourist-class train options are available along this route.
  • Cusco to Lake Titicaca (Puno) – This 10-hour journey starts at the Wanchaq Station in Cusco. Passing through ruggedly beautiful scenery, the train climbs as it leaves Cusco, eventually reaching the expansive plateaus of the Peruvian altiplano. This route’s plush “Andean Explorer” has three departures each week from November to March, with four weekly departures from April to October.

 

  • Puno to Arequipa – This line is operated for groups only.
  • Lima to the highlands town of Huancayo – One of the world’s highest railways and the highest in South America, this journey through the heart of Peru on board the “Train of the Andes” is simply breathtaking. During this 11-hour experience, the locomotive reaches an altitude of 15,681 feet (4,781 m.), passing through 69 tunnels, over 58 bridges, and making six zigzags. Unfortunately for time-limited travelers, it only runs twice a month for several weekends during the year.
  • Huancayo to Huancavelica – One of the oldest trains in South America that still provides regular (daily) passenger service, the “El Tren Macho” covers 128 Km (80 miles) through the remarkable central Peruvian highlands between the scenic cities of Huancayo and Huancavelica. The train leaves Huancayo Mon-Wed-Fri, returning to Huancavelica on Tue-Thu-Sat, with departure times at 6:30 a.m. both ways. The ride is about 5-6 hours through a deep canyon, though this may require extra time to clear fallen rocks. Buffet dining on typical Peruvian foods (chicken or beef) is offered for a couple bucks extra. Train schedules may be cut back in the rainy season (December-March).

 

viii) Boat Travel: Water is the obvious means of getting around in several parts of Peru, particularly in the Amazon region, but also on Lake Titicaca and the Pacific coast (Ballestas Islands).

 

The Amazon: On almost any trip to the Amazon Basin, a boat journey will be required at some point – either to get you to a jungle lodge on board a motorized canoe or to go between river ports on a large river vessel.

 

  • Motorized canoes: Coming complete with canopies, motorized canoes usually shuttle passengers to jungle lodges. These small boats normally provide life jackets but their seats aren’t the most comfortable on longer journeys.

 

  • River vessels: There are various types of river vessels (including speedboats and “yates”), but the generally suggested mode of travel for maximizing your experience and comfort is a luxury Amazon riverboat cruise. Aqua Expeditions has established itself as a global leader in small ship luxury cruising by bringing international luxury and local knowledge to the previously little-explored Peruvian stretch of the Amazon River. Aqua Expeditions luxury cruises on the Amazon River begin in Iquitos (Peru), considered the birthplace of the Amazon River, then transporting guests in exceptional comfort deep into the Amazon rainforest and through the Pacaya Samiria Reserve.

 

Lake Titicaca: From the Peruvian city of Puno, on Lake Titicaca, there are currently no regular services to Bolivia by ship or hydrofoil – though check with your Surtrek travel planner or tour agencies in Puno. However, there are plenty of smaller boats that will take visitors out to the various islands in the lake. These aren’t expensive and a price can usually be negotiated down at the port.

 

Pacific Coast: To reach the Ballestas Islands, which are part of the scenic Paracas National Reserve and near the coastal city of Pisco, sea excursions are required to visit the islands’ caves and arches. On these trips, you can observe herds of raucous sea lions, Peruvian boobies and pelicans – often making the Ballestas archipelago a more convenient alternative to the Galapagos Islands.

 

ix) Domestic Flights: With four mountain ranges and a large swath of the Amazon jungle running through Peru, flying is the quickest way to travel from Lima to most cities and towns. A number of domestic airlines have sprung up recently, with the most extensive services being provided by the following: Aero Condor Perú (flying mainly between Cuzco, Iquitos and Lima), LAN (Peru’s major domestic carrier, offering different prices for foreign tourists), LC Busre (mostly charter flights on small turbo-prop aircraft), Star Perú (flying most often to Cusco) and TACA (with limited services between Lima and Cuzco only).

 

In addition, there exists a wide range of thrilling flights over the Nazca Lines from the cities in Pisco, Nazca and Ica. Your Surtrek travel planner can also arrange multi-destination flights over the Nazca Lines and the newly discovered Palpa Lines.

 

When taking any domestic flight, arrive at the airport at least 60 minutes before your flight departure (at least 90 minutes early in Cuzco, and two hours in Lima); this is in case your flight is overbooked or you experience baggage-handling or check-in delays. In addition, it’s not unheard of for a flight to leave before its official departure time when faced with incoming bad weather that could force a flight cancellation. Plus, be aware that flights are frequently late. Again, the luggage allowance on domestic flights is generally 35 to 44 pounds [16-20 kg] per person, not including carry-on hand luggage (see “Baggage,” page 10).

 

For an expreso air taxi, which will take you to any landing strip in the country whenever you want, you’ll pay up to $600 per hour (which can be shared between up to four passengers). This price is based on a half-hour flight and is calculated to include the return journey with the pilot in an empty plane. Jungle towns such as Pucallpa, Tarapoto, Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos, also tend to have small air “colectivo companies operating scheduled services; these typically are used for shuttling missionaries and hospital patients between larger settlements in the region.

 

For domestic flights, the airport tax is US$7, payable only in soles or dollars. When making a domestic connection in Lima, you are not required to pay airport tax. Contact airline personnel at baggage claim and they will escort you to your departure gate. Tickets purchased in Peru also have the 19% state tax, but this will be included in the price of the ticket.

 

x) Trekking: Even if you do not intend to do any serious hiking, there’s a good deal of walking involved in checking out many of the most enjoyable Peruvian attractions. Climbing from Cusco up to the Sacsayhuaman fortress, for example, or wandering around at Machu Picchu, involves more than an average Sunday afternoon stroll. Bearing in mind the rugged terrain throughout Peru, the absolute minimum footwear is a strong pair of running shoes. Much better is a pair of good broken-in hiking boots with good ankle support.

 

In the jungle the biggest danger is getting lost, so be sure to stay with your group and guide. For long treks in the mountains, it’s often a good idea to hire a pack animal to carry your gear. A mule – the most common and the best pack animal – will carry 50-100 pounds (22-45 kg.) with relative ease. They can be hired from upwards of $5 a day, and they normally come with an arriero, a muleteer who’ll double as a guide.

 

Travelers who are disabled

As with most underdeveloped countries, facilities for the disabled traveler are sadly lacking. Wheelchair ramps are a rare luxury and getting a wheelchair into a bathroom or toilet is close to impossible, except for some of the more upmarket hotels. The entrance to many cheap hotels is up a narrow flight of stairs. Pavements are often in a poor state of repair (even fully able people need to look out for uncovered manholes). Visually and hearing- impaired travelers are similarly poorly catered for as a rule, though Surtrek can find experienced guides who can provide tours with individual attention.

 

 

E) Communications

 

i) Telephones

Note: The country code for Peru is +51

To call Peru from the United States (for example):

011 + 51 + U.S. area code + seven-digit U.S. landline number

011 + 51 + 9 + eight-digit U.S. cellphone number

  • 011 = US exit code; dial first for international calls made from the USA or Canada
  • 51 = Country code for Peru

 

To call the United States (for example) from Peru:

00 + 1 + Area Code + Land Phone Number

00 + 1 + 10-digit Mobile Number

  • Pay Phones

It’s relatively simple to make local and long-distance domestic and international calls from pay phones, which accept coins and phone cards (tarjetas telefónicas – see information on these phone cards in the text box on the following page). Most phone booths display country and city codes, and contain instructions in English and Spanish.

 

You can also make international calls from hotels, although surcharges imposed at these can be extraordinarily expensive.

 

Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 0800 within Peru are toll-free when called from a private phone (not from a public pay phone), but calling an 800 number in the United States from Peru is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.

 

  • Cellphones

Cell phone coverage and wireless Internet access are increasingly common in Peru. Unless you have an unlocked, quad-band phone that allows you to swap out SIM cards and buy pre-paid local minutes, you probably shouldn't be using your home cell phone abroad. If you don't currently have this type of phone you can easily buy one in Peru (if prefer to buy one before leaving, Telestial offers them). For those who prefer the convenience of taking their own cell phone abroad, all you have to do is call your wireless operator and ask for “international roaming” to be activated on your account. HOWEVER, per-minute charges remain a major source of staggering “bill shock“ – with travelers occasionally coming home to find cell phone bills amounting to several hundred or even several thousand dollars/euros! Your other options are as follows:

 

  • Local cell phone and SIM card:

If you will need to make or receive a lot of calls in Peru, the best alternatives to avoid paying exorbitant bills to your home cell phone carrier include buying a local cell phone and SIM card (other alternatives are listed below). When you arrive in Peru, you can go to any phone shop (even at the airport) and pay as little as $40 for a basic pre-pay phone, SIM card and around 80 minutes of talk time to the U.S. (at 60 cents a minute) – with free incoming calls. When your time runs out you can you can buy more minutes off a locally purchased phone card (see text box on the following page). Then the phone is yours to keep for using elsewhere with a new SIM card.

 

  • Internet (“Skype”) Calls:

Generally, the best and most inexpensive way of making international calls from Peru is through Skype, Net2Phone, or some other VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) service. Any Internet café with an international calling option will have these programs installed and headsets plugged in. In this way, your call will be cheaper than making a direct international call or even using a phone card (see text box below). Similarly, if you are traveling with a laptop, you can use Skype at any wireless hotspot – including your own hotel room. Either way, you’ll pay pennies per minute to make phone calls to anyone from your preloaded account. And remember: Skype-to-Skype calls are free!

 

  • Wi-Fi Phones:

If you have the new iPhone or another device that can make calls through Wi-Fi, just be sure to adjust your settings so that the only time you're using the data function abroad is when you are in a hotspot. In this way, you can surf for free (or pay whatever the cost is for your wireless Internet connection). Don’t expect the calls to sound perfect though, especially if the network is busy with lots of users.

 

  • “Satphones”:

Anyone headed to more remote parts of Peru might consider renting a satellite phone (“satphone”). While the per-minute call charges can be even cheaper than roaming charges with a regular cell phone, the phone itself is expensive (typically $1,500-$2,000). However, these phones can be rented for as little as $50 a week (service additional). Keep in mind that many isolated mountain inns and Amazonian rainforest lodges often have their own satellite phones in case of emergencies.

 

  • Call Centers

Most cities and even small communities have cabinas telefonicas (called “locutorios”) that allow calls for 50 centimos (about 17 cents USD) per minute to the USA. These cost more in major tourist areas like Machu Picchu, where calls can be as much as 35 US cents per minute.

 

PHONE CARDS

Other than “skyping,” the easiest way to make a long-distance call within the country — either on a public pay phone or with your own cell phone — is to purchase a phone card. Many of these cards, purchased at newspaper kiosks and street vendors all over Peru who sell nothing else, are called “Tarjeta 147.” The normal rate is around 0.25 nuevo soles a minute (around $.08), so 10 soles give you around 40 minutes). Also, the “SuperPlus 147” card for one long-distance call is very good value. To use these cards, first, rub off the secret number, dial the numbers 1-4-7, and then dial the 12-digit number on your card. A voice recording will tell you (in Spanish only) the value remaining on the card and instruct you to dial the desired telephone number. It will then tell you how many minutes remain for you to talk.

 

ii) Internet Access

Simply put: You can find Internet access virtually everywhere in Peru. Cities that welcome lots of tourists have Internet cafés on every corner – many of these with Skype and Net2phone service. In addition, more and more hotels, resorts, airports, cafes, and retailers are going Wi-Fi, becoming “hotspots” that offer free high-speed Wi-Fi access or charging small fees for usage.

 

Internet cafés are incredibly cheap to use, normally about US$0.60-1 per hour, and access is generally quick. It’s often good to use cyber cafés when they first open in the morning, as they are less busy at that time. The Internet is more expensive in hotel business centers, airport kiosks and in out-of-the-way places.

 

iii) Post Office and Express Mail

 

Letters and postcards to North America take between 10 days and 2 weeks, with postcards costing 5.50 nuevos soles ($2 USD), and letters costing 7.20 nuevos soles ($2.60 USD). You can also send registered letters for about US$2.50. To Europe, letters, as well as postcards, run 7.80 nuevos soles (€2.08), while it costs US$2.35 to send these to Australia. Post offices are open Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 8 pm; though some are also open Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm. Major cities have a main post office and often several smaller branch offices. Bring packages to the post office unsealed, as you must show the contents to postal workers.

 

For more timely deliveries or more valuable parcels, you can use FedEx, DHL, UPS or Serpost express mail services, although be aware that customs can be very complicated. Conventional post office express mail service is somewhat expensive – costing more than $100 for 10kg (22 lb.), similar to what it costs to use DHL; however, you're likely to have an easier time communicating with DHL. UPS is found in several cities, but its courier services can cost nearly three times as much as those of DHL.

 

 

F) Emergency Contacts

 

i) Emergency telephone numbers

In any city in Peru, you can call the following numbers in an emergency:

  • Emergency medical service: 117
  • Public ambulance: 141
  • Police: 105
  • Fire brigade: 116
  • Telephone information: 103
  • Tourist police: 460-1060; 460-0844
  • Civil defense: 115

 

In addition, the Tourist Protection Service (SPT) has been created to protect your consumer rights by helping you to solve any problem that may arise regarding tourist services with which you contract in Peru. The SPT intercedes on behalf of tourist to obtain immediate attention from individuals or companies that fail to provide optimal and timely service, or that fail to comply with their contractual terms or advertised conditions. Call tel. 01/224-7888 in Lima or 0800/4-2579 toll-free from any private phone (the toll-free number cannot be dialed from a public pay phone). The TPS might also be able to direct you to an English-speaking attorney or legal assistance organization should you have legal difficulties.

 

ii) Surtrek (emergency contact)

 

  • If you have any questions while traveling in Peru, you can call the Surtrek office: tel. 1-800-SURTREK (this is our toll-free emergency mobile phone, available 24-hours a day)
  • Surtrek Switchboard: 593-2-250-0660
  • Address: Surtrek: Reina Victoria N24-151 and Calama, Casillero del Diablo Building / Quito, Ecuador
  • Email: info@surtrek.com
  • Website: www.surtrek.com

 

iii) Foreign Embassies/Consulates

Under certain circumstances, embassies can help arrange for money transfers from friends and family members at home or even make emergency loans to assist destitute citizens to return to their home countries. Your embassy is also probably your best bet if you need legal assistance.

 

  • Australia – La Paz 1049, Miraflores, Lima, 18. 01/630-0500.)

www.dfat.gov.au/missions/countries/pe.html

  • Canada – Bolognesi 228, Miraflores, Lima, 18. 01/319–3200. www.peru.gc.ca
  • United Kingdom – Torre Parque Mar, José Larco 1301, 22nd Fl, Miraflores, Lima, 18. 01/617–3000 ukinperu.fco.gov.uk
  • United States – Av. La Encalada, Cuadra 17, Surco, Lima, 33. 01/618–2000 lima.usembassy.gov

 

iv) Emergency Cash (wiring money)

 

  • Money transfer services: Having money sent from home to Peru is easy and quick; though unfortunately, it can be quite expensive. Depending on the amount, the sender may have to pay a substantial fee. Nevertheless, it's good to know that emergency funds can be transferred reliably without a bank account, though valid ID will be necessary. The following are options for more or less immediate money transfers:

Western Union: Represented in Peru by a company called Serviban, there are around 600 offices in Lima alone. Before leaving home, you should contact a friend or family member to be prepared of this emergency contingency.  

– Money Express: The official agent of MoneyGram in Lima.

Xoom: Money sent with Xoom can be booked either on any account in Peru or can be picked up at every bank branch of Interbank, Scotia Bank, Banco Continental or Banco de Credito (BCP). 

 

  • Money transfers in case of a stolen credit card(s):

Your bank, credit card company or card issuer might be able to immediately wire you a cash advance off your credit card if it’s lost or stolen; so keep copies of your card issuer information and card number in order to report and cancel a lost or stolen card. In many places, your issuer can deliver an emergency credit card in 1 or 2 days. Your credit card company or insurer might require a police report number, so file a police report (after you cancel your credit cards).

 

v) Hospitals (in Lima)

See “Health Matters” immediately below

 

 

G) Health Matters

 

Remember, staying healthy on a trip to Peru is mainly a matter of being cautious about what you eat and drink, and using common sense. Know your physical limits, and don't overexert yourself in the ocean, on hikes, or in athletic activities. Also, many people need a day or two to acclimate to the higher altitudes.

 

Before You Go: Before you travel to Peru, you should ideally see your GP/practical nurse or clinic at least six weeks before your departure for general advice on travel risks, malaria and recommended vaccinations. Your local pharmacist can also be a good source of readily accessible advice. As mentioned above (page 5), to protect yourself, consider buying medical travel insurance, and find out what medical services your health insurance covers. Remember: You may have to pay all your medical costs up front and be reimbursed later.

 

Also, get a dental check (especially if you are going to be away for more than a month), and know your blood type. If you suffer a long-term condition such as diabetes or epilepsy, make sure someone knows and/or wear a Medic Alert bracelet/necklace with this information on it.

 

It’s usually a good idea to consult your government’s travel health website before departure (if one is available).

 

Also as mentioned earlier in the “Trip Preparation / Vaccinations” section above (page 5), no specific shots or vaccines are necessary before traveling to Peru, although vaccinations against Hepatitis A are always a good idea. Since most vaccines don’t provide immunity until at least 10 days after they’re given, visit a doctor four to eight weeks before departure.

 

Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry prescription medications in their original containers with clear pharmacy labels – otherwise they won't make it through airport security. A signed and dated letter from your physician describing your medical conditions and medications, including generic names, is also a good idea. Carry the generic name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name. If carrying syringes or needles, be sure to have a physician’s letter documenting their medical necessity. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses.

 

General Availability of Health Care:

Lima has several high-quality medical clinics that are open 24-hours for medical emergencies. These also function as hospitals and provide sub-specialty consultations. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of Lima-based medical resources and doctors by specialty. Keep in mind that good medical care may be more difficult to find in other cities and impossible to locate in rural areas.

 

Although pharmacies (known as farmacias or boticas) are well stocked and widespread, you should still carry sufficient supplies of any prescription medicines you may need. Most over-the-counter remedies commonly available at home should be relatively available in all but the most remote destinations around Peru, although you may have some trouble figuring out what the local equivalent is (so, again, also carry the generic name of your prescription medicines). Pharmacies in Peru are identified by a green or red cross in the window, with InkaFarma and Superfarma being two well-known pharmacy chains.

 

Common Ailments

 

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): In-flight blood clots may form in the legs during plane flights, chiefly because of prolonged immobility. The longer the flight, the greater the risk. Though most blood clots are reabsorbed uneventfully, some may break off and travel through the blood vessels to the lungs, where they could cause life-threatening complications. The chief symptom of DVT is swelling or pain of the foot, ankle or calf, usually – but not always – on just one side. When a blood clot travels to the lungs, it may cause chest pain and difficulty breathing. Travelers with any of these symptoms should immediately seek medical attention. To prevent the development of DVT on long flights, you should walk about the cabin, flex your leg muscles while sitting, drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol and tobacco.

 

  • Jet lag: The onset of jet lag is common when crossing more than five time zones, resulting in insomnia, fatigue, malaise or nausea. To minimize jet lag, try drinking plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids and eating light meals. Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule (for meals, sleep etc.) as soon as possible.

 

City

Altitude (Feet)

Altitude (Meters)

Lima

5,080

1,550

Arequipa

7,740

2,380

Machu Picchu

8,040

2,450

Ollantaytambo

9,150

2,790

Cusco

10,800

3,300

 

   

Puno

12,420

3,860

Lake Titicaca

12,420

3,860

 

  • Altitude sickness: Altitude sickness (also known as “Soroche”) may develop in travelers who ascend rapidly to altitudes greater than 2,500 meters (about 8,000 feet). Being physically fit does not in any way lessen your risk of altitude sickness. Altitude Sickness is often mistaken for food poisoning due to the similarities in symptoms, which may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, malaise, insomnia and loss of appetite. Before arriving, consider obtaining a prescription of Diamox (Acetazolamide), a prescription sulfa drug used to relieve the symptoms of altitude sickness. This should be started 24 hours before your ascent and continued for 48 hours after arrival at the higher altitude. Side effects may include frequent urination and tingling extremities of the hands and feet. A generic alternative to Diamox is available over-the-counter in Peru. For those who cannot tolerate Diamox/Acetazolamide, most physicians and the CDC recommend dexamethasone, which is a type of steroid. A natural alternative is gingko, which some people find quite helpful. The usual dosage is 100mg twice daily.

 

To avoid symptoms eat lightly and rest the first few days in the Andes. Avoid alcohol but drink plenty liquids – including coca tea, known as “mate de coca,” a local remedy.

 

For climbers: To lessen the chance of getting altitude sickness, you should also be sure to ascend gradually (or by increments to higher altitudes), avoid overexertion, eat light meals and avoid alcohol. Bottled oxygen will give immediate relief to altitude symptoms. Descending to a lower elevation is an instant cure. If you or any of your companions show any symptoms of altitude sickness, you should be sure not to ascend to a higher altitude until the symptoms have cleared. If the symptoms become worse, immediately descend to a lower altitude. In addition to preventing altitude sickness, Diamox (Acetazolamide) or Dexamethasone can be used to treat it.

 

  • Traveler’s diarrhea: Take special care with whatever food you eat. You should verify that it was well washed, and take precautions with the water you drink, avoiding tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered or chemically disinfected (iodine tablets). Drinking bottled water is actually a great idea, especially since it can be bought almost everywhere (even in the most remote places), so stock up at the grocery store with 1.5-liter bottles for only $1. Bottled water is sometimes provided by hostels and hotels, which can also be used for brushing your teeth.

In this same vein, only eat fresh fruits or vegetables if these have been cooked or peeled. Be wary of dairy products that might contain unpasteurized milk, and be highly selective when eating food from street vendors.

If you develop diarrhea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, preferably an oral rehydration solution containing 1/2 teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon of baking soda (NOT baking powder!), and eight teaspoons of sugar in one liter of water. A few loose stools don’t require treatment; but if you have more than four or five stools a day, you should start taking an antibiotic (usually a quinolone drug) and an antidiarrheal agent (such as loperamide). If the diarrhea is bloody, persists for more than 72 hours, and/or is accompanied by fever, shaking chills or severe abdominal pain, you should seek medical attention.

 

  • Bees, Snakes & Bugs: Although Peru has scorpions, spiders and Africanized bees (the notorious “killer bees” of fact and fable), your chances of being bitten are extremely low, especially if you refrain from sticking your hands into hives or under rocks in the forest. If you know that you're allergic to bee stings, consult your doctor before traveling. Snake sightings, much less snakebites, are very rare. Moreover, the majority of snakes in Peru are nonpoisonous, with most of the venomous ones living in the Peruvian Amazon. If you do travel in that area, remember that 70% of snake bites are produced in the ankle and the lower leg area – so wear high rubber boots or leather boots (not tennis shoes or sandals) when visiting the rainforest. Also, as suggested above, avoid sticking your hand under rocks, branches or into crevices, and shake out your clothes and shoes before putting them on to avoid any unpleasant and painful surprises.

 

  • Malaria: Because mosquitoes are usually not active below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, malaria is not a major risk in Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Puno or even Lima (though your doctor may recommend taking malaria pills for those visiting these areas). Indeed, the number of cases of malaria has risen sharply in recent years. There is a small but greater risk of malaria for travelers who plan to spend time in the jungle areas of the Amazon or the Pacific lowlands of northern Peru. Medical authorities, therefore, recommend that you protect yourself by taking the drugs Mefloquine, Doxycycline, or Malarone. In general, Malarone seems to cause fewer side effects than Mefloquine and is becoming more popular. The chief disadvantage is that it has to be taken daily. For longer trips, it’s probably worth trying Mefloquine; for shorter trips, Malarone will be the drug of choice for most people. None of the pills is 100% effective. In fact, insect repellent and protective clothing are probably your best protection against malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

 

  • Tropical (and highland) sun: Limit your exposure to the sun, especially during the first few days of your trip, and thereafter between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor, and apply it liberally. Remember that children need more protection than adults. Don't be deceived by cool weather or cloud cover. People who are foolish enough to think they don't need sunscreen on a severely overcast day will pay the price with a painful sunburn.

 

 

H) Safety

 

Peru is not a highly dangerous country to travel in, but it’s by no means crime free. By being aware of the possible problems you may confront, and by using a mixture of COMMON SENSE and vigilance, you can minimize the risks.

 

You need to be careful everywhere, but particularly in poor areas of cities. Peru’s widespread poverty means that street crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching and muggings remain fairly common (assaults and robbery are rare). You should also be on your guard during festivals, at markets and when the streets are crowded, as well as when traveling along any leg of the classic “Gringo Trail” (the Lima – Pisco/Paracas – Ica – Nazca – Arequipa – Puno/Lake Titicaca – Cusco/Machu Picchu route).

 

Experts advise visitors to think in terms of “risks and rewards”: maximizing a potential assailant's “risks” and minimizing their “rewards.”

 

– To increase a potential assailant's risks:

 

  • Numbers add to an assailant’s risk, so stay with your group or travel companion, practice the “buddy system,” and don't wander around alone at night – especially after hitting the bar.
  • Try to use ATM terminals located in banks, your hotel or in shopping malls – not on the street, and especially not at night.
  • Always pay attention to your surroundings, remaining aware and not distracted. The greatest threat to tourists is from pickpockets in crowded markets, inside and leaving bus terminals, on public buses, and in busy urban areas. Remain vigilant ... and walk as if you know what you're doing and where you're going (even if you don’t).
  • At night, always get your hotel to book a taxi for you. If you're already out and nowhere near a phone, make sure the taxi you use is an official taxi bearing an official sign.
  • If you absolutely have to step out at night on foot (with a group), use well-lit streets that have lots of people around. Don't even think about using side streets in big cities at night.
  • Though bus travel is generally safe, it's best to travel across the country by bus during the day. If you do travel by bus, only check (under the bus) bags that have no real valuables inside, and avoid the overhead rack. Keep your bag on your lap or at your feet.

 

– To decrease a possible assailant's perceived rewards:

 

  • Don't flash money or jewelry around. In fact, keep all of your valuables out of sight – including cameras and video cameras (as much as possible). Consider leaving your expensive watch, jewelry, gold chains and nice sunglasses at home.
  • Avoid carrying your wallet in your back pants pocket, or keep a tight grip on your purse (tucked under your arm). Carry your money, passport, and credit card with you in a money belt, inside your clothing, unless locked in a hotel safe.
  • Belongings should not be left unguarded on the beach, for example. Nor should valuables be left exposed or unattended in your hotel room. All this said, the biggest annoyance most travelers will experience is a case of the runs. Stay aware of your surroundings but don’t let paranoia ruin your vacation.

 

 

I) Money

 

The nuevo sol (“new sun”) comes in bills of S/10, S/20, S/50, S100 and (rarely) S/200. It is divided into 100 céntimos, with copper-colored coins of S/0.05, S/0.10 and S/0.20, and silver-colored S/0.50 and S/1 coins. In addition, there are bimetallic S/2 and S/5 coins with a copper-colored center inside a silver-colored ring.

The nuevo sol (S) was being traded at S/2.83 per US dollar (USD) in August 2014. During the last decade, the nuevo sol has been one of the most stable currencies in the Latin American region, trading at S/2.50 to S/3.30 per US dollar for several years, though you should keep an eye on the current exchange rate.

 

i) Cash

 

Best for: The first 24-hours of your trip – to tide you over until you can find the nearest ATM.

 

Pros: Good to have some cash on hand for immediate expenses – like buying a meal at the airport or taking a cab to your hotel.

 

Cons: You typically won't get a great conversion rate from your home bank for Peruvian currency; better to exchange money once in Peru.

 

What You Need to Know:

  • The majority of tourism-oriented businesses accept US dollars (USD or US$); however, nuevos soles are necessary to pay for basic services such as public transportation.
  • Like many South American nations, there is a change shortage in Peru. When receiving local currency, always ask for small bills (billetes pequeñas), as S/100 bills are hard to change in small towns or for small purchases. It’s a good idea to create change when possible so that you have a healthy supply of S/10 and S/20 notes.
  • You will also want to bring the newest possible bills. Worn bills are often regarded with suspicion, and it’s not uncommon for a merchant to ask you to pay with another bill if the one you handed them appears old or worn.
  • Many merchants examine large bills (S/20 and above) carefully to make sure they aren't counterfeit, so don't take it personally.

 

ii) Changing money

 

Best for: Converting the few dollars/euros that you bring to Peru as a backup.

 

Pros: The best currency for exchange is the US dollar, although the Euro is increasingly accepted. Overall, casas de cambio tend to be the best option in Peru (see immediately below).

 

Cons: Other hard currencies can be exchanged, but usually with difficulty and only in major cities and tourist centers.

What You Need to Know: There are three options for changing money in Peru: banks, street moneychangers and casas de cambio (“exchange houses”).

 

  • Casas de cambio tend to be the overall best money-exchanging option in Peru, as these offer good exchange rates, short lines/queues, and secure environments.
  • Banks often have incredibly long lines/queues, making any exchange a protracted process.
  • Street changers are handy and offer comparatively fair exchange rates, but changing money in the street comes with its own problems. You need to guard against potentially shady deals and the risk of street theft following the exchange. Officially, they should wear a vest and badge identifying them as legal. They can be useful after regular business hours or at borders where there aren’t any other options.

 

Tip: Don’t change money at airports – most exchange bureaus in airports do not offer good exchange rates.

 

 

iii) Debit and ATM Cards

 

Best for: Getting cash in the local Peruvian currency.

 

Pros: You'll get the same good interbank exchange rate when you make cash withdrawals with your debit or ATM card, as you will when you make a credit card purchase. With automated teller machines (cajeros automáticos) available in major cities and airports all over Peru, this is generally the cheapest and most convenient way to get cash in the local currency.

 

Cons: Each cash withdrawal you make will usually be subject to currency conversion fees, foreign ATM fees or other charges from your bank and/or the local bank that maintains the ATM (see text box below for tips on reducing or eliminating these fees). Debit cards work much the same as regular credit cards for purchases, but if your card is lost or stolen, you may not have the same protection.

 

What You Need to Know:

  • Before leaving home, be sure to notify your bank that you’ll be using your ATM card abroad; otherwise, they could freeze your account to protect you from unauthorized banking activity.
  • Be aware that you may have to try more than one machine before receiving money – they are occasionally out of order or out of money.
  • ATMs are normally open 24-hours a day. Most people think it’s better to use guarded ATM's only, preferably inside buildings/banks in the daytime. Don't withdraw money at night! Also, be forewarned that some ATM’s have been known to dispense counterfeit bills. Check your currency carefully.
  • Most ATMs are linked to the international Plus (Visa), Cirrus (Maestro/MasterCard) systems, American Express and other networks that will accept your bank card or credit card as long as you have a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). Therefore, be sure you know your PIN, as well as your daily withdrawal limit before you depart. (Note, though, that sometimes it's only possible to withdraw $100 or $200 USD or the equivalent in nuevo soles. This has nothing to do with your actual limit on your card, but with the precautions of some banks in Peru.)
  • Both US dollars and nuevos soles are readily available from Peruvian ATMs, though it's suggested to pick the local currency – you should get a better rate.

 

 

 iv) Credit Cards

 

Best for: Large purchases such as airline tickets, hotel bills, car rentals and restaurant meals.

 

Pros: The biggest advantage is that credit card purchases are exchanged at the interbank exchange rate, usually the best rate you can get for currency exchange. While most credit card issuers charge currency conversion fees each time you make a purchase in a foreign currency (generally 1 percent from Visa or MasterCard, plus an additional 1 - 2 percent for themselves), these fees are typically lower than those you'd pay to convert your own currency at a change bureau. Plus, there are a few cards available (many from Capital One) that do not charge any foreign transaction fees at all, not even the ones charged by Visa and MasterCard (see text box below on how to avoid currency conversion fees).

 

Cons: Some restaurants, stores and even hotels in Peru won't take credit cards, so you'll need to have some cash on hand at all times. While you can use credit cards to get cash advances at ATMs, bear in mind that they'll likely be subject to any finance charges your credit card company imposes – which can add up very quickly. One problem for U.S. travelers (reliant on cards that use magnetic strips) is the growing prevalence of “chip-and-PIN” credit cards in Peru and elsewhere around the world. These cards are not yet widely available in the U.S. However, several banks, including Citibank, Bank of America and Chase, have begun issuing dual credit cards that use both the magnetic stripe and the embedded chip.

 

What You Need to Know:

 

  • Credit cards (tarjetas de credito) are another safe way to carry money. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diner's Club are the most widely accepted in Peru, though small hotels, mom-and-pop restaurants and corner stores are unlikely to accept them.
  • Before your trip, call the issuer and ask which fees will apply to your purchases, both in local currency and in U.S. dollars. Also, like with your debit card, prior to your departure, let your credit card issuer know when and where you will be traveling – that way the sudden international activity on your account won't trigger your issuer's fraud alert system. If you don't call your credit card company in advance, you can still call the card's toll-free emergency number if a charge is refused – provided you remember to carry the phone number with you (the 800 number on the back of your card typically will only work in the U.S. or Canada.) As a precaution, it is a good idea to bring two credit cards on your trip in case one stops working.
  • Credit cards can be used for cash advances at ATMs and are accepted at many top-end hotels and shops, though these usually charge you a 7% (or greater) fee for using them. The amount you’ll eventually pay is not based on the point-of-sale exchange rate, but the rate your bank chooses to use when the transaction posts to your account, sometimes weeks later. Your bank may also tack on a surcharge and additional fees for each foreign-currency transaction.

 

 

v) Wiring Money

 

Best for: Emergencies when you need money sent overseas in a hurry.

 

Pros: If you find yourself stranded overseas without cash, someone at home can wire money to you and you'll have it within a day – or even a few minutes.

 

Cons: Fees for sending money abroad can run anywhere from 1 to 10 percent or more; the faster you need the money, the more expensive it will be.

 

What You Need to Know:

 

The best-known companies for sending money to Peru are:

 

  • Western Union – represented in Peru by a company called Serviban, there are around 600 (!) offices in Lima alone
  • MoneyGram – Money Express is the official agent of MoneyGram
  • Xoom – Money that was sent with Xoom can be booked either on any account in Peru or can be picked up at every branch of Interbank, Banco Continental or Banco de Credito (BCP)

 

All of these charge variable fees depending on how much money you're sending and where you're sending it. The slower the service you choose, the more economical the price.

 

Other choices for sending money abroad include bank wire transfers or international postal money orders from the post office. While less expensive, these methods may take more time.

 

 

J) Shopping

 

Peru has a rich diversity of artisan craft works and you’ll surely find something that will remind you of your amazing time here. The country's long traditions of textile weaving and colorful markets bursting with tourists have produced a dazzling display of handmade alpaca-wool sweaters, blankets, ponchos, shawls, scarves, typical Peruvian hats, llama rugs, intricately designed gold jewelry, pottery and local weavings. Moreover, the Andes' shrouded peaks and hidden valleys continue to inspire local and international artists, so be sure to check out the many oil paintings or large-scale photographs for sale.

 

A few words of advice are in order though when making purchases in local crafts markets. To avoid any disappointments, it may be a good idea to:

 

  • Never buy anything “valuable” or “ancient,” unless you’ll still like it just as much if it doesn’t turn out to be as valuable or ancient as you were told. Watch the item you have bought while it’s being wrapped, and check to make sure the same package is given to you. Antiques are also sometimes difficult to export.
  • Carefully review the receipt or credit card slip before you sign it and leave the shop, verifying the amount paid and the item bought. If the receipt/slip is written in a language other than English, write the details of the purchase on the receipt in English for your own records and for U.S. Customs if necessary. Keep all of your sales receipts, as you may need to show them to the police.
  • Remember to bargain in markets and in small shops, it’s expected and part of the fun. However, don’t bargain and agree on a price unless you’re serious about buying. This will help keep prices reasonable for future travelers. In addition, bargaining is a way of life in Peru and is totally acceptable. (Not that tourist stores usually have fixed prices).
  • Fly home with your purchases, as shipping your items is often unreliable. They might arrive damaged, or much later than anticipated, or perhaps they won’t even make it there at all. Also, if you don't want to drag around locally bought souvenirs during your whole trip, Lima is a great place to find arts and crafts from around the country before you leave (though the selection and pricing will not be the best).

 

Visitors on a tour to Peru won’t have any trouble finding places to relieve themselves of their money: The main tourist centers all have markets. However, Lima (as the country’s main port of entry and cosmopolitan center) and Cuzco (as the former capital of Incan Peru and the current gateway for travel to Machu Picchu) deserve special mention – though the other sites below should not be overlooked.

 

  • Lima: The Peruvian capital has the biggest number of shops and selection of goods. The relatively upscale Miraflores district is popular with tourists and therefore has a thriving tourist market of shops that carry handicrafts, including ceramics, textiles, and carvings from all over Peru. You’ll also see informal mini-malls comprised of souvenir stalls, along with high-end shops that carry better silver jewelry and antiques. San Isidro is Lima’s other well-heeled district and the capital’s other place to shop for high-quality goods, especially silver. If you’re serious about your silver, the Ilaria Gallery has specialized in silverwork for generations and attracts a loyal local and international clientele.
  • Cuzco: As the historic Incan capital and the gateway to Machu Picchu – as well as the site for heading out rafting tours on the Urubamba River – Cuzco is a major tourist hub. It’s worth a stop on its own, and many tourists rest here a day or two to acclimate to the elevation before traveling on to Machu Picchu. Cuzco’s main tourist stalls are found in the Plaza de Armas. Look for wool and alpaca clothing, weavings, painted pottery, silver jewelry, and watercolor paintings featuring local landmarks and people.
  • Just outside Cuzco: In the hillside neighborhoods of San Blas, tourists can explore a picturesque neighborhood filled with artists’ studios and galleries. Some artists open their workshops and sell directly to visitors. There are also a number of shops and galleries featuring local crafts, paintings, and ceramics; the work here has a more original, less tourist-trinket feel. Also in the Cuzco area, the town of Pisac hosts a famed Sunday market that draws vendors from all over the surrounding region. Prices are reputed to be the lowest in Peru; certainly the market located in the town center and spilling over into side streets is one of the most vibrant.
  • Puno and Taquile Island (on Lake Titicaca): Here you'll find spectacular textiles.
  • Arequipa: This ancient city is perhaps the best place in Peru to purchase very fine, extremely soft baby-alpaca items.
  • Ayacucho: This city is noted for its handcrafted retablos (altars) that depict weddings and other domestic scenes. While these crafts made here are famous throughout Peru, they are also available across the country.
  • Iquitos (northern Amazon): If you’re able to reach this city (accessible only by airplane or boat), you’ll find members of the indigenous Shipibo community producing excellent hand-painted textiles and decorative pottery.

 

NOTE: It is not possible to export animal products out of Peru or into other countries either. So avoid buying products manufactured from animals (alligator skins, turtle shells and the like). Antiques are also sometimes difficult to export.

 

Store hours: Most shops are open Monday to Friday, 8:30-12:30 a.m. and 2:30-6:30 p.m. Almost everything closes down on Sunday (only the largest supermarkets, some pharmacies and a fair amount of restaurants remain open all day).

 

Sales taxes: The sales tax (IGV) in Peru is 19%. This is added automatically to each bill, except for purchases at open-air markets and from street vendors. In some upmarket hotels or restaurants, a service charge of 10% is often added.

 

 

K) Dining & Food

 

Peruvian cuisine, rated among the best in the world and currently experiencing a period of great popularity overseas, is flourishing in self-confidence at home. Food and its preparation is one important part of the Peruvian culture and a very personal way to express the Peruvian identity. As with almost every activity, the style and pattern of eating and drinking vary considerably between the three main regions: The coast, the Andean highlands and the jungle, with essentially indigenous food incorporating influences from different times and various immigrant cultures.

 

Regional Dishes

 

Coastal cuisine: Not surprisingly, seafood is the specialty along the Peruvian coast. The Humboldt Current keeps the nearby Pacific current extremely rich in plankton and other microscopic life forms, which attract a wide variety of fish. Ceviche is the classic Peruvian seafood dish and has been eaten by locals for over 2,000 years. This plate consists of fish, shrimp, scallops or squid, or a mixture of all four, marinated in limejuice and chili peppers. This is then served “raw” with corn, sweet potato and onions. Ceviche de lenguado (sole) and ceviche de corvina (sea bass) are among the most common types of ceviche, but plenty of other fish dishes and a wide range of seafood is included on most menus. You can find ceviche, along with fried fish and fish soups, in most restaurants along the coast from S/15–25 ($5-$9, or €4-€7). Escabeche is another tasty fish-based appetizer, this time incorporating peppers and finely chopped onions. The coast is also an excellent place for eating scallops – known here as conchitas – which grow particularly well close to the Peruvian shoreline; conchitas negras (black scallops) are a delicacy in the northern tip of Peru. Excellent salads are also widely available, such as huevos a la rusa (egg salad), palta rellena (stuffed avocado), or a straight tomato salad, while papas a la Huancaina (a cold appetizer of potatoes covered in a spicy, light cheese sauce) is great too.

 

Mountain meals: Cooking in the highlands focuses on spices and fresh ingredients with the specialty of this region being a dish called Pachamanca. This dish relies on a cooking process whereby a variety of meats are wrapped up and baked in their own juices in a hole in the ground. Mountain food is fairly basic. Meat, served with rice and pot Iquitosatoes, is a mainstay of the diet, as is trout (trucha). Lomo saltado, or diced prime beef sautéed with onions and peppers, is served anywhere at any time, accompanied by rice, a few French fries, tomatoes and peppers. Rocoto relleno, a hot bell pepper stuffed with vegetables and meat, and papa rellena, a potato stuffed with veggies and then fried, are just as common (but are occasionally extremely spicy). Soups are excellent. In the countryside, you'll often see families outside Cusco and other places stirring smoking fires in the ground while the kids play soccer/football nearby. Guinea pig (cuy) is the traditional dish most associated with Peru, and you can find it in many parts of the country, especially in the mountain regions, where it is likely to be roasted in an oven and served with chips. It’s likely, however, that you may encounter more burgers and pizza than guinea pig, given how fast-food franchises have spread across Peru over the past two decades.

 

Rainforest food: The jungle region of Peru is renowned for its ingredients rather than its cooking style, such as on the coast and in highland areas. There is a selection of excellent fruit, with none tasting sweeter than the cherimoya – a vegetable that tastes like strawberries and cream. There is a vast array of fresh fruit and meat available in the jungle area of Peru, and this variety of ingredients enables you to eat a different meal almost every day. Another specialty of this region is the camu camu fruit, which contains extraordinary amounts of vitamin C and is an exceedingly healthy fruit for you to try. In the Amazon jungle region, most people fish for their food, so their diets consist almost entirely of fish such as river trout and paiche (a huge river fish). Restaurants feature both of these, with accompaniments that include yuca (a root), palmitos (palm hearts), chonta (palm-heart salad), bananas and plantains, and rice tamales known as juanes. Common menu items such as chicken and game are complemented by exotic fares such as caiman, wild boar, turtle, monkey and piranha.

 

Every settlement big enough to get on the map has its own bar or café, but in remote areas, it’s a matter of eating what’s available.

 

Drinks

 

Peru's national drink is the pisco sour, made with a pale grape brandy — close to 100 proof — derived from grapes grown in vineyards around Ica, south of Lima. Added to the brandy are lemon juice, sugar, bitters, and egg white, which all sometimes receive a dash of cinnamon before being topped. Pisco sour is a refreshing drink and one that nearly every bar in Peru claims to make best.

 

Most Peruvian beer — except for cerveza malta (black malt beer) — is bottled lager almost exclusively brewed to five percent, and extremely good. In Lima, the two main beers are Cristal and Pilsen. Cuzqueña (from Cusco) is one of the best but not universally available. In the highlands, you can find hicha, a corn beer drunk throughout this region and in rural areas on the coast. An acquired taste, chicha can be found by walking through any doorway where a red flag is flying.

Soft drinks range from mineral water, through the ubiquitous Coca-Cola and Fanta, to home-produced novelties like the gold-colored Inca Cola, with its rather homemade taste. Fruit juices (jugos), most commonly papaya or orange, are delicious and prepared fresh in most places; the best selection and cheapest prices are generally available in a town’s main market. You can get coffee and a wide variety of herb and leaf teas almost anywhere.

 

Surprisingly, for a good coffee-growing country, the coffee in cafés outside of Lima, Cusco and Arequipa leaves much to be desired, commonly prepared from either café pasado (previously percolated coffee) or simple instant Nescafé. Increasingly, it’s possible to find great coffee in larger towns where certain cafés prepare good fresh espresso, cappuccino or filtered coffee. Starbucks (complete with Wi-Fi) has arrived in several of Peru’s cities and is everywhere you turn in Lima.

 

The jungle regions produce a sugar-cane rum, cashassa (basically the Peruvian equivalent of Brazilian cachaça), also called aguardiente, which has a distinctive taste and is occasionally mixed with different herbs, some medicinal. While it goes down easily, it’s incredibly strong stuff and is sure to leave you with a hangover the next morning if you drink too much. Tacama's Blanco de Blancos, from Ica, is considered the country's best wine. In Iquitos, the locals make chuchuhuasi from the reddish-brown bark of the canopy tree that grows to 100 feet high in the Amazon rainforest.

 

Restaurants

 

All larger towns in Peru have a fair choice of restaurants, most of which offer a varied menu. Among them, there are usually a few Chinese (chifa) places, and nowadays a fair number of vegetarian restaurants as well. Most establishments in larger towns stay open daily from around 11 am until 11 pm, though in smaller settlements they may close one day a week, usually on Sunday. Often they will offer a set menu, from morning to lunchtime, and another one in the evening. Ranging in price from S/6 to S/25 ($2-$9, or €1.5-€7), these most commonly consist of three or four courses: soup or another starter, a main dish (usually hot and with rice or salad), a small sweet or fruit-based third plate, plus tea or coffee to follow. Every town, too, seems now to have at least one restaurant that specializes in pollos a la brasa – spit-roasted chickens.

 

In addition to Peruvian cooking, visitors will find plenty of international restaurants, including a particularly Peruvian variation, chifas (restaurants serving Peruvian-influenced Chinese food, developed by the large immigrant Chinese population), a mainstay among many non-Chinese Peruvians. Chifas are nearly as common as restaurants serving pollo a la brasa (spit-roasted chicken), which are everywhere in Peru.

 

Meals and Mealtimes

 

Top-notch restaurants serve lunch and dinner, but most Peruvians think of lunch as the day's main meal. Consequently, many restaurants are open only at midday; between 1 and 4 pm. Dinner can be anything from a light snack to another full meal, with Peruvians tending to dine late, between 8 and 11 pm.

 

Reservations and Dress

 

Peruvians dress informally when they dine out. At the most expensive restaurants, a jacket without a tie is sufficient for men. Shorts are frowned upon everywhere except at the beach, and T-shirts are appropriate only in very modest restaurants.

 

 

L: Etiquette and Customs

There are some cultural differences in etiquette that can be off-putting for both visitors and Peruvians alike. As a visitor or traveler in Peru, it is polite to become familiar with some basic customs and etiquette so as to convey respect and to help you avoid any uncomfortable situations.

 

Codes of conduct: Politeness – even a little ceremoniousness – is much appreciated in Peruvian society. Men should always remove any headgear and say con permiso when entering offices. When dealing with officials, always remember to be friendly and courteous no matter how trying the circumstances. Never be impatient and do not criticize situations in public (the officials may know more English than you think and they can certainly interpret gestures and facial expressions). In some situations, however, politeness can be a liability. Most Peruvians are disorderly queuers. In commercial transactions (buying a meal, goods in a shop, etc.) politeness should be accompanied by firmness, and always ask the price first.

 

Appropriate Attire – To feel more comfortable, take a cue from what the locals are wearing. Except in beach towns, men typically don't wear shorts and women don't wear short skirts. Bathing suits are fine on beaches, but cover up before you head back into town. Everyone dresses nicely to enter churches. Peruvian women wearing sleeveless tops often cover their shoulders before entering a place of worship. Residents of Lima and other large cities dress up for a night on the town, but that doesn't necessarily mean a jacket and tie. In smaller towns, things are much more casual. The posh clubs in Lima's Miraflores district may not let you enter without proper footwear, so leave the sandals in your room.

 

Dining CustomsDining hours are not much different from typical mealtimes in cities in North America or Great Britain, except that dinner (cena) is generally eaten after 8 pm in restaurants. Peruvians do not eat nearly as late as Spaniards. Although lunch (almuerzo) is the main meal of the day, it’s not the grand midday affair that it is in Spain. There are only a handful of restaurants in the entire country that could be considered formal, and none requires you to wear to jacket or tie unless you just feel like dressing up a bit. If you invite a Peruvian to have a drink or to dine with you, it is expected that you will pay (the Spanish verb invitar literally connotes this as an invitation). Do not suggest that a Peruvian acquaintance join you in what will most likely be an expensive restaurant or cafe for him or her, and then pony up only half the tab.

 

Avoiding Offense – In a country in which nearly half the population is indigenous, expressing respect for native peoples is important. Try not to refer to them as indios, which is a derogatory term, but as indígenas. Likewise, the words nativo (native) and tribu (tribe) rub people here the wrong way and are best left to old Tarzan movies. Many Peruvians refer to foreigners as gringos (or gringas) or the generic “mister,” pronounced “mee-ster.” Neither is intended or should be received as an insult. Also, queries about one's marital status and children are considered polite; indeed, women traveling alone or with other women should expect such questions. However, discussion of how much one earns is a generally touchy subject, especially in a poor country such as Peru.

 

Greetings and gestures – Peruvians are more formal in social relations than most North Americans and Europeans. Peruvians shake hands frequently and tirelessly, and although kissing on the cheek is a common greeting for acquaintances, it is not practiced among strangers (as it is in Spain, for example). Indigenous populations are more conservative and even shy. They don't kiss to greet one another, nor do they shake hands as frequently as other “mestizo” Peruvians; if they do, it is a light brush of the hand rather than a firm grip. Many indigenous people from small villages are reluctant to look a stranger in the eye. Also, using your index finger to motion a person to approach you, as practiced in the United States and other places, is considered rude. A more polite way to beckon someone is to place the palm down and gently sweep your fingers toward you.

 

Bargaining – Haggling is considered acceptable in markets and with taxi drivers, and even in hotels, but only up to a point – don't overdo it.

 

Photography – With their vibrant dress and expressive faces and festivals, Peruvians across the country make wonderful subjects for photographs. Asking for a tip in return for being the subject of a photograph is common in many parts of Peru; in fact, some locals patrol the streets with llamas and kids in tow to pose for photographs as their main source of income. The one area where you should pay particular attention to your actions is when it comes to photographing Peru’s indigenous population. Despite being beautiful, colorfully dressed and wonderful photo subjects, most indigenous peoples do not want to be photographed. To do so without first asking permission is both rude and insensitive. Ask first, because in the tourist areas the majority of locals will let you shoot away ...for a small fee. Photographing military, police, or airport installations is strictly forbidden. Many churches, convents, and museums also do not allow photography or video.

 

Punctuality – Expats often joke about “Peruvian time”, but it’s true that if you’re invited to a party or out for dinner or drinks, you aren’t really expected until at least 30 minutes after the arranged time – and an hour late isn’t out of the norm.

 

Tipping – While Peruvians rarely tip in restaurants, there is no rule that says you can’t if you’re pleased with the service, and it will be very much appreciated, unless of course the 10 percent service charge has already been added (this is common practice in the nicer establishments). Tour guides should be tipped a few dollars for sightseeing services ($1-$2, per person for a short visit, and $5 or more per person for a full day) but it is not normal to tip taxi drivers unless they have gone out of their way for you. That said, porters at the airport are usually tipped about $0.25 per bag and bellhops at a first-class hotel about $.50-$1 per bag. Hairdressers receive $0.50 or more for special services.

 

Gifts and Handouts – Though it possesses tremendous beauty, magical places to visit, and wonderful people to meet, Peru is still a poor country; so don’t be surprised – at least in cities – if you see some people begging, especially near downtown touristic attractions. In these cases, you need to be careful if you decide to give a handout because sometimes people will try to get more out of you or more than you wish to give. Be particularly careful when giving money, gifts or food to any groups of poor children you might meet. If you really want to help poor people in Peru, we suggest contacting some philanthropic institution to donate money or goods for children, the homeless, women in jail, etc.

 

Respect for the Environment: With 3.8 million tourists expected to visit Peru annually by 2016 (and with nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year), it's more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth's natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion on the Peruvian Coast, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Amazon, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming. Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but also for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you've flown home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding and authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.

 

 

M) Miscellaneous Travel Notes

 

Electricity: The electrical current in Peru is 220 volts, 50-cycle alternating current (AC) – (except in Arequipa, which operates on 50 cycles). A converter is needed for appliances requiring 110 voltage. U.S.-style flat prongs fit most outlets (The same is true of neighboring Chile, Bolivia and Brazil, while Ecuador uses standard U.S.-style two- and three-prong electric outlets with 110-120V AC (60 Hz) current). It's not suggested to adapt a three pin plug for use in a two pin outlet.

 

Time: Like in most countries, in Peru the time is written in 24-hour notation (for example, 6:30 p.m. appears as 18:30). Peru is on Eastern Standard Time, 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (-5 GMT). Daylight saving time is not observed.

 

National/Public Holidays and Local Festivities: Public holidays, carnival and local fiestas are all big events in Peru, celebrated with an openness and gusto that gives them enormous appeal for visitors. However, please be aware that during these holidays some administrative, banking and other services may not be provided, while supermarkets and street markets may be open. The following is the calendar of holidays in the country: National public holidays in Peru include New Year's Day (from noon Dec 31 to Jan 1), Three Kings Day (Jan 6), Maundy (Good) Thursday and Good Friday (Thursday and Friday before Easter, March or April), Labor Day (May 1), Saint Peter and Saint Paul (June 29), Fiestas Patrias – Independence Day (from noon July 27–29), Santa Rosa de Lima (August 30), Battle of Angamos (Oct 8), All Saints' Day (Nov 1), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), and Christmas (Dec 24–25).

 

In addition to the major regional and national celebrations, nearly every community has its own saint or patron figure to worship at town or village fiestas. These celebrations often mean a great deal to local people, and can be much more fun to visit than the larger countrywide events. Processions, music, dancing in costumes and eating and drinking form the core activities of these festivities. Your Surtrek travel planner will share information with you about what the local customs and events are.

 

Laundry: Most hotels in the main cities of Peru have the laundry services. However, this service isn’t always available in rural destinations, towns, or jungle and community lodges – and if it is, it usually isn’t as good as in the cities.

 

Drinking & Drug Laws: The minimum legal drinking age in Peru is 18, though enforcement of the legal drinking age is variable at best. This age restriction applies to both the consumption and purchase of alcohol, with alcohol sold in many different establishments throughout Peru, including bars, discos, cafes, liquor stores, large supermarkets and small grocery stores. However, many establishments do not ask for identification, and many vendors do not respect the legal drinking age. There appears to be very little taboo associated with public inebriation at festivals.

 

As for drugs, obviously, the best way to avoid drug-related problems is to stay clear of illegal substances while you’re in Peru. It’s not worth the risk. Although officially possession of small quantities of various types of drugs for personal use is not punishable by law, the reality is that the possession of an illegal drug — regardless of quantity — can lead to serious problems. There’s a degree of “guilty until proven innocent” within the Peruvian system. When combined with poorly trained and sometimes corrupt police officials, this can turn what should be a slap on the wrist into one big punch in the face (metaphorically speaking). The use or purchase of drugs is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment and the number of foreigners in Peruvian prisons on drug charges is still increasing. If arrested on any charge the wait for trial in prison can take up to a year and is particularly unpleasant.

 

However, coca leaves – either chewed or brewed for tea – are not illegal in Peru. The use of coca leaves is an ancient tradition dating back to pre-Columbian civilizations in Peru. As mentioned earlier (“Altitude Sickness,” page 23), you might very well find that mate de coca (coca-leaf tea) is very helpful in battling altitude sickness.

 

Drugstores: Pharmacies (known as farmacias or boticas) are well stocked and widespread. In Peru, they are identified by a green or red cross in the window, with InkaFarma and Superfarma being two well-known pharmacy chains. (See Health Matters, page 22)

 

Measurements: Peru is basically a metric country. Therefore, the citizens are perfectly at home using metric measurements such as:

 

  • meters, centimeters, kilometers and kilograms (metros, centímetros, kilómetros y kilogramos)

hectares, liters and metric tons (hectáreas, litros y toneladas). However, there are modern exceptions to the metric system in Peru. Some common exceptions to the metric system as used in Peru today include:

  • Inches (pulgadas) – used for measuring television, computer and laptop screens (diagonally), as well as nails.
  • Gallons (galones) – used for gasoline and kerosene.
  • “Arrobas” – a measurement that has somehow survived from the old Spanish system. Arroba is used in Peru mainly as a weight for coca leaves (although it is sometimes used for other products, such as potatoes, in some regions).

Clothing:

  • Women's clothes: Add 2 to the US size, so an 8 in the US is a 10 in Peru
  • Men's clothing: The metric system is used to measure sizes in Peru
  • Shoes: Be sure to try them on, because the sizes have no exact match. However, this guide will help:

- Men's shoes: 41 = 8, 42 = 8.5, 43 = 9.5, 44 = 10.5/10, 45 = 11.5, 46 = 12.

- Women's shoes: 38 = 6/6.5, 39 = 7/7.5, 40 = 8, 41 = 8.5/9, 42 = 9.5

 

Newspapers & Magazines: The most popular and prominent Spanish-language daily papers in Peru are El Mercurio, El Universo, and El Comercio. In Lima, you will find copies of the International Herald Tribune, the Miami Herald, and the odd European newspaper, as well as Time, Newsweek, and other special-interest publications – though these are likely to be four or five days old. Your best bet for English papers is to go to the British Embassy in Lima, which has a selection of one- to two-week-old papers such as The Times and The Independent. U.S. papers are easier to find; try the bookstalls around Plaza San Martín in Lima Centro and those along Avenida Larco and Diagonal in the Miraflores district.

 

TV/Radio: Cable and satellite TV is increasingly forming an important part of Peru’s media, partly because it can be received in even the remotest of settlements. There are nine main terrestrial channels, of which channels 7 and 13 show marginally better quality programs. Peruvian radio stations are nearly all crammed with commercials. International pop, salsa and other Latin pop can be picked up most times of the time on FM, while traditional Peruvian and Andean folk music is usually found on AM. Radio Miraflores (96FM) is one of the best stations, with an excellent news summary every morning (7–9 am).

 

Smoking: Since December 1993, it has been officially illegal to smoke in any enclosed public place (including on board public transportation). However, smoking is common in Peru, and it's rare to find a hotel, restaurant, or bar with non-smoking rooms. There are now a few hotels (usually high-end) and restaurants with designated nonsmoking rooms, and the trend is growing, albeit slowly. There are nonsmoking cars on trains, and most long-distance buses are also non-smoking.

 

Restrooms: The condition of public facilities is surprisingly good in Peru. In museums, the toilets are relatively clean, but they never have toilet paper. If you have an emergency in Lima and other cities, you should also be able to use the restrooms in hotel lobbies or restaurants without too many problems. Still, it's always a good idea to have a roll of toilet paper handy – just in case. Unless you're in a large chain hotel, don't throw toilet paper into the toilet – use the basket provided, as unsanitary as this may seem. Flushing paper can clog the plumbing. Public restrooms are usually designated as baños públicos with signs depicting the abbreviations “SS.HH.” (servicios higinicos), “WC” (water closet), “DAMAS” (Ladies), and “CABALLEROS” or “HOMBRES” (Men).Toilet fanatics” will want to visit this website.

 

Business Hours: Business hours: Most shops and banks are open Monday to Friday, 8:30-12:30 a.m. and 2:30-6:30 p.m. Restaurant opening times vary, with some open in the morning and remaining open all day, while others serve only breakfast and/or lunch (lunch is the main meal of the day in Peru), foregoing dinner service. Bars and discotecas are open from 6 p.m. until late. Clubs often stay open until sunrise, especially on Friday and Saturday. Almost everything closes down on Sunday (only the largest supermarkets, some pharmacies and a fair amount of restaurants remain open all day).

 

 

Surtrek Travel Reference Guide Disclaimer:

This reference guide is intended to serve general information purposes only. The information provided in this guide is not intended as advice in any way. The information in this guide is composed and maintained with continuous care and attention by Surtrek; however, we cannot give any warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of the information in this guide.

Please forward any comments, corrections or suggestions to: info@surtrek.net

 

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