We have created this list of Frequently Asked Questions (and their associated answers) about Peru to assist you in your travels. We hope that it will provide you with useful information about the country and make it easier for you enjoy your stay to the fullest. We wish you all the best with your travel arrangements. Have a smooth preparation period before your unforgettable adventure!
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions about Peru
To begin with, it must be stated that it is hard to give a perfect answer in regards to any question about Peru. The answer, in almost every case, will be dependent on various aspects of a given situation, not to mention the fact that people have different opinions on what the best or most accurate answer to a given question is. In fact, every answer could begin with the words “it depends…”. In order to avoid any misunderstanding and frustration we try to provide you with the most consistent and informed answers possible. However, keep in mind that the answers and advice may vary a lot depending on the context or your travel preferences. Our advice is based on several years of experience living in Peru, guiding tourists as well as learning the local customs and culture. Enjoy our FAQ and may our answers be of use to you!
The answer is not that straightforward since their isn’t really one best month to travel to Peru. This is because, in Peru, there are three very distinct types of environments when it comes to weather and climate: the coast (la costa), the mountains (la sierra), and the jungle (la selva). Each environment is characterized by completely different climates and, what’s more, you can find distinctive microclimates within each of them. Consequently, there is not one singular month that could be considered the best when it comes to traveling to Peru. In order to fix this problem, you need to simply ask yourself one question: “What do I want to do in Peru”? As long as you are able to answer this question, you are ready to choose the best time of the year to visit Peru!
The answer really depends on your own behavior and attitude while traveling in Peru. Personally, I think that whenever you decide on traveling, it is always worth taking special precautions. Especially, when traveling to a country you have little knowledge about or those with a very different culture and/or language. In Peru, attitudes towards issues or behavior in particular situations might be very different than those you are used to in your own country. As a foreigner, it can often be quite difficult to understand particular customs. You might find it hard to accept some things in Peru that might be forbidden or viewed discourteous in your home country. In general, Peru is a relatively safe country as long as you use common sense and behave appropriately.
The currency in Peru is Nuevo Sol (soles). You can exchange one US dollar for around 3.2 – 3.45 soles depending on the time of the year. It is very difficult to buy soles in Europe or America and that is why it is best to bring US dollars or euros to Peru and exchange them on the spot. You can exchange your money in almost every Peruvian city, most often around the main squares (Plazas de Armas). Keep in mind that the banknotes (e.g. euros or dollars) you bring with you need to be in very good condition, so that you can exchange them without any problems. In case they are crushed or broken, you may find it difficult to get a good exchange rate or it might even be impossible to exchange the money at all.
Exchange as little money as possible at airports since their exchange rates are not very favorable. It is best to search for the exchange offices in the city centers of Lima or Cusco. Keep in mind that you may find it difficult to encounter exchange offices in smaller cities. However, there is no reason for panic. You can easily pay for various services or products directly in euros or dollars, just expect a slightly higher exchange rate when paying this way.
ATMs are widely available and functional in Peru. You can withdraw your money either in soles or in dollars. Almost all of the ATMs will charge you a commission. Moreover, you can expect withdrawal limits of around 500 soles per withdrawal or per day. Similar to exchange offices, it is advisable to withdraw your money in big cities like Lima, Arequipa, or Cusco.
There are many different ways of getting to Machu Picchu. You can choose from options that are cheap or expensive, more athletic or more relaxed, more interesting or more timely. It all depends on your preferences. Before choosing an option take into consideration:
- What are your travel preferences in general?
- How much time do you have?
- How large is your travel budget?
- How fit and willing are you to undertake physical activities?
In general, cheap flights to Peru from different continents do not exist. Finding flights that are $500 USD or less, without spending long hours in the airports and having to change planes often, will take a considerable amount of effort and patience. There can sometimes be promotions or special offers, but they are extremely rare. The cheapest flights from Europe are usually from Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt or Amsterdam. Keep in mind that it’s very common that there will be no direct flights to Peru from most European countries. In general, you can find tickets from Europe to Peru for about $700 USD. Just be patient and review the flight search engines often. One of the best options might be a flight with a transfer in the USA.However, this option will require a US visa in order to make the transfer possible. Fortunately, domestic flights in Peru are very affordable. In May 2017 a new economy airline, Viva Peru, was founded that offers domestic flights for as cheap as $20 USD.
Internet connection in Peru is definitely much slower than it is in Europe, the USA, or more developed countries. However, it is available in almost all hostels and hotels. Obviously, you may find it hard to find an internet connection in small villages or towns. Most likely, small communities will have no internet connection at all. Whenever you need access to the Internet you can search for internet cafes that are widely present in all the big cities of Peru and usually open until about 10:00 pm. Oftentimes, you can connect to Wi-Fi at many ordinary cafes and restaurants.
Generally, prices in Peru are a lower than they are in Europe or the USA. However, the comparison depends on the country you are coming from. The price of a main dish in a touristy restaurant may cost anywhere from 35-60 soles ($10-$20 USD). On the contrary, local restaurants may well serve good quality lunch for around 15-25 soles ($5-$9 USD). The most local venues will often offer lunch courses for no more than 5-10 soles ($1.50-$3 USD). Fruits are generally very cheap, but the prices depend on the season of the year. Sweets are also generally cheaper than in more developed countries. A large bottle of water (2.5L) costs around 2.5-3.5 soles (about $1 USD) . Keep in mind that the closer the tourist attraction, the higher the price. In general, street food is extremely popular and cheap in Peru. For no more than 1 sol you can buy various products like ready-to-eat peeled fruits or delicious local beverages.
As with every country, it really depends on where you are getting your food. At most restaurants the food is fine to eat, especially at restaurants located near the city’s center since they cater more to foreigners. Food sold at supermarkets is also safe to eat. Be somewhat wary about unpackaged goods. If it’s meat, cook properly. If it’s fruit or vegetables, wash thoroughly (with clean water). If you purchase food from local markets use extra caution since the food might not be as clean and may contain local allergens. When eating in Peru be sure to take into account your allergies and dietary restrictions.
It is certainly not recommended that you drink the tap water in Peru, especially if you are a foreigner and are not used to drinking the local water. While some travelers have stated they have not had issues drinking the water, the majority have not been so positive. However, there are ways around this small issue. First of all, the water is not poisonous, it just contains certain bacteria and minerals that are not so great on the digestive system. Also, you can boil the water or use water filters to make the water drinkable. The price of bottled water is very reasonable and you can find it in all supermarkets, where it can cost as low as 2.50 soles (less than $1 USD) for 3 liters. It is important to keep hydrated in higher altitudes where it is often dry.
Before coming to Peru it’s advisable that you check for information about vaccinations on the website for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for your country of origin. It might also be useful to check the website of your country’s Embassy in Peru in order to find additional information. Currently, there are no obligatory vaccinations required for tourists coming to Peru. However, there are recommended vaccinations if you plan on visiting the jungle. The choice to get a vaccination or not is up to you. It is best to visit your doctor and seek their professional advice regarding your health and preferences.
You might find sending a package from Peru to be a challenge. It is possible, but it may take some time. Most importantly, it is essential that you provide your passport when sending things from Peru. It is also important that you make a copy of your passport in order to leave it at the post office. Be aware that your package will be checked several times on its way to Europe, first at the post office, next in Lima, and then just before entering the country of your choice. Not everything is eligible to be sent by post. It is best to ask the the post office staff member directly about the products you can ship to other countries (e.g. anything that is in the form of a powder, like cacao or lucuma cannot be sent without the associated receipt).
Western Union is one of the most popular and convenient means of transferring your money. You do not need to use your credit card when using Western Union or look for ATMs and worry about carrying big amounts of cash. This type of a service is mostly available in the major cities of Peru. How does it work in practice? Before coming to Peru, just arrange with your friends or family how frequently you plan on transferring your money (e.g. once a week, twice a month, etc.). This is a very fast and convenient method of transferring money.
You can buy all hygienic products in local shops or supermarkets in every Peruvian city. It is not necessary to take a large quantity of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc. from home. You can easily buy these products in small amounts on the spot. In big cities, you can buy almost any common product you are looking for. However, it might be problematic to buy particular sport or trekking equipment. Keep in mind, that even if you found that specific item you were looking for it might be more expensive than in it would be in the USA or Europe. It is advisable to equip yourself properly with the proper gear before going for an adventure in Peru.
Laundry services are available everywhere in the major cities. It is particularly easy to find them in Cusco. Many hotels and hostels act as go-betweens when providing this type of service. If you insist on doing your laundry on your own, you can save a couple of soles and find a laundry room yourself, paying between 3 to 8 soles per kg (depending on the place and whether you choose regular or express option). How does the laundry service work? You simply take your laundry in a bag to a laundry room and leave it there for an agreed period of time (2-24 hours depending on your preferences), then you pick it up. Unfortunately, there are no self-service laundry rooms.
You will need your passport in the following situations: Machu Picchu – Train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and back – Bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu and back-passport controls at the airports. You are obligated to have it with you in these situations, if not you will lose your ticket and will not be allowed entrance into these attractions. It is also completely necessary when traveling by plane internationally or domestically in Peru.
In order to book and purchase a tour with our company it is required that you have travel insurance. If you are traveling on your own in Peru it is also very advisable that you be properly insured. It is recommended that, in Peru, you should be covered for a minimum of $100,000 USD. What’s more, the insurance should also cover accidents that may happen at altitudes above 6560 ft (2000 m) above sea level. If you suffer from chronic diseases, make sure your insurance includes the additional clause that takes your particular conditions into account.
Public transport is another issue that really depends on the area and the city you are in. In some cities you will be able to safely travel by taxi or bus without any real concerns. Driving on the streets can be a bit cramped and hectic due to the older, narrow roads. If you are able to secure a safe ride, they are very inexpensive compared to American and European cities. It is recommended to use common sense and caution when using public transport, especially on buses where pickpocketing is a greater concern. Many taxis are not marked and should not be used until you gain some familiarity with the area you are visiting. Uber exists in Peru and is recommended for new travelers. As always, use caution and make sure that you observe the situation appropriately. Safety, should be your first priority when traveling.
When traveling to the higher altitude locations in Peru, it is best to slowly acclimatize to the increased elevation. For instance, if you are coming from sea level you should visit somewhere just a bit above sea level and see how you feel. Repeat this at a rate that is healthy for you. Be sure to drink plenty of water as you enter into higher altitudes since humidity is lower and sweat evaporates at a faster rate. If you do start to experience altitude sickness, go to a local pharmacy where you can receive oxygen. We also provide oxygen for tours, but this must be requested and incurs additional charges. No matter what, before traveling to higher altitudes you should consult your doctor in order to be aware of your potential health risks.