A lifetime might not be enough to discover all Peru has to offer. Converging some of the most spectacularly varied landscapes on the planet, this “megadiverse” country boasts a vast tropical rainforest and staggering spectrum of altitudes and climates.
Although most foreigners and Peruvians themselves associate Peru with the Andes, some two-thirds of the national territory is Amazon jungle – an area teeming with life.
Meanwhile, the coast is one of the world’s driest deserts, and home to a dazzling display of marine species, including humpback whales that you can sometimes see breach from shore along the waters of the Pacific Ocean.
As if Peru’s natural bounty wasn’t enough, the country displays a lengthy list of archaeological and architectural gems. Machu Picchu, the country’s best known treasure, is one of many others that are more than worth a visit. They span a myriad pre-Inca civilizations and the colonial period when the Spaniards put up breath-taking churches and mansions across the country.
Upon landing in Peru, you will pass through immigration control and present your passport, which must have a minimum validity of six months from your entry date. Your passport will be stamped indicating your date of entry and how much time you are allowed to stay in Peru. These dates will be automatically registered online by the immigration officer and are important when checking in to your hotels to be exempt from the 18% sales tax.
All passport holders should verify with their travel agent the visa entry requirements that Peru requires for their country of origin. If you are extending your journey to other countries, please check entry requirements for those countries as well. Please ensure that you have all the necessary visas prior to departure. The staff, agents and their tour operators cannot be held liable for any issues caused by visa problems.
It is probably best to leave your passport safe in your hotel and carry a photocopy with you, but please have the physical copy of your passport with you when you travel from one city to another, and for some activities. It is also a good idea to have a scanned copy of your passport in your emails so you have easy access to it if necessary.
Banking and Currency
The official currency in Peru is the Sol or Soles in Spanish (S/. (PEN)). The American dollar is still accepted in many places and is the easiest currency to exchange. Please keep in mind that due to a large number of counterfeit bills in Peru, US Dollars are only accepted if the bills are in an impeccable state. The smallest rip or tear can mean that your note will not be accepted.
Money Exchange: “Casas de Cambio” (exchange bureaus) often offer better rates on exchanges than hotels and banks and are found in main towns. There are also money exchange professionals that stand in the streets. They are called “Cambistas”. Be careful, as you can never assume their honesty or intentions.
ATMs: “Cajeros Automáticos” (ATMs) are found in nearly every city in Peru, as well as in major airports and shopping centers. Smaller towns or areas like Machu Picchu have very few ATMs available so ensure to take out cash beforehand. Peruvian ATMs charge transaction fees for withdrawing money and often dispense both US dollars and Peruvian Soles. For safety reasons, we recommend using ATMs inside banks with a security guard present, preferably during daylight hours.
Credit Cards: Visa is the most widely accepted credit card in Peru. Other major international credit cards, such as Mastercard, American Express, and Diners, are accepted in many but not all establishments, especially outside of Lima. Small vendors prefer cash. Therefore, it is always recommended to have some cash (preferably soles) with you as well.
Banks: Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. On Saturdays, banks are open from 9:30 a.m. until noon. Most banks in Peru are closed on Sundays.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Flights: Please check in early at all airports following these recommendations:
- At least two (2) hours prior for domestic flights
- Three (3) hours for international flights, due to additional security procedures
Please be aware that during peak season (from June to September as well as December), queues may be longer, and delays may be more common on scheduled flights.
Vehicles: Our vehicles are fully cleaned and sanitized to the highest standard between each journey to ensure that your trip is as relaxing and stress-free as possible. They are also fully equipped with alcohol gel (70% strength), pure alcohol for disinfecting purposes, and anti-bacterial wipes for your comfort and security. This is in-line with several other precautions that we have taken to ensure your personal safety, including selective seating within the vehicles to ensure social distancing measures are met. We have a variety of vehicles suitable for every terrain and itinerary, each with complimentary Wi-Fi and coolers stocked with bottled water and snacks.
Luggage information: Scheduled airlines in Peru carry a weight restriction of 50 lbs (or 23 kg) per checked bag and limit the number of bags to one or two checked bags (dependant on the chosen fare and airline), one carry-on bag (10 kg or 22 lbs) and one personal item (18 in (45 cm) x 14 in (35 cm) x 8 (20 cm) - height, length and width). Please ensure that you comply with the applicable restrictions. For further details see your airline’s website. There are strict luggage restrictions for the train rides to Machu Picchu owing to little room for luggage on the train. Passengers should carry only a small overnight bag. The maximum weight permitted per passenger is 15 lbs (5 kg) on Peru Rail & Inca Rail, comparable with the size of permitted hand luggage on most flights.
Health and Medical Information
Medical Conditions: Please notify us about any medical conditions and food restrictions you have prior to your arrival. This includes any allergies (bee stings, nuts, shellfish etc.). We will always try our best to accommodate your needs, but unfortunately cannot be held responsible for any issues if we are not properly informed in advance.
Altitude Sickness: Commonly referred to in Spanish as “Soroche” or “Mal de Altura”, altitude sickness is caused by the rapid transition from sea level to higher elevations. The most common symptoms (these can vary from person to person) are shortness of breath, minor headaches, fatigue, stomach ache (vomiting in rare cases), loss of appetite, and insomnia.
Here are a few good tips to deal with high altitude. This is not meant to substitute for any trained medical advice or attention. Please consult your doctor before travelling to high altitude locations.
- When you first arrive at a higher altitude, take time to acclimatize prior to beginning strenuous activities.
- Common outdoor hazards, such as sunburn and dehydration, are dangerous and should be taken seriously, particularly at high altitudes where the UV index is much higher.
- Drink water to prevent dehydration (headaches are the first sign of dehydration).
- Tea, coffee, or alcoholic beverages are discouraged because they act as diuretics and can contribute to dehydration.
- Eat less than usual and try to eat easily digestible food before and upon arrival. Greasy food is best avoided during your first days.
- “Coca or Muña tea” is normally complimentary at every hotel. Drink as much as you want, but don’t drink too much Coca tea before going to bed as it contains theine (similar to caffeine).
Yellow Fever and Malaria (For Those Traveling to the Rainforest): During our many years of working with travelers in Peru, no guests have been infected. Although it is not mandatory to be vaccinated against yellow fever while travelling in Peru, it is recommended that you ask your family doctor for advice about vaccinations. If you decide to get a yellow fever shot, you must do so a minimum of 11 days before exposure. Often your country of origin requires you to have had the vaccination before your return. Please check with your local authorities.
Traveling with Disabilities: Unfortunately, Peru is not the easiest country to travel in for those with disabilities. Trains and buses do not have wheelchair lifts. Some trains have assigned seats for disabled passengers. Please call us to discuss any needs that you may have. This will enable us to advise passengers on the suitability of facilities to the extent that adaptations can be made if necessary.
Safety Measures and Precautions: Here are recommendations that we feel are important for travel in general. They apply mostly to travel in the major cities and towns but are also relevant for stays in lodges and conservation areas. Unfortunately, professional thieves lurk in crowded areas around the world. Always pay particular attention to your belongings when in a crowded area.
- Never leave your luggage unattended (don’t leave handbags under tables, on the back of a chair, or restroom hooks). It is always safer to lock your luggage.
- When flying, please do not check-in any valuables or chronic medications, these should be kept in your carry-on luggage.
- Store handbags/parcels/valuables out of sight in the cabin of the car.
- Keep mobile phones, wallets, and cameras well hidden
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
- Store valuables and additional cash in your hotel’s safety deposit box. Separate your cash and credit cards, and don’t carry all your cash with you.
- Wear backpacks on your front side, keep cameras in sight or on your front, and place wallets in a front pocket.
- Be wary of people offering advice and help when you have not asked for it, and avoid counting cash in the open.
- Carry a photocopy of your passport/credit cards. An alternative is keeping scanned copies on your smartphone.
- Make a note of the number of the local tourist police.
Insurance: It is strongly recommended that you take out a good health and travel insurance policy before the trip. This insurance should include the covering of the following eventualities for the entire duration of your trip:
- Emergency evacuation and transportation expenses
- Medical expenses, medications, and supplies
- Repatriation of mortal remains
- Cancellation or curtailment of the trip
- Damage, theft or loss of personal goods
- Luggage and money insurance
- Any claims should be taken up with your insurance company.
In case you haven't chosen an insurance yet, we can recommend a trusted partner. Should you need further assistance, please let your experience concierge know.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
Water in Peru can trouble non-Peruvian (and even Peruvian) stomachs, so we strongly recommend that you read and follow our recommendations:
- Never drink tap water, opt instead for bottled water (regular or carbonated).
- You will be provided with bottled water in every hotel and vehicle throughout your stay.
- Bottles of water are also readily available in various sizes, including one liter and two-liter, from most corner shops and food stores.
- Refill your personal containers and please dispose of plastic water bottles properly. Contamination with plastic containers is a big problem in rural communities.
Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. You will find that there is plenty of street food available in stores and at markets, and you should try to ensure that what you buy has been heated properly and not been left out. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled. Please let us know if you would like us to make any restaurant reservations. Especially for Lima this is important as the trendy restaurants often book months in advance.
Climate and Weather
In general, Peru has only two seasons: the dry season and rainy season. The names are self-explanatory but the difference is not always clear-cut. The dry season runs from mid-April until the end of October and the wet season from the beginning of November until the end of March. This does not mean that during the dry season it never rains or there is no sun in rainy season.
Since the Peruvian coast (Lima, Paracas, Máncora, etc) is mostly desert, there is hardly any rainfall throughout the year. In the highlands (Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, The Colca Valley, etc) it does rain more in rainy season, but it is also the warmest time of year. In the Amazon Rainforest (Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado) it can rain all year round but most rain falls during the rainy season.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Being such a diverse and large country Peru has many different climates throughout the year, depending on the altitudes and other geographical circumstances. Whichever regions you plan on spending time in, make sure to dress in layers as the weather and temperature can change suddenly wherever you are.
Electricity and Plug Standards
All electrical appliances in Peru run on 220 volts, and most upscale hotels offer 110-volt plugs. Outlets are typically round three-pin, 15-amp plugs. Most modern appliances have a voltage convertor or adaptor built into the device. Most hotels provide a variety of plugs or adaptors.
Tipping is not mandatory but very much appreciated. If you feel that the services provided surpassed your expectations and would like to give your guide/host a tip, here are some general recommendations. These are based on full-day excursions – if you would have a shorter excursion these amounts can be reconsidered according to your discretion:
Specialized Guides: US$10 per person
Drivers: US$5 per person
Restaurants: for the higher end restaurants a tip of 10% on the bill is customary
Bellboys: a small tip (US$1-2) is appreciated
Trekking: It is customary to tip your trekking team dependant on their services. You will receive a trekking guide and tip suggestions from your trekking company based on the length and type of trek you choose to embark on.
If you are traveling in a large group (> 8 people) these amounts can be slightly lower. Finally, tips can be provided both in US Dollars as well as Peruvian Soles – whichever suits you best.