Peru is a country full of rich culture, vibrant colours and stunning landscapes. Most travellers visit Peru to see Macchu Picchu, but the country offers so much more, from the desert landscapes to the surfing beaches, Amazon jungle and everything in between.
Any trip to South America should have Peru on the itinerary. It is a country that has something for everyone.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know if you are planning a trip to Peru.
Tourist visas for Peru
Tourist visas into Peru are granted on arrival for many nationalities, including American and Australian residents. To enter you will need a valid passport and onward ticket from Peru. Tourist visas allow you to stay 183 days. If you are seeking longer periods of time for business, study or work purposes it is necessary to apply for another visa at a Peruvian consulate. Find out more here.
Please note – Visa requirements can change so it is essential that you do research on the official website.
Currency for Peru
The Peruvian Sol is the official currency of Peru.
You can exchange currency in banks and currency exchange agencies if you have a foreign currency that needs to be converted.
You also have the option of using local ATMs. ATMs found in banks are generally the safest. It is recommended to travel with two bank cards in case something happens to one of them.
Some market places, shops and grocery stores do accept US dollars too.
You can use the Money Converter website to find out current exchange rates.
Arriving in Peru
The major international airports in Peru are in Cusco and Lima. While there are 234 airports in Peru, only 24 of them have regularly scheduled flights with most being domestic.
In Lima, the Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) is the busiest airport in Peru and the main hub for airlines. The international airlines flying to and from Lima are Air Canada, Air France, Aerolineas Argentinas, Alitalia, British Airways, American Airlines and Iberia.
Depending on where you are located in the world you may have to catch an indirect flight to reach Peru.
In Cusco, the Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ) is the second busiest airport in Peru. CUZ offers domestic flights as well as international flights to La Paz, Bolivia and Bogota, Colombia.
Getting around in Peru
I have an entire post that discusses safe options for getting around Peru.
In summary, you can travel by air, bus, train or taxi.
If you are staying for a short time and want to maximise your time, flying domestically is recommended.
If you have more time, travel by bus is a great option.
Buses can come in the form of old rickety models to sleek long distance endurance runners offering reclining seats, food and entertainment. If you are interested in a more comfortable bus ride the two luxurious lines to choose from are Ormeno and Cruz del Sur.
Keep in mind that Peru does not have official bus terminals and the private companies operating buses have different locations of pick up and drop off, so make sure you always double check where you need to be. You can also save a lot of money if you purchase tickets in advance. Some companies are known to jack up fare prices closer to the departure date.
There is the option of renting a car in Peru through the usual suspects of Budget, Avis and Hertz but the roads in Peru are very busy and quite dangerous when the wet season arrives. There are minimal road rules and it can lead to some dangerous accidents for tourists.
There are plenty of taxis in Peru. Make sure you agree on a rate with the driver before you accept the ride.
Accommodation in Peru
There are a lot of different accommodation options to choose from when staying in Peru, ranging from hostels to luxury hotels and Airbnbs. Prices vary from city to city and, of course, the quality of the place you’re staying at.
Bucket List Experiences in Peru
The are endless things to do in Peru. Below are the things you MUST add to your Peru bucket list.
Arequipa is a beautiful colonial town and a great base for hiking into Colca Canyon. See my backpackers guide to Arequipa here.
Colca Canyon was my favourite place in Peru. The hike into Colca Canyon is tough but so worth it. I recommend taking the two-day hike through the canyon. Shorter and longer hiking options are available. More information on hiking Colca Canyon is in my Arequipa Destination Guide.
Huacachina is a tiny town built around an Oasis. Tourists generally visit to go on a sand buggy and sandboarding tours. See my Huacachina Destination Guide.
Cusco is the base of exploration into the Sacred Valley and home to any kind of adventure activity you could possibly dream of. I absolutely loved Cusco, there is just so much to do. Cusco is where you will stay to visit Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu has to be the most popular attraction in Peru, and for good reason. It is an Inca site built high in the Andes Mountains. To this day no one can work out how it was built in ancient times. If you take a tour around Machu Picchu you will hear the many theories, but none are confirmed. If you enjoy hiking, you can take the 4-day trek along the Inca trail. See more on Machu Picchu and Cusco here.
The Sacred Valley is a region in Peru’s Andean highlands, known as the heart of the Inca Empire. Within the Sacred Valley, you will find Cusco, the ancient city of Machu Picchu, Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
From Cusco, you can take a tour into the Sacred Valley for as little as $14. My tour went to Pisac Markets, Pisac Ruins and Ollantaytambo Ruins, pictured below. Different tours go to different places.
See my Cusco destination guide.
Pisac is known for its Sunday handicraft market and hilltop Incan citadel. These are some of the most colourful markets you will find in the world.
Ollantaytambo is a village in the Sacred Valley of southern Peru, set on the Urubamba River amid snow-capped mountains. It’s known for the Ollantaytambo ruins, a massive Inca fortress with large stone terraces on a hillside. Major sites within the complex include the huge Sun Temple and the Princess Baths fountain. The village’s old town is an Inca-era grid of cobblestoned streets and adobe buildings.
Manu National Park
Manu Biosphere Reserve is a sprawling national park in southeastern Peru, spanning the Andean highlands, cloud forest and lowland jungle. Manu National Park is well known for its rich biodiversity, notably hundreds of bird species, including macaws, which feed at clay licks at sites such as Blanquillo.
See more photos and travel tips from Manu National Park
This colourful mountain is a popular attraction in Peru, and best explored from Cusco.
Map of Peru[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d8065680.811522559!2d-79.51545747048394!3d-9.215583794471888!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x9105c850c05914f5%3A0xf29e011279210648!2sPeru!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sau!4v1549859493056&w=600&h=450]
Budget for Peru
$ – Expect to pay around $13-$20SOL for a bed in a hostel dorm room.
$$ – Expect to pay around $50SOL – $150SOL for a mid-range hotel room.
$$$ – Expect to pay $200+ SOL for a luxury hotel room. Luxury hotels are limited around Peru, there are a few near the more populated areas, such as Machu Pichu.
Flights around Peru are relatively cheap starting from $50USD with the budget airlines.
Buses can be cheap in Peru, especially if you book in advance. You will generally pay around $20 USD in between major destinations.
Taxis are around $5 and upward depending on where you are going. Make sure you always settle the fare with the driver before accepting the ride.
Food in Peru can be found in the streets or restaurants. Street and market food is generally cheaper costing as little as $3SOL. Restaurants generally cost around $5 – $10SOL for one person at an inexpensive place
Food in Peru
Peruvian cuisine is a colourful history of vibrant fusions that can be found across three regions of South America. Some of the traditional Peruvian foods are:
Lomo Saltado is a popular, traditional Peruvian dish, a stir fry that typically combines marinated strips of beef with onions, tomatoes, french fries, and other ingredients; and is typically served with rice.
This is considered part of Peruvian national heritage. Ceviche is made by curing raw fish in citrus juices and spicing with chilli before serving it with corn, potatoes and onion. There are different variations of the dish with shellfish sometimes being served instead of the fish.
PAPA A LA HUANCAÍNA
Peru is home to thousands of varieties of potatoes so it is unsurprising that potatoes in various forms feature prominently in the Peruvian cuisine. Papa a la Huancaína is a Peruvian comfort food. It consists of boiled yellow potatoes served in a creamy and spicy sauce. This is one of the most common dishes in all parts of the country.
The number one Peruvian street food and the local take on a snack that can be found in various guises around the world. Anticuchos are pieces of meat that are often seasoned and marinated in vinegar and spice then barbecued on a skewer. The local favourite is made from beef heart so if you want to try the most authentic, this is the one to go for.
Cuy chactado is, in fact, deep fried guinea pig. Cuy has been eaten in the Andes for thousands of years and has become popular all over the country. If you order cuy chactado, you will receive a whole guinea pig that has been seasoned and then fried, served with salad, potatoes or corn. Some people say it tastes like chicken, others say pork and yet others say rabbit but you’ll just have to decide for yourself.
SOPA DE QUINOA
The outside world has now become aware of quinoa but it has been eaten in Peru for thousands of years and was known to the Incas as ‘the mother of all grains’. In the Andes, it is combined with other local ingredients to make a hearty and energising soup. A trip to Peru is the perfect chance to taste this “fashionable” health food in the land where it was originally created.
Best time to visit Peru
The winter (May – September) is the driest season and the best time of year to travel if you’re planning to visit Cusco or trekking Machu Picchu. The summer (December – March) is warmer of course, but is also the wettest season, with frequent heavy showers.
Tipping in Peru
Most restaurant and bar bills include a 10% gratuity. It’s customary to add an extra 10% if the service has been satisfactory. Most Peruvians only tip one or two Soles at small restaurants that do not add a tip to the bill.
It is true that Peruvians are not big tippers but tipping is a great way to show your appreciation to the people serving you and to have your dollars go straight into the pockets of the people that need it most, a 10 to 20% tip will be greatly appreciated at any restaurant.
Taxis do not expect tips.
Travel Insurance for Peru
Safety in Peru
If you travel through the mountains, plan on a slow-going ride. Roads aren’t usually paved (sometimes leading to flat tires), and there’s a risk of landslides and other geological hiccups during the rainy season. Also, keep in mind that theft occurs frequently on buses in Peru, so keep an eye on your possessions.
In addition, exercise all usual safety precautions:
- Avoid flashing your valuables
- Keep an eye on your belongings at all times
- Lock your belongings in the hotel safe
- Remain aware of your surrounding
- Avoid unknown streets at night
- Don’t drink too much
You can also check the Aus gov Smart Traveller Website for current safety advice.
Language in Peru
There are two indigenous languages in Peru; Quechua and Aymara. But most Peruvians are bilingual in Spanish. You may hear English spoken in Peru but only amongst the densely populated tourist areas like Cusco and Machu Picchu or high-class hotels. If you are travelling into other regions of Peru it might be wise to learn basic Spanish to help ask for directions, prices and places to stay.
Vaccinations for Peru
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out what vaccinations you need when planning a trip to Peru. If you have any further questions regarding vaccinations required for Peru, I recommend consulting a doctor.
Overseas Travel Checklist
This overseas travel checklist covers all the general things you need to do when planning a trip to Peru.
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