When to Travel to Peru:
The seasons are opposite of those in Europe and the US, which means that summer in Peru lasts from December to the end of March, while winter lasts from June to the end of September. Generally, Peru’s winter is the best period for travel (since it is dry season), but it is certainly also possible to be traveling in Peru during summer. You simply need to consider when to go where. We are, of course, happy to help you plan your trips to Peru.
Mountain Zone and the Andes:
If you want to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu, we recommend that you make your trip to between April and December. The months of January, February and March are at the height of the rainy season in and around Cusco and your vacation could get very wet. Throughout February, the Inca Trail is closed and generally we do not recommend you to go on the Inca Trail in January and March, when intense rainfall may cause cancellations or delays. During the period from April to January it is mostly sunny in and around Cusco, but please be aware that it can get very cold at night, as temperatures fluctuate dramatically between day and night in the mountains. Scattered rainfall can and will occur at any time year round in this area, so it is important to bring proper clothes.
The climate is different on the coast, where summer has its peak between January and March. So if you enjoy a sunny beach holiday this is the perfect time period for traveling to Peru. Please be aware that temperatures in Lima and other major cities can get hot during the summer, and therefore it might be a good idea to spend more time on the beaches to escape the urban heat. Beginning in April, the temperature drops in the coastal areas and around Lima a perpetual fog dominates the period from April to September. In the northern coastal region of Piura and Tumbes (close to the Ecuadorian border), summer weather is felt year-round. It rarely rains on the coast.
Before you Arrive
The Peruvian currency is the Nuevo Sol, referred to as “soles” in Peru. It is indicated by the sign “S/” while dollar prices have the usual “$” character. Sometimes you will find prices in both soles and U.S. dollars, but you will primarily find prices given in soles. For an up-to-date currency rate refer to www.livinginperu.com. ATMs are found in most large and small cities, where you can withdraw local currency as well as US dollars. In many stores, hotels and restaurants, especially in the cities, it is possible to pay by credit card, but remember to ask if there is an extra commission/fee. You can exchange dollars, euros and other currencies in banks and at local currency kiosks, “casas de cambio,” that can be found in the larger cities. It is not recommended that you use the money changers on the street as you may be cheated by counterfeits. Generally there are many counterfeit notes in circulation, so always be aware of whether the banknotes are damaged and in case you should have them changed, before leaving the store. Read livinginPeru.com’s guide on how to sport counterfeit money in Peru.
Citizens of the United States, Canada, EU, and Australia (among others) do not need a visa before entering Peru. A passport, valid at least six months past your intended stay, is required to enter Peru. Tourist Visas upon entrance are provided for 30, 60, 90 or 183 days depending on the purpose of your travel. It is important that you request the number of days necessary for your travel plans.
Health and vaccines:
You should check with the authorities and your insurance company in your home country for ongoing information about current requirements and recommendations for vaccines when traveling to Peru. Typically you should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever and Typhoid. Anti-malaria medication (typically pills) is usually only needed or recommended if you go to in the Amazon Rainforest.
It is always advisable to have a travel insurance when traveling to Peru. Before you decide to buy travel insurance, you should check if you might already be covered by your accident or family insurance in your home country. Your insurance company can often offer you additional travel insurance at a low price, but if you are not covered by your regular insurance, you should take out separate travel insurance at one of the many insurers that specialize in travel insurance. You should at least be covered for repatriation due to illness and emergency medical care.
Copies of travel documents:
It is always a good idea to bring copies of travel documents in case you should lose the originals. It is easier to replace your documents if you have copies of the originals. It is not a good idea to walk around the city with your original passport. Instead, you should only carry copies of your passport whenever possible.
Along the coast from the North to the South runs the paved Pan-American Highway. Although the distances can be long, the bus voyages along this route are typically very comfortable. If you, however, are heading towards the Andes, it can rapidly become a very long and harrowing experience. For those with a spirit of adventure crossing the Andes by bus can be a truly fascinating experience, while others will find the 20+ hour bus ride through the mountains a bit too long and bumpy. Generally, the bus system in Peru is good and efficient. However, there are many companies of different standards, so be sure to investigate and inquire about reliable and safe bus companies – we are happy to help.
The Peruvian rail way is not very developed. The trains run mostly during the night, and it is typically more expensive than going by train than by bus, and it might also be difficult to make your journey coherent with odd train schedules. However, for train enthusiast Peru has several journeys that are most do’s including going from Lima to Huancayo on what is the second highest railways in the world!
Distances in Peru are often large and time consuming, and therefore it may be a good idea to fly. Domestic flights are very competitive and you can often travel by air very affordably but be aware that certain airlines charge more for foreigners. Popular domestic airlines are Peruvian Airlines, StarPeru, Taca, and LAN (be sure to search their foreigner rates).
We recommend taking taxis provided by us or your hotel, as they are safe and reliable. It can be more adventurous to take a taxi from the street. Taxis provided by us or hotels are typically slightly more expensive, but the money is usually well spent as these taxis are safer and more reliable. Even in smaller cities you will find many taxis that operate both day and night. Since taxis do not run by meters you need to agree on a price in advance, and don’t be afraid of bargaining for the price.
Tip: Before you are headed anywhere, ask locals (at your hotel, restaurant, etc.) how much a typical fare for your intended route should cost.
“Combis” and “collectivos” are the city buses in Peru. It can be a different and enjoyable experience to be a passenger in a local city bus, which often travels fast and aggressively as it navigates through traffic. However, it can be very difficult for a tourist to know where the city buses actually go, so you should only climb on board if you are absolutely sure about the bus route. There is no official route map of the city bus system for Peruvian cities.
Other Details and Precautions
Food and drinking:
In Peru, the tap water is not safe for tourists to drink, and it is wise to buy bottles of water. Either you must ask for “agua con gas” (sprinkling water) or “aqua sin gas” (mineral water), which you can usually buy at hotels, at small kiosks, restaurants and supermarkets. It is also a good idea to ask for drinks without ice, which you get by asking for “sin hielo” (the “h” is silent in the Spanish pronunciation). In smaller cities and more remote areas, it is recommended to brush your teeth with bottled water.
Usually the culinary hygiene is very good in Peru, but it is best to avoid meals served in unclean environments, as you risk bacteria that can keep you bedridden for days. In general, you should be careful when selecting a restaurant. Seeing people eating in the restaurant is usually a good indication that the food is clean. It is also a good idea to eat yogurt regularly while traveling to keep your stomach fortified with good bacteria and minimize chances of traveler’s diarrhea.
Your mobile phone must be connected to the GSM-network (Global System for Mobiles) to work in Peru. It is possible to rent a phone in the larger cities and you can also purchase phone cards for making cheaper long distance calls. It is, however, often cheaper to phone home from call centers (“locutorios” or “cabinas”) of which you will find in several in major cities. Another option is to call from Skype, VoIP or others via the Internet, which usually can be done at these “locutorios” or “cabinas.” There are many small and large Internet cafes in even the smallest towns, but the connection can vary greatly. Internet fees are generally between 0.60 and 0.80 US dollars an hour.
It can be hard to budget for your vacation in Peru as this depends on your interests and needs. Typically it is possible to find good lunch menus for less than 8 dollars, but cheaper and more expensive options abound. Going out for dinner at night is usually more expensive than lunch, and here prices vary from 10 dollars, to 150 dollars at Peru’s finest restaurants. Generally you get what you pay for, but sometimes you pay just as much for the location of the restaurant, as for the food. As for shopping, Peru has great bargains for clothing and shoes, bags, handicrafts, gold, watches and jewelry. When it comes to purchasing larger quantities, we advise you to examine laws and regulations by the authorities in your home country, before bringing it back to your country. Transport is typically cheap in Peru. A round trip flight between Lima and Cusco costs around 100-120 USD, while a 15 hours VIP bus ride between Lima and Arequipa costs around 50-60 USD. A short taxi ride of 30 minutes will cost about 3-4 USD in the larger cities.
It is customary to leave a small tip (around 10%) at restaurants, spas, and other such services you would expect to tip for (except in taxis). Peruvians really do not tip at all; however in the more touristy districts a tip is expected. Guides and chauffeurs receive tips and the amount is up to your discretion in how good was the service you received: acted in a professional manner, knowledge of sites and Peru in general for guides, sense of security with guide and chauffeur, etc.
The electrical system in Peru runs on 220 volts and 60 cycles, and for this you might need a transformer, depending on the electric equipment you bring along from your home country. A transformer for 220 volts can easily be bought cheaply in Peru. Plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type that are found in the US, but not in continental Europe, where twin round pin plugs normally are used. If you come from Europe you most likely need a buy a converter for the flat type, even though you at some facilities may find the 2 rounded prongs as well. You can buy a converter cheaply in Peru.
All the nicer restaurants have fine toilet facilities, and usually smaller pubs and bodegas as well, but the standard is very different in smaller places. If you are not a guest at the restaurant, ask for permission to borrow the toilet, which might cost 0.20 dollars, depending on the location. You should remember that if there is a garbage bin by the toilet, you should use the bin to deposit used toilet paper instead of the toilet bowl, which can block the toilet.
Tip: Be sure to always carry a roll of toilet paper when traveling outside of the larger cities, as many bathrooms do not have toilet paper.
Many hotels offer laundry service, which is the easiest solution. It costs a little more to let the hotels do the laundry, but then you do not spend time looking for laundry service around the city. It is, however, possible to find laundries in major cities where they will wash and dry your clothes for about 1.20 – 1.40 US dollars per kg (an average load is about 2-4 kg).
Overall, Peru is a very peaceful country for traveling, but there are some situations to be aware of. Taxis can be dangerous to take on the street. We therefore recommend taking the safe taxis, which we or the hotel can provide. They are slightly more expensive but the money is usually well spent. In larger cities there are sometimes cases of pickpockets anywhere crowds gather. You should always be aware of this and carry your money and valuables in a safe place. Avoid carrying your passport on your person as much as possible. You should also be cautious if you move around on your own in the larger cities, as some neighborhoods may be dangerous, especially at night. Get local information at your hotel or from us when you arrive.
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