Travel Tips & Useful Info

Man with llama in front of Machu Picchu - Peru Tours - South America Tours - On The Go Tours

Planning a trip to Peru and want to know what to expect? Curious to know a bit about the cuisine and what wonderful souvenirs you can buy loved ones back home? Look no further than our handy travel tips covering everything from health advice to WiFi and a whole lot more.

What vaccinations do I need for Peru?

You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Peru and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide tetanus, diphtheria, polio, typhoid, hepatitis A are recommended.

Do I need anti-malaria tablets for Peru?

There is the risk of malaria in certain areas of Peru, most notably the Amazon jungle, so it is very important to check with your health practitioner before you go to see whether malarial medication is required for the areas you are visiting. As a guide, there is a high risk of malaria around Iquitos and a variable risk around Puerto Maldonado. As with any destination where malaria is present, take precautions against mosquito bites by wearing light coloured clothes that cover your arms and legs and apply a DEET-based insect repellent. For more information on the malaria risk in Peru visit the NHS Fit to Travel page or the CDC Traveler's Health page. A Yellow Fever vaccination may also be required, especially if visiting the jungle.

Altitude sickness in Peru

Altitude can affect anyone at moderate to high altitude (generally anything over 3,000 metres). Altitude sickness is caused by the lack of oxygen which can be up to a third less than at sea level. No one understands why some people are affected and others not, and age, level of fitness and strength is no indication of how well you will fare. With altitudes of up to 4,200 metres on the Inca Trail and 4,600 metres on the Lares Trek, it is imperative that you speak with your doctor prior to departure as drugs are available to combat the effects of altitude sickness and may be recommended. Whether you decide to take altitude sickness medication or not, make sure you allow a few day's of acclimatisation before the trek with minimal physical activity and plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Be aware that you may experience altitude sickness in Cuzco, which sits at an elevation of 3,399 metres.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Peru?

The tap water in Peru is not safe to drink and can cause stomach upsets, so only drink bottled water and it's wise to avoid ice cubes in drinks. Make sure the bottle is sealed before purchasing and avoid buying from street vendors as often the bottles sit in the sun, which causes harmful compounds to leak out of the plastic and into the water.

Tuna and salmon ceviche - On The Go Tours
A beautifully presented dish of tuna and salmon ceviche

Safe eating while travelling in Peru

The main cities in Peru have an excellent reputation as culinary hot spots so you'll find plenty of options when it comes to dining out with hygiene standards high. In the countryside standards will be lower so make sure any cooked food is piping hot and if the place looks dirty then find somewhere else to eat. Street food can be a health hazard so it's best to stick to restaurants though if you can't resist the appeal of a quick roadside bite, make sure the food looks fresh, especially seafood. Food markets are a cheap place to eat with long-serving vendors offering up all sorts of dishes and these shouldn't cause you any issues if you stick to the most popular where turnover is high and food doesn't have time to ruin.

What's the food like in Peru?

Peruvian cuisine combines indigenous traditions with influences brought over by immigrant populations, which results in a surprising variety that utilises the bounties of the country's highlands, tropical rainforests and ocean. Staples include corn, potatoes (there are over 2,000 varieties in Peru), legumes and quinoa, a 'supergrain' that has taken the health food world by storm across the globe. The Spanish brought with them rice, wheat, beef, pork and chicken, which now also form a fundamental part of Peruvian cuisine.

Native meats popular with Peruvians include alpaca, noted for its low cholesterol and high protein content, and cuy, or guinea pig in English, which is typically roasted and served whole. With over 2,400 kilometres of coastline, seafood is a speciality along the coast with ceviche one of Peru's most famous culinary exports. Raw fish is cured with lime juice and marinated with onions, chillies and coriander to form a tangy and delicate textured dish that sushi-lovers will no doubt enjoy.

Meat generally accompanies the main meal in Peru so meat-free options may be limited in traditional Peruvian eateries though restaurants catering to tourists usually have a vegetarian section that will include local classics such as papas a la Huancaina - cold potatoes served with a cheese sauce spiced with chillies - and palta rellena - avocados stuffed with onion, tomato and mayonnaise alongside quinoa vegetable soup and international dishes devoid of meat. Vegetarians will find plenty of options in Cuzco especially.

There's a good selection of beverages in Peru with delicious native drinks including chicha morada, made from purple maize spiced with clove, cinnamon, sugar and pineapple, and the cultural icon that is Inca Kola, a lemongrass-flavoured soda that is luminous yellow in colour and beats Coca Cola in sales. Those looking for something stronger need look no further than the ubiquitous Pisco sour, an alcoholic cocktail made from the country's national liquor along with egg whites, syrup, bitters and ice. Beer is also popular in Peru with Cuzqueña one of the most popular local brands.

Is it standard to tip in Peru?

Tipping has become a standard part of the service industry in Peru. In budget or mid-range restaurants it's customary to leave a 10% tip while in more upmarket establishments found in the larger cities a service charge of at least this may be automatically applied to the bill.

Local guides do expect a tip though it's not obligatory and should only be given for a job well done. The standard amount is 20 soles per person for a full day tour and 10 soles for a half day tour. For drivers a tip of 5-10 soles is reasonable. Tips for the guide, porters and cook on the Inca Trail and Lares Trek are not included in the tour price and you should budget for at least 100 soles per person to be divided between the team with usually 50% of that amount given to the guide and the other 50% shared between the cook and porters as you deem fit.

Items on sale at Pisac market - On The Go Tours
Colourful textiles and other goods on sale at Pisac market

How to bargain in Peru

In markets bargaining is expected and it's advisable to go in with a figure around half of what you're first quoted, especially in the popular tourist spots where prices are usually inflated. Bargaining over prices should be a polite, friendly exchange until you reach an agreeable figure that you're happy to pay and the vendor is happy to accept. You'll also need to negotiate taxi fares as you'll rarely find meters in the vehicles.

What to shop for in Peru

Peru is a shopper's paradise with plenty of options for quality souvenirs. Top of the list is alpaca wool, which you can buy in the form of jumpers, scarves, gloves, hats (including the popular chullo Andean hat with the distinctive ear flaps) and blankets. Quality does vary with baby alpaca the softest and most expensive wool, and sometimes you may end up inadvertently buying a mix of alpaca, wool and acrylic at some of the markets so if you want to be assured of the quality, try the boutique stores that are prevalent in Cuzco. Alpaca goods are sold across Peru though the markets in the Sacred Valley have the most choice when it comes to patterns and colour.

The weavers of Taquile Island and their long-held traditions have been proclaimed "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO and as such, Peru is an excellent place to shop for textiles ranging from scarves to belts, tapestries to bags designed with traditional emblems and patterns.

As one of the world's largest producers of silver, Peru is also a great bet for jewellery with traditional Andean elements featuring in designs for something different to what you'd find back home. Again, quality does vary and prices therefore vary accordingly and you should stick to the official-looking stores in Cuzco and Lima for the best quality pieces.

Travelling in Peru as a solo woman

Travelling in Peru as a solo female does not pose any more difficulty than what you'd expect when travelling elsewhere. As a largely macho and male-dominated society, you may find yourself receiving unwanted catcalls on the city streets but no more so than you would back home. This is especially true of blonde, pale-skinned women that look so different to Peruvian women. As with anywhere in the world, avoid walking in unlit, quiet backstreets at night in the cities and travel with a Quechua-speaking guide when visiting remote Andean villages where strangers are looked upon with distrust.

As a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, Peruvians do not reveal much flesh with large, ankle-length skirts and long-sleeve tops favoured by the women of the Andes. Even in the cities, most women dress conservatively though in the more affluent areas of Lima this is changing. However, to avoid causing offence or inviting any unwanted attention, stick to a minimum of knee-length shorts and skirts, and keep your shoulders and chest covered.

Peruvian mum and dad - Peru - South America
Andean woman holding her smiling baby

Is Peru a suitable family holiday destination?

Peru can make a highly adventurous choice of destination for a family holiday with plenty to keep the entire clan occupied, from the fascinating history of the Inca ruins to the colourful living traditions of the indigenous population. There's also no end to the outdoor activities available whether it's going on nature walks in the Amazon Rainforest or taking a 4x4 to the Huacachina oasis. It's a destination that's possibly best suited for kids aged seven and upwards who are old enough to understand tales of kings and foreign invaders, appreciate the talent of local artisans and enjoy a physical challenge.

Children will likely enjoy the food in Peru with many dishes bearing some resemblance to what they'll find back home with meat, rice and fries a typical feature on the menu. It's important to consult your doctor before travelling to Peru with children, especially if visiting the Amazon and high altitudes where medication may be required.

Our group tours to Peru are open to children aged 16 years and older though we can organise customised tours for those families travelling with children of a younger age. Contact our tailor-made team for more information.

What is the duty free allowance for Peru?

You are permitted to bring the following into Peru:

  • 20 packs of cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
  • 3L of alcoholic beverages
  • Gifts or new articles for personal use up to a value of US$500

Changing money in Peru

The currency in Peru is the Nuevo Sol, which comes in denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10 Sol banknotes. US Dollars are also often accepted in tourist areas. Check OANDA for the latest exchange rates.

ATMs can be found in all towns and cities in Peru. Most major credit cards are accepted, although it's not usually possible to use credit and debit cards for purchases outside of tourist areas so a combination of cash and cards is always best. Please be aware that ATMs in Peru do not always automatically release your card with your cash and sometimes you have to push a button for your card to be returned.

Although all major currencies can be exchanged locally, US Dollars are best. It's advisable to request bank notes in smaller denominations, as it can sometimes be hard to get change from larger notes. Traveller's Cheques are not recommended as they're often difficult to exchange and incur high fees.

What do things cost in Peru?

Peru is not one of the cheapest destinations in the world but your money will still get you quite far. A meal at a mid-range restaurant with a soft drink will set you back around USD $8-10 per person while the prices at fancier restaurants will be somewhere closer to USD $30-40 per person. A bottle of water should be little more than a dollar while local beer is around $2 a bottle.

When travelling on a group tour, which includes your accommodation, sightseeing, breakfast and transportation, we recommend budgeting between USD $25-40 per person per day to cover additional meals, snacks, drinks, souvenir and odd purchases.

What sort of plugs do I need for Peru and what is the voltage?

The voltage in Peru is 220V and sockets are a mixture of the European, two-pronged round variety and US flat-pin. We recommend that you pack a universal travel adaptor that will allow you to use a hairdryer, electric shaver, charge a mobile phone or other electrical items. You will also need a voltage converter if you're using appliances from the US.

Is WiFi widely available in Peru?

You'll be able to get online in Peru fairly regularly though the connection speeds and strength of signal can be an issue. In general more upmarket restaurants and cafes catering to travellers will offer free WiFi though you'll need a password, and most hotels have WiFi in the common areas at least - the better the standard of hotel, the more likely you'll be able to get WiFi in your guestroom.

What time zone is Peru on?

Peru is 5 hours behind GMT and does not observe Daylight Saving.

Typical tourist bus in Peru - On The Go Tours
The large reclining seats typical of a tourist bus in Peru

What is bus travel like in Peru?

Travelling by bus is one of the cheapest modes of transport in Peru and with a comprehensive network served by comfortable vehicles, it's also a favoured way of getting about by many travellers. Numerous companies operate tourist buses with large, reclining seats that have proper footrests and plenty of space. There's usually the added bonus of drink holders and blankets are generally provided for overnight journeys. These tourist buses also have air-conditioning and heating and even onboard toilets designed for urinary use only. Depending on the company and the route, snacks or a small meal may also be included in the cost of the ticket.

Further reading for planning your trip to Peru

To make the most of your time in Peru check out more of our useful resources:

Best Time to Visit - what to expect of the weather and when to go
Best Places to Visit - what to see in Peru and where to go
Tourist Visas - what you need in order to enter the country
Visiting Machu Picchu - our guide to the top ruins and how to get there
Trekking the Inca Trail - obtaining a permit and what to expect
Inca Trail Packing List - all the essentials you need for a comfortable trek

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