Peru Travel Tips: 10 Things to Know Before Your First Visit

Peru Travel Tips: 10 Things to Know Before Your First Visit

There are some important things to take note of before your first trip to Peru. You’ll thank me for these travel tips later.

Peru is a country overflowing with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which is why millions of travellers flock to this South American destination every year. But before you book a flight and hop on a plane, there are few things you should be aware of. These can make or break your trip so pay attention…

1. Altitude sickness is not a joke

Image Credit: Matthew Goulding

Many of the cities and top attractions in Peru are located 8,000 feet above sea level. These include Puno, where Lake Titicaca is located, and Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu. So altitude sickness is definitely going to be a major issue – especially if your body isn’t used to extreme elevation.

It takes a while for a person’s body to acclimate to high altitude so take it easy on your first 2–3 days. Don’t overexert yourself by trying to do so much as soon as you arrive. Or else, you might end up feeling nauseous and vomiting! Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. And please, stay away from alcohol and caffeine!

Peruvians believe that coca leaves help ease the symptoms of altitude sickness so it won’t hurt to try chewing or making tea out of them. Just don’t go crazy and bring coca leaves with you when you head home. It’s illegal to bring them into some countries.

Also Read: 13 Things You Must Do in Peru

2. Peruvians have a relaxed attitude towards punctuality

Showing up 30 minutes to an hour late isn’t a big deal in Peru. In fact, it’s the norm! Peruvians even teasingly call this habit, “Peruvian time”.

If you are used to having a fixed and organised schedule, you need to adjust. Be more patient and flexible when you’re there.

3. Stray dogs are everywhere!

You’re sure to encounter a lot of dogs when you walk around the streets of Peru. Just pass by them and you’ll be fine. They don’t usually bother or chase after people.

Rabies isn’t considered a major risk in the country but it’s still advisable to get rabies shots before you go. Also, just to be on the safe side, don’t pet or play with the strays.

4. Peru is a vegetarian/vegan haven

Image Credit: Lablascovegmenu

Vegetarians/vegans usually find it challenging to find acceptable food when they travel. Not in Peru! There are a handful of amazing vegetarian/vegan restaurants in the country. If you can’t find one close to you or your hotel, you can head to a regular meat-serving restaurant. They’ll most likely have a vegetarian/vegan menu.

Highly recommended vegetarian/vegan places include Pacchamama or Raw Cafe in Lima and Green Point or Greens Organic in Cusco.

5. Cash is king!

A lot of markets and street vendors don’t accept credit or debit cards. So it’s better to carry Peruvian nuevo soles around with you when you’re in Peru. Small bills and coins are preferred.

For foreign exchange, most major currencies such as the US dollar, Euro, British pound, Canadian dollar and Japanese yen are accepted by banks and money changers but they have to be in pristine condition – no wears, tears or marks.

If you need to use an ATM to withdraw money, head over to Banco de Crédito del Perú (BCP), the country’s largest local bank. Their ATMs are usually located inside the bank’s premises with a security guard close by so the chances of you falling victim to phishing are slimmer than other bank’s.

If you don’t mind approaching money changers – those wearing light yellow vests – on busy streets, count your cash before leaving and ensure that you weren’t handed counterfeit bills.

6. Knowing how to count in Spanish is a must!

Haggling is expected in markets and street stalls. If you are given a price, counter with half and slowly work up from there. Expect to pay 60-70% of the original price.

It will be easier for you to get a good deal – and you won’t seem like a naïve foreigner – if you can negotiate in Spanish. Brush up on the basics before your trip. Repeat after me: Uno, dos, tres, cuatro..

7. Plumbing is reserved for human waste only

Never, ever throw toilet paper in toilet bowls. There are always trash bins next to the toilet so that’s where it should go.

You’ll have a difficult time flushing – not to mention, you might end up clogging the toilet – if you ignore this rule. Gross!

8. Layering is key!

The weather in Peru can be unpredictable. It could be sunny one minute then rainy the next. You need to be prepared.

Wear light, cotton clothing but bring a jacket in case you encounter abrupt weather changes. Also, don’t forget to regularly apply sunscreen, even when the sun seems to be hiding. The UV rays are intense in Peru. You don’t want to walk around with a sunburn, do you?

9. Petty crime is common

Since there are a number of unsuspecting travellers in Peru, opportunistic crime is prevalent. From pickpockets to fake taxis, wherever you go, you should always be on guard.

Never leave your stuff unattended. Don’t flash expensive jewellery, gadgets or wads of cash either.

As for taxis, officially licensed ones have signs with advertisements and phone numbers on display. Always ask for the fare and haggle before you get in.

Also Read: Moray Inca Ruins: An Ancient Engineering Mystery In Peru

10. Photos aren’t free

Image Credit: Geraint Rowland

You will spot locals carrying baby alpacas or towing llamas even in city centres. Such an unusual sight will make you want to reach for your camera and snap a picture. But before you do, have your tip ready. They’ll surely ask you for that. 1 Peruvian nuevo sol per person is enough.

My intention with this guide isn’t to overwhelm or frighten you. Don’t get me wrong. Peru holds a special place in my heart. I strongly encourage people to visit. The rich culture and breathtaking scenery will change your life forever!

But just like any other country, everything won’t be sunshine and rainbows. You’ll face unpleasant realities as well. Having travelled to this country recently, I just want you to be aware and prepared for them so your unforgettable experiences and take-home stories will be nothing but wonderful.

About Author

Catherine Mirasol

A trader in the world of corporate finance but also a frustrated writer and photographer, Catherine admits to being a walking contradiction. Although born and raised in the Central Business District of the Philippines, this girl actually prefers searching for adventures in remote destinations than urban jungles. Follow her quest to become a "World Traveller" on The Wandercat.


Related Posts