Peru Travel Guide: Everything to plan your trip
Peru Travel Guide
Thinking of going to Peru soon? Well, this is the perfect place to start! This is a complete Peru Travel Guide which includes vital information for traveling to Peru. But besides what you need to know, this Peru Travel Guide also aims to inspire anyone to book that trip to Peru by highlighting some of the best places to go and things to do!
Peru is an amazing country to travel as it literally has everything any traveler could want all in one country! What do I mean by this? Well, there are some hikes up into the mountains at over 6,000m above sea level, incredible surfing beaches, one of the largest cities in Latin America, incredible history with Inca ruins everywhere, and last but not least, the unique culture.
That all being said, the great diversity of Peru does not come easily. Peru is a large country which can make it rather difficult to get around. Besides the windy, mountainous roads, it is hard to know which places are the best visit if you have limited time. And on top of all of that, each city in Peru differs so much from the next in terms of culture and travel basics such as ATM’s – that is why a Peru Travel Guide is so essential!
This Peru Travel Guide will help get you well equipped for a trip in Peru, no matter if you are traveling the entire country or just focusing on one area.
Topics included in this Peru Travel Guide are:
- Visa and entry requirements
- Currency & ATMs
- The Weather
- Dangers and Safety
- What things cost
- Daily budgets
- Best places to visit
- Best things to do
Visa’s and Entry Requirements
The first topic for this Peru Travel Guide just has to be the entry requirements!
For most nationalities, a visa is not required for entry into Peru. Only some countries in Asia and Africa (and a select few in Central America and the Caribbean) require a tourist visa which must be applied for in advance at your home Peru Embassy. If you aren’t sure if you need a visa or not, it is best to check on your country’s own government travel website for the latest rules.
If you don’t need a tourist visa (most nationalities don’t) you will get a stamp in your passport upon arrival. Just be sure that your passport does not expire in the next 6 months.
Once crossing the border the immigration officer will grant you a certain number of days to stay in the country and it will be written on your passport along with the stamp. They usually grant 60 days to start off with, but there have been tales of people getting more days just by asking and others being granted only 30.
The problem with Peru immigration is the lack of concrete information available online and in person. But for this reason, Peruvian immigrations seems very lenient.
When we entered Peru, we were granted 60 days each and we overstayed instead of trying to extend. We overstayed a total of ten days. The overstay fee was $1 USD per day and was paid at the border when we left. There was no fuss or problem at all.
Currency and ATM’s
Currency – In Peru, the national currency is the soles. Currently (April 2018), 1 USD buys 3.23 soles. However, this is not the exchange rate you will get by paying in USD or exchanging money in Peru, expect to lose a lot to their favorable conversion rate.
In Peru the best currency to pay with is soles. Although some travel agencies and hotels will take USD’s (mostly in touristic places like Cusco), soles are more widely accepted and like I said, will prevent you from paying a terrible exchange rate.
Card vs. Cash – Cash is also the best way to pay in Peru. Sometimes hotels or travel agencies will have machines to take debit or credit card but there will always be a surcharge.
ATM’s – In Peru it is best to withdraw cash from the ATM’s as needed.
There are many reliable ATM’s in Peru but the best one is called Banco de la Nacion as it does not charge any fees (though your home bank will almost always charge a fee but it is better than being charged twice!) Banco de la Nacion only allows 400 soles to be withdrawn per day. There where some occasions where I could withdraw twice by using a different ATM in a different area.
Other ATM’s will have a much higher withdrawal limit but can charge up to 25 soles per transaction.
*Peru Travel Guide Hot Tip – look into your bank charges for international withdrawals before you leave home! If you have more than one account you may find one significantly cheaper than the other!
Weather in Peru
No Peru Travel Guide would be complete without a thorough section on the weather!
The weather in Peru varies depending on the region. In Peru, there are various altitudes. For example, the Amazon is always hot, and up in the Andes it is always cold. That being said, there are ideal times to travel each region.
Mountains in northern Peru – This region includes the town of Huaraz where many famous hikes are located. The best time of year here is May to September.
Cusco and Machu Picchu – The dry season is the best from May to September. During the rainy months, the Inca Trail even closes for maintenance!
The Amazon – Any time of year! While it may not sound ideal to visit the Amazon in the wet season, the rain brings a whole new range of animals to check out and the rivers are full of life.
Northern Coast – The biggest draw to the northern coastline of Peru is surfing. The surf is known to be best in the spring and summer from about September to February.
Lima and the central coast – The winter months can be quite chilly for hanging out at the beach as the winter gets very windy and the ocean water temperature cools to around 10 degrees Celcius in Lima! Also during winter, the cold ocean waters cause low cloud to blanket the city and surrounding area.
Dangers and Safety
Peru is a relatively safe country. The main concerns are money scams with travel agencies or money exchangers.
As a general rule Peruvians are not violent people. However, we had been warned on a couple of occasions to be careful with taxi drivers in Peru. There have been incidents where taxi drivers kidnap their customers and make them withdraw all their money out of an ATM. Nobody is ever harmed but they do lose a lot of money and it could be a traumatic experience.
The best way to avoid this is to only take registered taxies and travel in groups. Another good option is to use Uber instead where the driver is registered and you can be tracked via GPS with your phone. Uber is not available everywhere in Peru but it is in large cities is and well worth using.
It is also a good idea not to bring valuables out with you, especially at night, and be wary of pickpockets. Buses are also a very common place for discreet robberies to take place out of carry-on baggage.
On another note, an equally big safety concern in Peru is altitude sickness which can be very serious for some people. Cusco sits at over 3,000m above sea level and at that altitude alone people can experience some symptoms. Altitude sickness pills are very helpful and can be purchased at any pharmacy over the counter in Peru.
What things cost in Peru
A Peru Travel Guide (or any travel guide for that matter) just couldn’t be complete without telling you how much things cost! Here are some of the biggest things to budget for in Peru and what they cost.
Accommodation costs in Peru vary greatly. There are hotels which cost hundreds of dollars a night and dorm rooms for $8 USD a night.
A decent hostel room will go for about $12 USD. Expect to pay $30-$40 USD for a basic private room.
Accommodation costs also vary from city to city, For example, in Huaraz, we stayed at an awesome hostel for $8 USD a night, and in Lima, we paid $15 for a very average hosel. The best way to know exactly how much it’ll cost where you are going is to search on booking.com.
Food is very cheap in Peru if you eat what the locals do. If you need your “western delicacies” such as pizza or a burger expect to pay more. It is very easy to get a local meal of meat or chicken, rice or potatoes, veggies or salad, and a juice for less than 6 soles ($2 USD.)
A pizza goes for around 25-40 soles and a meal at a western fast food joint will be well over 30 soles. A great tip for when you are craving fast food is to skip the iconic McDonald’s and KFC and check out the local place, Bambos is a great fast food franchise in Peru and is about half of the price of the international alternatives.
Getting from city to city is easy in Peru by bus or plane. Flying is much more expensive but buses can take forever. The roads in certain areas of Peru are very windy and bumpy. But there are very comfortable buses available to make the long journey bearable. Usually, the VIP or first class buses are only a few dollars more than the lower grade buses and it is well worth the upgrade – believe me! Cleanliness, bathrooms, space, and a layback chair which allows you to sleep is well worth the extra money.
The best way to book buses or at least compare prices is on the website Red Bus Peru. Here, you can search and get an idea of how long it is from place to place and the different types of buses available.
We never took local transport in Peru. From what we heard, it was unreliable and not always safe. To get around within a city we would always walk if possible, and if too far we would take an Uber. Some smaller cities don’t offer Uber so taxis are the only option.
Tours are very reasonable in Peru. We were able to do the 5-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu for $200 USD including a guide, porters, food, transport, and the Machu Picchu entrance fees.
We paid only $20 USD for a day trip to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco and $14 USD for a day trip to Laguna 69 from Huaraz. A half-trip on a boat from Lima to see the penguins and swim with the sea lions only costs $50 USD.
Tours in Peru were really good value! Just don’t forget to tip as the guides often do not make much for wages due to the low tour prices.
Daily Budgets in Peru
A low budget in Peru would be between $15-$25 USD a day. This is staying in the very cheapest dorm rooms, eating street food or cooking for oneself, and not drinking much. This budget would allow for only a select few cheap tours.
A medium range budget would be $30-$45 USD a day. This would allow for staying in budget private rooms or nicer dorms, eating out in restaurants occasionally, going on a few tours, and going out for drinks from time to time.
Over $60 USD would be a high budget in Peru and allow you to live in luxury! Things in Peru are not very expensive so with this budget one should be able to eat anything, stay at decently nice places, and go on many tours.
Best places to visit in Peru
There are so many places to visit in Peru that I just simply couldn’t list them all in this Peru Travel Guide. However, I have narrowed some of the most common and my personal favorite!
Cusco is most famously known for the starting point for any journey to Machu Picchu, but as a city itself, it is actually really cool. There are ruins within the city, in fact, Starbucks is located with the walls of Inca ruins! There is so much to do in and around Cusco, so much more than just Machu Picchu.
Arequipa is the largest city in the South of Peru. The city was built using Silllar which is actually white volcanic rock. This gave Arequipa the nickname “White City” or “Ciudad de Blanco”. The center square is simply stunning and the surrounding streets are charming. From Arequipa, it is possible to hike the Colca Canyon (the deepest canyon in the world) or one of the many nearby volcanos.
Puerto Maldonado is rather unknown to many who visit Peru, However, it is one of the best places to see the Amazon. Due to its remote location, you don’t need to venture out far to see amazing wildlife! From the edge of town, you are only an hour away from all the action. Also near the town is something called the “Clay Lick”, a natural phenomenon where Macaws, Parrots, and Parakeets come to nibble the nutrients from a clay wall.
Mancora is a northern beach town located near the border of Ecuador. The town is very laid back and perfect for spending days relaxing at the beach. For those who surf, visiting Mancora in Spring and Summer is a must as conditions are optimal. Near the town of Mancora at a small fishing village lives a colony of Sea turtles and it is possible to swim with them right from the shore!
Lima is the capital of Peru and nearly a third of the population resides there. The city is filled with amazing museums, great surf, and a vibrant nightlife! One thing many travelers aren’t aware of though is the fact that the islands near Lima are home to over 10,000 Sea Lions. This colony has no predators so you can actually swim with them on an organized tour!
Located high in the Andes Mountain range, Huaraz is one of my favorite places in Peru. Huaraz is the gateway to the Cordillera Blanca (a small section of the Andes). The Cordillera Blanca offers some of the most amazing hikes in the world including Laguna 69, the Santa Cruz trek and the Huayhuash. The town is located at 3,400m in elevation and is surrounded by white mountain peaks. Huaraz is a must for any hiking enthusiast!
Best things to do in Peru
Just like the places to visit, the things to do in Peru are endless and can’t be covered in this Peru Travel Guide – but here are a few highlights!
Hike Rainbow Mountain
As the name implies, Rainbow Mountain is a rainbow colored mountain peak. Located at over 5,000m above sea level, Rainbow Mountain is a spectacular sight to see. Tours run daily from Cusco, just be prepared for a little altitude sickness!
Swim with Turtles
In Mancora one of the most popular things to do among tourists (besides surf) is swimming with the sea turtles. These turtles have learned the time of day in which tours go out on the ocean and come to the boat in packs. Then, you are given the opportunity to jump in the water with the turtles! They are massive sea turtles and it is a pretty cool experience.
Hike around Huaraz
Huaraz often gets skipped by travelers due to its remoteness, but it’s that remoteness that makes the place so amazing. Huaraz is nestled smack dab in the middle of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Some of the most amazing hikes are around Huaraz with truly fantastic mountain views!
Hiking in the Colca Canyon
Only a few hours from Arequipa, the Colca Canyon is a great place the get out of the city and explore. The Colca Canon is one of the best places the see Condors up close. The viewing deck in the canyon is visited every morning by several Condors as they search for food. The canyon is also home to natural hot springs and some spectacular views. Both camping and accommodation are available along the hiking trails (day trips are also possible!)
Explore the Amazon Rainforest
Peru is home to the most biodiverse parts of the Amazon Rainforest. In fact, Peru has the largest amount of bird species in the world! For this reason, it is one of the best places to visit the Amazon. There are three main places to see the Amazon in Peru and they are Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, and Cusco (Manu National Park).
And of course, no Peru Travel Guide would be complete without a section on Machu Picchu! Although, in my opinion, one of the things that make Machu Picchu so special is the hike to get there! There are many different hiking options including the Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek, to get to the top. These are a great way to see the way the Inca’s hiked way back in the day!
Swim with Sea Lions
Many people do not know that there is an island only 40mins by boat off of the coast of Lima in which over 10,000 sea lions live. There are tours that take you out to the island, while you aren’t allowed on the island, you can jump in the water off the boats 50 m or so away and sea lions will come see you! These creatures are playful and curious and just want to know what you’re up to! A wild experience that many don’t know is so close to such a big city.
And that wraps up my Peru Travel Guide!
Peru is an incredible country that I would encourage everyone to visit! I hope this Peru Travel guide has made the idea of visiting Peru sound more realistic and more enticing at the same time!
Have you been to Peru before? Is there something I am missing? Tell me in the comments and I might just have to add it to this Peru Travel Guide!