Noble Journeys' Travel Tips – What To Expect in Peru
Fast Facts About Peru
- VISA: None required for U.S. citizens
- Area: 512,000 sq. miles
- Capital: Lima
- Population: Approximately 29 million
- Ethnicity: 45% Amerindian, 37% Mestizos, 15% Caucasians, 3% Blacks, Chinese and Japanese
- Religion: 81% Roman Catholic, 12.5% Evangelical
- Government: Democracy
- Major industry: Mining (gold, copper, lead and zinc); fishing; tourism
- Official language: Spanish & Quechua
- Official currency: Nuevo sol
- Border countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador
- Time: 5 hrs. behind GMT
- Electricity: 220 volts AC; most 4 and 5 star hotels have 110 volts AC; plugs either American flat pin or twin flat and round pin combined
- Telephone: Peru country code is +51
There is so much diversity in the geography of the country that each area has different living conditions. From the coastal desert, one of the driest places on earth, to the high Andes, with its cold temperatures and isolated villages, the dense rainforest filled with extraordinary flora and fauna, to the magnificent cities of Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, each different in its own way... every zone has its own rhythm of life. Try to visit each to discover the varied cultures within Peru.
Peru is not a very dangerous place. However, as anywhere in the world, be careful with your belongings. Do not wear or carry valuables. Keep your money in a hidden money belt, with only small amounts in your pocket. Be careful using the ATMs. Always lock your hotel room door. Keep a copy of your passport and credit card in a separate location on your person or in your bag; it's a good idea to give a copy of these to friends or family back home.
From backpacker hostels to 5 star hotels, you can find accommodation to fit your budget. Christmas, Easter, Carnival, local school holidays and independence celebrations at the end of July are busy times; book well in advance.
Do not eat fruits or vegetables unless they have been peeled or cooked. Avoid cooked foods no longer piping hot; cooked foods left at room temperature can be hazardous. Eating food from street vendors is always a potential problem.
Vegetarians are easily pleased here, as there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables. There are differences in the cuisine, depending where you are – in the coastal, highland or tropical areas. Food along the coast is mainly fish and shellfish, the most popular dish is the famed "ceviche"; recommended to be ordered at a good restaurant, not a street vendor, as it is raw fish. Ask for it "sin picante" if you don't want it with hot peppers. Traditionally it is served with corn on the cob, sweet potatoes and yucca. Also delicious in this area is "parihuela", a kind of fish stew, "seco de cabrito" roast baby goat, and "seco de cordero", roast lamb.
Dating back to Inca times, highland foods consist of corn and potatoes; these can be found in many shapes and colors. "Choclo con queso" is the most common corn dish – corn on the cob with cheese. "Causa" is made of potatoes, lemons, pepper, hard-boiled eggs, olives, lettuce and sweet corn. "Lomo saltado" is a kind of stir-fried beef dish with onions, vinegar, ginger, chili, tomatoes and fried potatoes is on almost every menu. Pork and chicken are also served, as is "cuy", guinea pig, considered a delicacy. Soups are also popular.
Fish, from the many rivers, is a main ingredient in tropical meals; turtle soup, roast wild boar and sometimes caiman will be available.
A huge number of dessert options illustrate the Peruvian sweet tooth! The many varieties may contain coconut, corn, pineapple, yucca, dried fruits, sugar and flour. Small pieces of fruit dipped in chocolate, called "tejas" are fabulous! Wonderful fruits can be found – custard apples, quince, papaya, mango, guava, passion fruit, prickly pear, bananas... the list goes on. Try these as juices or ice cream for a real treat.
Bottled water only. Do not take any risks. And use it to brush your teeth. Hard liquor may be found at larger hotels and restaurants in tourist areas. Peruvian beer is good; Cusquena and Arequipena brands are popular. Beer made from maize is quite good and usually home made. "Chicha morada" is a soft drink made from purple maize. The best Peruvian wine comes from the Ica area; look for Tacama and Ocucaje .
Do not bring dollars torn, taped or damaged in any way as they will not be accepted. Check your bills before you leave the U.S. and/or ask your bank for crisp bills. Regarding credit cards, Visa is the most widely accepted. Mastercard, Diners and American Express may also be accepted. Check with vendors to see if, and how much, is the additional percent charged to use a card. It may be cheaper to use an ATM to get cash rather than using a credit card. Ask your credit card company if they charge an additional fee for foreign transactions, which can really add up.
Always keep some cash on you in case banks or change offices are closed. When traveling into the provinces, take plenty of local money (soles) in small denominations to keep life simple; it is often difficult to get change from small vendors and taxis.
Check www.oanda.com for exchange rates.
Generally, hours are 9-6:30 M-F; Saturday 9-1.
Anyone found carrying even a small amount is automatically assumed to be a drug trafficker. Use and/or purchase is punishable up to 15 yrs. in prison. Don't even think about it.
Health & Medical:
Before you go, check with your doctor and/or a travel clinic at least 6 wks. before departure to allow for any vaccinations, etc. which may be required or recommended. Be sure you have travel insurance, have your teeth checked, and, if applicable, wear a Medical Alert bracelet or necklace containing any important information (i.e. diabetes, epilepsy, etc.). Most common diseases you may be exposed to in tropical South America are caused by mosquitoes and sand flies. Bring meds for possible infection, diarrhea and altitude sickness.
Altitude sickness can occur from about 6,000' and higher. Google the symptoms so you are prepared. There is medicine your doctor can prescribe for this. Breathing will be labored until you acclimatize, so move slowly, rest, drink a lot of liquid (NOT caffeine or alcohol). Let your guide or hotel know you are having a problem. Drinking copious amounts of the local coca tea is very helpful. It is NOT addictive.
Pharmacies in Lima and some supermarkets are usually well-supplied, but it's best to bring meds prescribed by your own doctor. In general, private clinics offer better care than public hospitals. Again, your guide and hotel can help find one for you, if needed. Contact your embassy to find out where their employees go for health services.
PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR MEDICAL, EMERGENCY EVACUATION AND TRIP CANCELLATION. Your U.S. insurance may not cover out of country expenses – check before you leave. Medicare does not.
There is a sales tax automatically added to the bill – check to see what the current percentage is, as it can change. Shop hours are 9-12:30 or 1pm and 4-8pm. Some Lima stores are open all day; many are closed on Sunday. Peru is a treasure trove of arts and crafts (artesania); street markets offer pretty much everything, in varying quality. Lima has higher end shops offering best quality alpaca, wool & vicuna items, as well as beautiful jewelry. Handspun and handwoven items in indigenous as well as contemporary designs can be found. Gold and silver, and carved gourds, are classic items, as are interesting ceramics.
There are marvelous markets in Cusco, Chinchero, Pisac and many other towns. Artisans fill their stalls with food, clothing and crafts.
Noble Journeys would be pleased to assist you in planning your trip to this marvelous and unique country.