Noble Journeys' Peru Travel Tips
Not generally required for stays up to 90 days.
Yours must be valid for at least 6 months after your entry date in Peru.
General health precautions:
Check with your doctor and/or a travel clinic to find out what, if any, vaccinations you'll need, depending on where you are traveling. Have a thorough physical and dental check up before you leave the U.S. Allow 6-8 weeks prior to departure to have any vaccinations your doctor may recommend.
In your carry-on, put all prescription drugs in original containers. Carry a list of your prescriptions, including their generic names; have a dental check up before you leave your hometown; bring an extra set of reading glasses; if you have a chronic disease, have your doctor provide you with a letter on his/her letterhead explaining what the condition is and how it is being treated – just in case you need medical help while traveling. Be prepared.
Watchfulness and simple common sense recommended, as anywhere in the world. Lock your hotel room; place valuables in room or hotel safe; carry copies of your passport, driver's license, insurance cards and credit cards separate from your handbag; don't pull out a wallet full of cash in public – keep some bills and change in your pocket and the rest in a money belt you open in a private area. Don't bring or wear valuable jewelry or watches.
Always err on the side of conservative. Tight, low-cut clothing or very short shorts or skirts are not appropriate, even though you may see some Europeans dressed in this manner. No head cover is required in churches.
Delicious food is available everywhere, but at the markets, only eat hot food cooked in front of you, and do not eat raw fruits or vegetables you haven't washed (with bottled water) and cut up yourself. Salads are safe in good restaurants and hotels. Vegetarians will have a good array of fruits and vegetables from which to choose, as well as fish and eggs, if so inclined.
Peru is a foodie's paradise! "Fusion" has been part of everyday cooking since the Spanish came and then the influx of Asians at the end of the 19th century. Gaston Acurio is an internationally acclaimed chef who has restaurants in Lima as well as other cities. Don't miss his "Astrid y Gaston" restaurant, in Lima, where the Peruvian food "revolution" began, the style known as novoandina.
Herbal tea is quite popular, and homemade chicha, corn beer, can be found in the highlands. Chicha morada is a purple corn non-alcoholic drink. The famous Pisco Sour is made from brandy produced in the coastal area of Pisco.
Always drink bottled water, available from local shops or the bar in your hotel. Use it also to brush your teeth. Filtered water is used in ice cubes in better hotels and restaurants, but beware of asking for ice in sidewalk cafes, as you risk a stomach upset or worse.
Carry any prescription meds in your carry-on case, in their original containers, and bring along enough for your trip plus a couple of days, in case of delay. Take along a list of your meds in case of emergency, using the generic names in case your brand isn't available. Your guide will help you. Pharmacies (farmacias or boticas) are identified with a red or green cross on the building. Do bring sunscreen and insect repellent.
There are good clinics and hospitals in Lima – ask your guide and/or hotel for assistance. You can also go to the US Embassy website for information. Cusco will have a good clinic, but the further you go from Lima, the more problematic it will be finding assistance. Rural areas will not have good facilities. Before leaving the U.S., be sure you have insurance covering medical and emergency evacuation. Payment will be expected in cash, no matter what kind of insurance you have.
Usually can strike from 6,000' and higher, especially when ascending rapidly. Cuzco is at 11,500', Machu Picchu 8,500' so be aware of symptoms (dizziness, headache, upset stomach, vomiting); talk to your doctor before departure and get medicine to take with you. Once you are at altitude, walk more slowly, do not drink caffeine or alcohol or eat heavy meals until you are acclimatized (could take a couple of days). Being physically fit does not rule out succumbing to this serious malady. Drinking copious amounts of the local coca tea helps; it isn't addictive. Many hotels have oxygen available but if you don't improve within 24 hrs., get to a lower altitude immediately, and see a doctor. Take this seriously, as it can be life-threatening. Inform yourself.
The Nuevo Sol, or "sol" is the currency, indicated with a number as S (i.e. S100). 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 vendor 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.
Be sure to bring some U.S. dollars – but no bills that are torn, stained, etc. as they will not be accepted. It will be easier to change small denominations. ATMs are readily available – but talk to your debit card company to be sure you have a pin number or your card may not work. Dollars are accepted in many hotels, but you'll need local currency (Sol) to pay for meals, shopping, etc. When you get local currency, ask for small bills. Carry change, as public bathrooms often charge a small fee.
Visa and MasterCard most widely accepted. Before leaving home, tell your bank where you'll be traveling and that you'll be using your card. Some shops may charge a fee for you to pay by card. Your card company may also charge you a foreign transaction fee. Inform yourself.
It is a poor country and foreigners are seen as rich. 10% is suitable for good service in a restaurant. It is greatly appreciated, as salaries are low, especially in the poorer regions. Taxis don't expect tips (for short trips); porters about $1 per bag and tour guides (if one or 2 people, $5 pp per half day), local currency.
International departure taxes can be paid in U.S. dollars or Sols, cash only. Higher end hotels and restaurants may add 19% sales tax and 10% service charge, usually not included in quoted rate. Ask!
Alpaca, wool and vicuna knits are excellent. Handmade textiles are exceptional here – rugs, ponchos and blankets. Beautiful gold and silver jewelry, and ceramics based on ancient designs are popular. Buy locally, from the weavers or coops, to ensure you aren't getting a "made in China" article.
Speaking a little Spanish is very helpful in negotiating. Be aware that most handicrafts are hand made and the few cents you save yourself can buy bread or fruit for the artisan, so keep it all in perspective. The key is not to engage in the practice if you are really not interested. You can ask a price just to get an idea, but once you engage in offering a lower price, the game is on. Always be patient, do not be angry, and counter with a lower price – only if you are really interested in purchasing and feel the price is too high. Do not bargain just to see how low a price you can get and then walk away, as that is a great insult. You may of course say "no thanks, I am not interested" and end it there. Be aware that this may encourage the shopkeeper to lower the price! And be aware that no one will sell anything if there is not some profit to be made.
Travel, medical and emergency evacuation insurance is essential, especially when traveling in rural areas. Purchase a policy covering the entire cost of your trip (land and air) and ask about pre-existing conditions. Noble Journeys recommends, but is not responsible for, policies through Travel Insured Interntional at www.travelinsured.com or (800) 243-3174. Should you choose this company, please give our agency #46716.
You are visiting cultures quite different from your own. Do some research and find appropriate greetings and thank yous. Try to understand local culture and customs – the Lonely Planet guidebooks have good information. Use trash containers for any unwanted paper, wrappers, etc. Ask your hotel if they follow a "green" procedure with sheets and towels.
I will be posting more tips in the future, but do consider Peru travel with Noble Journeys. Be sure to read our What to Expect article. More articles will be forthcoming – be sure to check back.
Joan Noble, Director