Peru

 

Peru is a country in South America, situated on the western side of that continent, facing the South Pacific Ocean and straddling part of the Andes mountain range that runs the length of South America. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Peru is a country that has a diversity and wealth little common in the world. The main attractions are their archaeological patrimony of... Read more...

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Introduction

Peru is a country in South America, situated on the western side of that continent, facing the South Pacific Ocean and straddling part of the Andes mountain range that runs the length of South America. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Peru is a country that has a diversity and wealth little common in the world. The main attractions are their archaeological patrimony of pre-Columbian cultures and the center of Inca's Empire, their gastronomy, their colonial architecture (has imposing colonial constructions) and their natural resources (a paradise for the ecological tourism).



Although Peru has rich natural resources and many great places to visit, many of the people live in poor conditions. 39% of the population live under the poverty line. The rich, consisting mostly of a Hispanic elite, live in the cities. Nevertheless, most Peruvians are great nationalists and love their country with pride (largely stemming from Peru's history as the center of both the Inca Empire and Spain's South American Empire). Also, many Peruvians separate the state of Peru and its government in their minds. Some of them distrust their government and police, and people are used to fighting corruption and embezzlement scandals, as in many countries.



The Peruvian economy is healthy and quite strong, however, still some Peruvians see their economy as stuck in a rut. It is indebted and dependent on industrial nations, especially the United States. This dependence, combined with US foreign policy decisions in recent years has contributed to a widely held negative view about the United States government in Peru, but not against individual US citizens.



The word gringo, is used commonly, but is not generally intended as offensive. The original meaning encompassed all white-skinned people who do not speak Spanish. Many people use the word gringo exclusively for Americans or American look-alikes. It's not uncommon for blonde people to be called gringo. Peruvians do not hesitate to greet you with "¡Hola, gringo!".



Peruvians are known for being creative and also hard-working people. Most Peruvians are very busy working to earn their keep and some others to survive. That does not leave much time for travel. Many have not seen more than the surrounding villages or cities. Very few ever leave the country, although many have relatives living abroad. This may explain why Peruvians tend to be quite curious about other countries and lifestyles.



Generally, people are very friendly, peaceful and helpful. When in trouble, you mostly can rely on getting help. But as with any setting, it is always good to watch out for yourself and try to avoid bad situations. If you get into an argument, it is a good idea to remain amicable, but firm. Most of the time, you can find a compromise that satisfies everyone.



Peru is not exactly a haven for efficiency. Do not expect things to be on time, or exactly as they intend to be. Outside of the more upscale tourist services and big cities like Lima, English is uncommon and the people, trying to be friendly, can give wrong or inexact advice, a translator can always be helpful in this cases. Plan ahead and leave plenty of time for traveling. There are many interruptions of service due to protests. Even air service is disrupted due to weather or unexpected circumstances, so arm yourself with patience.


Country parts

Central Coast (Peru) Central Coast - Lima
Southern Coast (Peru) Southern Coast - Chincha , Pisco , Ica , Nazca and Tacna
Northern Coast (Peru) Northern Coast - Trujillo (Peru) Trujillo , Chiclayo , Piura , Tumbes and Chimbote
Southern Sierra (Peru) Southern Sierra - Huancayo , Ayacucho , Arequipa , Colca Canyon , Cuzco Cusco/Qosqo and Machu Picchu
Center Sierra (Peru) Center Sierra - Pasco (Peru) Pasco , Cerro de Pasco (Peru) Cerro de Pasco , Huayllay National Sanctuary
Cordillera Blanca - Huaraz and Caraz
Northern Sierra - Cajamarca - Chachapoyas
Altiplano (Peru) Altiplano - Puno (region) Puno and Lake Titicaca
San Martin San Martín - Moyobamba and Tarapoto
Amazonas (Peru) Amazonas - Iquitos , Amazonas (Peru) Amazonas and Pucallpa
Madre de Dios (Peru) Madre de Dios - Manu Biosphere Reserve and Puerto Maldonado


Getting there

By plane



The capital city of Lima has the Jorge Chávez International Airport with frequent flights all over the world. Main airlines are American Airlines, Delta, Lan, Lan Peru, Continental, Iberia, Copa, Taca and others. There are non-stop flights to Lima from Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, and New York City in the United States. There is also a non-stop flight to Toronto, Canada with Air Canada. There are five different airlines that offer non-stop service to Europe . In the future there may be non-stop flights from Oceania or Asia but for now travelers usually connect through Los Angeles .



For example, Iberia flies directly from Madrid to Lima, the trip lasting around 13 hours but it is not recommended. KLM Flights are much better in quality.



When leaving the country on an international flight you have to pay a departure tax. The amount changes, but expect it to be US$25-$30 or the equivalent in soles. This has to be paid in cash before entering the departure area.



There is also an internal flight tax, around 6 USD, same conditions as the international one.



The city of Iquitos has flights to Leticia , Colombia with AviaSelva. The city of Cuzco has flights to La Paz , Bolivia with Lloyd Aero Boliviano. They both have a $10 departure tax.



By boat



The city of Iquitos in the Amazonas (Peru) Amazonas region has connections by boat http://www.iquitosnews.com/page01a.html to Leticia in Colombia and Tabatinga in Brazil (about 10 hours).


Getting around

In cities and around



Inside the cities, there is usually no problem getting around on city buses or taxis.
Buses cost between 0.70 and 1.50 Soles ( US$ 0.20 - 0.40)
inside a city, taxis between 7 and 8 soles (US$ 2.00 - 2.40) in Lima, normally less in other cities.
Taxi does not necessarily mean a car; the term also refers to bicycles, motor
rickshaws, and motor bikes for hire. Taxis are divided between formal taxis, painted and marked as such, and informal ones, that are just cars with a windshield sticker that says Taxi . The last ones are better left to the locals, especially if you don't speak Spanish. Apart from the more upscale radio taxi (also the more expensive ones), the fare is not fixed or metered, but it is negotiated with the driver before getting into the vehicle. Ask at your hotel or hostal about the rate you may expect to pay to ride to a specific location to have a point of reference. There is no tipping at taxis.



Micros (from microbus), are small minivans or Coaster buses, also known as combis and custers . They do not have actual bus stops (they exist, although in practice the driver won't stop unless you ask), but fixed routes. The direction is shown by boards in the windscreen or painted on the side. If you want to catch a bus, just give the driver a sign (raise your hand similar to hitch-hiking) to stop. If the bus is not completely overfilled (and sometimes when it is, too), it will stop to pick you up. During the ride, the ticket collector will ask you for the fee. If you want to exit, just say loudly Bajo! (BAH-ho) or Esquina baja! (s-KEE-nah BAH-ha), and the driver will stop at the next possibility. They are cramped and dirty, and not helpful unless in small towns or during off peak hours. They also stop in the middle of the road, so be careful when getting down.



Please note: Micros are very common but known for being quite dangerous, different government programs are trying to reduce the amount of micros, it is advised to not take a micro.



By bus



Some main roads, especially along the coastal strip, are paved, but there are still a lot of dirt roads in very poor condition. In the rainy season, landslides may block even major roads.



Inter-city travel is mostly by bus, and some cities have train connections. In contrast to colectivos, buses, and of course trains, start from fixed points, either the central bus terminal or the
court of the appropriate bus company. It is a good idea to buy your
ticket one day in advance so that you can be relatively sure of finding a
seat. Check www.sabuses.com for departure times. If you come directly before the bus leaves, you risk finding that there
are no more seats available. In most bus terminals you need to buy a separate departure tax of 1 or 1,5 soles.



If you are so unlucky as to be taller than 1.80m, you will most likely be uncomfortable on the ride since the seats are much tighter than in Europe or the USA. In this case, you can try to get the middle seat in the rear, but on dirt roads the rear swings heavily. In older buses, the seats in the first row are the best, but many buses have a driver cabin separated from the rest of the bus
so that you look an a dark screen or a curtain rather than out the front windshield. In older buses, you can get one or two seats beside the driver, which gives you a good view of the passing landscape. In this case, don't be too surprised when the driver is chewing his coca leaves.



First-class express buses, complete with video, checked luggage and even meal service, travel between major cities. You may need to present a passport to purchase a ticket.



Make sure that your luggage is rainproof since it is often transported on the roof of the bus when travelling in the Andes.



Avoid bus companies that allow travellers to get into the bus outside the official stations. They are normally badly managed and can be dangerous, due both to unsafe practices or to highway robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon. This should be heeded especially by female travellers going on their own. Get information at the hotel, hostal or tourist information booth before catching a ride.



By train



Even when going by train, it's best to buy the ticket in advance. Buy
1st class or buffet class (still higher), or you risk getting completely covered by luggage. People will put their luggage under your seat, in front of your feet, beside you and everywhere where some little place is left. This makes the journey quite uncomfortable, since you can't move any more and the view of the landscape is bad.



There are five rail lines in Peru:
Cuzco - Machu Picchu
Cuzco - Juliaca - Puno (city) Puno
Arequipa - Juliaca
Lima - Huancayo
Huancayo - Huancavelica



Service between Arequipa and Juliaca has been suspended as of of early 2007.



For more info, go to PeruRail's web site Peru Rail



The Ferrocarril Central Andino the line joining Lima to Huancayo is the second highest railway in the world and the Highest in South America. The Journey on board of the Train of the Andes, through the heart of Peru is simply breathtaking. It is an 11 hour experience where the train reaches an altitude of 4781m.a.s.l (15681ft) and goes through 69 tunnels, 58 bridges and makes 6 zigzags. In 1999, the company was privatized, in 2005, Ferrocarril Central Andino renovated their passenger wagons in a Luxurious and comfortable way which puts the railway in the list of the most famous trains along with the Orient Express and the Transsiberien. If you are an adventurer who doesn't like to be in all the Touristic spot, your trip to Huancayo is just what you need; trekking, fishing and exploring untouched pre-Inca ruins are on the menu! For more info about the Train of the Andes, go to their web page Ferrocarril Central Andino



By foot



Beside the famous Inca trail to Machu Picchu , you can do a lot of more days hikes all along the Sierra, preferably in the dry season. The hiker's Mecca is Huaraz , where you can find a lot of agencies that offer guided tours and/or equipment to borrow. The thin vegetation in the higher Sierra makes off-trail hiking easy. Good maps are hard to find inside Peru. It is better to bring them from home. Make sure you have enough iodine to purify your drinking water. When hiking in higher altitude, good acclimatisation is absolutely necessary. Take a good sleeping bag with you, since nights in the Sierra may become bitterly cold (-10 degrees Celsius in 4,500m altitude are normal, sometimes still colder). Beware of thunderstorms that may rise up very suddenly. Rapid falling temperature and hard rain falls are a serious danger in higher altitudes. Don't forget that the night lasts for 12 hours year-round, so a flashlight is a good idea. When hiking on higher, but not snow covered mountains, water may be rare. Getting alcohol for stoves is easy: Either buy the blue colored alcohol de quemar or, better, simply buy pure drinking alcohol. You can get this in every town for about 3 Soles (US$0,85) per liter. (If you ever should get the idea to drink it, mix it with some other drink, or it will burn like hell). It won't be so easy to find special fuel for gasoline stoves. Gasoline for cars can also be found in many hardware stores (ferreterias) sold by liters, but you can actually buy it directly on gas stations, provided you bring your own bottle.



By car



It also possible the tour the interior of the country by car. This gives you a chance to get off the beaten track and explore some of the areas that haven't been transformed by tourism. Beware that, aside from a few major roads, most roads are unpaved and your speed on them will be severely restricted. Be sure to bring plenty of gas, as gas stations in unpopulated areas are very rare and will often times be closed. Purchasing gas late at night can be an adventure all its own, as even in more populated areas gas stations tend to close early and the pumps are locked. The owner of the station sometimes sleeps inside and, if you can rouse them, they will come out and let you fill up. Also note that traffic checkpoints tend to be scattered throughout the country and the police may try to extract bribes from foreigners for passage. It would be wise to travel with a native speaker who can navigate the roads and deal with law enforcement.
amazing



Touting



Like in most countries, also in Peru there is a vast crowd of touts hanging around the airports and bus stations or bus terminals. It is any travellers' wise decision not to do business with the people that are trying to sell you their stuff on the street/bus station/airport.
First of all, if they would have a decent place, they wouldn’t have to sell it to non suspecting tourists trying to drag them off from wherever they can find them.
More important, it really is not a good idea to hand out money to the first person you meet upon arriving somewhere.



TIP: When you arrive in any town, be sure to have already decided what hotel you will be going to. Don't mention this or any other information to the touts awaiting you. They will use whatever you tell them to construe lies to make you change your mind and go with them. If you’ve already picked a reasonable hotel chances are that you will be OK there and they will have any (extra) information you’d be looking for, like bookings for tours or tickets.


Warnings

Emergency numbers in Peru are 011 / 5114. In Lima ring 105. In Lima and some of the larger cities there is a sort of local police called Serenazgo : you may ask for help but they have no tourist oriented services.



Be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid unlit or unpopulated areas especially at night. There is a lot of petty crime that can turn violent. Avoid groups of male youngsters since there are many small gangs trying to rob passerbys. If you witness a robbery be very careful before intervening, since robbers may be armed and are quite prone to shooting if they feel threatened.
Armed robberies of tourists are fairly common.
A dirty old backpack with valuable contents is safer than a new one with old clothes in it. It's often good not to look too rich.



Some travelers don't use wallets, but keep the bills and coins directly in their pocket. Let's say some little bills on the left side and the rest on the right side. Thus, the pickpocket's job gets much harder.



Don't walk around with debit- or creditcards in your pocket. Leave them in a safe place, when you do not directly need them, because tourists have been kidnapped and forced to take out money each day for a period of a few days.



If you want to take large amounts of cash out with you, a neck wallet is always a good idea - you can hide it under your shirt.



Watch out for false bills. Every bank has posters that explain what to check when getting higher valued bills. The only security element that has not been falsified is the bichrome 10,20,50,100 or 200 now also used on US$ bills. Don't be shy about checking any bills you receive. Most Peruvians do so, too. You may get false bills even at upscale places or (quite unusually, but it's been known to happen) banks, so check there too.



Ignore any requests to carry luggage or packages for strangers. There could be illegal items or drugs in there, and you are the one who'll be caught with them and have the problems afterwards.



It's also illegal to consider to maybe accept an offer to buy drugs. If you are offered drugs, be careful: it might easily be a trap from police, and sentences are harsh for drugs. The best thing, if offered, is simply to just say no. Some police officers will tell you that it's legal to hold some amount of marijuana, but well, just don't trust them.



When taking a taxi, take a quick look in the backseat, and in the trunk, to make sure there is nobody hiding there. There've been reports of armed robberies/kidnappings taking place in taxis. Afterwards, tourists are blindfolded and driven outside the city and left behind by the highway.



At the border crossing from Ecuador (Huaquillas) to Peru people have tried to steal passports by acting like plainclothes police officers. They give you another form to fill in which is fake. This has taken place although police and customs personnel have been next to them.



When traveling on buses it is recommended to keep your backpack under your seat with the strap hooked around your leg.



Police



Tourist police are dressed in white shirts, instead of the usual green ones, and normally speak English and are quite helpful to tourists. The common police officer does not speak other language but Spanish but normally will try to help. DO NOT get in an argument with police, since they may forget about your needs and feel insulted.



Dealing with the police can take a lot of time. In order to get a copy of a police report you need to go to a Banco de la Nación and pay 3 soles. Without this the police won't give you a copy, and obviously you can only arrange this during working days.



Embassies



Check the address of your country's embassy or consulate before you go. If you're planning a lengthy stay it's also a good idea to register with your country's embassy.
British Embassy, Torre Parque Mar (Piso 22), Avenida Jose Larco, 1301, Miraflores, Lima. (51) (1) 617 3000
Canadian Embassy, Calle Libertad 130, Miraflores, Lima 18, Peru Tel.: (51) (1) 444-4015 Toll-Free (within the country): 0-800-50602 Fax: (51) (1) 242-4050
French Embassy, Av. Arequipa 3415 - San Isidro, Lima. (51) (1) 215 8400
German Embassy, Avda. Arequipa 4210, Miraflores, Lima. (51) (1) 212 5016
Italian Embassy, Av. Gregorio Escobedo 298 - Jesus Maria, Lima. (51) (1) 463 2727 - [night and holidays emergency ph#: (51) (1) 891 7557]
Italian Embassy, Av. Gregorio Escobedo 298 - Jesus Maria, Lima. (51) (1) 463 2727 - [night and holidays emergency ph#: (51) (1) 891 7557]
Spanish Embassy, Av. Jorge Basadre, 498 (San Isidro), Lima. (51) (1) 212 5155. embesppe@correo.mae.es
US Embassy, Avenida La Encalada cdra. 17 s/n, Surco, Lima 33. (51) (1) 434 3000



Many of the aforementioned countries also have consulates in other major cities. See their websites for more details.
Finally, it's always a good idea to check your government's advice before you travel.
[http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket%2FXcelerate%2FShowPage&c#Page&cid1007029390590&a#KCountryAdvice&aid1013618386334 Foreign Office website] (Travel Advice: Peru)
US Department of State (Consular Information Sheet: Peru)


Health

Vaccinations and Prophylaxis



For most South American countries, the following vaccinations are
recommended or necessary:
Polio
Tetanus
Typhoid
Yellow Fever
Rabies
Hepatitis A



Take care of vaccinations at least 2 month before your journey starts since most vaccination schemes need time.



Malaria is a risk outside of the coastal and Andean region; an appropriate course of anti-malarials should be started prior to arrival - consult a doctor. If you should catch malaria, you can find treatment centers in all jungle towns.



If planning on camping, don't forget: Use close-meshed mosquito nets!



Pharmacies



Common medicines, like antibiotics, can be bought in pharmacies (farmacias or boticas)
quite cheaply and without restrictions. However, make sure the expiration date has not
been reached. Pharmacists are mostly very helpful and can be consulted if needed.
For less serious illnesses, they may replace a doctor.



Diarrhea



Electrolytic drinks help guard against dehydration. You can get powders to
dissolve in water in almost every pharmacy. If not, just dissolve sugar and
salt in water. Bacterial diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics, if
it doesn't vanish during a week. Usually, pharmacies are quite helpful.



Food and drink



If you stay in good hotels you may be able to avoid catching diarrhea, otherwise you will surely contract it. Just don't worry too much about. There are some rules that could avoid the worst:
Avoid unboiled tap water, if possible. This can be difficult; If you eat a salad or drink some fruit juice, it will probably be prepared with tap water. Avoid ice in drinks if you can.
If you must drink tap water, use some purification like mikropur.
Don't eat food prepared in the street (if you can resist it).
When going to cheap restaurants, first have a smell and listen to what your nose says.
In some areas, refrigerators are rare. Just go to the meat section of a typical market hall and take a smell, you will understand. If you would rather vegetarian food, it can be hard to find. Chicken is worth a try, since they are mostly fresh.
Don't eat unpasteurized milk products.



Altitude



If you do not have experience with higher altitudes (above 3,500m), don't
underestimate it! Collapses of unacclimatized tourists are not
unusual, serious health damage or even death can occur! If coming from sea level, stay at medium height ca. 3000m for at least one week. Then, altitudes of around 4500m should not be a risk, although you still will strongly feel the height.



Sunburn



Since Peru is close to the equator, the sun can become dangerous for your skin and eyes. Especially in the Sierra, the strong UV radiation due to the height in combination with the rather cold air may burn your skin before you notice it. Sun-blockers are easy to get in drug stores (boticas). If your eyes are sensitive to light, better bring good sunglasses from home. Of course, you can buy sunglasses in Peru, too, but you should really be sure that they block the whole UV spectrum, otherwise, they might be worse than none.



Sanitary facilities



Outside of obviously well-set up restaurants and hotels in cities and towns, toilets are often quite primitive and sometimes really dirty. It's a good idea to bring your own paper with you,as peruvian toilet paper maybe too rough as well as being one ply. It's usual not to throw the used toilet paper into the toilet, but in baskets besides. This is because the pipes tend to plug up. If there is no basket, it's not unusual to throw the paper on the ground. Toilet doors are marked with baño , S.H. or SS.HH. . The latter two are abbreviations for servicio higienico, which is the rather formal expression. Expect to pay no more than 20 centimos at public restrooms for paper. You will find it handy to keep a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your backpack.



In hostels or budget hotels, you cannot rely on having water all the time. In the Andean region, it also can easily happen that showers have more or less hot water only in the afternoon since the water is heated by solar energy only. Electrically heated showers are widely spread, but the electric installation is sometimes really adventurous, since the water heater is mostly situated at the shower head. Have a look on it before turning on the shower, especially if you are tall enough that you could touch the cables or other metal during showering which can electrocute you. Don't be too paranoid though, an electric shock is mostly painful.



As woman, if you use tampons during your period, you should bring them with you from home, because they are not very popular in Peru. In Lima, you'll be able to find them in supermarket chains like Santa Isabel or Wong or at drug stores / chemists, known as farmacias and boticas. When you find them, buy enough for the rest of the trip, they are virtually unknown in the rest of the country. Alternatively you could pack a menstrual cup because they are reuseable and compact.


Traveler Reviews of Peru

Robert Nammour's profile picture

When traveling through Peru, if you feel like you have been doing...