Peru Travel Tips
The official currency of Peru is the nuevo sol (S/), split into 100 centavos. Banknotes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles, and coins come in 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos.
Exchange rates at Peruvian banks are not very favorable and queues are usually very long. Better rates can be had at exchange houses (casas de cambio), while money changers on the street also offer the correct rates, but have been known to cheat tourists by short-changing them or issuing counterfeit bills. Using your credit or debit card at cash machines is one of the most convenient and safest ways to obtain local currency as well as ensuring that you haven’t been conned. Counterfeit local currency is a major problem and it may be wise to carry US dollars, which are accepted at most places. Make sure you have low denomination notes in either currency, as many places will not accept high bills.
Banking Hours Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday from 09:30 to 16:00; some as late as 18:00. Banks in major towns and cities usually open on Saturdays from 09:30 to 12:30.
There are currently no restrictions on the import and export of Peru sol, American dollars or other foreign currencies.
Visitors can bring in three litres of alcohol, 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars into Peru without attracting duty. New items such as cameras and sporting equipment can also be brought into the country for personal use with no duty applied. No more than US$100 worth of gifts can be brought into Peru without paying duty.
220V/60Hz - two-prong outlets that generally accept both flat and round pins
110 volts AC is available in most 4 and 5-star hotels.
Many diseases are prevalent in Peru and although no vaccinations are required to enter the country, those travelling to jungle regions would do well to cover themselves with the following vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Polio, Rabies, Tetanus, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever. Anti-malarial drugs should also be taken if visiting areas outside the main coastal and Andes regions. Vaccinations should be taken at least two months before your journey to Peru so that the immune system can prepare.
International hospitals can be found in the big cities of Peru with most towns and cities housing at least one pharmacy where common medicines and antibiotics can be had without restriction. Do not drink the tap water without boiling it first. Try to resist the temptation of eating from street stalls and give any cheap restaurants the once over before ordering.
Another health worry in Peru and one that concerns everyone is altitude sickness. Much of Peru lies above 10,000 feet and it is very easy to contract altitude sickness if you ascend too quickly without acclimatizing first. The de facto way to acclimatize is to ascend ever greater heights in steps and then remain at that height for some time (a few days) before continuing. The illness is not a question of fitness, for altitude sickness can badly affect even the fittest of marathon runners.
Emergency (24-hour traveller’s hotline): +51 15 748 000
English is spoken in the major tourist areas. Spanish and Quechua are the official languages, while many other tribal dialects exist in the jungle regions.
The greatest threat to tourists is from the pickpockets who infest train and bus stations as well as the major tourist hotpots to relieve unsuspecting tourists of their bags and money. Common sense is best employed to avoid being a victim of a pickpocket; remain vigilant at all times, keep valuables out of sight, including expensive watches and jewelry and look like you know what you are doing and where you are going (regardless of whether you do or don’t).
Lima, Cuzco, and Arequipa are the most notorious places in the country for violent crime such as assaults, carjacking and theft. Make sure you visit cash machines during the daytime only and beware of strangers approaching you in the street who may be looking to scam you in some way.
It is always advisable to get your hotel to book a taxi. If you are already out and about and are nowhere near a phone, make sure the taxi you use is an official one bearing an official badge. Travellers should also beware public transport in the cities and especially on long distance buses as bags have a habit of wandering off.
It is proper to use an appropriate greeting on entering a shop or home, such as buenos dias (good day); buenos tardes (good afternoon); buenos noches (good night) or a simple hola (hello). It is also polite to say goodbye or see you later (adios or hasta luego) even when leaving a shop. The handshake is one of the most common forms of greeting in Peru.
If you need to beckon someone, do so with the palm facing downwards and sweeping your fingers towards you as they do in Asia. Using the index finger as they do in the West is considered extremely rude and condescending.
It is always a good idea to express respect for the native peoples of Peru as half of the population is indeed indigenous. With this in mind, avoid referring to the locals as indios, favoring indígenas instead. Although Peruvians openly refer to Westerners as gringos, this is not considered derogatory. Travellers should also avoid getting too deeply into political discussions with the locals for fear of causing offence.
Pay special attention to your dress when entering churches and monasteries as with anywhere else in the world. Beach wear such as shorts and vests, or any clothing that reveals too much skin, especially on a woman, is a definite no.
Tax and Tipping:
Tipping 10 per cent for waiting staff in restaurants is the norm, unless of course the 10 per cent service charge has already been added (this is common practice in the nicer establishments). Although people will often leave spare change or a few dollars, it is unlikely the money will find the staff. Tour guides should be tipped a few dollars for a full day’s sightseeing, but it is not normal to tip taxi drivers unless they have gone out of their way for you.
The country code for Peru is +51 and the telephone system is much better since Spain's Telefónica took over the reins after privatization in the 1990s. There are now many companies providing good service. Telephone cards are available in the main cities from stands and supermarkets. Mobile phone roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Cellular phones can be rented in Lima and the main cities. Internet cafés can be found in major cities throughout the country.
Visa and Passports:
Visitors from the UK, Europe, North America, Australia, and Japan receive a 90-day visa automatically upon arrival in Peru. Check that your passport is valid six months before your arrival and that it covers the length of your stay.
Tourists from any of these countries wishing to stay in Peru for longer than 90 days can easily obtain extensions allowing them to stay for up to 180 days– charged per each month of extension. If you need to stay for longer than 180 days, simply cross the border into Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Chile, or Brazil and return the next day to get another possible 180 days