Traveling in Peru should be an adventure to remember, but unexpected turns of events can turn it into a nightmare you wish you could forget! While there are always things that can go wrong on a trip, a little bit of forethought and pre-planning can make your trip unforgettable – in a good way. We’ve put together a list of ten travel tips to keep in mind as you’re traveling through Peru.
1) The northern coast of Peru is close to the equator, and the sun there, as well as in the jungle and up in the mountains, can be fierce! Even cloudy Lima can surprise you with the strength of the sun when it burns its way through the low hanging grey. Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses. A hat with a visor is also a good choice. There is nothing like a sunburn to put the kibosh on your fun.
2) When you travel to high altitudes, for example to Cusco, you may find that you suffer from soroche, or altitude sickness. If possible, a slow ascent is best. If the symptoms of soroche affect you, it helps to drink mate de coca – a brew made from the leaves of the coca plant – to help you adjust. However, remember that it can cause positive results on a drug test. If that may be a problem for you, there are also pills available in pharmacies and at the airport to help prevent soroche – it’s best to start taking them at least a day in advance. Wise travellers arrive to Cusco and travel immediately to the Sacred Valley, which is at a lower altitude. This way, they allow their body to acclimatize, and when they return to Cusco at a whopping 3,399 m, (11,200 ft), they are much better prepared. Breathing is easier, and they have more energy to explore the city.
3) In the mountains, the temperature can vary widely from morning to noon to evening, so it’s a smart idea to dress in layers – t-shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweater or jacket. It’s especially practical if you plan on being out all day. No joke: the difference in temperature from daytime to nighttime is greater than the difference in temperature between winter and summer.
4) If you’re planning a trip to the jungle, it’s mandatory that you take a good repellent for gnats and mosquitoes. Don’t forget the ankles. When some of these suckers bite, you don’t find out until it’s too late.
5) Always carry medications, personal documents and any other item of importance in hand luggage or a backpack, never in checked luggage. And speaking of hand luggage, backpacks or bags that cross over your shoulder are the safest to carry. Don’t leave backpacks dangling off one shoulder – it’s best to wear them backwards, resting on your chest, while walking through any crowded marketplace or city center. Keep an eye on your bags when you are seated in a restaurant. Clip your bag onto the seat.
6) In the mountains, the lack of oxygen and strong sun will dry your skin rapidly. Make sure to pack some hydrating creams or lotions, and don’t forget a good lip balm. Drink lots of waters, and take advantage of the delicious soups in the region.
7) Remember that when you buy artisanal products and local goods, you’re helping the local economy. While prices in Peru for these items are much lower than what you might find at home and bargaining is expected, don’t insult anyone by asking for too low a price. Typically, the first price you receive is roughly 25 percent higher than what sellers might accept. Of course, this varies, but when negotiating, be tactful and smile!
8) When traveling through rural communities, you’ll find that people will be very warm and friendly, and you may even be invited into their homes. It’s considered bad manners to show up at someone’s home empty handed, but it doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Candies for the children, cookies or fruit are always welcome.
9) In order to be able to make local phone calls and have internet access at all times, the best option is to purchase a SIM card for your cell phone upon arrival. Your cell phone must be unlocked to properly function using a SIM card from a Peruvian phone carrier. You can also purchase an unlocked cell phone once you arrive in Peru. SIM card plans are available starting at $15, and a basic unlocked cell phone can cost around $20, depending on the model.
10) Before leaving home, send yourself an email with all information that you consider important – passport number, phone numbers, reservation numbers, insurance policies, credit card information etc. That way, if your documents are lost or stolen, you’ll have a simple way of recalling the necessary information. Additionally, if your hotel has a safe deposit box, leave your passport there and simply carry a photocopy of the picture page around with you.
We’d like to hear from you. If you have any additional advice for newcomers, let them know in our forum topic Advice for travellers in Peru.