You’ve made the decision to come to Peru for an extended period of time and it is time to start packing the bags. We are all faced with tough decisions when we reach this point: What do I need to bring from home? What can be bought in Peru? What will be taxed in customs? The list goes on and on. What you decide to bring with you can be one of the most important aspects of your move and your time in Peru. If you arrive to find that you left something you need behind, it may be costly or nearly impossible to get that item in Peru. On the other side of the coin, no one wants to arrive and find that they have brought things all the way from home that can easily be bought here. (Don’t forget the hefty customs costs that can creep up on you if you are bringing certain electronics or a variety of other items). This should help you decide what is worth putting in the suitcase, what is worth the shipping fees and what may not be.
Laptop: There is wireless access in a few spots around Lima, but otherwise, wireless Internet access may be hard to find here. PC Laptops can be bought in Lima for relatively low prices, but Macintosh computers are much more expensive here than abroad. Laptop accessories may be hard to find.
Bring Laptops as carry on luggage. Desktop computers will have to be in checked baggage and are supposed to be claimed on your customs sheets. People try to avoid claiming desktops, as Peruvian Customs will sometimes charge tax on them. Some people only bring hard drives/modems in their checked luggage, and then buy the screen when they arrive. Try to avoid shipping computers or computer accessories to Peru from abroad, as there will most likely be hefty, unavoidable taxes placed on them upon arrival.
Camera and camera accessories: It is highly recommended to bring your camera and camera equipment with you. Check for customs allowances when considering these items (see below for websites in English). It is not a good idea to ship these types of items to Peru, as they are most likely to be heavily taxed by customs. In some cases, it would be cheaper for you to fly back to your country and pick up the items and fly back to Peru instead of shipping them to Peru. Digital cameras and point and shoot cameras are easy to buy here, but specialized cameras (professional quality) and their accessories can be very expensive, if they can be found at all. Camera film is available everywhere.
Clothes: It may go with out saying, but go ahead and bring the clothes that you would normally wear in your own country. Generally, there is little deviation from norms in personal dress here. Many people leave behind their favorite clothes not knowing what is socially acceptable in Peru, only to arrive and realize that the differences in dress are subtle.
- Corporate business settings: Traditional business attire is the norm: suits, skirts slacks and dress shoes. It is socially acceptable for women to wear slacks
- Clothes for traveling: You can’t come to Peru and not do a bit of traveling! Peru has a variety of climates: coast, sierra, mountains, jungle, high jungle and a myriad of microclimates in between. It helps to check and see what the weather is like at different times of the year in different areas, as the difference can be huge. While it is winter in Lima, the Andes and the jungle areas are experiencing the Andean summer. While Lima is in summer, the Andes and the jungle areas are experiencing their rainy season. Evening attire: Bring what you would normally wear to bars, theaters, classy restaurants, business parties, etc.
Gear: If you are planning to do any serious climbing, hiking, camping, kayaking or other adventure sport activities, it is highly recommended that you bring your own gear. Chances are, you know the quality of gear you need, and you may not be able to find that quality in Peru. Gear such as tents, cooking stoves, sleeping bags, climbing gear, etc can be rented here, but quality is very questionable. This same gear can be found at various camping stores, but prices will be high for quality goods. If in doubt, just bring what you usually need in outdoor activities. Gas for cooking stoves is easily found in Peru and will not be allowed to go on the plane with you.
Things that you can find in Peru but might be worth bringing anyway:
Saline solution for contact lenses (a small bottle of saline solution for contacts costs $4). Major brands of contact lenses are found easily in Lima. Six pairs of contacts can be bought for around $50. Bring enough for a few months worth, especially if you have special prescription. Often times, special prescriptions (for stigmas, etc) may need extra time for special order.
Books in English: While there are a few bookstores that sell books in English, the selection leaves something to be desired. There is a multi-language book exchange in South American Explorers, where books are traded depending on the type of literature. SAE also maintains a library of over 1,500 books to check out. Good books in English, French and German can be found in the International Airport, and in bookstores around town. Handbooks and manuals for things such as computer programs are best brought from home.
Magazines: If you can find your favorite magazines here, they prices will be at least double what they are at home. Magazine subscription can almost always be delivered abroad, and if you cannot live without them, bring them here.
Medications: Most medications can be found in some form or another here in Peru, and they are most likely to be cheaper here than at home, and can most likely be bought without a prescription. It is a good idea to check with a doctor about all the variations and names of the medications you take, as they may go by different names here, or completely different drugs may be used here depending on availability. Birth control can be easily found at any pharmacy, and is relatively cheap. Ask your doctor what to look for here and bring a few months supply to last you until you find a suitable replacement. Vitamins and supplements are very expensive here.
What not to Bring to Peru
- Household appliances, like blenders, TV’s, radios, etc; these can be easily bought here.
- Furniture is found at many places here, and prices are reasonable so it may not be worth shipping your whole home to Peru (see below for taxes of shipped furniture).
- Cell phones are abundant in Peru, and they come in a variety of models and payment packages. Your cellular service from home may not cover you here, so check it out in advance with your cell phone company before you arrive.
- Calling cards from abroad generally do not work in Peru.
We’d like to hear from you. What else should people bring with them when they move here, based on your experience. Let us know in our forum topic: What should I bring with me when I move to Peru?