30 useful tips I wish I’d known before going to Peru

советы по Перу, Rainbow Mt

Our trip to Peru and Bolivia was a beautiful disaster. First time in South America! I wanted it to be perfect. So I planned, organized, booked and paid everything upfront. I was so excited about this trip that I didn’t consider one important thing: everything could go wrong.

And it went wrong! Our luggage was lost, the bus to Bolivia was cancelled, there was no train to Macchi Picchu because of a strike, I had altitude sickness even with medication and lots of other unpleasant surprises on the road.

Every day my perfect plan was falling apart like a house of cards. And every day we managed to solve all the problems even in better ways. Such a useful experience for a traveller! But honestly, at the end of the trip, I was exhausted.

Now I understand why people travel around Latin America for months. Peru and Bolivia – are live and wild like an ocean, often unpredictable like the weather and always perfect in their imperfections. I know for sure that this trip I’ll remember as one of the most adventurous and colourful in my life.

I want to share with you a few tips to make your trip to Peru as relaxing and less extreme as possible.

Huacachina, Peru, desert

30 useful tips

  1. Have enough cash for food, cabs, toilets, and souvenirs. In Cusco, not even all museums accept cards. Bring American dollars. ATM commission is around 15 soles (in tourist centers from 25 soles).
  2. Stock up on paper handkerchiefs and toilet paper. Usually, there is no paper in the toilets, or they give you a small piece at the entrace with dirty hands. Don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet in Peru. It can end up clogging pipes or the sewer system.
  3. Don’t drink tap water. It’s better to rinse your teeth with bottled water after brushing.
  4. Because of the bad quality of water, don’t eat salads with greens, unpeeled fruit (like apples), fresh tomatoes, etc.
  5. If you have a weak stomach, eat only at good restaurants and don’t overeat the ceviche. Take some serious stomach pills with you (Pepto Bismol didn’t help us).
  6. Don’t underestimate altitude sickness! Read about it, consult your doctor, have your medications ready, and don’t drink alcohol in Peru if your trip is only for a couple or three weeks.
  7. Call your insurance in advance about what cases they cover in Peru, how to reach them, and which hospital to run to.
  8. If you don’t speak Spanish, download an offline translator. Contact a local guide or a tourist Peru Hop bus (there are English-speaking guides on board).
  9. Stay in 3 stars hotels (at least). There are many “boutiques” without stars with fancy ratings (in Cusco, for example). In one, they ruined all our clothes in the laundry. Breakfast in such places is often cooked by the same people who sit at the reception.
  10. Cusco is the most touristy city in Peru. There are an insane number of hotels here and prices are higher than anywhere else in the country. If you don’t care about getting into a particular hotel, book a day or two before your trip with 40-50% discounts.
  11. Take a cab only with official identification signs all over the car. Prices vary slightly from city to city, but from what I’ve noticed, it was about 1 sol for 1 minute of driving. In Lima and Cuzco there is an Uber, it’s safe.
  12. If you have a problem (the train or bus was cancelled, etc.), ask the hotel for help. They often have better and faster contacts than the guides and tours (checked by myself more than once).
  13. Be sure to take a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses, sunscreen and spray against mosquitoes.
  14. Plan your itinerary so that there were buffer days to deal with situations if something went wrong.
  15. Print all tickets, vaccines and insurance (except hotel reservations).
  16. Don’t believe the blogs. Most of the information on the Internet is outdated. Peru is a friendly and rapidly developing country. Bottled water is sold everywhere. No one is running around with spears. But still don’t forget to watch your stuff and skip day/night activities in unsafe neighbourhoods.
  17. Bargain in the souvenir shops! Once, a seller reduced the price of the poncho from 400 to 300 soles in three minutes.
  18. Cheap things from alpaca will last at most until the end of your trip. Good alpaca clothes that you can wear at home are expensive and sold in specialty stores (like Sol).
  19. Take sanitizers! There is often no water or soap to wash your hands in the toilets.
  20. Don’t forget your hiking boots if you plan to visit the Rainbow Mountains, Colca Canyon, or Machu Picchu. Most day tours in Peru start at 3 or 4 a.m.
  21. If you will travel on local buses – take the most expensive. For the night – only with “cama” seats.
  22. Buy tours online and with good ratings.
  23. Take a small hairdryer if you gonna stay at inexpensive hotels (they don’t have one). The voltage in Peru is 220V.
  24. If you go on day group tours, please do not use perfume. Many people have mild signs of altitude sickness (nausea, headaches, stomach problems) and smelling your scent in an unventilated, uncomfortable shuttle for three hours is extra torture.
  25. In my opinion, Peru is not a good idea for small children. Even travelling on private shuttles kids can have the same adult altitude sickness and stomach problems. Yes, you can buy children’s products in Peru. They sell pureed food (“compota” in Spanish) in stores and pharmacies, but the chioce is minimal. No sidewalks for strollers. Locals carry children in special blankets behind their backs.
  26. Learn by heart or keep your passport number handy.
  27. If you plan to travel all around Peru by bus, take backpacks. Ideally, if it fits in hand luggage. We took two per person: one big with all the things (kept at the hotel and on the bus), the other one to walk around the city (for water, cream, hat, other important stuff). Passports and money we kept in an anti-theft waist bag.
  28. Feel free to chat with other tourists. They can share useful experiences and interesting stories.
  29. Dress in layers. It is very cold at night and morning in Peru, and hot during the day. The regions also vary greatly in the weather.
  30. Leave expensive jewelry, heels, and handbags at home. Wear comfortable hiking clothes (I especially recommend merino shirts and Fjällräven pants)

Safe and happy adventure to you!

Arequipa, useful tips for Peru

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