I visited Peru in the summer and there is a lot of things I wish to know before I even started thinking about going. Besides Peru it is a big country, so you might want to know different information regarding where exactly you are going. So it is good to have an itinerary! Anyway, I tried to make most of my things to know when visiting Peru relevant for everyone.
It can get cold
I think this was one of the first things that strike me. It can get very cold especially in higher altitudes like in Cuzco or around Colca canyon. In most of the guides, you will find that it is best to visit Peru in June, July or August. Well, what you should know when visiting Peru in these months is probably the fact, that it is going to be winter there. That is something I was aware of. What I didn’t know is the fact that it means that you should probably dress up. Especially if you are going to the mountains.
Overall, the temperature during the day could be very nice and even suitable just for a t-shirt. It will get more tricky once the sun will set. That is wherein some parts you can easily get under zero degrees. So be prepared and get proper clothes. Or buy some, they have a lot of sweaters.
Everything that you are thinking of should be probably booked ahead. Especially Machu Pichu. In fact, it is probably better to buy tickets to Machu Picchu before you buy flight tickets because the government decided to limit the number of tourists on Machu Picchu.
Other than Machu Pichu, book hotels, especially in the main season it is not possible to just wander around the city, hoping someplace will have a free room. They might, but it will probably cost twice as much.
Another good thing to book before visiting Peru is probably bus tickets. Overall they might be the last issue, but if you want to travel with a nice company and in time that suits you, book it in time. This might be fine if you want to travel during the day, but if you want to book overnight buses, definitely book ahead.
Cheap fly tickets for domestic flight
This is a big plus especially for those who are not amazed by cheap bus tickets around Peru. Sure they are cheap, but at the same time, you will spend hours in them and sometimes is just easier to fly. Well, good news. Flight tickets around Peru aren’t the most expensive either. Of course, depends when you are going. But Peru has a quite affordable airline with great scedules.
For example, my flight ticket from Cuzco to Lima costs only 50 dollars, which isn’t too bad and I didn’t have to spend 16 hours on a bus. The only thing that sort of bugged me was the fact, that the flight was delayed. But hey, it all cannot be just plus. So this is definitely something good to know when planning your itinerary when visiting Peru.
All kinds of nature
Peru is a big country. Well, for someone who is living in Denmark anyway. But what surprised me was the fact of how diverse the Peruvian nature is. Sure you can go to Machu Picchu, but you can also see the Peruvian desert and it’s a little oasis, or if you go north, you can see the Amazon forest. And those who love mountains will too find something to do. If you are confused about the desert and what to do there, have a look here, on what to do in Huacachina.
But because of this diversity, don’t forget to pack properly. Surely you would take different clothes to the mountains with an altitude of 3600m and something different from the desert.
Either way, it is important to know what you want to experience in Peru. Because of this variety, it is easy to find a lot of activities that fit you. But then you need to know where to go. If you go north, there won’t be too many tourists, and you will find beautiful beaches and the Amazon forest. However, you can have a different experience when going to the south, where are mountains and more of the Inka history sights.
One of the least fun things in Peru. It is something that you need to take to count when visiting Peru. Ask your doctor, what he thinks about it, see if you need a medicine for it. Personally, I have never tried it, but I wish I would, because I did get sick, and it is not fun.
What you need to know when visiting some places in Peru is the fact, that altitude sickness can strike you when you are over 3000m. It might and it might not. Generally, if you are more fit, you are more likely to get it. It also depends, on which altitude are you used to. In case you feel sick, don’t move anywhere higher before getting used to it, altitude sickness isn’t fun and can be very dangerous!
In case you are like me and didn’t bring any medicine from your own country, don’t get scared. You can also solve this issue by visiting the local pharmacy. Ask for something on altitude. I got some sort of nature pills with ginger, coca and some more herbs, these worked just fine. Coca tea is also quite helpful. Only one warning: if you do coca tea or any other product, you will have a hard time to pass any drug test in the next half year. The test will show cocaine even though you didn’t take any. It is the kind of test that they won’t find it in your blood but in your hair.
Trips and tours
If you expect that backpacking around Peru is the same thing as it is in Southeast Asia, there is something you need to know when visiting Peru. It is not as easy as backpacking in Asia. When I traveled around Sri Lanka, I got to hop on a bus with locals and visit three big sites on that bus, by myself. Just for one day. Well, this is very different in Peru. Someone might like it more, some won’t. But if you want to visit more things in one day, you need to get a tour.
Local buses stop way too often so it would take you too long to get even to the first sight, or they stop way too far from the sights.
On the other hand, this way you will even get a guide and most of the time the tours aren’t too expensive. But of course, it is not as free traveling as you would expect.
There is also a positive sight of it – if you are slow traveling the country, this will be an amazing experience and eventually, it will be cheaper.
If you are thinking about taking tours, I would recommend to take it from someone local. The locals will do anything to help you and generally, they know the country better than an international company. It is also a good way of supporting locals.
Cash is the king
Well, here it is something similar to a lot of countries outside of Europe or Northern America. Do you want to take a picture of someone in a traditional dress? Cool, give them money. Do you like something on a local market? Bargain for it. Otherwise, it will get too overpriced. In fact, you need to bargain in a lot of places, so unless there is a set price, just go for it.
Especially if you don’t look like you fit in Peru, you are more likely to pay more for things and pay extra to locals. I guess it just comes with traveling, but sometimes it is surprising, where else you need to pay extra money just to take a picture.
The best practice is always to ask whether you can take a picture, and how much would it take. Some of the families don’t have another source of money. When it comes to a bargain, try to not to push it too far. Even though it is something hard to do as someone from the country where you don’t barge at all.
Is Peru safe?
Yes, yes it is! As someone traveling to South America for the very first time, I was kind of scared to travel that far. I have heard a lot of stories about the violent kidnapping of busses and drug cartels. However, these seem to be rather rare. Either way, I have never felt in danger when traveling in Peru. If you are afraid there are some guidelines.
Don’t travel during the dark. Or plan your arrival to be during the day. I traveled once overnight by bus. But I planned it the way that I would arrive at my destination during daylight.
Book the hotels ahead and check if they really exist. It happened to me twice that I booked a hotel that didn’t exist. And they were even on booking. So try to write them a message, ask if they can pick you up at the station or send a taxi to you.
When it comes to taxi, the once in Peru can be a bit scammy, so it is better to always ask for a taxi at your accommodation, someone who they trust. You will probably pay less that way.
Also, learn some basic phrases in Spanish, and you will be fine. Traveling around Peru isn’t generally too difficult. Just be aware of your surroundings.
Vaccination you might need
Although Peru is not the most dangerous country when it comes to exotic illnesses, there are still some vaccinations you should be taking. First of all, if you are going to explore Amazon in Peru, you should probably have anti-malaria pills. The chances that you will get malaria might be higher there, even if you spend there only a couple of days.
Also, make sure that you have all the regular vaccination like Hepatitis and so on. These can be critical in Peru. And if you want to be really sure, you can ask for typhoid, since the disease is in Peru as well.
If you are not sure, ask your doctor, what you will need. They should know what exactly you will need.
For most people from Europe, North America, South America, and even Latin America, but also people from Australia and New Zealand don’t need to ask for a visa in Peru. You will automatically get a tourist visa after landing at the airport. Those visas will last for 180 days from your entry.
The important thing to note is that this is a single entry visa, so if you are planning to visit Bolivia or some other country from Peru, you might want to do extra paperwork. But other than that, all you need is a passport that is valid for the time of your trip.
Can you drink tap water?
And here we get to a big no-no. Tap water is not drinkable and it is one of the reasons why you should get vaccinated. If you want to drink tap water, you should probably get a bottle with a filter, so it is possible to do so.
It is also recommended to brush your teeth with bottled water and have a closed mouth when showering.
Best time to go
Because Peru has both coasts and mountains, your visit depends on what to do you want to visit. If you are more interested in Inka tours and Machu Picchu, you should come at the time, when it is winter in Peru. Meaning from June till September. The sky will be clean and the temperature during the day will be nice and warm, although the nights might be colder.
If you want to explore the coast and even the north coast, where are amazing beaches, you should consider to come in winter, from November to January. During that time, it is rain season in the mountains so the sky around Machu Picchu might be a bit blurry, but around Lima and other places on the coast, it should be nice and warm.
How much time do you need for Peru?
Here it depends on what would you like to see. For example, you came just to hike to Machu Picchu, you will need only a week. But for exploring Cuzco, you can use about 3 days, Lima can be visited in 2 days, and there are a lot more options. So for a round trip around Peru, you might want to consider spend there for 2 weeks.
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