All you need to know to plan your trip to Peru
In this post, you’ll find all you the things you need to know to plan a successful trip to Peru. I’ll be talking about all sorts of details like the currency, vaccines, transport options and more. If you’re looking for an itinerary idea, check out this post about my own experience!
What is the currency in Peru?
The Official currency in Peru is the Novo sol (Soles, in plural). 1 Sol is equivalent to 0,3 US dollars. It’s best to always have a little bit of money with you when travelling, especially if you plan to go to markets or to get street food. It’s possible to pay with US dollars in very touristy areas, but keep in mind that your credit card might not be accepted in remote areas. My advice is to be able to get the local currency in cash.
Is it safe to use an ATM in Peru?
To get cash, try to avoid public ATM in convenience stores or on the street. It’s safer to go to the official banks, like BCP (Banco de Credito del Peru). There are ATM with security surveillance in every one of them. Also, they accept most of the major credit card companies.
How much money should you spend on a daily basis?
How much money you spend will depend on the level of comfort you usually like to get in your travels. If you are sleeping in hostels, you can find very decent ones as low as 25 to 50 soles per night, including breakfast. If you prefer a more comfortable stay, there are many local hosts, boutique Hotels, and even Air B&B. The price can range anywhere between 50 to 200 soles per night. Depending on the city and location, keep in mind that prices tend to get higher if it’s a more touristic area.
For food, you can get a good typical meal for 5 to 15 soles on the street or in the markets, which is very cheap! Although, if you prefer to eat in a restaurant, expect to pay a little more. Generally, it’s still cheaper than eating out in North America. Side note, if you’re a foodie, you can find more refined experiences in the larger cities like Lima.
Do I need a visa to visit Peru?
There’s a good chance you don’t need a visa to enter Peru. North and South Americans and Europeans don’t need anything except a valid passport to get through the Peruvians borders. Some of the people of Asian or African nationalities are required to get a tourist passport. Validate with your government official website to know if you need to request one.
Are there obligatory vaccines to get in Peru?
There aren’t any obligatory vaccines for Peru. Although, I recommend checking your itinerary with your local travel clinic, especially if you’re planning to go to the amazonian jungle or a remote area. Depending on the region, the Yellow fever vaccine can be required. This particular shot needs to be done at least 1 month previous to your travel date in order for it to be valid, so it’s better to plan it before your trip to Peru.
What other vaccines should I get?
Here are a couple of basics shots recommended for visiting Peru: Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Polio, tetanus and Diphtheria. If hiking through the jungle or visiting remote areas where you could encounter animals, you might want to consider Rabies.
How do I get around in Peru?
There are good chances that you’ll be arriving at Lima airport. From there, it’s possible to get a domestic flight to most of the major cities like Cusco, Arequipa, Tarapoto or Iquitos. Prices range around 50 to 75 US$.
The main airline is Latam, but there are other smaller ones that also deserve more remote destinations. You could try looking at Viva air, Peruvian Airlines, Star Peru or Avianca airlines. The only thing is, you’ll need to plan your trip around the dates available because they might not offer them on a daily basis. Also, not all of the websites translate to English. FYI, it is possible that you’ll run into some difficulties for the payment part! I personally used both Latam and Viva Air airlines to go to Cusco and Chachapoyas, and it ended up being all good. (Although, I was a little surprised when Viva Air gave me a hand-written ticket at the airport!! )
There are a couple of ways you can get from point A to B in Peru. For a low budget itinerary, I recommend looking at the bus companies like Peru Hop. I end up not using it, but if you’re looking for a classic itinerary to knock off the popular destinations of your bucket list, this might be for you. You can even get a pass that allows you to hop on and off at all the cities along the bus routes.
Is Uber available in Peru?
The answer is yes, but… In theory, Uber is available everywhere in the country. For example, It’s easy to get an Uber in Lima, but you might wait a long time in smaller cities before you actually find a driver. It’s just easier to find a taxi in the street, or even safer, to ask your accommodation to call one for you. Also, it is very important to know that taxis in Peru don’t use meters to set the fares, so you should agree on the price BEFORE leaving. Also, you’re not expected to tip the cab drivers in Peru.
Should I get permits in advance for Machu Picchu?
Yes, you should get your permit before visiting Machu Picchu, especially if you’re planning on going in the high season. It is suggested to buy it at least 3 to 4 months in advance. Except if you’re going with a tour company that purchases the ticket for you, the ONLY place to buy this permit is on the official website, or on-site at the entrance. The price is either 65 US dollars for only the Machu Picchu, or 80$ if you also want to hike the mountain that’s behind it (Huayna Picchu). You need to choose before buying the tickets because once it’s done, there is no way to add or remove the options. It is not recommended to hike the mountain if you have any fear of heights!
Also important to know: the permits to hike the Inca trail is different than the ticket to visit the site. In the end, it’s best to plan ahead if you want to include the most popular attraction in Peru on your trip!
How to get to Macchu Picchu?
Surprisingly, there aren’t that many options to get to Machu Picchu if you’re not hiking. The simplest way is the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the little touristic city at the base of the Mountain on top of which sits the Unesco site. Since the ride is only 2 hours and a half, it is possible to visit and to come back to Cusco the same night. Although I would advise against it, it is convenient if you’re in a thigh schedule. The costs vary depending on if you chose the economic or panoramic one.
One of the popular options is to spend the night in Aguas Calientes and go very early to the bus station the next morning. This bus will bring you directly to Machu Picchu. The first one is at 5:30 am and the round trip is 30$. This ensures you will be there for the first light! Another option to reduce the costs is to hike from Aguas Caliente for about 1 hour and 30 minutes on a very steep path.
Do I have to hike to get to Macchu Picchu?
Like I said in the previous paragraph, you can get to MP without any hiking involved, but be ready to climb many stairs on the site itself. It is not possible to visit the site without going up and down the large stairs.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous way to get to MP, there are other options involving multi-days treks. There is the famous Inca trail, which can be either a 2 or 4 days trek, depending on where you start. For alternative treks, you can look into the Salkantay trek, the Lares trek, or the Choquekiraw trek. I personally did the Inca trail because I felt the other ones might be too difficult and too long for my level of fitness, but I can happily recommend the Alpaca Expeditions company for their good services, great guide, food and knowledge of the areas. *They did not give me any compensation for this publicity.
How long should I plan to stay in Peru?
How long you decide to stay depends on many factors, but on average, it’s possible to organize a good tour including different regions of the country in a 2 to 3 weeks itinerary. Keep in mind that even if cities look close on a map, travel time might take longer than you expect. Make sure to verify the transportation time to avoid struggling with a too-tight schedule.
This applies to every trip I do, but I like having more than one day to visit a city, therefore, I think the longer the trip, the more you can enjoy it without worrying. With that said, most of us don’t have the possibility to take unlimited vacations. A solution to that would be to select one region to explore and to stay in that area to minimize travel time. Peru is such a big country with so many diverse landscapes and cultures. It is not possible to see all of it, even in 3 weeks. I’m going to end this article with this advice: if you have restricted time to visit Peru, it’s best to dive into a region of your choice and get to know it well, soak in its culture and absorb all of its beautiful landscapes.