All you need to know to make the most of your trip to Peru
In this travel guide to Peru, you’ll find useful information to help you plan your trip and enjoy your time in this amazing place.
Peru is a huge country and every corner has a different climate, landscape, history and culture. To maximize your time there, you can learn a little more about it!
Frequently asked questions
When is the best time to visit Peru?
Before anything, it’s important to know that Peru is located in the southern hemisphere and that seasons are actually the opposite of the northern hemisphere. Winter (June to November) is basically the dry season and summer (December to May) is the wet season. I wouldn’t recommend going during the wet season, especially if you plan to do some hiking. If not, then it may be a solution to avoid the crowds, but be prepared for lots of rain and sticky weather!
What is the Peruvian currency?
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 cash with you when travelling, especially if you plan to go to markets or to get some delicious street food. To do Withdrawals, 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). They accept most of the major credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard.
Do I need altitude sickness medication?
People who are very sensitive to altitude will start experiencing symptoms at around 2000m-2500m elevation. It’s normal that your body requires 2-3 days of acclimatization before they disappear. If they don’t, it’s important to know that the medication isn’t a long term solution. It’s more of a last resort until you get back to a lower elevation. If you’ve never been to such a high elevation, I’d recommend having the medication just in case. Pro tip: Coca leaves also help with headaches and dizziness!
What vaccines do I need to go to 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 ahead. The basics shots recommended for visiting Peru are Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, Polio, tetanus and Diphtheria.
What is the fastest way to 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 low costs companies 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 flights 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!!)
What is the cheapest way to get around in Peru?
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. Keep in mind that 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 Machu 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 Machu 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.
What are the traditional Peruvian dishes?
Well, it depends on which region you’re in. If you are in a coastal area, you’re going to find a lot of fried or grilled fishes, and of course, Ceviche! For those of you who haven’t got the chance to try that dish, it’s basically white fish “cooked” in lime juice and salt. The typical Peruvian ceviche is done with red onions, garlic and aji Amarillo peppers and typically eaten with a side of corn, plantain chips and sweet potatoes.
If you’re in the highlands area, the food is usually heavier. One of the most popular things to try is “Cuy”. If you see this on a menu, it actually means guinea pig. But don’t worry, you can also find other meats like porc (Chicharron) or chicken. The traditional dishes are composed of meat on top of quinoa and potatoes, often with plantain or corn. Not a lot of vegetarian options are available in those types of restaurants! But if you aren’t in a remote region, you will find other things like pizzerias or “fusion” restaurants.
What are the local produce you should try?
There are 3500 varieties of potatoes growing in Peru. No wonder they serve it with everything! They are grown mainly in the highlands, where the climate is difficult.
Cacao is growing between the highlands and the Jungle. The main production regions are the Amazonas and La Convention. Although it’s possible to visit a museum in Cusco or Lima where you’ll be going through all the steps of transformation and even do it yourself!
Like cacao, coffee beans grow better in a high elevation climate. If you’re willing to travel far enough, it’s possible to visit a plantation or even have a short stay on a farm. Otherwise, don’t expect to find good coffee in your hotel room! You’ll have to look for fancy coffee shops to taste the good Peruvian coffee because most of their production is exported outside the country.
Pisco is a type of alcohol fabricated from grapes. It’s actually not clear where it was invented since Chile and Peru are both claiming it was in their country! In Peru, the vines are growing in the south-west region. You can taste the typical drink called Pisco Sour anywhere, but I suggest visiting one of the Pisco museums (which are basically bars where you can drink hundreds of pisco based drinks)!