Peru is a country of contrasts.
it offers a wide variety of attractions, from beautiful beaches and rocky coastal outcrops to stunning mountain scenery and steamy tropical rain forests. Add to this the mysterious mountain-top city Machu Picchu and you have a country with something for every traveler.
Where is Peru?
Peru is a country of contrasts. Situated on the west coast of South America
History of Peru
Over the course of its long history, Peru has hosted a number of ancient civilizations, with the oldest of these, the Norte Chico, dating back as far as 3000 BC. The Norte Chico era was followed by a number of other important South American cultures, the greatest among these being that of the Incas, who built the amazing Machu Picchu.
The Spanish arrived in the 16th century, the nadir of the Inca era, and ruled Peru for over three hundred years. The Spanish left a deep and palpable imprint on the country, but Peru’s more ancient history is everywhere to be seen as well.
Peru Visa Requirements
Travellers from most countries are not required to obtain visas for stays of up to 90 days in Peru. this includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, and the UK and Ireland among others. Valid passports must be held by all travellers to Peru and evidence of return or onward travel and sufficient funds for the period of stay may also be required.
For extended stays or business travel, visas are mandatory.
Ensure you only enter Peru through an official border checkpoint and ensure your passport is there stamped with an entry stamp. Failure to obtain an entry stamp may result in your being detained when attempting to leave the country and then being deported – a process that can take weeks.
Children (under 18 years of age) travelling alone or with one parent, in addition to the child’s passport, may require a letter of consent from the non-travelling parent(s) and a copy of the child’s birth certificate. Both documents should be translated into Spanish and notarized and certified by the Peruvian Embassy or Consulate in the country of origin.
Some airlines that fly out of Peru require passengers to show evidence of Yellow Fever vaccinations before allowing them to board. Check your airline’s requirements prior to travelling. Australian immigration authorities require evidence of Yellow Fever vaccinations if a traveller has visited Peru within six days of arriving in Australia.
A departure tax of US $30 is payable upon exiting Peru.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
Peru Travel Health
There are a number of vaccinations recommended for travelers to Peru, including Hepatitus A, Tetnus and Typhoid. There have been cases of Yellow Fever reported in Peru, and for those traveling to the low-lying rainforest areas, immunization against tropical diseases should be considered.
There are a number of quality health clinics in Lima, and there are smaller clinics with more limited facilities in most major towns and cities throughout the country. Private clinics are recommended over public facilities but are expensive and cash payment will be required in advance.
Theft is a common problem for travelers, who are often targeted by thieves. Pickpockets are a regular feature and there have been several incidents of armed robbery involving trekkers and tour groups. Common sense precautions should be taken at all times in Peru, particularly in the bigger cities and at night. Reputable tour agencies and taxi cab operators are recommended in order to avoid scams.
Emergency numbers in Peru are 105 for police and 116 for fire. There are also emergency numbers for tourists which are 225 7888 (Tourist Protection) and 476 9896 (Tourist Police).
What is Peru Local Currency?
The official currency of Peru is the nuevo sol (SI), which is divided into 100 centimos. Coinage ranges from 1 centimo through 5 nuevo sols, and notes are available in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 nuevo sols.
1 US dollar buys roughly 3.30 to 3.50 nuevo sols, but travelers should keep an eye on the exchange rates as fluctuations are not uncommon.
ATMs are available in most towns and cities through Peru and offer the best exchange for travelers. Credit cards are accepted in up-market hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers but a 7% fee will be added to the total bill.
Travelers checks may be exchanged at banks in most cities, however a 10% commission will be charged.
There is a 19% sales tax in Peru that is included in the price of items purchased.
What is Peru’s Weather?
There are three distinct climate regions in Peru. The first is the arid coastal region, which is hot from December to May and dry most of the year. From April to November, however, fogs and mists can be expected.
The second climate region is in the rainforest zone, which is hot and humid year round with a rainy season extending from December through March.
The third is the mountain region, in which average temperatures regularly drop below 10°C during the day and below freezing most nights.
Culture of Peru
Peruvian culture has been significantly influenced by the Spanish, who governed the country for well over three hundred years. At the same time, however, the indigenous inhabitants of the mountainous regions of the country have maintained much of their culture and this is noticable throughout the cities of Peru where they have migrated in large numbers.
Peruvians are friendly but not overly warm to visitors. Acquaitainces will greet one another with light handshakes, and a kiss on the cheek is common amongst friends, as are embraces.
A large majority of Peruvians identify themselves as Roman Catholics, although a number of other Christian denominations are represented as well.
When dining out, a service charge of 10% may be added to the bill, but for good service, you should leave an additional 5-10% with the waiter. Hotel porters expect US$0.50 per bag and taxi drivers do not expect tips.
Bartering is common and acceptable in the markets, where a wide range of handmade items are on offer. Visitors are warned that wearing native Indian garments of any type is considered insulting so should be avoided.
What Languages Are Spoken In Peru?
Peru has two languages, Spanish and Quechua. The first language of the large majority of the population is Spanish, but around 20% of the population speak Quechua.
Mobile phone roaming is available from a few major international providers but coverage is limited to major towns and cities. Handset and SIM card rentals are also available at reasonable prices.
Internet access is widely available in internet cafes in larger towns and cities, and most major hotels and some hostels provide access for guests.
Peru’s international access code is +51. To dial internationally from Peru, the outgoing code is +00. For access to the US or Canada, for example, dial +001. For the best rates on international calls, phone cards are available from newsstands and convenience stores in the major towns and cities.
Peru has an international postal system.
Peru Transport Options
Most travelers will arrive in Lima’s Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chavez (LIM) and the most common form of transport for visitors in Lima is taxi, which is the quickest way to get around. The same can be said of taxis in most major towns and cities in Peru.
It is safer to go with official taxis, identifiable by their lights and company numbers, as a number of scams involving unofficial taxis are in operation. Taxis can be called for by phone or hailed and are reasonably priced. Fares can also be negotiated beforehand (advisable for longer trips).
Buses and coaches are also good means of transport, both in the cities and for getting to various locations in Peru. In the city, public buses are by far the cheapest way to get around but can be slow and uncomfortable. When traveling long-distances, there are a range of options, including luxury coaches, some of which offer sleeping facilities.
Trains are available in certain locations and are an excellent option when available.
A number of international rental car agencies operate in Lima and other major cities, and four wheel drive vehicles can be rented for rural travel. There are risks associated with driving in Peru, however, including routine imprisonment for accidents resulting in injury, so drivers be warned.
Peru Travel Tips
Peru Local Food
Food, like climate, varies from region to region in Peru. Staples in most areas include maize, potatoes and beans. Meat, fish, and fruits are also available. Soups are popular and seafood is available in the coastal regions.
Guinea pig is a traditional dish served in some parts of the country, particularly the mountainous regions.
Inca Cola is a Peruvian soft drink that rivals Coca Cola in sales. Fresh fruit juices are also widely available and recommended.
Pisco is an alcoholic beverage common to Peru and Chile distilled from white wine. A pisco sour is a sweet cocktail made with lemon, egg white, sugar and pisco.
Mate de coca is a tea made with coca leaf said to help with altitude sickness.
Peru Local Timezones
Local time in Peru is GMT -5, which is the North American Eastern Standard Time.
The current in Peru is 220V, 60Hz and the outlets are two flat prongs with optional round grounding pin.
Peru Dutyfree Limits
Up to 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars, or 50g of tobacco; up to 2kg of food, 3 bottles of alcoholic beverages (not exceeding 2.5 litres); and gifts with a value of up to US$300 may be brought in to Peru duty free.
Expoting cultural or artistic items from the country is prohibited.