How do I handle money? Is it safe? Can I drink the water? Do I need any vaccinations? Make sure you know the answers to these and more FAQs about visiting Peru BEFORE you embark on your journey. While you’re getting prepared and making last minute check lists, be sure to book your visit to Machu Picchu in advanced as available spots can fill up fast. Check out options with us and find out how to make your reservation today.
Money in Peru
The local currency is the Peruvian Sol (PEN). You will find the currency in both paper and coin forms. While a few stores and cities may accept US Dollars, the bills have to be almost new to be accepted and it is very rare that they are. It is highly recommend to exchange your money to soles or to withdrawal soles from an ATM. Don’t forget to call your bank to let them know you and your credit cards will be in Peru, and tell them the dates you will be traveling, including airport days. Otherwise, you will probably have your account frozen as soon as you swipe.
If you are going to exchange money, be sure to ask around first to make sure that you are getting the best exchange rate. Do not exchange money in the street, only go to store locations. If you decide to withdraw soles from an ATM, it is better to have one big transaction instead of a bunch of little ones. This way you only pay for the international transaction fee once. Be sure to cover your pin and quickly place the cash in a secure location. Take the cash back to your hotel or a locked, safe place. Only carry with you what you need.
Taking a Taxi
Lots of cities in Peru have uber and lyft, which are of course the safest ways to get around. There are still hundreds of independent taxis ready to go. In fact, there are so many taxis in Peru that it is hard to differentiate between a taxi and a regular car. Look for a verified taxi, especially at night or after a few drinks. Verified taxis work for companies, and will have a number on the top of the cab.
Before you get in the taxi, tell the driver your destination. It is good to know street names or landmarks around your destination, and better yet to have the address or a screenshot of the map. That way you can help the driver out if they are unsure of the area. After the driver confirms that he knows the destination and will take you there, ask him how much it costs (cuanto cuesta?). The general rate for taxis is 4 soles. If you are asked to pay more, try to negotiate. Always make sure you’ve agreed on a price before you hop inside for a ride. Otherwise, it will not be easy to negotiate and you will probably be asked to pay more.
Water and Food in Peru
Aside from altitude sickness, one of the most common illnesses experienced by travelers to Peru are stomach problems due to water or food contamination. The water in Peru contains harmful chemicals that can make you very sick. Only drink water that is bottled or boiled. To be extra safe, don’t order drinks with ice. Further, brush your teeth with clean water to avoid swallowing tap water.
Some local restaurants may wash fresh produce with unfiltered water, but most touristic restaurants will prepare food and drinks with the stomachs of foreigners in mind. Just be careful, and listen to your body. Lettuce can be very risky, as it can carry lots of bacteria. Hold the salad for a touristic restaurant. Street food is generally not a good idea unless you are in Peru for a while.
Medication and Vaccinations
Check your country’s public health institute guidelines for travel to see what recommendations there are for vaccinations or medications when traveling to Peru. Lots of people bring medicine to help with altitude sickness. If you are planning on going into the jungle, yellow fever vaccine is usually recommended. Generally, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor before your trip so they can discuss what is best for you.
One of the biggest safety issues for foreigners in Peru is pick-pocketing and theft. If you ride public transportation, keep your bag on your lap and stay alert. If exploring the city during especially crowded festivals or holidays, these days are when the most reported cases of pick-pocketing occur. Keep valuables out of your hands and pockets, and make sure your bag is properly zipped or closed. To be extra cautious, keep your hand near the opening of your bag, and carry backpacks on your front.
It is never a good idea to carry valuable documents and passports with you. Keep a copy of your passport with you, and one with your actual passport, in a safe a locked location. If you will be carrying cash and credit cards, don’t keep them in the same place.
Electricity and Power
Voltage in Peru is 220 volts at 60 hertz. Check your electronic appliances including chargers, hair straighteners, etc. to make sure that they can handle the voltage. Most laptops and iPhones can handle this voltage, but check just in case. If not, there are plenty of voltage converters you can purchase to prevent frying your electronics. The plugs in Peru are two-pronged, usually flat but sometimes round. You can also pick up a plug adapter to make sure your cords can be plugged in.
Check your country’s requirements for entering Peru as a tourist. Generally speaking, you don’t need to pay any extra fees or obtain any special visas to visit Peru. When you reach the migrations office in the airport, they may ask for an address of where you are staying, how long you will be there, and why you are visiting Peru. You will get a tourist visa via a stamp in your passport. The migrations agent will write in how many days you are staying on your tourist visa in your passport. The maximum number of days you can receive are 183 per year.
Using a Cell Phone
There are a few different ways to use a cell phone in Peru. If you won’t be in Peru very long, the best option is probably to talk to your cell phone provider about their international plans. You can purchase a certain number of international minutes and texts for the days you will spend in Peru.
Another option is to take your current phone into one of the Peruvian provider offices (Movistar or Claro) and purchase a SIM card and minutes to use locally during your visit. You will need to remove your phone’s current SIM card and insert the Peruvian SIM. You can usually do this with a paperclip on smartphones. iPhones can communicate with other iPhones for free using WiFi and FaceTime and iMessage. Lots of people like to use WhatsApp, which can be used on any phone and is free when your phone is connected to WiFi. Yet another option is to purchase a local phone to use on the go.
You will not necessarily need a translator on your trip, but it is ideal that at least one person in your group speaks some Spanish. Most restaurants and bars will be able to take your order and answer your questions in English. It is always a good idea to immerse yourself in the local culture by knowing a bit of the local language. Brush up on essential words and phrases!