Peru Travel Preparation and Advice
Visas and Documents:
Citizens of most Western European countries, North and South America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand only require a valid passport to enter Peru. You need to ensure that your passport has at least 6 months left to run after the date that you enter the country.
On arrival you will be given a tourist card which you fill out in duplicate. At the immigration office you will normally get a 90 day stay in Peru; both your passport and the tourist card are stamped and you will be given one copy of the tourist card to keep. Do not lose it since you need to hand it back when leaving the country. Losing the card will incur plenty of hassle in replacing it.
If you want to stay longer than 90 days then you have two options: The first is to leave the country for at least 2 days (to Bolivia, Chile or Ecuador) and return to obtain another 90 day stay for free. This process can be repeated as many times as the border control officials still believe you are a tourist. Alternatively you can renew your tourist card at the Department of Immigration in either Lima or Cusco. The cost is $25 per extension of 30 days. A maximum of 3 extensions is permissible. Prepare yourself for a bit of a long drawn out renewal process particularly in Cusco.
When travelling between towns always have your passport close to hand since legally you have to have it ready for inspection at all times. In the cities it is probably best to leave it in the hotel safe and carry a photocopy of your passport with you.
It is also a good idea to make photocopies of any other important documents and to keep a note of your traveler’s cheques, credit card account numbers and emergency phone numbers.
Time difference: Peru is 5 hours behind London or six hours in British Summer Time (BST). Other time differences are listed below
Los Angeles -3 (or -2 Pacific Daylight Time PDT)
New York +0 (+1 Eastern Daylight Time EDT)
Toronto +0 (+1 EDT)
London +5 (+6 BST)
Cape Town +7
Sydney +15 (+16 Eastern Standard Time EST)
Auckland +17 (+18 EST)
When dialing Peru from overseas dial your country’s international access code (see below) followed by the country code (51), followed by the regional code (see below) minus the initial 0, followed by the number.
International access code:
New Zealand 00
Regional codes for the largest cities:
084 Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
Example: You may see the number of a hotel in Cusco as 231424. From the UK dial 00 51 84 231424. From Lima dial 084 231424. From Cusco dial 231424
As a traveler you will be best served knowing a little Spanish (about 80% of the population speak Spanish). Until 1975 this was the sole official language of Peru but since then Quechua, which is main language of the highland Indians, has also been made official (about 16% of the population speak Quechua). Around Lake Titicaca Aymara, another Indian language is also spoken. Many Indians speak Spanish too but if you venture into the more remote areas you will find few people who speak any Spanish at all. In most large hotels, airline counters, and tour companies English is generally understood.
The supply is 220 volts AC, 60Hz – twin flat blade (as used in the USA) and twin round pin plugs (as used in continental Europe) are both standard here. (The only exception is Arequipa which is 220 volts AC, 50Hz) If you travel to Peru with a device that does not accept 220 Volts at 60Hz then you will need a voltage converter/transformer which can easily be bought in electrical shops in the main cities. However many electrical devices such as battery charges, shavers & laptops are multi-voltage but it is always best to check the device BEFORE plugging it in.
Toilet doors are marked with “baño”, “S.H” or “SS.HH” which is an abbreviation for Servicio Higienico. In some of the cheaper hotels and many restaurants toilet paper is not provided so always carry a roll with you. Toilet paper should not be thrown into the toilet but placed in the adjacent basket otherwise the toilet will soon become blocked. This applies throughout Peru even in 5 star hotels.
There’s a very good saying that goes ‘bring twice as much money and half as many clothes as you think you’ll need’.
The key to packing for a trip to Peru is to pack for a variety of conditions while keeping the weight to a minimum. Easier said than done when you have to deal with the intense heat of the high altitude, the cold mountain nights spent camping on the Inca Trail and the heat and humidity of the Amazon Basin. The best way to deal with these extremes is to dress using several layers rather than one thick jumper. If you forget something, don’t despair since most things can be bought in most Peruvian cities frequently visited by tourists including excellent and cheap alpaca jumpers.
Below you’ll find a suggested packing list:
1. Backpack (65 liters should be quite sufficient).
2. Day pack
3. Comfortable walking boots with good ankle support.
2 pairs long trousers (lightweight)
1 short-sleeved shirt
1 long-sleeved shirt
1 pair shorts
Underwear and socks (thermal underwear is highly recommended, being light, warm and makes good nightwear on cold nights).
5. Fleece jacket
6. Hat or cap to protect from the sun.
7. Towel plus washing items.
8. Sun cream, lip salve, sun glasses.
9. Alarm clock, torch, knife
10. Basic first aid kit.
11. Insect repellent.
12. Money belt.
13. Camera, battery charger, spare battery and plenty of memory.
Optional extras include:
14. Sleeping bag (3 season) – but can be rented in Cusco for the Inca Trail if you don’t have one.
15. Plastic sandals – useful for in the shower.
16. Several good novels, pack of cards.
18. Bottle Water (mineral water can be bought throughout Peru)
19. Water sterilizing tablets for trekking including the Inca Trail. (Micropur tablets can be bought in Cusco and are very efficient).
Safety in Peru:
Every guide book has a responsibility to warn you about the worst things that can happen to you whilst travelling in Peru. Thieves, drug pushers, corrupt police, prostitutes, terrorists and worse. It’s easy to become paranoid and decide it’s best to stay at home. But just how safe are you in your own town or city?
Peru recognizes that tourism plays an important part in its developing economy and has taken great steps in the last few years to change its poor security record. You’ll find a lot more police, especially plain clothed officers, in the towns and cities most frequently visited by tourists.
Personal security is a very subjective thing to talk about. If we say that Peru is totally safe, and then travelers will take fewer precautions; if we say that it’s dangerous, then a huge number of potential travelers will avoid Peru and miss out on one of the most beautiful countries in the world. At the end of the day you need to be careful and use your common-sense. Thankfully the instances of assaults on tourists are very rare and, nine times out of ten, rarer than in your own country.
The possibility of being assaulted can be greatly reduced by taking a few simple precautions:
When taking taxis from an airport to your hotel, travel in the more expensive airport taxis and ensure that the drivers have official identification. Never take a taxi waiting outside the airport grounds.
When travelling from your hotel to the airport, go with a taxi recommended by the hotel.
Try not to arrive in a new city or town late at night.
Travel in a group if possible.
Learn the basics in Spanish before you arrive in Peru. Don’t expect that people will speak English.
Keep your valuables hidden.
Avoid going on your own to remote areas/ruins where tourist would be expected to go. Seek local advice or take a guide.
Read the guide books and talk with other tourists to find out which areas are best avoided.
When leaving discos late at night take a taxi home no matter how close your hostel is. Outside most discos you’ll find a street vendor selling cigarettes. Usually these people know all the taxi drivers and can recommend a safe one.
When arriving in a new town, keep to your original plan and stay in the hostel that you have decided on. Don’t let the taxi driver persuade you that your hostel is fully booked and that he knows a cheaper and better one. He’ll be working on commission and the hostel probably won’t be in a safe part of town.
Even better, when arriving by plane/train in a new city, try to reserve your hotel in advance, preferably with a hotel that has an airport/station collection service.
Although assaults are rare, theft can be prevalent. However, your common thief won’t threaten you with a knife and demand money – this again is rare and the precautions above should be followed. If this does happen to you the only sensible advice is to give the thief exactly what he wants. Don’t put up a fight.
What Peruvian thieves are expert at, however, is making the most of a good opportunity – a moment’s lapse in a tourist’s concentration is their business. Long bus trips, crowded streets and packed trains are all their territory. We don’t recommend that you avoid these places because you can’t, but again common-sense precautions should be taken:
Don’t wear expensive looking jewellery.
On public transport have your day pack close to you at all times, preferably with the straps around your legs or padlocked to the luggage rack. On buses your backpack will normally go outside, either on top of the roof or in the external luggage compartments. On long distance buses ask for a receipt for your bags. On short rides just keep a careful eye out each time the bus stops to off-load bags. In the event of having your bags stolen, stay with the bus – you will probably require a declaration from the bus company accepting responsibility for the loss in order to claim any money from your insurance company.
Leave your valuables in your hotel safe when making day trips or longer tours. Obtain a receipt not just for your money belt/wallet etc. but for its contents, with each item listed. If you have to leave your passport and credits cards together place the credit card in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. At least when you return you know for sure no-one else has been using it.
If planning on going to market areas, crowded streets, fiestas etc. don’t go with all your valuables. Leave them in the hotel. If your planning on buying something expensive keep your money safely in a money belt. Try to be discreet when opening it! To protect small change in your pockets you can stuff a handkerchief in after.
If the pavements are really crowded, especially in market areas, walk in the road.
If you suspect someone is following you, stop and stare them in the eye until they go. If you really get a bad feeling about a place, go with your first instincts and leave.
Bag slashing is rare nowadays but for added safety you can wear your day pack on your chest. If it’s on your back try to walk without stopping. If you need to stop, sway your pack gently from side to side so that you can feel if anyone is tampering with it.
When putting your bag down on the floor, to take a photo or just to sit in a café, remember to put your foot through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won’t forget it! This is the most common type of theft in Peru – tourists forgetting bags in cafes and on returning to ask if anyone has seen it, you’ve guessed it, it’s gone.
The above precautions are not overly complicated and will soon become second nature. They are basic precautions to avoid being robbed, not just in Peru, but anywhere in the world … even in your own home town.
If, at the end of the day, you are unfortunate enough to be robbed … just accept it as a travel experience. Make sure that you have good insurance and that you’ve read the small print before arriving in Peru so you know what is required to make a successful claim. Excluding precious photos, most things can be replaced in Peru. Finally don’t let it spoil your holiday and don’t suddenly believe that every Peruvian is a thief. The overwhelming majority are kind, honest, hardworking people who detest the thieves probably more than you do – when they get robbed they usually don’t have insurance!