For most people outside of Latin America, Peru conjures up images of llamas and alpacas, pristine highlands, and a quaint, laid-back way of life. While there are kernels of truth to those ideas, Peru is an incredibly complex country that manages to defy most visitor’s expectations. There’s an extreme diversity in cultures, lifestyles, and landscapes to be found in Peru, and the country defies most stereotypes made about it.
Here are just a few misconceptions foreigners often have about Peru:
1.) Peru is a rural country
Peru actually has an urban population comparable to the United States in terms of proportion. 78.6 percent of Peruvians live in urban centers – which is comparable to the US’s 81.6 percent. Lima, Peru is about the size and density of Chicago. Other large cities include Arequipa and Trujillo, which both have around 1 million inhabitants.
2.) Peru lacks infrastructure and is in extreme poverty
Many travelers to Latin America often make the assumption that the region is one where abject poverty is widespread and development has largely taken a backseat. While this is somewhat true in some areas of Peru, even nations such as the US, UK, and Australia face similar issues themselves.
There are rich, poor, and middle-income areas throughout the country. And while Peru’s infrastructure and human development indices have yet to reach the levels of the US and Western Europe, the country’s economy is among the best-performing in the region. Peru’s healthcare system, for instance, universal and generally considered to be of decent quality.
3.) There’s widespread instability and violence in the country
Peru is, in fact, one of the most stable countries in Latin America. Domestic terrorism has largely disappeared since the 2000s and the country is currently experiencing an unprecedented period of peace and stability. While violent crime does exist, the incidents of violent crime per 100,000 inhabitants of Peru is lower than most US states. Comparing the capital and largest city Lima widens the gap even further, with 5 incidents per 100,000 compared to 23.8 incidents in Chicago.
4.) No one speaks English
You can certainly do better by knowing at least basic Spanish or Quechua, but the situation with regards to English proficiency is likely to continue improving with time. While it’s true that very few Peruvians speak English as a first language, English education is a requirement in many schools throughout the country. In urban areas, you’re likely to encounter fairly proficient English speakers very often.
The booming tourism industry and the favorable investment climate have also resulted in many Peruvians taking supplementary English classes. Even today, you’ll find you can get by fine knowing just English.
5.) Peruvian food is like Mexican food
Nothing could be more different. Peru’s cuisine is based around potatoes, seafood, quinoa, tomatoes, and a wide variety of vegetables cultivated by the Inca. Mexican cuisine, on the other hand, is largely based on corn and indigenized Spanish cuisines. This makes perfect sense, as corn comes from Central America and potatoes and tomatoes originated from Peru.
While there is some overlap, they’re about as different as Indonesian and Japanese cuisine are from each other. If anything, it’s close to impossible to find any decent Mexican food in Peru.
6.) Machu Picchu is the only place of interest
While Machu Picchu is certainly stunning and a must-see, it isn’t even the biggest Incan archaeological site in the country. That title goes to Choquequirao, a remote and recently uncovered Incan archaeological site that will soon be accessible to visitors. Pachacámac, Ollantaytambo, Cusco and the Koricancha, and the Inca Trail are other sites just as interesting as Machu Picchu and provide a look into life before contact with the Europeans.
However, Peru is much more than just a place to see Incan archaeological sites. It’s also home to great beaches, festivals, and other natural and cultural attractions. Some of these include the incredible Lake Titicaca, the Colca and Cotahuasi canyons, the Eastern part of the Amazon, and the mysterious Nazca lines. There’s definitely something for everyone in Peru.
Whatever your reason for traveling and staying in Peru, make sure to get international health coverage from an insurer like Now Health International. While Peru is generally a safe country, it still pays to have complete peace of mind when you’re living and working abroad.
(Cover Photo: Deposit Photos)
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