Peru is a wonderful tourist destination where nature and culture harmonize to give you the experience of a lifetime. The archeological sites of the Inca Empire, the Amazon rainforest, the Andes and the wide range of exotic cuisines attract thousands of tourists to Peru every year. But there are certain facts to know in advance in order to make your trip more convenient and comfortable. Here are several travel tips to keep in mind before arriving to Peru.
Learn a little Spanish
Your guides and hotel staff may know basic English. Nonetheless, knowing a little bit of the local tongue can go a long way. It helps you to be less dependent on interpreters who might not be always available in the first place. You can enquire and bargain better, and bear an impression that you are the kind of person who really wants to engage with your new (sometimes temporary) communities. And if you really want to connect with local Andean communities, it can never hurt to learn a few basic phrases of Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language of Peru.
Don’t show off
Be who you are and dress how you wish; let your high-powered camera dangle from your neck. With this being said, in metropolitan areas of bigger cities (Yes, Lima), be careful about not flaunting excessively expensive jewelry and other valuables. Wear a money belt if you need to. Use common sense so that you don’t make an easy target for pickpockets. Though these cases of theft are rare, especially outside of urban areas, these things do happen occasionally.
Also, be sensitive to where you are visiting. For many Andean people of indigenous descent, it is believed that having one’s photo taken without permission steals away part of one’s soul. Be mindful when taking photos of those who you don’t know. If possible, engage with those whose photos you’re snapping. Often, the small gestures such as smiling or waving can go a long way towards bridging the connection between yourself, and your subjects. If possible and when in doubt, ask before taking somebody’s photo.
Be particular about your travel agency, guide, and cabs
Along with the authentic service providers, there are swindlers and corrupt travel agencies who might misguide you or overcharge you. Be aware of the reputation of the guides and travel agencies you are working with before making a booking.
Also, within Peru there are fake cabs without proper paper or license, and hiring them can bring troubles to your trip. Outside of Lima, you will find that unofficial taxi cabs are the norm, rather than being the exception. Talk to your hotel receptionist or travel agent to ensure legal and safe transportation. The fake and the authentic cabs are easily distinguishable. Agree upon the fare before hiring one.
Be prepared for your treks
The Inca trail and other treks can be very hectic with backpacks and cameras. Be prepared for steep climbs, and thin air at high altitudes. Be sure about your health status and readiness to endure before undertaking these life-changing expeditions. Therefore, it is important that you allow yourself at least a day or two to acclimatize to the oxygen level in high altitude areas, before setting out on a trek. Take your time, and use cities such as Cusco or Huaraz as base camps for this. Also, when in doubt, do what the locals do to combat altitude sickness: chew some coca leaves.
Book in advance if you need to. Or if you want to find cheaper rates, wait until you get to Peru.
If you have a top choice tour to take, hotel to stay at, or restaurant to visit, book in advance, especially during the high season for tourism (May-September). If worst comes to worst, you can always cancel a reservation if you need to. With this being said, waiting to get to Peru in order to book your tours can save you lots of money, because you will most likely be working directly with local tour operators, instead of dealing with a middle-man. In the end, it all depends on your circumstance. If you have a limited time-frame to travel through Peru, it will be best make your bookings in advance. But if you are able to leave yourself some leeway with plans and preparations, there are some things that can wait to be booked until you have arrived in Peru.
Know the food you order
The traditional food (especially street food) is fabulous, but it is always best to know the ingredients, and how your meal is being prepared. To avoid a case of food sickness such as travelers diarrhea, here are some things to keep in mind, and guidelines to follow. One of the most common causes of travelers diarrhea is by unknowingly drinking untreated water. This most often happens when you eat raw vegetables (aka salads) that have been washed with tap water. Be sure to ask how your salad vegetables are being treated. People also get sick from brushing their teeth in tap water, so be sure to have treated water on-hand.
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Cover art: (PHhere)