Peru is an exotic 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. Continue reading for things to know before traveling to Peru.
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 also 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.
Moreover, 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.
Be who you are and dress how you wish—but think twice about letting your high-powered camera dangle from your neck.
Even in metropolitan areas like Miraflores, Lima, tourists should be careful about flaunting excessively expensive jewelry and other valuables.
Wear a money belt if you need to and use common sense so that you don’t make an easy target for pickpockets. Though these cases of theft are rare outside of urban areas, they do happen occasionally.
Also, be mindful when taking photos of those who you don’t know. 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.
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.
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 the capital, 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.
Either way, talk to your hotel receptionist or travel agent to ensure legal and safe transportation. The fake and the authentic cabs are easily distinguishable. For all taxis, you should agree upon the fare before hiring one.
Another thing to know before visiting Peru is that the Inca Trail and other treks can be very hectic with backpacks and cameras.
Furthermore, 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.
As such, 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. Also, when in doubt, do what the locals do to combat altitude sickness: chew some coca leaves.
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). Push comes to shove, you can always cancel a reservation if you need to.
With this being said, waiting to get to Peru to book your tours can save you lots of money. This is 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 to book in advance. But if you have leeway with plans, there are some things that can wait to be booked until you have arrived in Peru.
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, especially when you eat raw vegetables (like salads) that have been washed with tap water. Ask how your vegetables are being treated.
People also get sick from brushing their teeth in tap water. So, be sure to have treated water on hand even for hygienic needs.
This wraps up our list of things to know before traveling to Peru. Our last tips? Keep an open mind and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime in the Land of the Incas.
This article has been revised and updated from its original publication on August 15, 2018.
Cover image: AmaraPhotos.com
We help you find yourself in Peru. Since 2003, we have led the way as an authoritative and reliable English-language resource for those interested in traveling, living, working, and investing in Peru. We are a team of dedicated individuals who are passionate about delivering reliable and unbiased content and providing amazing experiences for people visiting Peru.