Top Ten Peru Travel Tips (spoiler: bring your own t.p.)

Posted on
Dec 1, 2011

Historically, the times that I’ve actually known what I was talking about have been few and far between. This is particularly true when it comes to travel, or geography, or really, facts of any kind.

Once, when we were in downtown Seattle, a middle-aged couple stopped Rand and me and asked where they could find a liquor store (at 2pm on a Saturday. I suppose they were putting the magic back in their relationship). I gave them very specific directions that, had the couple followed them to the letter, would have led them not only the wrong way down a one-way street, but nowhere near a liquor store. Rand looked on, in awe – he would later tell me that I spoke to the couple with such confidence that, against his better judgement, he didn’t question it.

I have no idea what became of that couple. Odds are, they probably gave up, headed home, and promptly divorced. But some small part of me is convinced that they are circling those blocks down which I sent them, doomed to spend an eternity yelling to each other, “It must be here. She said it was here. And she sounded so confident.

The lesson is a simple one: asking me for advice is a terrible idea and it will ruin your marriage if not your life. And yet, on a nearly-daily basis, some poor misguided soul sends me an email, asking me what they should do in x country, and where they should stay. My response is usually, “HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW? GO ASK THE INTERNET.”

And then I realize with no small measure of horror, some people have already done that and ended up on my site. To them, I am the internet. I am filled with curse words and rude comments and things you weren’t looking for.

And on very rare occasions, just like the internet, I have an answer. Like when blog-reader and certified chicken hawk wrangler (I totally made one of those up) Janine mentioned that she was going to be traveling to Peru. Janine sent me a message on Facebook (because she “liked” the Everywhereist fan page. Hint-hint) and I was quick to reply with some actual useful information, which I’ve shared below. Hopefully, I’ll was slightly more helpful to Janine than I was to that poor couple looking for liquor. Funny thing, too, because god knows they needed a drink after what I put them through.

  1. Instead of a visa, you will get an “Andean Migration Card” – a little white slip of paper that will be handed to you, rather nonchalantly, at the airport. Like your virginity, no one will impress upon you the importance of it until it is lost. That slip of paper is as important as a visa – you will need it when you check into hotels and when you leave the country. So don’t get drunk and hand it over to the next guy who comes along.
  2. The sun in Peru is intense, even when it is cloudy. Be sure to wear sunscreen. We all got scorched in Machu Picchu, but that might be because we’re pasty Seattlites. Ever lift up a rock and see the bugs underneath writhe around in a panic? That’s us on a sunny day.

    We expose ourselves to melanoma while enjoying the scenery.

  3. Watch your bag. Hold it on your lap in restaurants, and not, say, over the back of a chair. Even though Peru is relatively safe, it’s still a good idea to this. Fortunately, my bag weighs roughly the same as a medium-sized anvil, so I would love to see someone try and take it, then throw out their back in the process.
  4. Nearly every place accepts either soles or U.S. dollars. So don’t panic if you only have American currency – it’s actually worth something in Peru (and no where else. Seriously. Stupid euro.)
  5. If you go to Machu Picchu, you must bring your passport to get in (having dragged it all that way, you can also get a novelty passport stamp from Machu Picchu. I did this, but kind of regretted it – the stamp is about the size of a child’s foot and takes up valuable real-estate)
  6. If you are desperate for food, there are a few chains in Peru that are great – one is Pardo’s chicken, which is surprisingly authentic and yummy, and the other is Bembo’s, which is less fantastic but not bad in a pinch. We had dinner at the former, and dessert at the former and the latter (What? This is me we’re talking about).

    Dessert at Bembo's. I was very happy. Rand was very dorky.

  7. Haggle like crazy. Really, you shouldn’t be paying more than a few dollars American for hats or scarves, depending on the quality. There are lots of little artisan markets in Peru – you might want to walk around a couple and see the different prices and compare (in one place, scarves were 10 soles before we even started negotiating – in another they were 20 for the exact same scarf. Guess how much I paid for mine? That’s right! 25 soles.)
  8. Carry tissues with you, and hand sanitizer or wet wipes, if you can get some. A lot of more rural places don’t have t.p., and don’t have running water or soap to wash your hands. Oh, and did I mention lots of meals are communal? So … yeah.
  9. In many villages, bakeries are denoted by these hanging baskets. Obviously, this is the most important thing you will need to know when traveling in Peru.

    They also had a bunch of guinea pigs in a pen.

  10. Usually your hotel can help set up a tour for you if you want to see stuff in neighboring towns. This is usually incredibly affordable. We spent a day traveling to Moray and Pisac from Cuzco, and they served us a snack and gave us an elaborate tour for $30 U.S. a person. The market at Pisac was absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.

    Rand with Nicolas, our totally awesome tour guide who spoke English, Spanish, Quechuan, and Japanese.

    So there you go – proof that I’m not entirely worthless when it comes to giving advice. Unless it involves finding liquor stores in my hometown. Then you’re on your own.

Leave a Comment

  • Ruth

    I just wanted to let you know that at Pub Trivia last night, one of the questions was “most of the protein consumed in Peru comes from what animal?” and I knew it was guinea pig, thanks to you. Truly you are making the world a better place.

  • Félix

    Great tips! In particular the one about haggling, I live 2 counties down (Paraguay) and it’s really not common here…
    I really enjoy your blog, I’ve read every entry actually, and can’t wait for you to make it into a book… keep the good work!

  • Lali

    “If you are desperate for food in Peru” is a very general indication because Pardos and Bembos are fast food chains only in Lima. When in Lima, or Peru in general the last thing I would recommend is fast food. Peru is the gastronomical capital of South America, and Lima as well as most cities in Peru have a variety of delicious food and restaurants that is mind blowing.

    “The sun in Peru is intense…” Mach Pichu or even the Andes is not Peru, it is an area in Peru, and true even it is cloudy in the Andes you will probably burn. If you go to the North of Peru it will be sea level, hot with lots of sun and probably not cloudy. If you visit Lima, the capital city in the coast, in winter it will always be cloudy and the sun will never burn. If you go in summer the sun will blazing and you will need sunblock.

    Travelling in Peru is a broad generalization that is misleading. Peru has a diverse geography that includes the coast (where Lima the capital city is) Andes or mountains where cities like Cuzco are located and the rainforest where the headwaters of the Amazon river is located.
    More precision as to the various areas that make up the country, is a must when writing about travel in Peru.

    • Everywhereist

      Hi Lali –

      Thank you for your comments!

      I totally agree that there is some wonderful cuisine in Peru! I actually wrote a whole post about it, of which I am sure you will also have criticisms. Check it out:

      As far as Machu Picchu and the Andes not being in Peru, I am slightly confused. Nevertheless, while we encountered lots of different climates – everything from rocky beaches to the cloud forest – we found that we definitely needed sunscreen and quite a few of us got burned, even in the winter, even on a cloudy day.

      You clearly seem to have a few problems with my post – fortunately, it has still proved helpful to a few people, as was my intent. As for the parts I got wrong, I still think I’m more spot-on here than I was with the damn liquor store. That was tragic.

      • CJ

        I love your sense of humor! As for sunscreen – better to have it and not need it than visa versa!

  • Thanks for the tips, especially the ones on bringing TP and haggling. Hoping to make it to Peru next year, so we’ll definitely be bookmarking your page.

  • We were in Peru with Soles4Souls on the first week of December. We were in Lima and Trujillo…certainly found out the “bring your own t.p.” thing very quickly.

    Love this post! Thanks for writing!
    -Emily, Travel4Souls Coordinator

  • Planning a RoundTheWorld trip for this March/April, and Machu Picchu is on our list of places to go to. Thanks for the tips, they will come in handy. Next best thing after good info would be teleportation super-powers. Please send me a message when you’ve sorted that out. Haha! Kidding. Aaargh. Love traveling, hate flying.

  • Cool post! I’m from Montreal but been living in Peru 8 months a year for the last 4 years, in Lima. I have to say that i rarely see a Peruvian eat cuy (guinea pig), so i doubt it’s the most consumed protein (as mentioned by Ruth), vs pollo & fish that are just everywhere here. Hope you enjoyed your trip!

    • Lise Burnett

      Bonjour Frank,
      I will be in Peru this coming September (2014). I have 5 weeks to explore what i feel is the most amazing country!
      Needless to say it is not much time to experience Peru… I want to journey for a few days to Makawasi (Marcahuasi) near San Pedro de Casta. as a solo middle age woman, I am not about to go camping with a guide alone! If you ever hear of another lady or a trusted guy wanting to share the expenses of this trip from Lima, please let me know. (Most likely in the first week of October 5-6-7?) Thanks.

  • Emily

    This was hilarious! I actually laughed out loud at your tips, I’m headed to Peru soon and I found these tips informative and handy! 🙂

  • Brendan

    Great post, thanks for the info. Is that guy in the top picture with the camera possibly wearing a Central Michigan t-shirt? Fire up Chips?

  • Emily

    How were the outlets in the hotels ? i.e. wall outlets for chargers etc. I’m planning a trip in 3 weeks

  • Johanna

    Did you feel safe in Peru? I have read a lot of things on the internet about high crime.

  • Great tips! Peru is truly amazing, what I would definitely say to your list is to take water, lots of people don;t take enough on our trips, and so water is a must.

    Peruvian people are so lovely, the other thing I was asked by a local is that if you have any spare warm clothes you could leave for the mountain villagers – please do, or blankets from the town shop do so.

    Not many visitors to Peru know that lots of villagers in the mountains suffer from hypothermia in colder regions because they can’t afford warm bedding. A nice thing to do for the communities is leave them with something warm before you leave (a tip or request from a Cuzco tour guide).

  • Mary

    Wish I had read your list before I went. Peru was such a culture shock sanitation-wise, traffic-wise, and obtaining items store-wise. I am so happy to be back home! I have no desire to visit Machu Picchu again, once was enough lovely though it is, and I got really beet-red sunburned. Fortunately, I had Imodium for the second batch of tourista I got. I love the textiles!

  • Liam Thompsom

    Hello, great post. For those who are planning to travel this year 2017, must take into consideration that Machu Picchu tickets increased a little. Here is the link:
    Greetings and have a nice trip.

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