Traveling with children to Peru can bring some distinct advantages. A family-oriented society, little ones are treasured. For parents, it makes an easy conversation starter with locals and ultimately aids in breaking down cultural barriers. In turn, Peru can be a great place for kids, with plenty of opportunities to explore and interact.
Best Regions for Kids
Kids dig the Parque del Amor, Circuito Mágico del Agua, visiting markets and joining outdoor family events.
- Cuzco & the Sacred Valley
Whether exploring the narrow passageways of the ancient city of Cuzco, visiting a traditional market or climbing high on the Via Ferrata, there’s something here for all ages.
- The Coast
Seaside resorts such as Paracas and Huanchaco provide beach fun and some surf. A gentle, sunny climate here helps keep your plans on target.
- Machu Picchu
What could be more intriguing for teens than the mysteries of the Incas? Nearby, smaller sites such as Ollantaytambo, Pisac and Maras also make for exciting explorations.
Peru for Kids
Peru is welcoming to kids, though it’s best to take all the usual travel precautions. And be sure they have the appropriate vaccinations. Children will often get free or reduced admission rates at events and performances.
Rock Peru Kid-Style
Peru has many ways to please young adventurers. Here are a few highlights.
- Rafting near Cuzco
- Horseback riding in the Andean foothills
- Splashing about in the hot pools in Cañón del Colca’s La Calera
- Canopy zip-lining in the Sacred Valley
- Cycling the coastal paths of Lima
- Exploring ruins in Chachapoyas, Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu
- Spying wildlife in the Amazon
- Fiestas with traditional dances
- Bungee tramps and climbing walls in summer
- Llamas and alpacas at farms and petting zoos
- Quintas (places serving Andean food) with oversized grills and backyard ambience
- Picnics on rocky outcrops with a view to the world
Rainy Day Refuges
- Chiquity Club in Cuzco and ludotecas (educational centers) in Lima
- Making chocolates at the Choco Museos in Lima and Cuzco
- Public Transportation In Peru, kids are welcome on public transportation. Often someone will give up a seat for a parent and child or offer to put your child on their lap. On buses, children aren’t normally charged if they sit on their parent’s lap.
- Driving Car seats are not widely available with rental cars so it is best if you bring one with you.
- Expecting & New Mothers Expecting mothers enjoy a boon of special parking spaces and grocery store lines. Breastfeeding in public is not uncommon, but most women discreetly cover themselves.
- Babysitting Babysitting services or children’s activity clubs tend to be limited to upmarket hotels and resorts.
- Public Toilets In general, public toilets are poorly maintained. Always carry toilet paper. While a woman may take a young boy into the ladies’ room, it would be socially unacceptable for a man to take a girl into the men’s room.
- Flights Children under the age of 12 may receive discounts on airline travel, while infants under two pay only 10% of the fare provided they sit on their parent’s lap.
Health & Safety
The main issue in Peru is diet. Drink only filtered/bottled water for starters. It’s also best to avoid raw vegetables unless you are assured they have been properly prepared. When traveling with young children, be particularly careful about their diet, as diarrhea can be especially dangerous to them. Children under two are particularly vulnerable to Hep A and typhoid fever, which can be contracted via contaminated food or water, as they are too young to be vaccinated against them.
Sun exposure can be dangerous, particularly at high altitudes, so make sure kids are adequately covered up and using sunscreen. Altitude sickness can also be an issue, so it's important that the family acclimates slowly. Taking children under three to high altitudes is not recommended. Consult your doctor on how to help kids cope with altitude sickness.
Children under nine months should not be taken to lower-altitude jungle areas because the yellow-fever vaccine is not safe for this age group.
All travelers to malaria-endemic countries such as Peru should visit their physician to obtain appropriate chemoprophylaxis based on their travel risk factors and age. Current guidelines suggest mefloquine, doxycycline and atovaquone-proguanil for travel to Peru, and all these can be used in children, with some limitations based on age and drug formulations. Some of these drugs need to be started two weeks before arrival in the country, so plan accordingly.
DEET-containing insect repellents can be used safely, but in concentrations of no higher than 30% for children according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (adults can safely use DEET concentrations of 50%). Insect repellents are not recommended for infants younger than two months of age (they should use an infant carrier drape with mosquito netting instead).
Since street dogs are common, it’s best to be up to date with rabies vaccinations. Most dogs are mild-mannered, but avoid those that seem aggressive.
While restaurants don’t offer special kids’ meals, most offer a variety of dishes suitable for children or may accommodate a special request. You can always order it sin picante (without spice). It is perfectly acceptable to split a dish between two children or an adult and a child. Don’t wait to eat until everyone is too hungry – service can be quite slow. High chairs are available in some larger restaurants.
Routine travel, such as train rides or jungle canoe trips, can amount to adventure for kids. In rural areas, community tourism is a great option. Many of the activities aimed at adults can be scaled down for children. Activities such as guided horseback rides and canyoning often have age limits (usually eight and up), but are invariably OK for teenagers. Some rivers may be suitable for children to float or raft; make sure outfitters have life vests and wet suits in appropriate sizes.
When to Go
Summer (between December and February) offers the most opportunities for good weather and beach fun, though the coast is enjoyed year-round. Avoid the highlands during the rainiest months (December to March). The highland dry season, between June and August, is ideal for exploring Cuzco and Machu Picchu, though these are also the busiest times.
Most midrange and top-end hotels will have reduced rates for children under 12 years of age, provided the child shares a room with parents. Cots are not normally available, except at the most exclusive hotels. Cabins or apartments, more common in beach destinations, usually make a good choice with options for self-catering.
What to Pack or Rent
- If you’re traveling with an infant, stock up on diapers (nappies) in Lima or other major cities before heading to rural areas. Also pack infant medicines, a thermometer and, of course, a favorite toy. Formula and baby food are easily found.
- It's handy to have hand sanitizer, as bathrooms may lack soap.
- Bring your favorite insect repellent, it's available here but nontoxic items are harder to find.
- It's a good idea to have diarrhea medication just in case.
- Kids should have comfortable outdoor clothing, a bathing suit, hats for the sun, a shell jacket and warm clothing for chilly days and nights. Before your trip, make sure everyone has adequate, broken-in shoes. Sandals can also be useful for the coast.
- A cheap digital camera or pair of binoculars can provide lots of entertainment.
- It’s possible to rent children’s bikes with helmets, as well as surf gear.
- Strollers are unlikely to be convenient in most places beyond cities.
- Baby backpacks are handy for market visits or getting onto the trails with tots or babies over six months old.
- Consider carefully the need to bring electronic games and tablet computers – they're bound to attract a lot of attention if used in public and it’s probably best to limit their use to the hotel.
Before You Go
Keep the kids in mind as you plan your itinerary or include them in the trip planning from the get-go. If renting a car, ask ahead if you can book a child’s seat, they are not always available. Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children provides good information, advice and anecdotes.
It's not necessary to be tied down to a schedule while traveling in Peru, plenty of activities can be booked just a few days in advance.