Peru offers few conveniences for travelers with disabilities. Features such as signs in Braille or phones for the hearing-impaired are virtually nonexistent, while wheelchair ramps and lifts are few and far between, and the pavement is often badly potholed and cracked. Most hotels do not have wheelchair accessible rooms, at least not rooms specially designated as such. Bathrooms are often barely large enough for an able-bodied person to walk into, so few are accessible to wheelchairs.
Nevertheless, there are Peruvians with disabilities who get around, mainly through the help of others.
Apumayo Expediciones An adventure-tour company that takes disabled travelers to Machu Picchu and other historic sites in the Sacred Valley.
Conadis Governmental agency for Spanish-language information and advocacy for people with disabilities.
Emerging Horizons (www.emerginghorizons.com) Travel magazine for the mobility impaired, with handy advice columns and news articles.
Mobility International Advises disabled travelers on mobility issues and runs an educational exchange program.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Bargaining is the norm at street stalls and markets, where it’s cash only.
Dangers & Annoyances
For newcomers, Peru can be busy and disorienting at first, making it easy to be caught off guard. Some things to be aware of:
- Travelers may experience periodic protests and strikes that can cut off transportation.
- While safety has improved, especially in Lima, street crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching and muggings are still common.
- Sneak theft is by far the most widespread type of crime.
- Bus drivers often act as if every bend in the road should be assaulted at Autobahn speeds.
All important documents (passport, credit cards, travel insurance policy, driver’s license etc) should be photocopied or photographed before you leave home. Leave one copy at home or on a cloud drive and keep another with you, separate from the originals.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hotspots.
Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/peru)
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca)
US State Department (www.travel.state.gov)
Thefts, Muggings & Other Crime
Use basic precautions and a reasonable amount of awareness to avoid a robbery. Some tips:
- Crowded places such as bus terminals, train stations, markets and fiestas are the haunts of pickpockets; wear your day pack in front of you or carry a bag that fits snugly under your arm.
- Thieves look for easy targets, such as a bulging wallet in a back pocket or a camera held out in the open; keep spending money in your front pocket and your camera stowed when it’s not in use.
- Passports and larger sums of cash are best carried in a money belt or an inside pocket that can be zipped or closed – or better yet, stowed in a safe at your hotel.
- Snatch theft can occur if you place a bag on the ground (even for a few seconds), or while you’re asleep on an overnight bus; never leave a bag with your wallet and passport in the overhead rack of a bus.
- Don’t keep valuables in bags that will be unattended.
- Blending in helps: walking around town in brand-new hiking gear or a shiny leather jacket will draw attention; stick to simple clothing.
- Leave jewelry and fancy watches at home.
- Hotels – especially cheap ones – aren’t always trustworthy; lock valuables inside your luggage, or use safety deposit services.
- Walk purposefully wherever you are going, even if you are lost; if you need to examine your map, duck into a shop or restaurant.
- Always take an official taxi at night and from the airport or bus terminals. If threatened, it’s better just to give up your goods than face harm.
Distraction Some thieves work in pairs or groups. One person creates a distraction as another robs. This can take the form of a bunch of kids fighting in front of you, an elderly person ‘accidentally’ bumping into you or perhaps someone spilling something on your clothes. Some may slit open your bag, whether it’s on your back or on the luggage rack of a bus.
Armed muggings In some cases, there have been robberies and armed muggings of trekkers on popular hiking trails around Huaraz, and jungle treks in the south. Going as part of a group with a local guide may help prevent this. In addition, the area around Tingo María, on the eastern edge of the central highlands, is a renowned bandit area, with armed robberies and other crimes regular occurrences. Keep any activities in the area, including bus rides, to daylight hours.
Express kidnapping ‘Express’ kidnappings have been recorded, particularly in some of the unsavory neighborhoods that surround the airport in Lima, and even just outside the airport. An armed attacker (or attackers) grabs someone out of a taxi or abducts them off the street, then forces them to go to the nearest bank to withdraw cash using their ATM cards. Victims who do not resist their attackers generally don’t suffer serious physical harm.
The policía de turismo (tourist police, aka Poltur) can be found in major cities and tourist areas and can be helpful with criminal matters. If you are unsure how to locate them, contact the main office in Lima. If you are the victim of a crime, file a report with the tourist police immediately. At some point, inform your country’s embassy about what has happened. They won’t be able to do much, but embassies do keep track of crime geared at foreigners as a way of alerting other travelers to potential dangers.
If you have taken out travel insurance and need to make a claim, Poltur will provide you with a police report. Stolen passports can be reissued at your embassy, though you may be asked for an alternative form of identification first. After receiving your new passport, go to the nearest Peruvian immigration office to get a new tourist card.
Corruption & Scams
Police The military and police (even sometimes the tourist police) have a reputation for corruption. While a foreigner may experience petty harassment (usually to procure payment of a bribe), most police officers are courteous to tourists or just leave them alone.
Touts Perhaps the most pernicious things travelers face are the persistent touts that gather at bus terminals, train stations, airports and other tourist spots to offer everything from discounted hotel rooms to local tours. Many touts – among them, many taxi drivers – will say just about anything to steer you to places they represent. They will tell you the establishment you’ve chosen is a notorious drug den, it’s closed down or is overbooked. Do not believe everything you hear. If you have doubts about a place you’ve decided to stay at, ask to see a room before paying up.
Travel agents It's not advisable to book hotels, travel arrangements or transportation through independent agents. Often, they will demand cash upfront for services that never materialize. Stick to reputable, well-recommended agencies and you’ll be assured a good time.
When taking buses, choose operators carefully. The cheapest companies will be the most likely to employ reckless drivers and have roadside breakdowns. Overnight travel by bus can get brutally cold in the highlands (take a blanket or a sleeping bag). In some parts, nighttime trips are also subject to the vagaries of roadside bandits, who create impromptu road blocks, then relieve passengers of their valuables. Armed robberies have been reported on the night buses between Trujillo and Cajabamba and Lima and Cuzco.
Some of Peru’s natural hazards include earthquakes and avalanches. Rescues in remote regions are often done on foot because of the inability of helicopters to reach some of the country’s more challenging topography. Perhaps the most common hazard is travelers’ diarrhea, which comes from consuming contaminated food or water. Other problems include altitude sickness, animal and insect bites, sunburn, heat exhaustion and even hypothermia. You can take precautions for most of these.
Protests & Other Conflict
Protests During the Internal Conflict, through the 1980s and into the 1990s, terrorism, civil strife and kidnappings meant that entire regions were off-limits to both foreign and domestic travelers. Now travelers visit much of the country without problems. Even so, public protests remain a familiar sight. Generally speaking, these have little effect on tourists. It is worth staying aware of current events while in the country; and if a road is blocked or an area cut off, respect the situation. Being a foreigner will not grant you immunity from violence.
Shining Path In the news, a Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) resurgence has brought isolated incidents of violence in the main coca growing areas in the provinces of Ayacucho, Cuzco (the trekking route to Espiritu Pampa), Huancavelica, Huánuco, Junín and San Martín. These are generally directed at the Peruvian military or the police. Even so, it is worth exercising caution: avoid transit through isolated areas in these regions at night and always check with reputable tour operators before heading out on a remote trekking route.
Drug trafficking Likewise, drug trafficking areas can be dangerous, especially at night. Travelers should avoid the upper Río Huallaga valley between Tingo María and Juanjui, Puerto Bermudez, and near Ayacucho, where the majority of Peru’s illegal drug-growing takes place. Exercise similar caution near the Colombian border, where trafficking also goes on.
A half century of armed conflict over the Cordillera del Condor region on Peru’s northeastern border with Ecuador was finally resolved in 1998. However, unexploded ordinance (UXO) in the area has not been completely cleaned up. Only use official border crossings and don’t stray from the beaten path when traveling in this region.
Electrical current is 220V, 60Hz AC. Standard outlets accept round prongs, some have dual-voltage outlets which take flat prongs. Even so, your adapter may need a built-in surge protector.
Embassies & Consulates
Most foreign embassies are in Lima, with some consular services in major tourist centers such as Cuzco.
It is important to realize what your embassy can and can’t do if you get into trouble. Your embassy will not be sympathetic if you end up in jail after committing a crime, even if such actions are legal in your own country. If all your money and documents are stolen, the embassy can help you get a new passport.
Call in advance to double-check operating hours or schedule an appointment. While many consulates and embassies are staffed during regular business hours, attention to the public is often more limited. For after-hours and emergency contact numbers, check individual websites.
Oficinas de migraciónes (immigration offices) are where you’ll need to go to receive an exit stamp or secure a new entry card, which can also be done online through the website.
Canadian Embassy With a helpful website.
US Embassy Call before showing up in person.
Emergency & Important Numbers
|Peru's country code||51|
|International access code||4-digit carrier + 00 + country code|
|National tourist information (24hr)||511-574-800|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Travelers should have their passport valid for at least six months beyond their departure date. When arriving by air, US citizens must show a return ticket or an open-jaw onward ticket.
Upon arrival, immigration officials may only stamp 30 days into a passport though the limit is 180 days. If this happens, explain how many more days you need, supported by an exit ticket for onward or return travel.
Bribery (known colloquially as coima) is illegal, but some officials may try to procure extra ‘fees’ at land borders.
- Peru allows duty-free importation of 3L of alcohol and 20 packs of cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. You can import US$300 of gifts. Legally, you are allowed to bring in such items as a laptop, camera, portable music player, kayak, climbing gear, mountain bike or similar items for personal use.
- It is illegal to take pre-Columbian or colonial artifacts out of Peru, and it is illegal to bring them into most countries. If purchasing reproductions, buy only from a reputable dealer and ask for a detailed receipt. Purchasing animal products made from endangered species or even just transporting them around Peru is also illegal.
- Coca leaves are legal in Peru, but not in most other countries, even in the form of tea bags. People subject to random drug testing should be aware that coca, even in the form of tea, may leave trace amounts in urine.
- Check with your own home government about customs restrictions and duties on any expensive or rare items you intend to bring back. Most countries allow their citizens to import a limited number of items duty-free, though these regulations are subject to change.
Visas are generally not not required for travelers entering Peru.
Tourists are permitted a 183-day, non-extendable stay, stamped into passports and onto a tourist card called a Tarjeta Andina de Migración (Andean Immigration Card). Keep it – it must be returned upon exiting the country. If you will need it, request the full amount of time to the immigration officer at the point of entry, since they have a tendency to issue 30- or 90-day stays.
Those who enter Peru via the Lima airport or cruise ship do not receive a tourist card, their visits are processed online.
If you lose your tourist card, visit the Oficina de Migraciónes (Immigration Office) or obtain a replacement copy via the website. Information in English can be found online. Extensions are no longer officially available.
Anyone who plans to work, attend school or reside in Peru for any length of time must obtain a visa in advance. Do this through the Peruvian embassy or consulate in your home country.
Carry your passport and tourist card on your person at all times, especially in remote areas (it’s required by law on the Inca Trail). For security, make a photocopy of both documents and keep them in a separate place from the originals.
- Manners Peruvians are well-mannered. Transactions begin with a formal buenos días or buenas tardes.
- Photos Ask before photographing people in indigenous communities – payment may be requested.
- Antiquities It is illegal to buy pre-Columbian antiquities and take them out of Peru.
Having a travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss, accidents and illness is highly recommended. Always carry your insurance card with you. Not all policies compensate travelers for misrouted or lost luggage. Check the fine print to see if it excludes ‘dangerous activities,’ which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even trekking. Also check if the policy coverage includes worst-case scenarios, such as evacuations and flights home.
You must usually report any loss or theft to local police (or airport authorities) within 24 hours. Make sure you keep all documentation to make any claim.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
- Most regions have excellent internet connections and reasonable prices; it is typical for hotels and hostels to have wi-fi or computer terminals.
- Family guesthouses, particularly outside urban areas, lag behind in this area.
- Internet cafes are widespread.
Legal assistance Your own embassy is of limited help if you get into trouble with the law in Peru, where you are presumed guilty until proven innocent. If you are the victim, the policía de turismo (tourist police; Poltur) can help, with limited English. Poltur stations are found in major cities.
Bribery Though some police officers (even tourist police) have a reputation for corruption, bribery is illegal. Beyond traffic police, the most likely place officials might request a little extra is at land borders. Since this too is illegal, those with time and fortitude can and should stick to their guns.
Drugs Avoid having any conversation with someone who offers you drugs. Peru has draconian penalties for possessing even a small amount of drugs; minimum sentences are several years in jail.
Police Should you be stopped by a plainclothes officer, don’t hand over any documents or money. Never get into a vehicle with someone claiming to be a police officer, but insist on going to a real police station on foot.
Protests It's not recommended to attend political protests or to get too close to blockades – these are places to avoid.
Detention If you are imprisoned for any reason, make sure that someone else knows about it as soon as possible. Extended pretrial detentions are not uncommon. Peruvians bring food and clothing to family members who are in prison, where conditions are extremely harsh.
Complaints For issues with a hotel or a tour operator, register your complaint with the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property in Lima.
Peru is a strongly conservative, Catholic country. While most believe that legalizing same-sex civil unions will happen soon, the initiative has met resistance by the Peruvian Congress in the past, despite the adoption of similar measures in neighboring countries in the Southern Cone. While many Peruvians will tolerate homosexuality on a ‘don’t ask; don’t tell’ level when dealing with foreign travelers, LGBT+ rights remain a struggle. As a result, many Peruvians don’t publicly identify.
Public displays of affection among homosexual couples is rarely seen. Outside gay clubs, it is advisable to keep a low profile. Lima is the most accepting of gay people, but this is on a relative scale. Beyond that, the tourist towns of Cuzco, Arequipa and Trujillo tend to be more tolerant than the norm. Social media platforms Tinder and Grindr can connect travelers to the gay scene.
FYI: the rainbow flag seen around Cuzco and in the Andes is not a gay pride flag – it’s the flag of the Inca empire.
Gay Lima (lima.gaycities.com) A handy guide to the latest gay and gay-friendly spots in the capital, along with plenty of links.
Gay Peru (www.gayperu.pe) A magazine-style website covering news, fashion and events.
Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com) Excellent, country-specific information about Peru’s gay scene and politics, with links to international resources.
Purpleroofs.com (www.purpleroofs.com) Massive LGBT portal with links to a few tour operators and gay-friendly accommodations in Peru.
Lima Tours A travel agency that is not exclusively gay, but organizes gay-friendly group trips around the country.
The best road map of Peru is the 1:2,000,000 Mapa Vial published by Lima 2000 and available in better bookstores. The 1:1,500,000 Peru South and Lima country map, published by International Travel Maps, covers the country in good detail south of a line drawn east to west through Tingo María, and has a good street map of Lima, San Isidro, Miraflores and Barranco on the reverse side.
For topographical maps, go to the Instituto Geográfico Nacional, with reference maps and others for sale. In January, the IGN closes early, so call ahead. High-scale topographic maps for trekking are available, though sheets of border areas might be hard to get. Geological and demographic maps and CD-ROMs are also sold.
Up-to-date topo maps are often available from outdoor outfitters in major trekking centers such as Cuzco, Huaraz and Arequipa. If you are bringing along a GPS unit, ensure that your power source adheres to Peru’s 220V, 60Hz AC standard and always carry a compass.
- Newspapers Peru’s government-leaning El Comercio (www.elcomercioperu.com.pe) is the leading daily. There’s also the slightly left-of-center La República (www.elcomercioperu.com.pe) and the Peruvian Times (www.peruviantimes.com) and Peru this Week (www.peruthisweek.com) in English.
- Internet resources Helpful online resource for expats in English is expatperu.com.
- Magazines Etiqueta Negra (etiquetanegra.com.pe) focuses on culture. A good bilingual travel publication is the monthly Rumbos (www.rumbosdelperu.com).
- TV Cable and satellite TV are widely available for a fix of CNN or even Japanese news.
ATMs widely available in larger cities and towns. Credit cards accepted widely. Traveler’s checks not widely accepted.
A Note about Prices
Prices are generally listed in Peruvian nuevos soles. However, many package lodgings and higher-end hotels will only quote prices in US dollars; as will many travel agencies and tour operators. In these cases, we list prices in US dollars.
Both currencies have experienced fluctuations in recent years, so expect many figures to be different from what you have read.
- Cajeros automáticos (ATMs) proliferate in nearly every city and town in Peru, as well as at major airports, bus terminals and shopping areas.
- ATMs are linked to the international Plus (Visa) and Cirrus (Maestro/MasterCard) systems, as well as American Express and other networks.
- Users should have a four-digit PIN. To avoid problems, notify your bank that you’ll be using your ATM card abroad.
- If your card works with Banco de la Nacion, it may be the best option as it doesn't charge fees (at least at the time of writing).
- Both US dollars and nuevos soles are readily available from Peruvian ATMs.
- Your home bank may charge an additional fee for each foreign ATM transaction.
- ATMs are normally open 24 hours.
- For safety reasons, use ATMs inside banks with security guards, preferably during daylight hours. Cover the keyboard for pin entry.
The nuevo sol (‘new sun’) comes in bills of S10, S20, S50, S100 and (rarely) S200. It is divided into 100 céntimos, with copper-colored coins of S0.05, S0.10 and S0.20, and silver-colored S0.50 and S1 coins. In addition, there are bimetallic S2 and S5 coins with a copper-colored center inside a silver-colored ring.
US dollars are accepted by many tourist-oriented businesses, though you’ll need nuevos soles to pay for local transportation, meals and other incidentals.
Counterfeit bills (in both US dollars and nuevo soles) often circulate in Peru. Merchants question both beat-up and large-denomination bills. Consumers should refuse them too.
To detect fakes check for a sheer watermark and examine a metal strip crossing the note that repeats Peru in neat, not misshapen, letters. Colored thread, holographs and writing along the top of the bill should be embossed, not glued on.
The best currency for exchange is the US dollar, although the euro is accepted in major tourist centers. Other hard currencies can be exchanged, but usually with difficulty and only in major cities. All foreign currencies must be in flawless condition.
Cambistas (money changers) hang out on street corners near banks and casas de cambio and give competitive rates (there’s only a little flexibility for bargaining), but are not always honest. Officially, they should wear a vest and badge identifying themselves as legal. They’re useful after regular business hours or at borders where there aren’t any other options.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Midrange and top-end hotels and shops accept tarjetas de crédito (credit cards) with a 7% (or greater) fee. Your bank may also tack on a surcharge and additional fees for each foreign-currency transaction. The most widely accepted cards in Peru are Visa and MasterCard.
- Restaurants Tip 10% for good service.
- Porters and tour guides Tip each separately at the end of the trip.
- Taxis Tip not required (unless drivers have assisted with heavy luggage).
Hours are variable and liable to change, especially in small towns, where hours are irregular. Posted hours are a guideline. Lima has the most continuity of services. In other major cities, taxi drivers often know where the late-night stores and pharmacies are located.
Banks 9am–6pm Monday to Friday, some 9am–6pm Saturday
Restaurants 10am–10pm, many close 3pm–6pm
Museums Often close on Monday
Government offices and Businesses 9am–5pm Monday to Friday
Shops 9am–6pm, some open Saturday
The privatized postal system is run by Serpost (www.serpost.com.pe). Its service is fairly efficient and reliable, but surprisingly expensive. Most international mail will take about two weeks to arrive from Lima; longer from the provinces.
A post-office box is known as an apartado postal (abbreviated ‘Apartado,’ ‘Apto’ or ‘AP’) or a casilla postal (‘Casilla’ or ‘CP’). Some addresses have s/n (short for sin numero, or ‘without a number’) or cuadra (‘block,’ eg Block 4) after the street name.
Only addresses in Lima and neighboring Callao require postal codes. Those used most often by travelers are Lima 1 (Central Lima), Lima 4 (Barranco), Lima 18 (Miraflores) and Lima 27 (San Isidro). Note that the word ‘Lima’ is essential to these postal codes.
Major holidays may be celebrated for days around the official date.
Fiestas Patrias (National Independence Days) is the biggest national holiday, when the entire nation seems to be on the move.
New Year’s Day January 1
Good Friday March/April
Labor Day May 1
Inti Raymi June 24
Feast of Sts Peter & Paul June 29
National Independence Days July 28–29
Feast of Santa Rosa de Lima August 30
Battle of Angamos Day October 8
All Saints Day November 1
Feast of the Immaculate Conception December 8
Christmas December 25
- It's illegal to smoke in any establishment dedicated to health or education (schools, hospitals etc).
- Smoking is prohibited in all forms of public transport.
- Workplaces, hotels, restaurants and bars allow smoking only in designated smoking areas with a physically separate location.
Taxes & Refunds
- Expensive hotels add a 19% sales tax and 10% service charge; the latter is generally not included in quoted rates. Non-Peruvians may be eligible for a refund of the sales tax only.
- A few restaurants charge combined taxes of more than 19%, plus a service charge (servicio or propina) of 10%.
- There is no system of sales-tax refunds for shoppers.
A few public pay phones operated by Movistar and Claro are still around, especially in small towns. They work with coins or phone cards, which can be purchased at supermarkets and groceries. Often internet cafes have ‘net-to-net’ capabilities (such as Skype), to talk for free.
In Lima and other larger cities, you can buy SIM cards for unlocked phones for about S15. Credit can be purchased in pharmacies and supermarkets. Cell-phone reception may be poor in the mountains or jungle.
When calling Peru from abroad, dial the international access code for the country you’re in, then Peru’s country code (51), then the area code without the 0 and finally, the local number. When making international calls from Peru, dial the international access code (00), then the country code of where you’re calling to, then the area code and finally, the local phone number.
In Peru, any telephone number beginning with a 9 is a cell-phone number. Numbers beginning with 0800 are often toll-free only when dialed from private phones. To make a credit-card or collect call using AT&T, dial 0800-50288. For an online telephone directory, see www.paginasamarillas.com.pe.
- Peru is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It’s the same as Eastern Standard Time (EST) in North America. At noon in Lima, it’s 9am in Los Angeles, 11am in Mexico City, noon in New York, 5pm in London and 4am (following day) in Sydney.
- Daylight Saving Time (DST) isn’t used in Peru.
- Punctuality is not one of the things that Latin America is famous for, so be prepared to wait around. Buses rarely depart or arrive on time. Savvy travelers should allow some flexibility in their itineraries.
Peruvian plumbing leaves something to be desired. There’s always a chance that flushing a toilet will cause it to overflow, so you should avoid putting anything other than human waste into the toilet. Even a small amount of toilet paper can muck up the entire system – that’s why a small, plastic bin is routinely provided for disposing of the paper. This may not seem sanitary, but it is definitely better than the alternative of clogged toilets and flooded floors. A well-run hotel or restaurant, even a cheap one, will empty the bin and clean the toilet daily. In rural areas, there may be just a rickety wooden outhouse built around a hole in the ground.
Public toilets are rare outside of transportation terminals, restaurants and museums, but restaurants will generally let travelers use a restroom (sometimes for a charge). Those in terminals usually have an attendant who will charge you about S0.75 to enter and then give you a few sheets of toilet paper. Public restrooms frequently run out of toilet paper, so always carry extra.
- The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has a network of tourist information offices throughout the country.
- iPeru (www.peru.travel/en-us) A great resource for travelers. It can supply schedules for public transportation and information on lodgings and attractions.
Travel With Children
Traveling with children to Peru can bring some distinct advantages. A family-oriented society, children are treasured. For parents, it makes an easy conversation starter with locals and helps break 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.
- 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 years 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 aged 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.
Peru has many ways to please young adventurers. Here are a few highlights.
- Rafting near Cuzco Kids enjoy splashing out on the tamer whitewater sections.
- Cusco for You, Andean foothills Horseback riding in the Sacred Valley is ideal for older kids.
- La Calera, Cañón del Colca Splash about in these hot pools.
- Action Valley, Sacred Valley Fun on canopy ziplines.
- Mirabici, Lima coast Cycling the coastal paths of Miraflores.
- Kuélap Ruins galore to wander and explore.
- Parque Nacional Manu Spying wildlife in the Amazon.
- 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
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 a 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, iPads and laptops – 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. For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
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.
General advice for finding volunteer work is to ask at language schools; they usually know of several programs suitable for their students. Both nonprofit and for-profit organizations can arrange volunteer opportunities, if you contact them in advance.
Action Without Borders (www.idealist.org) Online database of social work–oriented jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities.
Cross-Cultural Solutions (www.crossculturalsolutions.org) Educational and social-service projects in Lima and Ayacucho; program fees include professional in-country support.
Earthwatch Institute (www.earthwatch.org) Pay to help scientists on archaeological, ecological and other real-life expeditions in the Amazon Basin and the Andes.
Global Crossroad Volunteer, internship and job programs in the Andes. Summer cultural immersion programs for 18- to 29-year-olds include language instruction, homestays, volunteer work and sightseeing.
Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org) Offers short-term volunteer opportunities helping orphans in Lima.
Kiya Survivors/Peru Positive Action Organizes two- to six-month volunteer placements for assistant teachers and therapists to work with special-needs children in Cuzco, Urubamba in the Sacred Valley and Máncora on the north coast.
Weights & Measures
- Weights and measures Peru uses the metric system but gas (petrol) is measured in US gallons.
Machismo is alive and well in Latin America. Most female travelers to Peru will experience little more than shouts of mi amor (my love) or an appreciative hiss. If you are fair-skinned with blond hair, however, be prepared to be the center of attention. Peruvian men consider foreign women to have looser morals and be easier sexual conquests than Peruvian women and will often make flirtatious comments to single women.
Unwanted attention Staring, whistling, hissing and catcalls in the streets is common and best ignored. Most men rarely, if ever, follow up on the idle chatter (unless they feel you’ve insulted their manhood). Ignoring all provocation and staring ahead is generally the best response. If someone is particularly persistent, try a potentially ardor-smothering phrase such as soy casada (I’m married). If you appeal directly to locals, you’ll find most Peruvians to be protective of lone women, expressing surprise and concern if you tell them you’re traveling without your family or husband.
Bricheros It’s not uncommon for fast-talking charmers, especially in tourist towns such as Cuzco, to attach themselves to gringas. Known in Peru as bricheros, many of these young Casanovas are looking for a meal ticket, so approach any professions of undying love with extreme skepticism. This happens to men too.
First impressions Use common sense when meeting men in public places. In Peru, outside of a few big cities, it is rare for a woman to belly up to a bar for a beer, and the ones that do tend to be prostitutes. If you feel the need for an evening cocktail, opt for a restaurant. Likewise, heavy drinking by women might be misinterpreted by some men as a sign of promiscuity. When meeting someone, make it very clear if only friendship is intended. This goes double for tour and activity guides. When meeting someone for the first time, it is also wise not to divulge where you are staying until you feel sure that you are with someone you can trust.
- In highland towns, dress is generally fairly conservative and women rarely wear shorts, opting instead for long skirts. Shorts, miniskirts and revealing blouses may draw unwanted attention.
- Tampons are difficult to find in smaller towns, so stock up in major cities.
- Birth-control pills and other contraceptives (even condoms) are scarce outside metropolitan areas and not always reliable, so bring your own supply from home. Rates of HIV infection are on the rise, especially among young women.
- Abortions are illegal, except to save the life of the mother.
Travelers who are sexually assaulted can report it to the nearest police station or to the tourist police. However, Peruvian attitudes toward sexual assaults favor the attackers, not the survivors. Rape is often seen as a disgrace, and it is difficult to prosecute. Because the police tend to be unhelpful, we recommend calling your own embassy or consulate to ask for advice, including on where to seek medical treatment, which should be an immediate priority.
A few tips:
- Skip the hitchhiking.
- Do not take unlicensed taxis, especially at night (licensed taxis have a number on the door and an authorization sticker on the windshield).
- Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar places at night.
- If a stranger approaches you on the street and asks a question, answer it if you feel comfortable – but don’t stop walking as it could allow potential attackers to surround you.
- Avoid overnight buses through bandit-ridden areas.
- Be aware of your surroundings; attacks have occurred in broad daylight around well-touristed sites and popular trekking trails.
- When hiring a private tour or activity guide, seek someone who comes from a recommended or reliable agency.
Centro de La Mujer Peruana Flora Tristán Feminist social and political advocacy group for women’s and human rights in Peru, with a Spanish-language website and a library in Lima.
Instituto Peruano de Paternidad Responsable Planned Parenthood–affiliated organization that runs a dozen sexual and reproductive health clinics for both women and men around the country, including in Lima.
It’s increasingly difficult to obtain residence and work permits for Peru, and likewise to get jobs without a proper work visa. Some jobs teaching English in language schools may not require one, but this is illegal. Occasionally, schools advertise for teachers, but more often, jobs are found by word of mouth. Schools expect you to be a native English speaker, and the pay is low. If you have teaching credentials, so much the better.
American and British schools in Lima sometimes hire teachers of math, biology and other subjects, but usually only if you apply in advance. They pay much better than the language schools, and might possibly be able to help you get a work visa if you want to stay. In Lima, the South American Explorers clubhouse and international cultural centers may have contacts with schools that are looking for teachers.
Most other jobs are obtained by word of mouth (eg bartenders, hostel staff, jungle guides), but the possibilities are limited. Volunteer organisations offer internships and short-term job opportunities.