Considering… Peru

Peru gets some of its inspiration from our first trip to Mesa Verde National Park, where we got to see ancient ruins of Native Americans up close (built around 1,190AD). Machu Picchu is one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of places that also has ruins, but these are definitely more EPIC. Why have we waited so long? Let’s go!

Why do we want to go?

¿Por qué no? Peru has beautiful landscapes and has a rich culture. We have never been to South America, and the closest we have been was Costa Rica. Machu Picchu has always fascinated us and it would be incredible to see it in person. We also want to experience the food and the day-to-day life here. The bucket list items all look amazing!

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What are some bucket list contenders?

  • Lake Titicaca – Beautiful lake with floating islands and rich cultural eperiences
  • Machu Picchu – Ancient Inca Ruins on a mountain top (may want to go during the edges of rainy season to avoid the crowds and high prices)
  • Inca Trail – The 4 day adventure to climb up to Machu Picchu on foot (for those who dare, like us)
  • Colca Canyon – A canyon that makes the Grand Canyon look like a baby with its deepest point 13,650 feet (4160 meters)
  • Nazca Lines – 300 different figures depicting animals, people, geometric shapes and plants created by the Nazca Civilization between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. (Pictured)
  • Cuzco – Town near Machu Picchu with great food, abundance of Inca culture, cobblestone streets, hiking
  • Paracas – Coastal town with lots of wildlife located on the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve
  • Sacsayhuaman – Sounds like “sexy woman” but is actually some ancient ruins near Cuzco
  • Lima – Capital City of Peru, with views of the Ocean, rich culture, food and museums
  • Huaca de la Luna – An active archaeological dig that is in very good condition. It has a temple with many levels built over centuries

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Country Profile

COUNTRY | Peru
Region South America
Best Season May – September is Dry Season / Winter
Average Temp / Weather Conditions Averages are between 24°C (74°F) and 17°C (63°F)
Key Attractions Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, Cusco’s Architecture, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, Nazca Lines
Entry / Visa Requirements Free tourist visa issued at point of entry (make sure you retain your record of entry to exit)
CURRENCY | Peruvian Sol (~$3.23 PEN = $1 USD)
Daily Budget $160-$225 PEN ($50-$70 USD) per day for a couple depending on lodging
Frugal Tips Eat local meals, stay in dorm rooms or budget hotels, book activities in advance
THE STAY | Possible duration: Two weeks to a month
Lodging Types Hostel dorm rooms, budget hotels, airbnb for rooms and entire homes
Food Stir fried meats, chicken and vegetable stews, stuffed potatoes, Chicken skewers with “secret sauce,” sausages
Transportation Options Bus (between major cities), train (tourist trains to popular places), taxi (no tipping needed, ask for fare in advance), hitchhiking (with extreme caution), rental cars/motorcycles (in local areas).
Driving Requirements International driver permit (IDP) highly recommended, but not required. Peruvian transit police are difficult to work with and may try force bribes from you, so having the IDP will help avoid this situation. Driving is on the right side of the road.
Connectivity Wifi is available in cafes, some hotels and hostels. Internet booths are available on provided computers with a per hour meter (around $3 PEN/hour). 3G networks are available in the more populated areas of the country.
CULTURE | Language: Spanish (Official), Quechua and Aymara + 40 ethnic languages
Customs
  • Catholic country with a family-oriented social life
  • Shake hands when meeting, unless you’re meeting a woman (then you wait for her to greet you).
  • Address people you don’t know as Señor, Señora or Señorita and their last name.
  • Clothing is western-style except in the highlands where you see women dressing more traditionally.
  • Music and dance have an important role in Peruvian Society.
  • Use cash here (they take US dollars and Peruvian soles); ATM and credit card accessibility is limited in remote areas, and not all cards are taken when you are in larger cities depending on the location. Only use ATMs in secure buildings and not on the streets. Before you leave for the day, take out the amount of cash you will need.
  • Tipping is not expected, but if you receive especially good service you can add a tip.
  • Do not flush toilet paper down the toilet, use the bin next to the toilet.
Local Laws
  • Be respectful at sacred and historical sites or you will be arrested or detained.
  • Do not use illegal drugs or you will be imprisoned.
  • No artifacts can leave the country. Handcrafted goods that are culturally or historically significant are also tricky to bring home.
  • Carry a photo id at all times (passport or notarized copy)
English Availability In major cities and in tour groups, you can find English
Attitudes Toward Americans Great as long as you don’t look down on them and you at least make an attempt to speak Spanish. Be a gracious guest.
Photography Concerns Not allowed in churches, convents, crypts and catacombs gernally, but ask before you take photos. Theft can be an issue so just maintain the same diligence about your gear as you would in a major US city and you will be fine. Drone photography is no longer allowed at Machu Picchu, and to fly a drone in this country you must get approval by emailing Email: rpas-dgac@mtc.gob.pe or calling +51-1-6157800. It usually takes seven days to get approval, so plan ahead. Avoid taking photographs of anything of a military nature, public water or electricity plants, police stations, harbours, mines and bridges.
SAFETY
General Safety Peru is generally safe but take precautions as you would in any US city. Do not take unregulated taxis as they could scam you. In Lima, you may want to stick to the more touristy parts of town to feel safe. Petty theft is common as well as con artists trying to scam you.
Emergency Number Police: 105. Ambulance: 117. Fire: 116.
Location of U.S. Embassy / Phone Lima (Avenida La Encalada cdra. 17 s/n, Surco, Lima 33; Telephone: +(51)(1) 618-2000)
MEDICAL
Medical Facilities Medical care is generally good in Lima and usually adequate in major cities, but less so elsewhere in Peru. Private, urban health care facilities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural ones. Public facilities in Cusco are generally inadequate for serious medical conditions.
Vaccinations Needed Yellow fever vaccination is recommended.
Health Concerns The following diseases are prevalent in some parts of Peru: Dengue, Diarrheal disease, Rabies, Yellow Fever, Zika, Malaria, and Typhoid from contaminated water

Bring mosquito repellant

Be aware that Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno and the Colca Canyon are at high altitude and you will need time to acclimate.

Water Quality Do not drink tap water or well water unless it has been boiled for 3 minutes. Drink bottled water that has been sealed, water that has been disinfected, ice made with bottled or disinfected water, carbonated drinks

Additional Resources


Have you been?  What activities do we have to try out?  What other countries should we consider?

Photos by Dennis Jarvis (Creative Commons), you can find him here:  flickr

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