Everything You Need To Know For Traveling to Peru
I once read an article about "what to pack when traveling to Peru" and listed was a candle. A candle? Who travels with candles? Anyway, if that's your jam, then that's awesome, but there will be no candles on this list.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Learn your numbers in Spanish- at least to twenty. Not only will you be able to understand times and prices, but perhaps you will avoid the "tourist surcharge". I used the DuoLingo app to refresh some of my basic Spanish.
Learn your greetings in Spanish. Really, it's the nice thing to do.
Pick what areas you want to go to. Peru is a vast and beautiful country. Deserts, mountains, rainforest, ocean, ruins, colonial architecture, food, wine, the list goes on forever. While Machu Picchu is a must-see, there is so much more to Peru.
Once you've picked your areas, look into vaccinations. Most are totally optional, but if you're trying to cross borders by land you might encounter some problems if you don't have your yellow fever vaccination.
Besides the usual stuff (click here for a printable packing list), you might want to bring:
Enough clothes to comfortably get you by. Laundromats (when you can find them) often take 24+ hours. We did manage to locate a few with washing machines and dryers (2 hour service) which were great since we were always on the move, but they were not common. I found myself hanging our socks and underwear in the bathroom most nights and even had to have extended stays in cities just to finish our laundry. So bring enough clothes that you're not hand washing them every 2 days.
More pants than you think you need. You need pants for hiking, pants in the Amazon (one word: mosquitos), pants for venturing in the mountains, pants when it gets cold at night in the city, pants pants pants.
A rainjacket/rain poncho. I usually am all about the rainjacket but after enviously watching tourists throw their poncho over themselves and their backpacks and get to enjoy dry thighs, I was slightly swayed to the dark side.
A headlamp. Not actually necessary, but I always pack one. They come in handy for when there is no electricity or when hiking at night. They are just nice to have.
Pisco. Honestly. Pisco is a traditional Peruvian alcoholic beverage that was developed by the Spanish settlers in the 16th Century. It comes in many different flavours but I would start out with a "Pisco Sour" (a mixed beverage with original Pisco), and then go from there.
Chocolate. Need I say more? If you get the chance, attend a "chocolate making workshop". Two that I know of are Chaqchao in Arequipa and the ChocoMuseo in Lima.
Wine/Beer. I don't mean to be promoting just alcohol in this section but there are some amazing wineries in Peru, including the oldest winery in South America. Most Wineries are around the Ica region. As for breweries, Peru was also caught in the wave of popularity of microbreweries and have several in the major cities.
Guinea Pig. Okay, okay. I haven't tried it. I just can't bring myself to... But, when in Rome (or Peru).
HOW TO GET AROUND:
Flights are an efficient way to get around Peru, and are generally decently priced (compared to flying in Canada at least!) I found Star Peru to be the cheapest due to their small planes and frequent flights.
Cruz Del Sur. (A direct bus company) I wish that somebody had told me to use Cruz Del Sur before I arrived in Peru. Since most of their buses were scheduled for night, I usually used other companies, but was once forced to take one. After that, I never went back. While they are a little more expensive than the other bus companies, they are way more comfortable, come with food, and each seat has a television. Plus they were direct, compared to other bus companies that would stop and pick people up along the way.
PeruHop. (A hop on- hop off Bus) I don't know much about this company but know many people who have used it and recommend it. Essentially a hop on hop off bus that gives you a lot of flexibility in your timeline and a little in your route.
Colectivo/Minibus. Ever seen how many people can fit in a 15 seater van? Here is your chance. Definitely a great option if you are on a budget but these buses will stop en route whenever there is an open seat (which means lots of stops). The drivers of these vans only have one mission, to fill the van and get it to the destination as fast as possible. Not always the safest option but we never had any issues.
Taxi. The first time I got in a taxi in Peru I saw my life flash before my eyes. Luckily that was 12 years a go, and a lot has changed since then. Taxis are a cheap and efficient way to travel around Peru. Beware of the people who aren't actually taxis but will pick you up and drive you to your destination just for a little extra gas money. Also, be ready to bargain. A great trick is to ask a local how much a taxi should cost from A. to B. and use that as your target price.
Tuk-Tuk. Perhaps called a "moto" in Peru? Only in the major cities. Another cheap option which you will have to bargain for.
Rent a car. For the bravest in all of us.
Walk. We walked a LOT. Pretty much everywhere. Walking is nice.
I felt very comfortable in Peru with my daughter, and would definitely recommend it as a good place for traveling families. There are of course, always ways to make travel more safe.
In Peru the people are very courteous to children and seniors. If you are with a child they will often give up their seats for you and let you ahead in the lines.
Never let your child out of your sight. I once momentarily lost sight of Gaia in Miraflores and panic completely ensued me. Make sure that your child recognizes that this is a new place and that the typical freedoms of home do not apply.
Know which districts are safe. In some of the bigger cities there are parts of town that are not safe even for the locals.
Pick reliable methods of travel.
Opt away from traveling at night unless you are traveling by bus. If walking around at night, know your area well.
want more? Click the links below (organized by location):
Puerto Maldonado (the Amazon Rainforest)- Macaws, jaquars, nature walks, boat rides, hammocks.
Ollantaytambo and Cusco - Beautiful architecture, ruins, and great food.
Machu Picchu - The most epic ruins and a must see when visiting Peru!!
Rainbow Mountain- Near Cusco, a unbelievably beautiful sight, and a reasonable hike.
Arequipa - Chocolate, volcanoes, salt flats, ziplines, adventure sports galore.
Huacachina - Sandboarding, dune buggies, wineries.
Paracas - Luxury resorts, Paracas National Reserve, Isla Ballestas.
For our most recent trip to Peru we mostly did a Southern Loop. We have been North on a previous trip many years ago and absolutely loved it. I don't write about them, but Mancora, Trujillo, Chan Chan, Iquitos the Cordillera Blanca and Laguna 69 are all beautiful Northern places to visit that I have either been to, or really want to see. Peru really is so amazing and diverse.