Peru travel guide | Best Peru travel tips
You planning on visiting Peru and ask yourself which are the best travel tips for your visit? Here is our Peru travel guide – we wrote the most important things you need to know before your visit.
As backpacker travelers, Peru has always been on our bucket list. We fantasized about hiking the snowy Andes mountains and exploring the rich indigenous cultures. And of course, visiting one of the 7 wonders in the world – The Machu Picchu. The expectations were at the roof and Peru for sure delivered.
Let’s start by saying that Peru is a budget-friendly country, which means less spending and more traveling.
The food, accommodations, transportation, and activities are quite affordable. It’s easy to get by even on a tight budget. It’s a great place to buy gifts, clothes, fabrics, and handmade artifacts. Peru was the cheapest country that we visited on our travel to South America.
Peru is also a wild nature kingdom, no matter where you go, nature will be in the background with its magnitude and beauty. Due to this fact this country is a Meca for trackers, climbers, and adventurers. Just pick a trek and have the best time and views of your life.
Our Peru travel guide will help you plan your travel to this beautiful country.
Is Peru a safe country to travel – Peru travel guide
The Peruvians are a peaceful nation, and during our travel, we didn’t felt any kind of danger nor aggressiveness towards us. We do recommend like in any foreign country to always be aware and consult locals about what to watch out for.
Also be aware of pickpocketers, especially on the night buses, keep your possessions with you all time. Avoid putting valuables in the trunk.
Visa + Vaccination + Water – Peru travel guide
Citizens of the European Union, USA, Canada, Australia, and Britain don’t need a visa for a stay up to 183 days. Besides your passport, you may be required to show an onward or exit ticket. We didn’t have one and nobody said anything to us. Your passport must have at least 6 months of validity when entering the country.
Some recommended vaccines for Peru: Hepatitis A&B, Yellow fever, Rabies, Tetanus, Typhoid. We did shots of Hepatitis A and Yellow fever, for Tetanus we had from before. You can read more about vaccines HERE.
Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. We advise you to buy bottled water, which is very affordable. Tap water is safe for cooking and brushing your teeth with it.
When to visit Peru – Peru travel guide
Peru has 2 seasons – dry and wet. So it all comes down to what kind of travel you are looking for.
May to September is good for visiting the Andes, Machu Picchu, and the Amazon when it’s driest. December to February can be the best time of year to visit Peru’s pacific coastline when the temperatures are hot.
We traveled to Peru during May and had mostly great weather. The only downside was that we couldn’t get inside the water (was too cold) while traveling the coastline.
Money in Peru – Peru travel guide
The official currency in Peru is the Sol (S/). US Dollars are also acceptable, but usually, they will charge you more, so we don’t advise you to pay with dollars.
US dollars and Euros are very easy to exchange, also the exchange rates are quite good. Just be careful of counterfeit money, it can be a common problem in Peru. Always check that the money you receive is in good condition because you can have problems if the bills are ripped. Almost nobody wants to accept it.
You can withdraw money when needed from ATMs all over Peru. To avoid withdrawal fees we advise you to take as much as possible when cashing out. We advise you not to use ATMs on the streets, you will be better of withdrawing on ATMs inside banks.
Mastercard and Visa are the most accepted credit cards in Peru.
Language in Peru – Peru travel guide
We won’t lie, you will be much better off if you speak Spanish in Peru. Spanish is the official language and it is spoken all around the country. We were lucky because one of us speaks Spanish which helped us a lot. English is not a very common language except in tourist areas.
Accommodation in Peru – Peru travel guide
Accommodation in Peru varies in size and quality and it offers choices for all budgets.
We were usually staying in smaller simple hotels or family homes with breakfast included. We did all the bookings a couple of days before and we used Airbnb or Booking.
If you are making your first reservation with Airbnb click HERE and get up to a 41€ discount on your first stay – the minimum booking value is 65€!
Accommodation in Peru can be super cheap! For a double room with (usually) breakfast included we were paying between 9-15€; 10,8$-18$.
Transportation in Peru – Peru travel guide
Buses are the main transportation in Peru, and also a unique experience. For us, it was the only form of transportation and we spend a lot of hours on buses all over Peru.
Our longest drive was 22 hours, but don’t let this scare you. The Peruvian buses are like nothing else in the world – equipped with toilets, Tv screens and very comfortable seats/half-beds/beds. We never saw anything like this and we can say that bus transportation in Peru is the best we ever experienced in our lives.
They even have their stewardess – yes, you heard it right! They wear a beautiful uniform and even show a security video before the start of the journey. Just like on the plane. They also serve food, beverages and take care of you.
The prices are very budget-friendly and there’s a lot of agencies to choose from. You can find the best price and time frame that suits you.
What to eat and drink in Peru
The Peruvian cuisine is unique and delicious, having a huge variety of local plants, spices, and vegetables (more than 4,000 types of potatoes). Some of them never touched our taste buds.
All around Peru you will find affordable family restaurants that serve Menu del dia (menu of the day), including appetizing soup, main course, and cold refreshment. The meals are usually generous and fulfilling (usually even too much) and we think that this is the best lunch option for you.
For a ‘Menu del dia’ we were usually paying between 5-15 S/ (1,4-4,15$);(1,14-3,42€).
The country also has a blooming street food culture, and everywhere you go there will be vendors selling their special delights.
For a snack, we especially liked the small sandwiches that come with avocado, omelet, or cheese – so simple and so good (1-3 S/).
Besides food, the Peruvians are also specialists in drinks and having a quite impressive selection of unique beverages and teas. It was exciting to see all the different colors and options without know what to expect.
Here are some of the classics:
- Ceviche – raw pieces of fish/seafood marinated in citrus juice mixed with onions, chilies, and crunchy corn. Usually served with baked sweet potato.
- Pollo A La Brasa – slow-roasted chicken, made in a special oven with wooden chips. Usually served with fries include 3 different sauces (one of our favorite dishes in Peru).
- Grilled corn – corn stick on the barbecue covered with butter served with a chunk of cheese
- Lomo saltado – a stir-fried mix of beef, onions, and peppers served with rice and fries.
- Quinoa and maca drink – warm grain-based beverage, comes in different flavors but usually sweet. Served in the mornings for breakfast.
- Chicha – a traditional Andean beverage with a history dating back thousands of years. It is made out of ‘maize’ (corm) and you need to try it while visiting Peru.
- Pisco Sour cocktail – an alcoholic drink made out of brandy, egg white, lime, and sugar. We highly recommend trying this creamy cocktail.
What to see in Peru:
Peru is a big and very diverse country and we are happy to say that we visited most of the attractions that this beautiful country has to offer.
What we saw in Peru:
Located on the border with the Ecuadorian coast, this cute little town is a perfect stop for travelers who are passing between the countries.
The place is quite small but has many accommodation options for all prices and standards (all of them are within walking distance from the beach). Spending time on the beach is the main activity, and it attracts mostly surfers for the amazing long waves but also young backpackers.
Around the beach area, you will find most of the restaurants, bars, and hang out places. It’s a great place to meet other travelers and share experiences of traveling south America.
A bit away from the beach you can also go and explore the market area, where they sell all the wonderful products Peru has to offer. You will also get a bit more of the local vibe of the town.
To read more about Mancora click HERE.
Huanchaco and the Chan Chan ruins
At the moment of arriving at Huanchaco, we knew that this is gonna be a resting point for our travel. One of the main reasons was Tjasa’s broken toe, which she injured in Mancora.
This beach city has a cool chill-out vibe, mixed with locals, surfers, and tourists. Even though it’s a popular place we didn’t feel that it was overcrowded.
Along the promenade, you have lots of restaurants that serve the famous Peruvian ceviche, boutique cafes, and surf shops that offer boards for rent and surfing classes. Huanchaco is one of the best-surfing destinations in South-America and it’s recommended to try to catch a wave or two.
Besides the center of the city where all of the action is happening, we recommend to go a bit away and explore the neighborhoods around, you will find a lot of hidden gems of local small markets and home cook restaurants with more affordable prices.
Chan Chan ruins
Another great activity while staying in Huanchaco is to go visit the Chan-Chan ruins. This archaeological site is the remains of the largest city of the pre-Columbian era and it’s quite an impressive place.
The unique architecture of the city is like nothing we have ever seen before. It was very interesting to hear about the history and the theories archeologists have on what was going on in that era.
It is recommended to get a tour guide at the entrance.
Huaraz is located 3000 meters high in the Cordillera Blanca, which is the second-highest mountain range in the world. The city is surrounded by impressive snowy peek mountains, which makes it the center for all the amazing tracks, hikes, climbs, and outdoor activities.
Usually, you can find all the information’s in the hostel that you are staying in. You can also book recommended treks there and also learn anything you need for your adventure.
The prices in Huaraz are very affordable, and even guided tracks for several days can be very budget-friendly. Whatever you choose you will witness the majestic nature of the Cordillera Blanca.
Be advised that due to the high altitude it’s very important to do a few days of acclimatization before you start to explore. When we arrived we took 1 day of rest and the second day an easy-going up hike to Wilkacocha Lake to acclimatize and to get used to the heights.
On later days when we went for a higher elevation trek, and, unfortunately, got altitude sickness, which ruined a couple of days for us.
We didn’t wait for enough time and we pushed ourselves too much and it really wasn’t worth it. Strong headache, feeling of nausea, and vertigo were just some of the symptoms that we experienced.
Later on, we found out that coca leaves can be very beneficial to cope with the harsh altitude. It’s recommended to stop along the tracks to have some coca tea at the local villages.
We came to Lima without any big expectations but Lima was more exciting than we could ever imagine! We had a great time exploring the capital of Peru, Lima is an amazing city! After visiting Huaraz and other parts of Peru we were amazed by how modern, vibrant and fresh this big city is! It was so different from the simplicity and culture we saw in other parts of Peru.
Lima is quite huge, divided into different areas and there is a lot to explore.
The most touristic and posh area is definitely Miraflores, there you will find all the famous luxury restaurants (the culinary scene in Lima is one of the best), shops and high scrapers buildings. The main gem of Miraflores is the high point view of the beautiful Pacific ocean. You can chill for hours in the warm sun, observing surfers catching waves and paragliders above in the sky.
Our favorite – another popular area of the city is the Historic Centre of Lima (Unesco World Heritage). You can spend the whole day there bouncing from Monuments to churches to museums. The Spanish colonial architecture is all around, and sometimes it is easy to forget you are in South America.
If you walk a bit further towards the river you will find more locals, street performances, and budget-friendly food stands.
Overall we recommend taking at least 3 to 4 days in lima to feel whats Peru’s capital is all about.
While driving towards the Nazca area, we were amazed to see how the landscape is slowly changing and how much diversity this country has.
After spending time at the immense Andes mountains and on the sandy Pacific beaches to suddenly find ourselves in the dry desert environment was very strange but never the less exciting.
The city itself has a very peaceful/lazy kind of vibe, and due to the heat, the streets are usually empty during the day. There are many accommodation options to chose from and even though it’s a tourist destination, sometimes you will feel like the only traveler around.
The main activity that draws tourists from all over the world is the famous Nazca lines. These huge lines designs were made by the ancient Nazca people 500 BCE, forming different shapes of animals and plants on the desert soil.
The best way to watch the lines is from the air. There are several agencies in the city to book half to one hour tour with a small airplane. The prices were not very expensive (66-83€;80-100$). We were on a bit of a tight budget so we decided to see just a couple of the lines from the observation tower in the desert.
Besides the Nazca lines, there are also some easy hikes to do around the city. We visited the Cantalloc Aqueducts (water system built by the Nazca culture) and the Cahuachi (ancient ceremonial center).
For us, Arequipa was probably the best and the most beautiful city we visited in Peru. Full of parks, classic colonial Spanish architecture, budget-friendly prices, and backpackers from all over the world. The atmosphere of the city felt like the perfect mix of modern and old.
We enjoyed a lot just strolling the city streets, try their amazing street food, and admire the culture of this side of Peru.
We also will never forget the first sight of the majestic El Misti, an active volcano that observes the city from high above that adds a more magical charm to the place.
There is a lot to do in the city but one of our highlights and we highly recommend was the Museo Santuarios Andinos. There you can see Juanita, a child mummy that was found on one of the volcanos in the area. It is believed that Juanita was a human sacrifice to the Inca gods.
Besides being a huge cultural center, Arequipa is also the starting point for all the tracks (including the famous Colca Canyon trek) and other outdoor activities around the area.
Magnificent is the best word to describe this place! The Colca Canyon is one of the deepest places on the planet, reaching a depth of 3,400 meters, more than twice as deeper as the Great canyon. It is a land of condors, thermal baths, and stunning nature.
The magnitude of the canyon is beyond words, and to track all around up and down was a magical experience. For sure one of the highlights of our travel in Peru. You can book a tour with a guide from Arequipa city, most of the hostels and agencies in the city offer it. We felt more adventurous and decided to do it by ourselves, which was a great and cheaper way to do the trek.
There is not a lot of accommodation options along the track, and the rooms are usually very simple – no wi-fi, sometimes even no electricity. It didn’t bother us, it was all the comfort we needed and sometimes it is nice to totally disconnect from the outside world.
The first night for example we spent just by looking at bright stars shining from above, the complete darkness of the canyon gave us a rare view of the astral sky.
Usually, dinner and breakfast are included in the price, so you don’t need to worry about the food.
How does the trek looks like
We did the 3 days trek that begins at the top of the canyon, where you start to descend.
Your first-day goal is a small village San Juan de Chucho where you spend the night. On the second day, you have two options – head to the oasis Sangalle where most of the people go or walk to Llahuar, which is the longer and harder walk but much less touristic. Of course, we decided to walk to Llahuar.
The first day is the easiest, you just walk down which is easy at the beginning but later it becomes a bit steeper. The scenery of huge cliffs is mind-blowing and if you lucky you will spot condors gliding in the air.
The second day was the longest and hardest day of our track, it can get very hot during the day so it’s advisable to start very early. Be prepared for an intensive walk.
On the third day, you climb up and out of the canyon which can be quite demanding. If you are not in the mood for walking you can take the local bus from Llahuar.
This can be an easier experience for the legs but much harder for the mind, Tjasa was literally crying from fear. An old bus from the 80’s driving on a scary steep one way narrow road without and safety fences was for sure an experience to remember.
To read more about how to hike Colca canyon on your click HERE.
After hearing a lot about Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world, our expectation level was high.
The minute we arrived in Puno (the city on the shore of the lake) we could notice the vast deep blue color of Titicaca and we were excited for the next day to go and explore.
You can book a tour at the hotels and tourist agencies around the city. We took the basic tour that included a boat ride and a guide to 2 islands (include the famous Floating Islands – Uros) and a very nice lunch. To be honest the tour was quite dull and very touristic and it didn’t meet our expectations.
Besides the impressive views, it felt very touristic and money-oriented. In Puno also not much to do, except eat good food (at the night a lot of great street food vendors) and do a bit of souvenir shopping.
Before we came to Peru, the picture we had in our mind was mountains, indigenous culture, and the rich history of the Incas. And that is exactly what Cusco is all about.
For us, even if it is touristic this was ‘the real Peru’ we were searching and fantasizing about for so long. The city is declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO, and you can come across a lot of monuments from the Inca and Spanish eras.
Strolling the streets gives you the feel of going back in time and we absolutely loved it! The city attracts millions of tourists so be prepared for a crowded atmosphere and also aware of pickpockets.
One of the highlights of the city is definitely the San Pedro market, where you can find all the traditional Peruvian goods, clothes, incense, herbal medicines, and exotic vegetables. Inside the market, there is also a big area for food vendors who sells their traditional menu del dia (meal of the day). The food is delicious and cheap, so we ate there quite often.
Besides the San Pedro market, there are a few more interesting markets around the city that worth checking out, especially if you want to avoid a bit from the tourist crowd in the center.
Another great experience we had in the city was the parades at Plaza De Armas (The main city square), we got lucky and got a taste of the upcoming annual festival. It was colorful and fun to see all the dancers and musicians in their traditional clothes celebrating their ancient culture.
Cusco has endless trek options to chose from, and we were looking for affordable day treks which we will do before heading to the highly anticipated Machu Picchu. The pictures of the Rainbow mountain caught our eye and we decided to go for it.
First, we checked the prices in different travel agencies and we found a deal for 60 S/ (13,6€;16,5$). The tour included a guide, transportation, entrance, light breakfast, and lunch.
We woke up at 4:30 am and got picked up from our hostel where we started our journey. The drive to the mountain took us around 4 hours, including a 30 min breakfast stop.
Once we arrived at the parking area, which is 4600 meters high, the walk uphill started. For us, the walk wasn’t very hard (we were in tracking shape) but we noticed that some people were struggling because of the altitude.
Along the way, there are locals with horses and mules that offer their transport services. You will finish your hike at 5200 meters and you will feel like a superhero!
The view of the colorful mountain and the landscape is phenomenal and the amazing scenery literary blew our mind.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a long time spending at the top and the guide was urging us to start head back towards the bus due to the time schedule. If you go fast enough to the viewpoint, on the way back you can do a small detour to see the Red Vally nearby.
If you just arrived in Cusco wait a couple of days before visiting Rainbow mountain, don’t underestimate the altitude and acclimatize your body.
The place that everybody talks about and one of the seven wonders of the world. All the superlatives have been said about the Macchu Picchu, and they are all true. It’s also one of the most visited tourist places in the world, and to be honest, at first, we were a bit afraid of it and we almost changed our plans of visiting it.
Luckily we didn’t and we are super grateful to witness this architectural masterpiece of the Inca empire and humankind in general. There are a few ways to get to Machu Picchu and after a bit of research, we found how to go there by ourselves in the most affordable way.
To read more about how to do Machu Picchu on a budget click HERE.
The trip took us 2 days in total and was very physically demanding including one big climb to the entrance of Machu Picchu, but the jungly nature around us provided us the perfect ambiance to keep our spirits high.
The mix of amazing tracks all around, majestic nature, deep roots of indigenous culture, and budget-friendly prices put Peru on the top of travel destinations.
Every backpacker and adventure lover will fell in love with this amazing country. You can travel all year round and find your place in this exotic country. In the summer you can enjoy the best surf on the pacific coast and in the winter explore the dense Amazon or the snowy peaks of the Andes. Neither way, Peru will give you an experience of a lifetime.