With scores of ancient ruins, wild landscapes and a rich history, Peru is one of the top travel destinations in the world. There are so many incredible places to visit and experiences to be had here. However, as with any place, it’s best to do your research and read up on some Peru travel tips to make your trip a little smoother.
From the restaurants and museums of Lima to the magnificent of Machu Picchu and the alluring Amazonian jungles, Peru has something to offer everyone. Whether it’s just packing more sunscreen or learning about altitude sickness, these Peru travel tips are sure to help you make the most out of your journey.
1. You cannot drink the tap water in Peru
One of the most important Peru travel tips to remember is that you can’t drink the tap water in Peru. So, be sure to stock up on enough bottled water for your days away from your hotel. Ask for either agua sin gas (still water) or agua con gas (sparkling). Also be sure to thoroughly wash any fruit that you plan to eat.
2. Keep a little cash on you at all times
While credit cards are widely accepted in cities like Lima, you’ll still need cash for any street markets and smaller towns. As Peru is famous for its handmade goods be sure to keep a little cash with you in case you spot something you absolutely must buy. Another major reason to keep some change is if you want to use the public bathrooms at historical sites, which require a fee.
3. Learn basic Spanish before you go
It’s always important to learn a few basic phrases in the local language. Even if most places frequented by tourists will have someone who speaks in English, it is sure to go a long way with the locals. Words to know:
- Hello – Hola
- Goodbye – Adios
- Good morning – Buenos dias
- Good afternoon – Buenos tardes
- Good night – Buenos noches
- Please – Por favor
- Thank you – Gracias
- You’re welcome – De nada
- I’m sorry – Lo siento
- Excuse me – Disculpe
- I don’t understand – No entiendo
- Do you speak English? – Habla Ingles?
- I don’t speak Spanish – No hablo Espanol
- How much? – Cuanto cuentas?
- Where is…? – Dondo esta…?
- Check – La cuenta
- Bathroom – Bano
- What’s your name – Cono te llamas?
- Can I have…? – Puendo tener…?
- How are you? – Como estas?
Of course, you could just download the Spanish add-on on the Google Translate app.
4. Don’t flush the toilet paper
Plumbing in Peru isn’t always the greatest so be prepared to throw your toilet paper in the garbage instead of flushing it down. This may not always be necessary, so look out for signs telling you to do so.
5 Try the local food, especially in Lima
Lima is one of the food capitals of the world, so be sure to try out some of the local cuisine. Brush up on restaurants and make reservations in advance for most popular places. Try the corn crisps (cancha chullpi), the lomo saltado (stir-fried steak and veggies), and the alcoholic Pisco Sours, a local speciality made with egg whites. Also, remember to tip 10% at restaurants
Also Read: Top 6 Food Destinations Around The World
6. Don’t just stick to Lima and Machu Picchu
While Lima and Machu Picchsomee some of the most spectacular and popular places to see in Peru, there is much more to the country. Explore the historic Cusco region, or Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, the Cotahuasi Canyon which is world’s deepest canyon, or the spectacular Nazca Desert.
Also Read: Top 11 Things To See In Cusco, Peru
7. Be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness
Altitude sickness (called soroche in South America) occurs when you climb to high elevations too quickly without giving your body time to adjust to reduced oxygen and changes in air pressure. It is quite common in those visiting high-altitude places like Cusco and Machu Picchu. Symptoms include: headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and lightheadedness.
8. How to avoid altitude sickness
The best way to prevent altitude sickness is to allow your body to adjust to the decreased levels of oxygen at high-altitude locations such as Cusco which is 11,200 feet above sea level. To do this:
- Take it easy on your first day in Cusco – don’t do anything strenuous. Your body needs time to adapt, so just relax for a bit, and maybe catch up on some sleep
- If you’re going to Machu Picchu (7,970 ft) or Vinicunca, the Rainbow Mountain (17,000 ft), spend a day or two in Cusco first to acclimate
- Drink LOTS of water while you’re there, as being hydrated helps prevent altitude sickness.
- Avoid alcohol (at least for the first few days) as it tends to dehydrate you
- Have coca leaves and coca tea, a traditional Peruvian antidote to altitude sickness. They are a mild stimulant (much like coffee) that can be found at restaurants, hotels, and most pharmacies. You can also try some Andean mint tea which has similar properties.
- If you do start to feel symptoms, descent to a lower level (such as the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo). If they persist, be sure to contact a doctor.
- Ask your doctor for altitude medication before you travel, and start taking the pills the day before you reach. They contain Acetazolamide which can reduce mild symptoms. [Warning: by doing so, it can also mask warning signs of more severe cases]
9. Do your research about getting around Lima
Lima, like most big cities, can be both confusing and dangerous for a newcomer. You need to know which barrios to avoid and other things that not to do before you go. Its buses and public transport can be very confusing to decipher, so taxis, especially Uber, are an excellent way to get around. It is both cheap and reliable, just make sure that the taxi is registered.
10. Book tickets to Machu Picchu ahead of time
Machu Picchu is one of the most popular travel destinations in Peru, as well as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. However, with only a few trains travelling there from Ollantaytambo and Urubamba, seats can sell out very quickly. Be sure to buy your PeruRail tickets ahead of time, as well as your tickets to the main attraction itself, as only a limited number of people are allowed each day.
Be sure to buy your tickets to Machu Picchu ahead of time
11. Prepare for how quickly the weather changes
The weather in Peru can be quite unpredictable. Especially in winters, the day can turn from warm and sunny into a rainy and windy with little to no warning. The nights also tend to be quite cold, especially at high altitudes. So be sure to be prepared for rain, sun, and cold when you pack.
12. Get travel insurance
As with any major trip abroad, consider getting travel insurance. Though the country is generally quite safe, its good to have a backup plan, especially if you plan to partake in daring adventure activities. It’ll be very useful if you end up needing medical care or transfers back to the big city. Always be sure to read the fine print before purchasing any policy.
Are there any Peru travel tips that we’ve missed? If so, be sure to share them in the comments below.