When it comes to a top country to visit in South America, Peru really does tick all the boxes. There’s museums with great works of art, UNESCO sites, beaches, and delicious street food – everything you could ask for on your travels. It can be daunting trying to figure out what you need to know before travelling Peru though, so we’ve put together some handy tips for first time travellers.
Things To Know Before Travelling To Peru
1. Always Carry Cash (Particularly Small Notes & Coins)
Not only does hardly anywhere except debit and credit cards, it’s important to have small notes for buying little souvenirs in local towns and markets. Most importantly though, is the fact that you will need to pay one or two soles to use public bathrooms in Peru.
2. Domestic Flights Can Sell Out Months in Advance
Domestic flights in Peru are known to sell out months in advance, so book as far in advance as you possibly can for the best price. Flying from Lima to Cuzco takes just over one hour, instead of a 20-hour bus journey!
Always arrive to the airport at least two hours ahead, as often passengers find their reservation gets changed or cancelled last minute.
3. Be Careful of Colectivos
Colectivos (shared taxis) are a popular transport option in Peru, particularly in the cities. They connect all the coastal towns and are much faster than the bus, although about twice as expensive. However, they have a bad reputation in major cities such as Lima for dangerous driving and crashes happen on a daily basis.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Try the Coca Leaves or Coca Tea
Okay yes, it’s the same plant as cocaine – but – and it’s a big but, the leaves contain less than 0.7% of the alkaloid cocaine. Coca leaves have been brewed as tea and chewed by locals in Peru for centuries and have heaps of benefits. It’s a popular remedy for altitude sickness and will perk you up on long hikes!
Just be aware that bringing any of the leaves outside of the country is highly illegal.
5. Book Your Train and Machu Picchu Tickets in Advance
In High Season (July through September), train tickets running from Ollantaytambo and Urubamba to Machu Picchu can often sell out. The same goes for entrance tickets to Machu Picchu itself, so make sure you buy from the official website or through your hotel. You will also need your passport for entering Machu Picchu.
6. Ask Before Photographing Locals
In popular tourist areas such as Machu Picchu or the Plaza de Armas in Cusco, you’ll see locals dressed in traditional clothing, usually posing with llamas for tourists. This is how they make their living, so unless you don’t mind paying for the privilege, don’t snap photos or you’ll have to pay. In smaller villages, it’s respectful to ask before snapping away.
7. Eat Ceviche in the Mornings!
Peruvian restaurants and food vendors tend to buy their fish directly from fishermen first thing in the morning. So, this is when the fish will be freshest. Especially with ceviche, which is eaten raw, the fresher you can eat it the better.