Peru is a country like no other. It has something for everyone and it is so much more than just home to the magnificent Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Its landscape is vast and diverse offering world wonders and majestic experiences; the culture is rich, accessible and authentic; its history is fascinating, the people are welcoming, and the well-connected transport system makes it effortless to explore this magnetic country.
Climate in Peru
As a vast country spanning many miles, Peru consists of three geographical areas that each have their own seasons and climate.
This consists of the long coastal strip running from north to south on the western side of the country. The temperature varies very little along the coastal path feeling spring like all year round (15°C-24°C / 59°F-72°F). However, with minimal rain the landscape appears almost desert like.
La Sierra (Highlands):
Which comprises of the Andes, running from north to south. Here the weather is altitude dependent with colder temperatures at the higher altitudes. Rainy season is from September to March and is best avoided if you enjoy hiking.
La Selva (Jungle region):
Eastern side of Peru and home to the Amazon rainforest. Rainy season in this area runs from December to April, however it is rainy, hot and humid for most of the year.
Currency in Peru
The official currency of Peru is the Peruvian neuvos Sol (S/.) but with higher price transactions, US dollars are also accepted. You will be able to easily change your money at border crossings or if you are taking a night bus, the first station you come into in the new country, for example Piura in Peru, will most likely have an exchange desk. At the time of writing the exchange rates were as follows:
€1 = S/ 3.80
$1 = S/.3.40
ATMs are plentiful in Peru and they dispense Peruvian Sol and US dollars. You will usually find ATMs around the main squares (Plaza de Armas), in the airports and in some shopping centres. Most ATMs in Peru will charge you a transaction fee and all ATM's have a maximum withdrawal limit. Please see below for more information:
- BCP: S/.700 (€180 / $210) limit per month. Fee: S/.13.50 (€3.50 / $4).
- Banco de la Nacion (multiRed): Limit S/.400 (€100 / $120) per day. No transaction fee.
- BanBif: Limit S/.700 (€ 180 / $ 210) per day. Fee: S/.18 (€5 / $5).
- BBVA / ScotiaBank & Global Net: Limit S/.400 (€100 / $120) per day. Fee: S/.20 (€5/ $6).
I used the Monzo card when I was travelling which allowed me to withdraw £250 free of charge per month and no charge incurred when I paid for purchases using my card, although this may change so please check their policy information. Another option (if you are from the UK) is the Starling Card. This card has minimal/no foreign transaction fees which means masses of savings! I would suggest taking two bank cards with you, or one bank and one credit card and store them separately, so if you lose one, you have a back up.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Always let you bank know beforehand that you are travelling abroad and where you are going. This will notify the bank and prevent them from freezing your card which they will do if they think it has been stolen.
Getting Around around Peru
Peru is a large country with alot to see, so good transportation is a necessity. The main mode of transport used by backpackers is bus. Unlike Ecuador, the buses in Peru are luxurious, security conscious (most take video footage of the bags and bus before you depart), well maintained and offer a seamless process from booking your ticket to arriving at your destination. On some services, it feels like you have treated yourself to a 1st class seat on an airline, most notably the night buses of Cruz del Sur or CIVA Excluciva. There are many bus companies to choose from, I felt the best ones were:
- Cruz del Sur (slightly more expensive but worth the money)
- Movil Tour
- CIVA Excluciva
Ticket prices vary depending on the distance, but they are budget friendly. For example, for a 16 hour bus journey, I paid S/.50 (€13 / $15) for a CIVA Excluciva bus and I received dinner and breakfast, coffee, blankets, pillow and a partition between the seats, not to mention a TV with English speaking films and headphones!
There is no need to book ahead with the buses in Peru, you can just go to the bus station and book at the counter, but if you don’t want to risk it or it is a particularly busy time to travel from one place to another, you can book online with Redbus Peru, but ticket prices will be inflated. The other option is to head to the bus station a few days earlier to buy and collect your tickets.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: When booking long bus journeys try, always book full cama which means that your seat reclines to an almost horizontal position (180°), especially important for night buses. Semi cama reclines 140° which isn’t awful, but it won't be your best night's sleep.
An alternative bus system is the ‘Peru Hop’. A private company with English speaking guides and border assistance if you are traveling between countries. They offer a service where you pay a set price and you can ‘hop on’ and ‘hop off’ at any point along the route until you reached your desired destination. This option is a little bit more expensive but maximum security and border assistance, so it is a great choice for first time / solo travelers. Take a look at their website
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Whilst buses will take you everywhere you need to go, I would suggest getting a flight between Lima and Cusco as these roads can be unsafe. Flights are relatively inexpensive. Expect to pay around S/.172 (€45 / $52) for a one-way ticket. Avianca, LC Peru and LATAM all fly this route.
Insurance for Peru
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries and it is the only travel insurance we will ever use! It is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
WorldNomads.com is backed by a suite of strong and specialist travel insurers who provide you with great cover, 24 hour emergency assistance and the highest levels of support. The WorldNomads.com prices are some of the most competitive online and if you need to change plans, you can buy more cover or claim online while you are still away. You can even buy a World Nomads policy if you're already travelling. They also offer travel safety advice and tips online through the World Nomads Travel Safety Hub and WorldNomads.com members can learn the local lingo through a series of iPod & iPhone Language Guides and can stay in touch with family and friends with an online travel journal. You can find out more about why travel insurance is important for your trip. If you have any questions about your travel insurance or travel safety in general, please contact WorldNomads.com directly.
Medical Advice for Peru
When you know where you want to go in Peru, go to your doctor’s and ask to see the nurse to discuss travel vaccinations. They will go through your travel plans and suggest the appropriate vaccinations. It is likely that you will need the following vaccinations for travelling to Peru. In the UK, some of the vaccinations will be free of charge through your doctor’s, and some will cost. To keep the cost down, you can always visit a travel centre instead, where the injections are slightly cheaper. When thinking about vaccinations for your trip, the following website can be really helpful: Fit for Travel.
- Hepatitis A and B, tetanus
- Diphtheria, rabies, typhoid
- Yellow Fever - this is a must. You will need to show your certification for some places.
- Malaria Tablets (location dependent)
What to pack for Peru
- Warm clothes for the evenings especially if you are going to places at altitude (thermals, jeans, jumpers, scarf, gloves, hat). For the Machu Picchu trek, it is COLD when camping ~ pack layers!
- Long sleeved tops and trousers if you are hiking or you are going into the Amazon rainforest.
- Dresses / shorts / light clothes for the coastal region
- Quick dry towel
- Good walking shoes / sandals / trainers
- Waterproof clothing / rain jacket / poncho
- Altitude sickness tablets ~ you can buy these in Peru at any pharmacy, ask for ‘Sorojchi tablets’.
- First aid kit (inclusive of Imodium and rehydration sachets)
- Battery pack / electronics
- Zip lock bags ~ perfect for carrying food that has been opened or protecting liquids from spilling
- Packing cubes. Buy different colours to separate your clean and dirty clothes!
- Padlocks x3
- Life Straw. This is an amazing accessory to have when you are trekking and a cheap alternative to buying water along the way, it also saves on buying plastic bottles and for every purchase, a child in a developing country, receives clean drinking water for 1 school year!
- Money belt
- Ipod / music for the long bus journeys
- Biodegradable soap (especially when you are camping and washing in nature)
- Sunscreen and bug spray
Safety Considerations for Peru
I explored Peru as a solo traveler in 2018, and I personally did not encounter a single problem or feel unsafe, but always be aware of your surroundings:
- Always keep your valuables hidden or locked away.
- Keep your valuables in your small backpack and wear it on your front when walking around.
- Always choose an ATM inside of a bank rather than on a street. Put your cash in your money belt, under your top straight away. If you feel nervous about withdrawing money, go with someone else.
- If you are travelling on buses, do not store your backpack overhead or in the back of the bus, keep it on you at all times. For extra security: put your passport, money and phone in a money belt around your waist, under your clothes.
- When travelling on buses, always padlock your big bag and put your rain/protective cover over it.
- Do not walk around at night on your own, always take a taxi, even if it is a short distance.
- Always ask your hostel about the area and for safety advice.
- Keep your two bank cards separate so if anything happens, you have a second source of money.
- Always have at least one photocopy of your passport, so if you lose it, you still have a copy of it.
- Bring two forms of identification with you (driver’s license).
- NEVER leave your drink unattended when out at night.
Budget for Peru
Peru is slightly cheaper than Colombia, Ecuador and other South American countries (except Bolivia) but it depends on what you want to do and see. Peru is the perfect gateway to Machu Picchu which can work out expensive depending on what route you take. It is also home to Huaraz and some of the country’s most spectacular hikes, as well as the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, the second deepest canyon in the world. All of these hikes and experiences cost money. However, food, transport and accommodation are very budget friendly.
I did lots of hiking in Peru including the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu which cost S/.665 (€172 / $201), so my budget is inclusive of all activities and I bought some warm clothing for my hikes and souvenirs. For 1 month I spent €850 / $1000, inclusive of all transport, food, accommodation and activities.
Don't forget to buy your Travel Insurance...