"Going to Peru meant I would at last get the chance to fulfil my lifetime ambition of walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu…"
Well, the trek was even more fantastic than I could have imagined, but I soon realised that it was only just a part of the magnificence of this wonderful country. Ancient ruins, lost cities, bustling markets and incredible ecosystems. Parched coastal desert, high Andean mountains and dense Amazon jungle. Welcoming local communities like the Aymara and Quechua Indians. Circling condors, a splash of sea lions and many many monkeys are but a few of the many species of wildlife awaiting you – how much more could a country possibly offer!
Mali Albert – Traveller
Official Language: : Spanish & Quechua. Others: Aymara
Religions: Roman Catholics 90%, small numbers of Protestants, Jews, and Muslims
Voltage: 220 volts. Sockets are a mixture of the European, two-pronged round variety and US flat-pin.
Currently EU, US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens can visit Peru for up to 90 days (ask on arrival for a 90 day entry as 30 days is the standard issued) without a visa. However, the situation does change periodically, so you should always check with your local Peruvian embassy before departure. All nationalities need a tourist or embarkation card (“tarjeta de embarque”) to enter Peru. This is issued at frontiers or on the aircraft before landing. Tourist cards are usually valid for between 60 and 90 days (60 for US citizens). In theory you have to show an outbound ticket (by air or bus) before you'll be given a card, but this is rarely checked. For your own safety and freedom of movement, a copy of the tourist card together with a copy of your passport must be kept on you at all times - particularly when travelling outside of the main towns. You must also retain this card for when you exit Peru.
The monetary unit in Peru is the Nuevo Sol (PEN) which is divided into 100 centavos. Approximate exchange rates (as at May 2008) are as follows:
XE.com is a useful site for currency conversion.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Bring a combination of cash and traveller's cheques (in US$). Notes should be blemish free.
We recommend that you bring cash / traveller’s cheques in US Dollars only. There is no restriction on the amount of foreign currency that you may bring into Peru, however very large sums should be declared on arrival. There is often a general lack of small change and we recommend maintaining a supply of small denomination notes and coins. On arrival at Lima International Airport we suggest that you withdraw some Soles at the ATM the other side of immigration (passport control), or change some money at the bank (“Cambio”) which is on the far side of the baggage hall. It is best to do this while you are waiting for your bags to avoid the inevitable queue later. Change enough money to see you through the first few days of your trip – particularly if it is a weekend. Please note you can only change cash (not traveller’s cheques) at the Cambio and there are other ATMs in the city (and in Arequipa, Cuzco and Puno) where you can get money out 24hrs a day.
Important Points to remember • Although bank cards are often the easiest way to go, there are times where they will not work for you even if your bank at home tells you it will! Do not rely on your card as your only source of money. Always have a few back-ups with you. • Do not bring US$ notes which are torn or marked even slightly. If your notes are at all damaged you may not be able to change them in Peru.
The Pre-Departure Information contains general information about organising your spending money. Your Tour Leader will be able to advise you on local facilities.
Below are some specific notes relevant to our trips in Peru:
The factfinder at the beginning of each tour dossier lists what entrance fees are included for the tour. There are, however, other sites and museums which you may wish to visit in your free time – particularly in Lima. The average entrance fee is approx US$4.50, with the most expensive being no more than US$20.
For instance the excellent Museo de Oro del Perú y Armas del Mundo (Gold Museum) in Lima costs approximately US$8.50. The museum is on the outskirts of the city, so you will need to take a taxi or an organised tour. Many of the churches charge a nominal fee to enter. For example Santo Domingo and San Francisco in Lima cost approx US$1.50 each. One of the best value places to visit in Lima is the Museum of the Inquisition as it is free and very interesting – especially the carved ceilings. There are a vast array of other museums in Lima, most of which have minimal entrance fees. Please bear in mind that most museums are closed on Mondays.
If you have an International Student Card you will often be entitled to reduced entrance fees.
All prices below are approximate and are likely to change due to local inflation or exchange rates:
On way to/from Lima
Taxis are recommended for all journeys within a city. In Peru, taxi meters are not normally in evidence, so you will find yourself engaging in a bit of haggling with the driver to agree upon the fare. This can be fun, but it is a good idea to find out in advance, from your tour leader or the hotel receptionist, approximately how much the fare should be. It will also help if you can speak a few words of Spanish. You will almost certainly have to accept that you will pay more than the Peruvians do.
Approx fares (all prices are per taxi) from our hotels in Lima (centre) to:
Approx fares (all prices are per taxi) from our hotels in Cuzco to:
(the driver will probably wait for you for an extra US$1.50 or so)
Local buses are very cheap to use, but you really need to be able to speak reasonable Spanish to get by. There are also some bus stops/stations, especially in Lima, that are not recommended for tourists.
As a guideline a simple snack (e.g. a sandwich) can cost as little as US$0.70, a light meal will cost around US$3-6, and even a meal in one of the best restaurants in Cuzco or Lima costs very little in comparison to what you would expect to pay at home (usually around US$20-30). Obviously this depends on what you order and if you have wine or other drinks which will certainly increase the bill. In cheaper restaurants where Peruvians and backpackers eat, you can get meals for as little as US$1.50.
All drinks such as water, soft or alcoholic drinks are at your own expense at all times. The following is a guideline for drinks bought in a shop in the street. Prices in restaurants and hotels can sometimes be more than double the prices specified below:
The Pre-Departure Booklet that you will receive once you have booked your tour contains a comprehensive list of items that you should consider bringing with you. Please also check your Trip Dossier for any special requirements.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: Bring a backpack or easy to carry luggage and travel light! You will have to carry your own luggage frequently – don't let this be an ordeal!
As a general guideline, clothing should be lightweight, loose fitting, hard-wearing and easily washed. In the hot summer months, cotton clothing is much more comfortable than man-made materials like nylon. Be prepared for cooler evenings - for this reason you will generally find it better to pack several thin layers rather than one thick layer. A fleece can be invaluable and double as a pillow. Water resistant jackets and trousers are essential during the rainy season between November and April.
It is important to bring durable soft luggage or a back pack as this is a lot more practical to transport. Other essential items that we recommend you to bring can be found listed on the trip dossiers.
Whilst few of our tours can be described as physically demanding you will find all activities more enjoyable if you are reasonably fit and active.
It is now mandatory for all tourists travelling into the jungle area of Peru to carry an up-to-date Yellow Fever vaccination certificate with them. The vaccination must have been had at least 10 days before departure, and you will be required to carry your vaccination certificate with you as proof.
Please may we remind you that it is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain any vaccinations and precautionary or preventative medicines for the countries you are visiting. We strongly advise that you check with your doctor or a medical centre for specific health advice.
Some trips have a few days where toilets are not available. When you do answer the call of nature please burn your toilet paper – do not bury it. If it is not possible to burn it, take it back to the camp where it can be placed in the rubbish bin and disposed of appropriately.
Whenever you use a western or squat style toilet please place your toilet paper in the rubbish bin provided – DO NOT flush it down the toilet as this may block the sewerage system. You may also want to carry your own toilet paper as not all toilets will supply it.
The Imaginative Traveller Recommends: You may find it useful to take along a supply of antiseptic gel (ie water free soap) and plastic bags to put your toilet paper in if it cannot be burnt/placed in a bin.
Throwing rubbish on the floor may be acceptable to some locals, but please hold on to your waste until you find a litterbin or somewhere appropriate to dispose of it.
Begging is not common in Peru but has started to appear at some tourist destinations. Ultimately donations are a travellers personal choice, however our recommendation is NOT to give money, pens, gifts or sweets as this encourages a begging mentality and is largely ineffectual. If you do want to help it is probably better to give to a recognised charity. If you choose not to give, simply say no with a smile and keep on walking. If you learn nothing else of the local language, try to learn to say ‘no thank you’.
Haggling is expected in Peru and hunting for bargains can be a real highlight.
For up-market, designer goods visit the coastal suburb of Miraflores in Lima. Here prices are usually fixed unless you are buying from a street vendor. There are also some good quality handicraft shops but the prices do tend to be a little higher although you may sometimes be able to bargain. Another good area for handicrafts is La Feria Artisanal in La Marina. This is the biggest craft market in Lima and bargaining is certainly expected.
You’ll find good handicraft markets in all of the touristy towns. San Pedro, near the train station to Machu Picchu, is one of the best markets in Cuzco but beware of pickpockets. Puno has some good market areas along the railway lines and they should be cheaper than Cuzco and a much better place for alpaca/llama sweaters. The touristy Pisac Market in the Sacred Valley of the Incas is especially is good for variety, if not necessarily price.
Your best buys are wall-hangings (tapestries), hand-woven textiles, alpaca and llama woollen products, hats, blankets, furry slippers, coats, ceramics, papier-mâché ornaments, gold and silver objects and jewelry.
On your flight, you will be given a customs form to complete and sign, this you MUST give to a uniformed officer on departure from the baggage hall just before entering customs. You will also be asked to press a large button which will either show up as red or green. If it lights up red, then you will have to open and show the contents of your baggage, if green, just start walking and don’t stop.
Due to the late arrival and departure times of many flights in and out of Lima, we recommend that passengers travelling through Lima book an arrival transfer, especially if travelling alone (see our current brochure for prices). This service should be arranged when making your tour booking.
If you decide not to pre-book an arrival transfer, you can either take a taxi from one of hundreds of touts outside or buy a ticket for “remise taxis” at one of the pre-pay taxi desks (CMV & Mitsui) just after customs. We recommend you use the taxi desks as haggling to get a good price outside can be very difficult if you do not speak Spanish, also of course, there is the safety factor, especially late at night when most flights arrive in Lima. The cost of a taxi from the airport to our hotel in downtown Lima should be approx US$10-15. The airport is approximately 30-45 minutes from the city centre (depending on the traffic).The Meeting Point for your tour should be clearly marked on your travel vouchers. A complete list of all meeting point hotels can also be found at www.imtravdossiers.com
If you have not arranged for us to meet and transfer you on arrival, it is a relatively simple matter to make your own way to the meeting point.
The introduction of tourist police and the closure of many street vendors in areas notorious for thieves and muggings have greatly improved the security situation in Peru. However like anywhere in the world, you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Care should be taken, especially whilst walking around the larger cities. Try to keep away from dark quiet areas if on your own, particularly late at night and try to always take a taxi. If you have had a few drinks and are returning to your hotel at night, it is best to always take a taxi directly to the hotel. We suggest that whenever possible you leave all of your important documents in the hotel safe. However you should always carry some form of ID or a photocopy of your passport.
It is advisable not to wear expensive looking watches or jewellery and don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket or carry loose hanging bags. Keep your camera concealed when not in use. Remember that most thieves don't use violence but rely mostly on diversionary tactics which can take place at anytime of the day or night. Do not be paranoid, but just be aware that it could happen at anytime. Always be vigilant and the chances are nothing will ever happen to you. The safety of our passengers is our tour leaders’ number one concern and they will provide all necessary local information during the pre-departure meeting.
Availability of helmets
Protective helmets of a reliable standard are not always available locally. If you intend to take part in activities such as bike or horse rides, you should consider bringing a suitable helmet from home.
If you have any safety concerns you should mention these to your tour leader immediately.
Your Tour Leader's role is to ensure all aspects of the trip run smoothly. He/she will share their local knowledge, advise on how to fill your free time and co-ordinate the day to day running of the tour – although occasionally he/she may need your understanding if things do not go according to plan. If you have any problems on the tour, please let your Tour Leader know so that steps can be taken to put it right. Tour Leaders are supported by our regionally based office staff and, in most cases, a locally based manager. In Peru we also use the services of specialist guides at sights of particular historical interest such as at Tikal.
In Peru our tours operate in conjunction with Pure! Peru, an experienced local operator.
Please note that some styles of trip, such as Imaginative Escapes or Imaginative Honeymoons, do not have a Tour Leader. However, there will be representatives on hand who will be able to assist you in arranging any excursions that you wish you take.
Our main criterion for choosing hotels is cleanliness. On Adventurer tours hotels are simple, but comfortable. Bathroom facilities may sometimes be shared and rooms may sometimes be multi share rather than twin. Hotels on Traveller tours almost always have private bathrooms, air conditioning and bar / restaurant facilities. Please bear in mind that hotels can sometimes suffer from minor problems and technical difficulties.
At each hotel your Tour Leader will try to organise the rooming arrangements to suit everyone's requirements. If you are travelling alone you will be allocated a room with another group member of the same sex (unless you have paid a single supplement). If you are travelling as a couple please note that we cannot guarantee the availability of double beds.
Note: Single supplements are only applicable to single travellers who wish to have their own room. Single supplements are also only available on Traveller tours and are not applicable on overnight boats, trains and while camping.
A laundry service is available in most of the hotels we use.
In Peru the basic diet focuses around chicken, beef or seafood, mostly with french fries or rice (or both) and possibly a little salad. Soups are also common and good value. Coastal dishes are seafood based and include “ceviche” which is fish marinated in lemon juice, onion and hot peppers traditionally served with corn on the cob, cancha (toasted corn), yucca and sweet potatoes. “Escabeche” is fish with onions, green and red peppers, prawns, cumin, hard boiled eggs, olives and sprinkled with cheese. The most common fish is “corvina” (sea bass) which can come simply grilled or fried or with sauces. “Chupe de camerones”, a prawn stew, is another delicious dish certainly worth trying.
Corn and potatoes are Peru’s main vegetables – particularly in the highlands. “Causa” is a dish made from yellow potatoes, lemons, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, olives, lettuce, sweet corn, sweet potato, cheese and onion sauce. “Choclo con queso” is a large corn on the cob snack with very salty cheese. Other local favourites include “tomales” which is like a boiled corn dumpling filled with chicken and wrapped in banana leaf and “lomo saltado” which is a kind of stir-fry beef with tomatoes, onions, fried potatoes on a bed of rice. An interesting local speciality is cuy (pronounced: cooee). This is roasted guinea pig which some people say tastes like chicken, others, like cooked cardboard!
In most of the larger cities and towns you will find an array of international cuisine. There are pizzerias on every corner and Chinese (chifas) food is very common. In places like Cuzco even Indian and Japanese restaurants have now opened. A cheap, filling 3 course lunch (normally called a “menú económico”) can often be had for about US$1.50.
You should be wary of drinking the local tap water. Bottled water, carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices are widely available and are generally safe to drink. Please note however that fruit juices are sometimes made with unboiled tap water and could upset your stomach. An easy way around this is to order juice “con leche” (with milk) instead. The choice of different juices is incredible e.g. mora (blackberry), piña (pineapple), naranjilla (mixture between mandarin and orange), maracuya (passion fruit), tomato de arbol (like a tomato but with a harder texture and sweeter), guanabana (custard apple) and curia (which has a great taste – just try it!).
In Peru some of the hotels we use have bars or serve alcoholic drinks. If there is not a bar in the hotel then there is sure to be a bar within walking distance. In more up-market hotels, imported beers and spirits are available but usually at a high price. If you are happy to drink the local spirits then there is an array of rums, pisco (white brandy) and even palatable wine. All these are very cheap, e.g. a bottle of rum could be as little as US$5 in a local shop. Quite often the mixer to go with it (Coke) is more expensive! There are various brands of beers including Cuzqueña, Arequipeña, Cristal and Pilsener.
If you are a strict vegetarian you may experience a distinct lack of variety in the food available, especially in small towns. You might find that you are eating a lot of omelettes and other egg dishes. Our tour leaders will do their best to organise interesting vegetarian alternatives for included meals, but your patience and understanding is requested.
If you have food allergies or preferences, please make them known to your Tour Leader who will do their best to ensure that your requirements are met.
Please note: Unfortunately we can give no guarantee that special requirements can always be met.
As with everywhere, the easiest and cheapest form of communication is via the Internet. You will find Internet cafés in every major Peruvian town/city. The average cost is approx. US$0.40c per hour. Connection is generally slower in the smaller more remote places, so try to do your emailing in Lima, Arequipa and Cuzco if possible. These bigger cities are now starting to offer internet phone calls which can cost as little as US$0.15 per minute to anywhere in the world.
Another option is to go into one of the many phone offices and pay approx. US$0.60- 0.80 per minute, or buy a phone card which will cost about the same but will allow you to call from any phone in Peru (it has a free phone number on the back of the card with pin number and instructions in Spanish and English).
The postal service is good and stamps are available everywhere.
Availability of Film
Camera film is widely available and generally of good quality.
Peru is unique in its wide variety of ecosystems ranging from the driest/hottest desert in the Americas, to the high Andean peaks (over 7,600m above sea level); and a two-thousand-kilometre-long belt of cloud forest, rich in flora and fauna, to a vast area of lowland Amazon jungle, covering more than half the country. The three main zones of Peru are known as La Costa (the coast), La Sierra (the mountains) and La Selva (the jungle).
Over the last few years, the Peruvian weather has been rather unsettled possibly as a result of global warming. However, it still rarely rains on the coast, although the Lima region does experience substantial smog, coastal fogs or mists and even drizzle; particularly between the months of May and November.
The climate in the Sierra and Selva regions can be divided into a wet season (Nov-April) and a dry season (May-Oct). There is, of course, some rain during the dry season, but it is much heavier and much more frequent in the wet season. Don’t be put off by the expression “rainy season” however, as this normally means a couple of downpours each day rather than continuous rain. Again, weather conditions have been quite unsettled in these regions over the last ten years or so, with the Altiplano zone around Puno being affected by serious droughts, which have left the water level of Lake Titicaca at its lowest for years. The following chart shows average max and min daytime temperatures (in Degrees Celsius) and average rainfall in mm:
(half day national holiday on 24th, full day on 25th).