Even if you’re a seasoned traveler, there are always things you wish you’d known before you arrived to your destination. Each country has its own little quirks and eccentricities that are common knowledge to locals but may be news to first-time travelers. Here are just a few things you may wish you’d known before coming to Peru:
1. Learn some Spanish
This one may seem like a given, but it’s worth repeating that familiarizing yourself with some Spanish words and phrases will be incredibly useful for traveling Peru. The country itself is very friendly to tourists and it’s certainly possible to get by with only English if you’re sticking to the main tourist trail, but knowing Spanish will significantly increase your chances of meeting locals, getting off the beaten track and having a more satisfying trip all-around. There are good Spanish schools all around Peru that are definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in studying a bit while you’re here.
2. Check the weather
Peru contains an incredible variety of climates (30 out of 32 possible types, according to one classification) despite being only about one-sixth the size of the continental United States. Within its borders, you will find dry desert, sandy coastal beach, chilly highlands, tropical rainforest and more. Two destinations can seem very close to one another on a map, but in reality have drastically different climates. For this reason, it’s important that you regularly check the weather when traveling to different areas of Peru in order to avoid torrential rain, mudslides, snow and other potential hazards.
3. Learn how to spot fake money
Unfortunately, Peru is one of the world leaders in counterfeiting money, with bogus versions of both the local currency of nuevo soles and foreign currencies such as the dollar or the euro being produced here. As such, it’s very important to learn how to identify false bills to protect yourself from being taken advantage of.
4. Eat the lunch “menu”
Cities and towns in Peru are filled with small restaurants offering a special fixed-price “menu” for lunch. These simple establishments are typically family-run and offer a choice of two or three different meal options (often with a starter, drink and even dessert included) for as little as $1 USD. This is one of the best ways to get the most out of your trip to Peru, both by saving money and taking the chance to taste the excellent local cuisine.
Related: The 7 Best Treks in Peru
5. Don’t be shy about haggling
Like many places in the world, Peru has a culture of haggling. Prices in many markets are flexible and sellers will frequently offer an initial price that is substantially higher than the actual value of the product being sold. While a favorable exchange rate compared to your home country may make it tempting to just pay the original asking price and avoid the hassle, you’ll definitely save quite a bit of money (which can in turn be spent on other activities or souvenirs) if you put in the effort to bargain a little bit. A good rule of thumb is to have the price that you’re willing to pay in mind before you approach the vendor. Be firm about your budget limits, but also polite and willing to negotiate. Eventually you should arrive at a price which is fair for both parties.
6. Don’t rush
Peru is one of the best countries in the world for travelers: with its incredibly diverse variety of natural wonders and its world-famous cultural and historical sights, there is something here for virtually everyone. Because it has so much to offer, many people who come to Peru are a bit overwhelmed with their options. It can definitely be tempting to rush from place to place in an attempt to see everything. It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s totally impossible to see every amazing thing that this country has to offer in one short trip–an entire lifetime may not even be enough! With that in mind, the best idea is to spend a good amount of time in each destination and truly get to know it before moving on to the next.
7. Bring toilet paper and soap everywhere
There’s no delicate way to put this, but the public bathrooms in Peru are not always kept to particularly high standards. Only the most upscale establishments will be stocked with toilet paper or soap, so you’ll be thankful later if you remember to carry some with you at all times for when the need arises. It’s also important to remember that in Peru, like most of Latin America, you typically dispose of toilet paper in bins next to the toilet rather than by flushing it, due to outdated sewer systems.
8. Get used to riding buses
While there is a budding budget airline industry in South America, the primary form of long-distance travel is still bussing by far. Use these long-distance rides to practice Spanish, get some reading done, research your next destination, etc.
9. Set prices in advance
This is another good tip for saving money while traveling. It’s always smart to negotiate the price for services before you partake. This especially means asking and negotiating with a taxi driver what the final price will be before you even enter the vehicle. It’s also important to clarify what exactly is included with your purchase in order to avoid hidden charges (for instance, if you’re taking a tour, are all fees, taxes, entrances to national parks, etc. included?).
10. Do your research
Tourist agencies and transit companies are abundant in Peru. These can range from very cheap options where safety and comfort can be a major issue to luxurious options rivalling first-class plane travel. It’s definitely smart to thoroughly research your options before you travel over-land in Peru. We may be biased, but for your money, Peru Hop provides the best combination of safety, convenience, comfort and price available–make sure to check out what we offer while you’re doing your research.
We hope these 10 tips have helped you prepare a little bit for your once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru. If you have any other questions about how to get ready, just let us know in the comments below!