FOOD ALLERGIES AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Do you have any food allergies or medical conditions we need to make your tour operator aware of? Are you gluten-free? Vegetarian? Vegan?
You’ll absolutely want to bring bug spray, sunscreen, and rain gear. It’s also recommended to bring a small backpack or duffel bag. If you get motion sickness, Bonine or a similar product is recommended. Basic medications, pain relievers, and first aid may also be a good idea.
ELECTRICITY AND ELECTRICAL OUTLETS
The voltage for outlets in Peru is 220V. North American voltage is generally 110V. Therefore, you will need a converter for your travels for devices only capable of handling 110V. Some devices like phones and laptops may be able to accept both levels of voltage, but be sure to read your device’s manual to be sure. Adapters will be necessary to plug your cords into the outlet, but these may not convert the voltage, so both devices are necessary for certain devices.
Type A and Type C are the types of outlets you’ll find in Peru. Type A is often also used here in the United States, but before you write off having an adapter, ensure that your plugs are both the same size, not one larger than the other. It’s more common to find the same size Type A outlets in Peru than the outlets with two different sizes.
Contact your cellphone provider before leaving. Most have a $10/ day plan for international use that will cover you on data and service, but contact your provider to see exactly what they have to offer.
The country code for Peru is 51. When calling to Peru from overseas, dial your international access code (011 from the US/Canada), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Peru are 7-9 digits in length.
Dialing from the US/Canada: 011 51 ### ### ###.
The official currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol (S/)
1 Nuevo Sol = 100 céntimos (cents)
The US Dollar is also widely accepted in Peru by many hotels, shops, taxis, and restaurants. Be sure to have on hand small bills as making change can be a problem, especially in smaller villages and cities.
Traveler’s checks are extremely difficult to exchange in Peru and their use is not recommended.
Please know that counterfeiting is common in Peru. If you want to look like a savvy traveler, don’t hesitate to scrutinize any money you receive and reject any that look suspicious to you (especially the 5 sol coins). Native Peruvians will also be doing this. All of their bills have a watermark and a security stripe, and the large number on the extreme right denoting the bill’s denomination will change from purple to green when you look at it from an angle. Don’t accept damaged bills; they’re not accepted in stores and you’ll need to go to a bank to replace them.
Please note that there has been a change shortage in South America. It's a good idea to have some smaller bills and change when walking around because if a shopkeeper doesn't have enough small change, they won't accept larger bills and coins.
Credit cards are accepted in Peru, and you should have no problems using them in larger shops and restaurants. Visa and MasterCard are the most accepted. Smaller shops may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card.
Before you leave on your trip, you’ll want to call your credit card companies and tell them where you’re going so they don’t decline any charges you may make while you’re there. You’ll also want to ask them about any international exchange fees they may have. If you have a card that doesn’t have those fees, use that one when possible.
Your credit card may also have an international PIN you may need to make purchases. Be sure to ask them about this when you’re informing them of your travel plans.
Tipping isn't as common in Peru as it is in the United States. Waiters in higher-end restaurants, tour guides and staff in top-end hotels may expect a tip, but taxi drivers and staff in small family-run restaurants don't. 5-10% is an acceptable tip amount.
BUDGETING AND SHOPPING
When you’re at the open street markets in Peru, try not to touch any items you aren’t interested in purchasing. If you’d like to take pictures, ask permission first. Most vendors are happy to take a picture with an item you’ve just purchased. If vendors are confronting you, smile but say nothing and wave your hand low to say no. They’ll see this as polite and will understand your meaning. If you simply say ‘no’ out loud, they’ll take that to mean you want something at a lower price in an attempt to bargain with them.
Bargaining for your purchases in South America is normal. To bargain, first ask for the price for the item you wish to purchase. Then offer an amount slightly below what you wish to pay. It’s important to smile and be polite during the exchange. In most cases, bargaining won’t save you a lot of money, but it’s a part of the culture. To do it like a pro, keep different bills folded and separated in different pockets so you can pull out the exact amount you’ll need. This can sometimes help close the deal. Finish the transaction with a ‘thank you’ and a smile.
While traveling in Peru, especially to see Machu Picchu, parts of your itinerary will probably include trips to areas with extremely high altitudes. If you’re unused to high altitudes, you may experience altitude sickness (acute mountain sickness) if you’re unprepared. Altitude sickness occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the thinner air. You can experience symptoms such as headaches, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and/or difficulty breathing, and in extreme cases hypoxia and cerebral hemorrhages. It happens most often when you’re not used to the altitude and go quickly from low to high altitudes.
This isn’t something you should fear! You just need to be aware so you can prepare!
Ways You Can Avoid or Reduce Altitude Sickness:
One time-use plastic products such as single-use water bottles, straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam cups are prohibited in Machu Picchu. Any single use-plastics will be confiscated before you enter the ruins.
It’s a good idea to pack a reusable water bottle for both your time in the ruins and elsewhere in Peru.
Ceviche is found in many South American countries, but it is most often attributed to Peru. It’s rumored that Peru does ceviche better than the rest! Rice, Creole dishes, chicken, pork, sheep, alpacas, fish, and tropical fruits are also very common in Peru. In restaurants, always ask if they have menus in English, as many establishments will. Many people there will drink bottled water even at home. Never ask for tap water! Ice is rarely used as well.
CUSTOMS AND CULTURE
When greeting someone you don’t know, it’s best to use ‘Señor’ (male) or ‘Señora’ (female). Buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon), buenas noches (good evening) are polite ways of greeting someone.
Greeting customs in Central and South America are often very personal. Women will greet each other with a kiss on each cheek from right to left. Men will also greet women with kisses on their cheeks but will handshake other men.
When talking to each other, they will often stand close to each other. It may be closer than you’re comfortable with, but you should accept this as normal behavior because trying to create more space between you and your counterpart could be seen as rude.
Ladies especially will want to travel with bath tissue. Public restrooms don’t always have toilet paper, and when they do it may be rationed. Bathrooms also may not have hot water and soap, so packing hand sanitizers is also recommended. Some public restrooms may require you to pay a small fee to use.