Ah Peru. We love you so we do, Peru. Most definitely one of our favourite countries in South America; here we experienced life in the jungle, days in the Sacred Valley, hikes to Machu Picchu and our own private floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca.
After 3 months, we left by the skin of our visa, and still felt we didn’t uncover even 50% of what it has to offer.
Here’s a few interesting things we learned about the Inca and Andean capital.
Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile
Honestly, the Peruvians are the nicest, warmest and most welcoming people, after the Colombians (of course!). We didn’t meet one Peruvian who was rude or unwilling to help us. Never be afraid to ask nor approach a Peruvian for help.
The food is amazing (and cheap!), especially the street food. Papa Rellena, Saltañes, Lomo Saltado etc. Try find a menu that doesn’t host a drool-worthy dish. Enjoy the local food as much as you can, God knows Ecuador could take a tip or two on board.
Menu Del Dia
Sticking with the food theme, everywhere; towns, cities, villages etc. has a daily menu deal for 5-7sol (€1.30 – €1.80). The menu usually includes two or three courses; soup or salad, segundos (dishes can vary), sometimes a dessert and always a drink. To reiterate the above, the food delicious and we never suffered from sickness.
Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley are the most expensive tours or day trips you will take part in Peru. For example, the entry ticket to Machu Picchu alone costs €45 and only allows entrance in the mornings. Transport, whether it’s a tour or the popular train, is a whole different kettle of fish, with prices starting at €100. To see how we visited Machu Picchu for €47, click here.
Busses, No Fusses
Peru has the best transport system (so far!). Safe, comfortable and always well facilitated. Majority of companies offer snacks, hot drink and pillows, sometimes even blankets. You are required to flash your passport before boarding, you will be filmed, searched and furthermore, well looked after.
Clothes, fresh produce, and artisanel bits and bobs are extremely cheap to buy across the country (especially in Huaraz). The artisanel products and handmade clothes are also of fantastic quality. Invest in something (anything!) made from alpaca or llama. Although heavy, my llama jacket has saved my ass on too many occasions. Nowhere in the world will you find such quality at those prices.
The North Star
Don’t skip the north of Peru, it’s worth a visit. From Trujillo, Huacachina and the jungle, near Pucallpa, there is so much more to Peru than Lima, The Sacred Valley and Cusco. Town hop through the less touristy regions, jump into the jungle from the north and enjoy the coast. Just be sure to visit this end of Peru.
VIP, not VAT
Foreigners are exempt from paying VAT on property, once you provide your passport and visa entry card to the hostel or hotel. There are hosts who will play dumb, but with a little explaining you will never be forced to pay the VAT.
Note: VAT is only applied when you pre-book via online sites such as Booking.com. In Peru, it’s always cheaper to enquire and book face-to-face.
Banks such as Multi Red, Caja Arequipa and BCP bank do not charge bank fees. BCP being the only bank to restrict the amount you withdraw per month. Ignore Global Net and Scotiabank if you can, these guys will rip the coins from your pockets.
Bring your own toilet roll. Everywhere. And not just for busses, or public bathrooms etc. This applies for majority of hostels too. One of our biggest spends in Peru was toilet roll. A nuisance, but a necessity.
It is better to experience an Ayahuasca ceremony in the jungle located in northern part of Peru, near Pucallpa. Compared to Iquitos or the Sacred Valley, it is much cheaper and there are more legitimate shamans. It is highly recommended to do a ceremony with a Shipibo shaman. Ayahuasca used across the country (and in the likes of Colombia) is all brewed in these parts, hence why it’s safer and less touristy thus more legit.
We can recommend a reputable, safe and highly experienced Shipibo shaman who charges 200sol (€55) per session, one of the cheapest rates in Peru. To contact Wïsh, click here.
It is cheaper to book anything and everything in person, albeit transport, accomodation or tours. Arrive, bargain and enjoy some face-to-face communication. And remember, everything can be negotiated, with the exception of collectivos who usually display their tariffs inside the van. But still, always ask, and always haggle.
This is one of the safest countries we’ve visited in Latin America. Especially after our jaunt through Ecuador, which is notorious for petty theft and bag slashes on busses. Not once did we feel weary or unsafe in Peru, and I mean the whole of Peru. But as always, be careful. Just know, with the locals, you’re in good hands.
The majority of Peru is located in the Andes. From Huaraz to Puno, you won’t be able to avoid the high altitude. Huaraz, The Sacred Valley, and Lake Titicaca being the toughest (for us anyway!). Become accustomed to local tea leaves called Coca (a prime ingredient to make cocaine, if you didn’t know!). Chew it, buy mints or make tea; either way, these will prevent any sickness (and it tastes nice).
There are Gringo rates. Something we dislike but cannot avoid. Peru is a tourist’s haven, before our visit we were told that it is hard to find a corner of Peru without a Gringo present, and although we were lucky in our three months making some discoveries and being the only tourists in town, we admit it is true.
As you travel towards Cusco, you will notice Gringo rates. Sometimes on transport, local markets, and most definitly on tours. Sometimes they’ll admit it and other times they won’t, but as mentioned above always question a price, always try haggle and if unsure, hold back and listen to conversations, find out how much the locals pay or create your own price and with confidence, name it. At times, they’ll meet it.
Wherever or whatever you choose to do in Peru, know you’re a lucky son of a gun. What a country and what an experience you’ll have.
Alongside Mexico and Colombia, this is one of our favourite countries to visit and we would urge anyone and everyone to put Peru on their ‘must see’ list.
Prepare the smile, because it will never leave your face.
Enjoy, and safe travels!