Peru is a land of magic and mystery, just like the Incan’s that used to inhabit the beautiful land. There is a lot of misinformation out there in regard to Peru and the activities one might embark upon after arriving. After spending this past week in Peru, we have put together a list of 10 things to know before you visit Peru. These should mitigate any travel headaches (both literal and figurative) and will ensure you have the best trip possible!
Peru Travel Advice
1. Getting to Machu Picchu
Typically you’ll take a train from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo. You would be wise to book this train in advance (PeruRail.com
) as they are limited. Be advised that the train is expensive. If you’ve traveled much in Europe, you’re familiar with cheap trains. However, the Machu Picchu train is about $75-100 each way per person. A roundtrip for the 2 of us came out to $370. Yeah, not cheap. It is possible to hike to Machu Picchu, but that’s another endeavor. If you’re going to do this, check blogs and forums for advice. Also be advised that if you take a bus from Aguascalientes to Machu Picchu, you’ll incur a $24 round trip cost.
2. Elevation in Cuzco
Cuzco sits at over 12,000 feet above sea level. As such, travelers often experience elevation sickness. Advice often points to taking medication like Diamox to mitigate sickness due to elevation. However, after doing a bit of research, asking a number of well-versed Peruvian travelers and also running an experiment of our own, we suggest you save the money, time spent in a doctor’s office, and the negative side effects and simply grab some Gingko Biloba and Advil. Coca tea is also wonderfully helpful and is prevalent throughout the Andes cities like Cuzco.
3. Cost of Peruvian historical sites
The cost of parks like Machu Picchu and Incan sites like Moray are a bit more expensive than one might think. We caught ourselves feeling confused when we paid more to see sites like Moray than we would have paid to drive a car full of people into US national parks like Yosemite.
4. Barter in Peru
You can barter for almost anything. That being said, you can’t barter over fixed prices like entrance tickets to national parks etc. Don’t be embarrassed to not accept the first price you’re offered. Realize the person offering it is negotiating too. We experienced getting prices cut in half with proper negotiation.
5. Wear sunscreen
You can get sunburned when you’re cold and in a jacket (on your face at least). Remember you’re close to the equator and the altitude makes a significant difference in UV exposure.
6. Cash in Peru
Peru is largely a cash economy. However, you’ll find places that accept credit cards (some charge commissions such as 4.5% of the transaction). Know that ATMs are easy to find and use. You likely won’t be able to submit a travel notice with your bank, but your cards should work anyway. Note that 1 USD is about 3.25 Soles.
6. Electrical outlets in Peru
Outlets are the same as the US and they also work with the European 2 prong. This makes life easy for most travelers.
7. Can you drink the water in Peru?
Negative. But bottled water is cheap. You’ll likely want to use this for brushing your teeth as well. If you’re in the Andes, be sure to drink tons and stay hydrated to combat the elevation.
8. Brush up on your Spanish
You’ll find that people speak English mostly at hotels, airports, and nice restaurants, but not anywhere else. We experienced only 1 cab driver who spoke English (and this was minimal). Brush up on your Spanish, or plan to use a translation app when needed.
9. You need your passport to check-in for and board the trains
They check passports religiously in Peru. Have it ready and with you at all times.
10. Wifi is neither fast nor prevalent
Even our hotel (moderately nice) had horrible wifi. Take some time to disconnect and be sure to download any documents/itineraries you might need for offline use before you leave your home country.
I’m planning a trip to Peru in December for a friend’s wedding so this is helpful. Machu Picchu is definitely on the list so I’ll be sure to book the train in advance. The altitude sickness tip is helpful – I’ve never heard anyone suggest gingko biloba and I like going the more natural route.
Awesome! Have an incredible trip!