Ancient and well-preserved cities, a unique warm welcoming from the Latin locals and one of the most delicious cuisines in the world… These are just a few of the reasons to visit Peru.
Although it’s a safe country overall, if it’s your first time visiting, there are probably some things you should know to make your experience as smooth and enjoyable as possible.
Safety first in Peru
First, let’s cover some basic health and safety tips. Petty crime is quite common in Peru, so be extra conscious of your belongings as pickpockets may be about. You’ll also need to be careful when travelling in buses and make sure your belongings are in sight. For transportation, only choose licensed taxis or buses.
Drink bottled, rather than tap water.
And lastly, be wary of ‘ayahuasca tourism’ in Peru – it is not wise, sensible or safe to try a heavily psychedelic substance in a place with little regulation. Some tourists have reportedly been assaulted or robbed while on the drug.
Cusco is not everything
Most people think Peru equals Cusco, but don’t make the mistake of not travelling outside of the famous Incan city.
Lima, the capital of the nation is a beautiful city, which was once the base of the Spanish conquerors in Latin America. It’s packed with beautiful constructions and plenty of food choices to enjoy. If you’d like to learn a bit more of Peruvian history this is the place to go, as the city is filled with a plethora of quality museums.
Enjoy the seafood
Peruvian cuisine is like nothing you’ve experienced before and relies heavily on the quality seafood of the Pacific Ocean. Ceviche is a popular fish dish, consisting of small pieces of fish cured in lemon juice and then seasoned. While the original dish is made only with fish, other versions include octopus or shellfish.
Other incredible dishes include Aji de Gallina (spicy chicken made with a special, yellow-type of chilli and served with rice, olives and sometimes eggs) and Causa Limeña (a type of potato mash mixed with prawns or other shellfish and avocado). Don’t forget to try a nibble of Peruvian corn – a crunchy type of oversized corn.
Be aware of altitude sickness
Altitude sickness in Peru is a real thing, so don’t underestimate it. It can lead to very uncomfortable health issues, like shortness of breath, feeling faint and headaches, even to the fittest of people. Cusco is 2,500m over sea level, so if you’re planning to undertake a trek while there, be sure to drink plenty of water and lay off alcohol. Smokers may also need to cut back on daily cigarette use.
It’s a good idea to check in with your doctor about your current health condition prior to travelling. In case you do find yourself suffering from unusual fatigue or dizziness, note that Cusco locals chew on Coca leaves to ease altitude sickness symptoms.
Make sure you have cash
With the amazing technology we now have when it comes to credit and travel cards, it seems as though taking cash overseas is an unnecessary risk and hassle. But if you’re going to Peru, it is a wise idea to bring a small stash of cash – preferably smaller notes in case of an emergency or unexpected circumstance.
You’ll find that even businesses advertising MasterCard or Visa facilities will refuse to be paid by card, which can leave you high and dry.
Train for the Inca Trail
Yes, the Inca Trail is genuinely difficult, as it consists of stone stairs (many of which are very steep), so it can be a tiring ordeal to reach the top. Add the insane altitude to the mix, and you could have a recipe for disaster – unless you do your research and train beforehand. Checking with your doctor would also be a good idea, just to make sure you’re in top condition to make it through the trail.
Also, carefully consider which tour operator you use for the Inca Trail, doing your research to ensure they focus on the treatment of porters and the quality of food and equipment, so you’re free to enjoy the beauty of the walk.
You should try Pisco and Lúcuma
Pisco is Peru’s beverage of choice – a strong brandy-like liquor made of grapes. Try a Pisco Sour – a strong and fresh mix of pisco and lime. If you have a sweet tooth, then don’t leave without trying lúcuma, a delicious caramel-flavoured fruit native to the Andes region. You’ll find it in pastries or even infused as an ice cream flavour.
Be sure to dress for Peru
It really depends where you’ll be going what you’ll wear. In general, as long as you bear in mind the seasons, you should be fine, however if you’re visiting Cusco in summer, you’ll probably experience the wet season, so be prepared for rainfall. It’s also worth noting that nighttime in the Andes area can reach extremely cold temperatures.
Be aware of Zika
Even though finding any sort of mosquito in the Andes region is highly unlikely due to the altitude, if you’re going to Lima or other lower areas of the country, it’s wise to take precautions against the Zika mosquito. To avoid bites, cover up in light-coloured clothing and use insect repellent containing DEET or Picaridin.
Visas and Passports
Be aware of the requirements for your visa. If you’re an Australian citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Peru on a tourist capacity. Your entry permit will be valid for a stay of up to 6 months, so make sure your passport has at least 6 months validity on it.
Ready to include Peru on your next trip abroad?
Peru is a beautiful and unique destination that will literally allow you to reach new heights in a way you never dreamed possible. Its mouth-watering cuisine and unparalleled attractions make this nation an all-time favourite when it comes to South America. If you’re keen to join a small group tour where everything is organised for you, take a look at these options.
Contributor: Matthew Todd
Matthew Todd has a strong love of travel and regularly contributes to online travel and lifestyle titles to share first-hand knowledge on small group adventure travel. True to his passion for travel and his experience as a digital marketing specialist, he currently works as an Online Marketing Guru at G Adventures Australia and New Zealand.