Traveling through Peru can be extremely rewarding – and nerve-wracking. These are 9 tips that I learned quickly on my trip there, that could have helped me tremendously if I had known them earlier.
You Don’t Need Spanish
I spent about three weeks in Peru, and I knew almost no Spanish before I went. Knowing the language will improve your experience – you can interact more easily with locals, feel more comfortable, and get out of problems more easily – but all I could say was along the lines of hello, how are you, I’m good, how much does this cost, numbers 1-29, and I need to go to [place]. I brought a pocket dictionary and learned much more along the way. Many travelers speak very broken Spanish, and you can learn to get around knowing very little.
[Recommended Read: How to Learn a Completely New Language While Abroad]
You Don’t Need to Book Things Beforehand
In Peru, the culture is much more laid back! Booking bus tickets the day before is often considered early, and hostel reservations can easily be made at the door. I have booked tours of the Lake Titicaca Islands and Colca Canyon at 4pm for the next day with no problem. If you are traveling during high season, typically mid-June to late-July, you might not want to cut it so close, but otherwise don’t sweat it.
In Fact, Don’t Book in Advance When Possible
The best part about traveling is that you can change your plans! You never know if the attraction you wanted to see will be closed and take you an extra day or if you’ll meet someone who makes you want to stay another night. If you like to have everything planned like I do, a good tip is to plan your Route through Peru with expected dates, but wait until the week/days before to book hostels or bus tickets if you are really stressing out.
That being said, many hostels will charge you more if you make a reservation beforehand. This is counterintuitive, but the website you use to pay the “down payment” for the reservation cuts into the hostel’s profits, and the hostel will not hesitate to ask you to pay a little extra.
[Recommended Read: How to Book Accommodation on Arrival]
EXCEPT Machu Picchu – Plan Ahead for That!
Tips 2 and 3 go for everything except Machu Picchu. It’s the one thing that almost all tourists will see, and there are limited tickets. Check out How to do Machu Picchu for details.
Every City is Very Different
Peru is a relatively small country, but its cities are like whole different countries themselves. The difference in altitude will throw you off to begin with (from Lima at sea level to Cusco near 3500m, for example), but you’ll find that each city has a different look and feel. The buildings in Arequipa are markedly different from those in Ica, and Puno’s streets are different beyond that. It’s worth the time to see all you can.
[Recommended Read: How Much Time Should I Spend in Each City in Peru?]
Internet Access is Relatively Good, and Reliable
In most of the hostels that I stayed in, internet access through wi-fi wasn’t good enough for you to stream Netflix all day, but it is good enough to contact people back home, check in with social media, load standard quality video, download files, upload files (including pictures), etc. In Lima, some major areas actually have a city-wide wi-fi network that gives you a small amount of free bandwidth per month (something like 200MB), and you can add more credit onto your account if needed. For a backpacker, it should be enough to last!
So is Cellular Data
I’m not sure I buy the presence of 4G as sometimes advertised, but the 3G from the cellular network works just fine! I was able to always load my TripAdvisor app, map, web pages, even update my Twitter and Instagram with no problems. When you are away from the city (on a bus ride or trek, for example), you may not have access, so be prepared.
Keep Your Passport Handy
Even if you have a very trustworthy place to store it during the day, it’s best to have your passport on you when you go out. For foreigners, this is your only identification. When you book bus tickets or check into hostels, they will often ask for your country of origin and passport number. Photocopies are generally fine, but carrying it with you in a secure pocket can be safer than leaving it with strangers.
[Recommended Read: Everything You Need to Know About Peru]
Peru is One of the Best Countries to Start Traveling In
Because of Machu Picchu and other Inca influences, Peru draws many tourists. As a result, it has the infrastructure to support them and amenities to ensure comfort. You will almost always find other travelers in the area, which can help you feel safer especially if you are traveling alone, and has beautiful sights to see outside of Machu Picchu. Plus, United States citizens don’t have a visa requirement! It’s relatively cheap, has good food, and a nice mix of tourist and local life in its cities – a great combination!
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Hope this helps you! Let me know your other tips for Peru in the comments below!