Peru is a very popular tourist destination for its food, Inca culture, diverse geography, and of course the world-famous ruins of Machu Picchu. But like with any foreign country, there can be a lot of challenging aspects about navigating Peru. Read on for tips on how to save money and get the most out of your experience!
They Use the Sol
Peru’s currency is the sol, which as of June 2023 is equal to about $3.65. It is also abbreviated PEN (Peruvian New sol), and spelled S/. (for example, S/.100 is 100 soles).
Peru also has a few national payment apps, the most popular of which is Yape. Most restaurants and vendors in the more popular cities will accept Yape.
Download the inDrive App
When I touched down in Lima, I had a taxi waiting for me. Booking.com had offered to arrange one for me for the low, low cost of $20 USD, or roughly 72 soles. Across the city for only 20 bucks! What a deal!
Later on during my trip, someone told me about the inDrive app. inDrive is used in many countries, not just Peru, and essentially works like Uber. The difference being that it uses verified taxi drivers, and the drivers can bid for your business. It will even tell you the recommended rate for your route. Also, you do not have to pay through the app; cash is perfectly fine.
When I was ready to continue on to Cusco, I used inDrive to get a taxi back back to the Lima airport.
The price this time? 9.50 soles.
You Don't Have to Tip
Tipping seemed to get more confusion than appreciation in Peru. If you do want to leave a little something, it does not have to be a lot; 10% is perfectly fine. In general, however, it is just not necessary, not even to taxi drivers.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust to the Altitude
Altitude sickness (soroche in the native Quechua language) is a very real thing. It hit me in Cusco and it almost kept me from getting to the top of Vinicunca. At elevations over about 12,000 feet, the air gets thin, meaning your body absorbs less oxygen. People typically fly from Lima into Cusco, so Cusco is usually where most people experience altitude sickness for the first time. It may not even hit you right away; I felt basically fine the first night, but the next morning I was vomiting and stuck in bed with the worst headache.
Give yourself a good solid 24 hours to acclimate to the higher temperatures. Take it easy, and accept that you’re not going to be performing at 100% for a few days!
Machu Picchu is Overpriced, But Worth It
There’s an oxymoronic statement if I ever wrote one. Allow me to explain.
Machu Picchu is expensive. At an absolute minimum, you’re paying $45 just to get through the gate. If you want to hike Wayna Picchu or any of the other peaks to get the iconic view of the ancient citadel, expect to pay $60. Keep in mind also that this is for a strict 1-hour time window for getting into the park, and if you miss it, you do NOT get a second chance. You have to pay again for a different day. None of this even factors in the cost of getting to and staying at Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, although there are are cheaper ways of getting there. If you’re adventurous, read my article How to Get to Machu Picchu for Cheap.
Having said that, Machu Picchu is one of the archaeological wonders of the world, and is worth seeing once in your life.
There Are Other Ruins Than Machu Picchu
The terraces and granary outside Ollantaytambo. Sacsahuayman above Cusco. And countless others. The Inca had hundreds of years of history and engineering ingenuity in Peru. Don’t limit yourself just to Machu Picchu.
Paying in Cash Gets You a Better Rate at Hostels
There is a 5% fee that goes into paying with credit cards (plus any foreign transaction fees your card may incur). Better to take out local currency and pay for your lodgings in cash.
Some ATMs Are Better Than Others
Using ATMs in Peru can be tricky. While you’ll have your pick of the litter in the bigger cities (Lima, Arequipa, etc.), in smaller communities you’ll have less selection, some of which may be nonfunctional.
While there are several banks across Peru with their associated ATMs, virtually all of them offer a rather low withdrawl limit: 400 soles, about $110 as of June 2023. There are some that offer up to 700 or even 1,000 soles (about $193 and $276, respectively), but these are rare. GlobalNet ATMs (yellow) are going to offer the same limits and fees as a BCP ATMs (red and blue).
There was one exception I found. Banco de la Nacion ATMs, which are usually red and will say MultiRed on them, allow you to take out up to 1,000 soles and have no transaction fees. They’re rare, but they’re the best. If you see one, I would suggest taking out as much money as you feel comfortable carrying.
Take Advantage of the Menu del Dia
The menu del dia (lit. “menu of the day”) is just like saying the special of the day. It will typically consist of a soup, some salad, and a cut of meat with a generous helping of rice. It’s nothing special, but it will fill you up, and can cost as low as 7 soles (only 2 bucks). If you need to eat but also need to conserve your money, walk a few blocks off the main square, away from the touristy places, and look for the signs that say menu del dia.
Drones Are Not Allowed in Many Places
This one’s for my fellow drone operators out there.
In some of the more popular areas, drones are not allowed. These include
- Machu Picchu
- Huacachina Oasis (the actual lagoon)
The penalties can vary widely. I’ve seen people get let go with a warning…and then there’s the story about the guy who tried to fly at Machu Picchu without proper authorization and had to appear in court. Basically, as a foreign tourist drone pilot, you have to weigh getting the perfect shot versus being disrespectful to the local laws.
Have any other tips to add for traveling to Peru? Let us know in the comments section below.