Tourism to Peru has nearly tripled in the past two decades—and with good reason. Some of the world's best restaurants have opened in Lima, there are dozens of trekking trails for adventurous travelers, and bird watching opportunities abound for nature lovers.
The government is stable and starting to put in more infrastructure to accommodate busy cities and growing tourism numbers. There are also more regulations for visiting places like Machu Picchu, to help preserve these ruins for future generations. For more info on the new regulations for visiting Machu Picchu read this article.
Preparing For Your Visit
Travelers from most Western countries can enter Peru for up to 183 days a year with a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of arrival and with two blank pages. Although you don't need a tourist visa before you enter, you can not extend your visa once you are in the country. As with every country you visit, be sure to check the Peruvian government's visa rules before booking your tickets as regulations can change without notice.
Peru's currency is the Nuevo Sol, denoted as PEN or S/. Banknotes are issued in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200. Coins are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 céntimos. However, USD are accepted in most places but don't count on getting the correct change back, particularly in small villages and markets. Make sure to take out cash when you're in big cities as many small villages won't have ATMS and markets only take cash. Remeber, every time you take cash out there will be an international fee from your bank. There is a maximum withdrawal amount of S/. 700 or $225 USD, some can be as low as S/.100 or $130 USD.
Credit cards are typically accepted at hotels and restaurants with Visa and MasterCard being the most widely accepted. Whenever possible, use a credit card with no international fee to cut down on costs.
There are numerous non-stop flights from cities throughout the United States and Europe. The majority of planes fly into Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, the country's capital and main hub. This is also the cheapest destination to fly into with the most flight options per day. Once you arrive at the airport, visit a taxi kiosk inside the airport to arrange a taxi. Do not get into an unmetered taxi out front as they tend to charge you more. The cost of a taxi from the airport to the downtown Miraflores area costs around $20 USD. You can also take the new Airport Express Lima, it costs $8 USD one-way and leaves every 30 minutes. Plus it has free wifi and USB ports.
Peru is a big country and with so much to see you'll want to travel efficiently. Traveling by air is the easiest and fastest way to get to other parts of the country. If you're traveling during the rainy season avoid budget airlines like Star Peru and Peruvian Airlines as they have frequent delays and cancelations. Try to book with LATAM as their sticker price is worth the reliability.
The most popular and affordable method of travel is by bus. A seven-hour journey on a bus might seem unbearable but most buses have large seats that recline as well as show movies, have beverage service, and ports for charging devices. However, traffic accidents are common in Peru so be sure to choose a high-quality safe company. Some of the best include Cruz del Sur, Ormeno, Oltursa, Civa, and TEPSA. If you are prone to altitude sickness, this may be the way to travel as it allows you to gradually acclimatize to the high altitude.
One discomfort often faced by travelers in Peru is altitude sickness, locally known as soroche. Typically occurring at elevations above 8,000 feet, altitude sickness is common at the country's popular inland destinations including Machu Picchu, and can affect any traveler, regardless of physical fitness. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and lethargy, among others.
It's recommended to bring Diamox tablets with you in case you react strongly to changes in elevation—but know that if you do become ill, your guides, hotel staff, and other locals are extremely well-versed in knowing the signs and caring for travelers with altitude sickness. Taking extra time to acclimatize, getting lots of rest and water, and consuming coca tea and leaves should help.
For other medical needs, most private clinics and hospitals have good facilities and well-trained doctors. When you're in rural areas, however, quality medical care can be scarce—in case of emergency, head to Lima if possible, or the closest city. Consider investing in travel insurance for emergency and evacuation coverage, especially if you are planning a more active adventure in remote areas.
Peru is a safe place to visit, especially the larger cities. It is safe to walk out on the streets at night, but of course always safer to walk with someone else. It is not recommended to drive in rural areas at night. Otherwise, travelers should exercise normal precautions like not carrying too much cash, being aware of your surroundings and the good old safety in numbers rule.
The U.S. Department of State recommends not traveling to the Colombian - Peruvian border because of high crime. They also recommend staying clear of the area in central Peru known as the Valley of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro (VRAEM) due to crime and terrorism.
When To Go
Peru has numerous ecosystems, climates and altitude differences so the weather varies in different regions of the country. The most popular time of the year to visit is during Peru's winter, or the dry season from May to September. The rainy season is from December to March, which means fewer visitors and lower hotel and flight costs. It's wisest to check the climate of each region you want to visit before you book your flights.
For more information read this article on the best time to visit Peru.
Where To Stay
There are plenty of accommodation options for budget travelers okay with roughing it and those looking to splurge on a luxurious stay. If you're planning on visiting during the dry season, be sure to book well in advance as most people will be traveling to the more popular places like Cusco and Machu Picchu during that time of year.
For two unforgettable stays near Machu Picchu, visit the newly renovated luxury property Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel in Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. If you'd like to stay among the ruins, the chic Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is a peaceful oasis that gives you unparalleled access to this Incan site.
For those with tighter purse strings, El Balcón is a remodeled 17th-century house close to Cusco's main plaza. It's decorated with traditional furniture and quaint knick-knacks. For a more plush stay, the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is next to the main plaza and features a stunning courtyard with a top-notch bar.
There are also a variety of incredible jungle lodges to choose from while you explore the Amazon Rainforest. The Treehouse Lodge is exactly what it sounds like. Sleep in the canopy of the rainforest for a truly unique sleeping experience. The Amazon Rainforest Lodge is 45 minutes by speedboat, but the 30 luxury bungalows are worth the trip. Don't worry, they all come with mosquito nets.
For more information on where to stay in Peru, check out the best boutique hotels in Lima.