Before Departure

Do I need a visa for Peru?

Travelers coming from Europe (Schengen), the UK, USA, Canada, Australia or New Zealand do not need a visa for Peru. The only requirement is that your passport is still valid for at least 180 days (6 months) from the date of arrival. If this would not be the case it is best to change your passport. For other nationalities it is recommended to contact the nearest Peruvian Embassy or Consulate for the latest information.

Do I need travel insurance?

We do recommend taking out travel insurance. Everyone knows that travel is full of variables and there is always a risk, however small, that something might go wrong before or during your trip. Something as minor as a flight delay can have a significant financial impact, as can illness, bad weather or luggage delays. SATO Travels will always assist you as much as possible but cannot be held responsible for unforeseen costs due to issues beyond our control. We there recommend taking out travel insurance but do not offer this as we feel this is a personal decision.

Do I need to bring cash to Peru?

It is best not to exchange your local currency at home for the Peruvian Sol (S/.) as you will most likely get an unfavorable exchange rate. The US Dollar as well as the Euro are widely accepted for exchange in Peru and the Dollar even used for larger transactions. Therefore it is recommended to bring either of these currencies and exchange these in Peru for Soles. Casas de Cambio (exchange offices) are easily found in commercial areas in any larger city in Peru and the exchange rates can vary from day to day. There are also money changers on the street (often outside banks). These are best not to use as there are sometimes people with lesser intentions mingling with them. If you bring cash from home, make sure the bills (especially US Dollars) are in impeccable conditions as otherwise they may not be accepted.  

Are ATM’s available in Peru?

ATM’s are widely available in Peru and the best way to access the local currency. ATM’s in Peru can provide Peruvian Soles as well as US Dollars. Due to card skimming practices it is best to use ATM´s that are located inside the bank and not on the street. ATM’s from Globalnet (yellow ones often found in shops) are best not used as these charge an additional commission. For day to day expenses it is best to use Soles as the exchange rate in smaller businesses will not favor you. ATM’s accept most international credit (Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX) as well as most Maestro debit cards. For some countries debit cards have to be activated by your bank in advance. Charges for using ATM’s can differ as this depends not only on the local charges but also the charges from your bank. In general debit cards are cheaper than credit cards. For details it is best to speak to your bank.  

What electricity plugs are used in Peru?

Before Peru inclined more to the 2 flat pins (with our without earth) used in the US but nowadays Peru has switched to using both the two flat (type A) as well as the two round pins used in mainland Europe (type C). This means that most places offer plugs that accept both the round as flat pins. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.

Weather & Packing

What is the best time of the year to come to Peru?

This is a tricky question as Peru is such a diverse country with over 20 microclimates. So instead of looking for an ideal time to come to Peru, you can best look at the destinations you would like to visit and make a decision based on the climate for the main destinations of your trip. For most people this will be Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu. If this would be the case you may prefer to travel in the dry season for the highlands which runs from mid-April till about mid-November. During this time of the year there is less rain and more sun in the mountains. Nighttime’s, especially in June through September can be quite cold though. For Lima the weather is nice and sunny till about mid-May when the typical Lima fog starts appearing and does not go away till mid-November. It almost never rains in Lima but during this period temperatures will be somewhat under the 20ºC (68ºF). The jungle knows rain all year round but also has less rain in the same period as the dry season for the highlands.

When is the rainy season in Peru?

From the three large geographical areas in Peru there are two that actually have a rainy (also called green season) and a dry season; the Andean Highlands and the Amazon Rainforest. The third geographical area, the coast is better characterized by a summer and wintertime as rainfall here is minimal all year round – the main fluctuation here is in temperature. For both the Andean Highlands and the Rainforest the rainy season runs from around November till April. The last / first weeks of this season is of course a transition time meaning you can have a little bit of everything. The rainy season however does not mean its rains all days or even every day. In general most rain falls in the early morning and late afternoon / evening and therefore does not have too much impact on your planned excursions. These showers can be intense but also of a short duration. Temperatures in the highlands during the green season are less fluctuating and have nicer evening temperatures (min; 7ºC /45ºF – max; 23ºC / 74ºF). In the jungle temperatures this time of the year are hot and humid (as most of the year) with temperatures around; day; 32ºC / 90ºF and night; 24ºC / 75ºF.

When is the dry season in Peru?

From the three large geographical areas in Peru there are two that actually have a rainy and a dry season; the Andean Highlands and the Amazon Rainforest. The third geographical area, the coast is better characterized by a summer and wintertime as rainfall here is minimal all year round – the main fluctuation here is in temperature. The dry season in the highlands and jungle fall in more or less the same months. The dry season in general runs from mid-April till about the end of October. The first and last weeks of this period are of course transition weeks with a little bit of everything. Even though the season is called the dry season, please be aware that for the highlands and even more the jungle it can rain all year round – only with less frequency and most of the time less intensity. This being said; these months are known for its blue skies and lots of sunshine for the highlands and the jungle. In the highlands it is also worth noting that since it is also the wintertime, the temperature fluctuations during the day and night can be quite severe. With day temperatures easily in the 20ºC (68ºF) and night temperatures close to freezing point (0ºc / 32ºF) we are talking about days with 20ºC (36ºF) difference. The jungle is always hot and humid (day and night) but during the height of the wintertime (June through August) nighttime’s can get colder than usual (exceptionally around 15ºC / 60ºF.

When does it rain most in Peru?

Most rain in Peru falls during the rainy season for the highlands and jungle. This runs from about November till about April with January and February being the months with most rain for these regions. On the Peruvian coast is very unlikely apart from some morning drizzle in the wintertime. During the years when the El Niño climate phenomenon visits Peru (these are unpredictable) the coast can receive exceptional rain.

What clothing to bring to Peru?

Being such a diverse country, not only regarding the geography but even more the climate, traveling to Peru means most of the time traveling to different climate zones. Therefore there is no one fixed packing list for Peru but will depend somewhat on the season traveling and the destinations visited. However, as most trips will take you to at least two out of the three mayor climate zones of the country; you will need a little bit of everything. Long and short trousers, long and short sleeve shirts, jacket or windbreaker (these are often lighter and also protect from rain), sweater and some comfortable shoes. In the highlands it is good to “dress like an onion” meaning layers which will allow you to take something off or put something extra and anticipate the climate changes that are so common in the highlands. For the jungle it is best to bring easy drying, light clothing as you will most likely be exposed to the humidity as well as rain. Long-sleeved shirts and long trousers are recommended for sunrise and sunset. Rubber boots will be provided by the lodge. Finally the Peruvian coast, especially Lima is slightly more formal in dress code but nothing too fancy (it is best not to show expensive jewelry or other items). Weather is never really cold but summer time can get quite hot (into the 30ºC / 86ºF). During wintertime temperatures may drop to around 17ºC / 63ºF but will not get colder than this. Sometimes it may feel colder due to the high humidity in Lima, especially the coastal areas.

Do I need hiking boots?

For most trips to Peru, except the ones doing multi-day hikes in the highlands, hiking boots are not really necessary. Instead of carrying these heavy boots for just a couple of excursions it is best to bring along some comfortable sneakers or walking shoes that have been worn in. These should provide you with the best footwear for most days. In case you would be traveling in the rainy season you may want your shoes to be partially waterproof or easy drying as Machu Picchu may be a little muddy. Only for multi days hiking in the rainy season it may be recommended to bring along some good hiking boots.For trips to the jungle you will be provided high rubber boots for the excursions so, apart from perhaps flip-flops or sandals to use in the lodge itself, no special footwear is needed for this destination.

Can I get a local SIM card in Peru?

 Getting a local SIM card for Peru is often a good idea as this will allow you to be reachable for the home front (when you are not at the hotel), allow you to surf the internet, stay in touch with your social network and get in touch with any local party. There are several operators in Peru; Claro, Movistar and Entel being the largest ones. From these Claro and Movistar have the best coverage country-wide. In order to get a SIM card you need to go to a client service center (in most cities there are several) for either one of these operators with your passport and ask for a “Prepago” SIM card. This costs around US$10 (incl. credit) and can be recharged throughout your trip. The card can be activated immediately and you can straight away make use of the services.

Health

Do I need the Yellow Fever vaccination for Peru?

For all trips to the South American Amazon Rainforest it is recommended to take the yellow fever vaccinations. This includes trips to the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. Please be aware that the vaccination has to be administered at least 10 days before visiting the Rainforest. There have not been any recent cases of yellow fever in the Peruvian Rainforest but the recommendation remains in place. Nevertheless for personal advice on these and other vaccinations it is recommended to visit your personal physician or tropical institute.  

How to deal with altitude and altitude sickness

Altitude sickness is something that can happen from altitudes of about 2,500 meters (8,200ft) above sea level. When visiting Peru these altitudes are almost unavoidable and therefore the altitude during one point of your trip will play a role. This being said, most people only have minor or little hindrance when traveling to altitudes under 3,000 meters (10,000ft). These hindrances are mostly headaches, shortness of breath, and lack of appetite or insomnia in some cases. Some tips to deal with the altitude are; drink plenty of liquid (dehydration is one of the first effects of the altitude), eat light food, refrain from coffee and alcohol and take it easy the first day or so. Slow ascend to higher altitude is also recommended where possible – this allows the body to acclimatize gradually. Medication such as Diamox is proven to help but is not readily available in Peru. Local use coca leafs to counteract the effects of the altitude. These can be chewed or drank as tea (mate de coca). For people with serious altitude sickness symptoms the best solution is always to head to lower altitude.

Do I need to get vaccinations for Peru?

As for most trips to South American countries, for Peru some vaccinations are often also recommended. For Peru it is worth mentioning that there are no obligatory vaccinations or preventions that have to be taken – not for any destination in Peru. Vaccinate or not itself is of course a personal decision which you can best discuss with your personal physician. Nevertheless, for trips to Peru following are the most common recommended ones; Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Polio and Tetanus.  The Yellow Fever vaccination is recommended for trips to the Amazon Rainforest. For more information please see the article above.

Do I need malaria medication for Peru?

Even though there are still places in Peru where malaria occurs in general the risk for contracting malaria is small. In areas over 2,000 meters (6,500ft) malaria does not occur and in the lower areas at the coast there have been little or no cases in the last couple of years. Most cases occur in the northern Amazon Rainforest but are still not that common. Therefore, most travelers to Peru decide not to take malaria medication. For personal advice it is recommended to speak to your personal physician or tropical institute.

Food

What about Peruvians and Food?

For those who have not heard already; Peru is one of the up-and-coming destination for foodies and culinary travelers. According some, already having surpassed some of the world’s best known food countries, Peru definitely has undergone a huge culinary revolution. Under influence of Peru’s “kitchen guru” Gaston Acurio in the beginning of the century, a new found international appreciation for Peruvian cuisine surged and several new chefs rose to the culinary top of the world. Under influence of the yearly World 50 best restaurant selection several restaurants in Lima became household names in the culinary scene; Central by Virgilio Martinez, Maido by Mitsuharu Tsumura and Rafael by Rafael Osterling just to name a few. Nevertheless, this revolution would not have been possible were it not for the typical Peruvian curious and innovative spirit when it comes to food as well as the small “hole in the wall eateries” where some of Peru’s finest dishes were created. Therefore an exploration of Peru is done with all senses but especially Lima more with your palate than anything else.

How much does a meal cost in Peru?

This is a tricky question as it is hard to put one price for all. Fine dining in Peru, meaning top end restaurants, is in general cheaper than on other places around the world but still not accessible for the majority of Peruvians. For a top fine dining experience with three courses and wines one should count for about US$100-200 per person. Nevertheless a good local restaurant with some standing can be enjoyed for less than half of this. A decent, normal, good restaurant you should count around US$20-40 per person for a nice lunch or dinner. If you would like to rough it a little further there are also plenty of fixed menu places where one can score a good set meal for about US$5 per person. Therefore as you can see in Peru you can eat well for all types of budgets but it good to keep an average of about US$15-30 per person per lunch or dinner.

Can I eat vegetables and fruit in Peru?

Being a tropical country with a lot of climate zones it is obvious that Peru is a big producer of fruits and vegetables. Some of these such as lucuma, cherimoya and aguamanto are very typical for Peru and can be found in several dishes and plates. Fruits and vegetables you purchase in their own skin are of course safe to eat. Once you have to wash first also but it is recommended to wash these well before eating. In the higher end and tourist restaurants it should not be an issue to eat fruits and vegetables as these should all be washed. In the smaller, local restaurants you may want to refrain from fresh salads as you cannot be sure these have been washed sufficiently. You should never feel bad inquiring about this at a restaurant or shop.

Can I drink tap water in Peru?

Even though tap water is cleaned in Peru, for visitors it may be best not to drink the tap water. As cleaning is done most likely different than in your country by using others, more or less chemicals this means that your stomach may not be used to the Peruvian tap water. Therefore it is best to stick to bottled water. Bottled water is easily available in Peru and quite cheap. A lot of hotels also provide some complementary bottled water on the room.  For those traveling to Peru and South America for longer periods, you may consider washing your teeth with tap water so that your body little by little gets used to the tap water. For short stays (under 2 weeks) this is not really necessary.  

Recommended food for Peru?

Being such a culinary top destination there are hundreds of typical and local dishes one could recommend but perhaps for now we will stick to the basics. Every geographical region or even village has its own local dish which is prepared with quite some pride and each family has its own little twist on the standard recipe. We will focus on the three main regions in Peru; the coast is mostly known for its seafood of course. The most typical dishes would be ceviche, raw fish cooked in spicy lime juice and served with typical corn. Other famous dishes on the coast are causa, mash potato layers filled with chicken, tuna or other fillings. For the highlands the most typical plates are Chicharones de chancho; fried pork, Cuy; the famous Guinee pig, or Trout. All of these are of course accompanied by one of the almost 4000 types of potatoes Peru has to offer.  For the jungle a typical dish is Juane; fried rice with either fish, chicken or pork served in banana leaves. As you will discover during your time in Peru there are so much dishes to discover you will for sure not get bored. An open mind and good palate will get you a long way in Peru.

Should we make restaurant reservations

In Lima for the higher end and well known restaurants it is recommended to make reservations. For some of the hardest tables to land in Lima such as Maido, Central and Astrid & Gaston it may be necessary to make reservations months in advance as these places do fill up every day. For other places it may still be best to make reservations but this can be done with a couple of days or even hours in advance. For other destinations, apart from Lima making reservations is not that necessary. For the city of Cusco there are a couple of restaurants you can best reserve a couple of hours in advance (La Cicciolina, MAP Café, Chicha & Limo) but most will be able to seat you relatively quickly even when walking in. If you would need any help with choosing restaurants or making reservations, please contact your travel consultant.

Trains & Tickets

What train company to use?

To and from Machu Picchu there are two train companies operating; Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Both companies offer trains from Poroy as well as Ollantaytambo Station in three categories; standard (Expedition / Voyager Train), superior (Vistadome / 360º Train) and deluxe (Hiram Bingham / First Class Train). Prices are similar between the two companies but vary according the level of train chosen.

How much luggage is allowed on the trains?

The trains do not foresee much luggage storage space and therefore it is recommended only to travel with hand luggage, the basic items needed for your trip to Machu Picchu. Any other luggage you can leave at the Sacred Valley or Cusco hotel. The official weight limit for luggage on the trains is 8kg (15lbs) per person in one piece. The size of the luggage allowance is comparable to the size of a rollaway you would use as hand luggage on a plane. The luggage allowance is not really checked but much oversized luggage will not be accepted.

What train station should I use to travel to Machu Picchu?

There are basically three train stations from where you can travel to Machu Picchu; Poroy Station, Urubamba Station and Ollantaytambo Station. Poroy Station is the station closest to Cusco at about 40 minutes’ drive. Urubamba Station is located in the heart of the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo Station on the end of the Sacred Valley. From there three stations Ollantaytambo has most trains and frequencies departing and arriving followed by Poroy Station. Urubamba Station is mostly used during the rainy season (Jan, Feb & Mar) when Poroy station is not operating. Poroy has some morning departures and evening arrivals but few or no trains between these two times. Ollantaytambo Station has trains of all levels departing throughout the day. As traveling to Ollantaytambo by road takes more or less the same route as the train from Poroy to Ollantaytambo but is slightly over an hour faster. Because of the faster travel time and more departure and arrival times, Ollantaytambo Station is the most popular station for trips to Machu Picchu by train. Therefore as the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo Station are located in between Cusco and Machu Picchu it makes sense to visit the Sacred Valley en route to Machu Picchu or on route back to Cusco.

Domestic Flights

What are the domestic airlines available?

There are 7 companies operating national flights in Peru. The two largest ones; LATAM and Avianca also operate several international flights. Apart from these the domestic airlines are; Star Peru, Peruvian Airlines, LCPeru and ATSA. There is also one relatively new low cost airline called Viva Air operating some routes. Safety wise these airlines are all without any safety incidents but delays and cancellations can happen. As the two international airlines have more power they will always get preference on new flight slots and therefore the other domestic airlines often have longer delays.

How long do I have to be at the airport before my flight?

For domestic flights it is recommended to be at the airport two hours before your flight in Lima and 1.5 hours in advance for other national airports. For international flights from Lima it is recommended to be at the airport at least 3 hours prior departure. If you would connect with a domestic flight after arriving to Peru or would depart on an international flight after a domestic flight you will have to check out your luggage and check this back again for the domestic or international leg. For connecting flights in Peru with the same airline all luggage will be checked through to your final destination.

Do I need to check in online for my flights

As some airlines do overbook flights it is recommended to do the online check in for your domestic and international flights in Peru. This you can do via the airline website with your last name and booking code and can be done from 48 to 24 hours before departure (LATAM 48 hours, the other airlines 24 hours). During the online check in you can also change seats in some cases as well as add extra luggage (at a cost) if necessary. The online check in system will also provide you with your boarding pass. You can print this or download to a tablet or smartphone meaning that you will only have to check in your luggage at the airport which will save you some time. In the odd case the website does not allow you to check in you will have to do this at the airport.

What are the luggage limitations for domestic flights?

For domestic flights in Peru the standard luggage limitation for most airlines (LATAM, Avianca, Star Peru & Peruvian Airlines) are the same. You can check in one piece of luggage weighing up to 23kg (50lbs) and can take along one carry-on hand luggage of a total of 8kg (15lbs) with a size of 55 cm x 35 cm x 25 cm (21 in X 13 in x 9 in) plus one personal item (computer bag, diaper bag, purse, etc..). For small airlines such as LC peru or Atsa you can best refer to their websites as luggage limitations may differ from route to route.

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