Peru Guide

golden pre-inca ornaments art the Larco Herrera museum

Peru, a country rich in history, culture and archaeology

The richness and depth of the history, culture and archaeology of Peru make it one of the world’s most popular and interesting travel destinations. From the many breathtaking examples of its ancient past – especially the Inca temples, ceremonial complexes and cities found throughout the country – to its varied and beautiful landscapes, Peru's charms escape no one attention. Its friendly locals, all extremely proud of their diverse origins, are no less eager to help you learn about and appreciate as much about their country as possible.
This Peru Guide provides you with helpful information about the country, useful whether you see the sights on your own or take a Peru tour, as we recommend, and learn about the local cultures in the company of a guide.

Climate and Weather

One thing you can count on is that in Peru, weather will happen; it is unpredictable throughout the year. In fact, experiencing four seasons in one day is not uncommon, especially given the diversity of regions and variations in the local weather patterns. That being said, there are basically two seasons in Peru: wet (December through April) and dry (May through November). The dry season is the best time to visit Peru.
During the dry season, temperatures average 28º C on the coast and the beaches are very popular. At other times, a wet-season 'guara,' or coastal mist, blankets the coast and masks the sun, pushing average temperatures down to 14º C. In the mountains, while the sun usually shines throughout the year, nighttime temperature dip to an average of 5º C. In the tropical jungles, heat and rain dominate, with average daytime temperatures of 30º C and cooler nights of 20º C.

Graphic of average sunhours each month in Cusco
Graphic presentation of average monthly temperature in °F in Cusco, Peru
Grapgh with average temperature each month in Celsius in Cusco - Peru

Communications

Telephone
The country code for Peru is 51. Telephone cards for use in public phones can be purchased in supermarkets and stands in the main cities.
Mobile Telephone
Mobile phone rental in Peru is possible in Lima and other principle cities. Given the challenges of some of the geography, coverage can be sporadic. Check roaming agreements with the international phone service providers.

Internet
Internet cafes and booths open to the public are found throughout the country, especially in cities and most towns. The Majority of hotels offer free WiFi in the lobby and lounge areas.

Post
Outside of Lima, postal facilities are limited. The main post office in Lima, or Correo Central de Lima, is located not far from the Plaza de Armas. Most post offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:30 PM.

 

postoffice in Central Lima

Currency

The currency in Peru is called the New Sol (abbreviated as PEN or S/.), where S/.1 equals 100 céntimos. New Sol bank notes come in denominations of S/.200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. The coins are available in denominations of S/.5, 2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 céntimos.
Money Exchange
Peruvian New Soles can be exchanged for US dollars and other major currencies in the banks of larger cities. Some of the major hotels and shops in Lima accept dollars, but we strongly recommend that you carry Soles. Exchanging money with street vendors should be avoided.
The exchange rate for 1 US Dollar is approximately 2.8 Soles
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
All major credit cards can be used in Peru, but there may be limited acceptance outside of Lima. Using ATMs to withdrawing funds in local currency directly from your home accounts is now widely considered a good way to obtain money in Peru.

Travelers Cheques

Travelers cheques can be exchanged for local currency in banks, but outside of Lime the process can be a long one and in some cases may not be possible at all. Check ahead about whether travelers cheques will be accepted in the area you plan to visit. Cheques in US dollars are advised so as to avoid additional exchange rate charges.
Bank Hours
In general, banks in Peru are open from Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. During the summer, hours may vary.

 

Peruvian Banknotes of 100, 50, 20 and 10 Soles

Electricity

Electric sockets in Peru can be either the flat-pin style of the U.S. (both two- and three-pin plugs are common) or the European-style plug with two round prongs. Peru uses 220V. As most new electric devices have built-in converters, they can handle different voltage rates, but some still only function on the 120V U.S. standard. Check your appliances carefully: "Input: 100 - 240V" means the item is safe from 100V to 240V. Purchase a voltage converter for any device that can't handle the Peruvian standard. The majority of hotels category 3*** star and higher have 120V sockets in the bathroom and also a hairdryer.
 

A typical Electric wall sockets in Peru for 2 prongs and is suitable for bot Maerican and European style plugs

Geography

Broadly speaking, there are three geographic regions of Peru:
    •    the coast, notable for its deserts and white sandy beaches;
    •    the highlands, famous for the Andes Mountains that form a north-to-south spine running the length of the country;
    •    the jungle, traversed by the Amazon, the greatest river in the world.
Of course, this is an oversimplification. Peru can actually claim such an inordinate variety and number of ecosystems and microclimates that nearly every kind of plant and animal has been identified within its borders.
Peruvian territorial waters in the Pacific and Antarctic oceans account for an enormous variety of fish and other sea life. On land, tropical rainforests cover nearly 30% of the country. In the southeast, Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, straddles Peru's border with Bolivia. Along its border with Chile lies the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth.

 

The Peruvian coastline at the national Reserve of Paracas
Blue Macaw
4 men of the Yachaq community in the Sacred Valley posing on a rock in treditional clothing

Health

Altitude sickness is the only concern about which special care should be taken. Do not plan anything strenuous on your first day. Instead, rest in your hotel, eat lightly and drink plenty of coca tea. You will already feel better adapted to the altitude by the second day.
Most food can be trusted, although eating street food and drinking tap water are not advised. Be sure to bring a hat and plenty of good sunscreen, although both can be purchased locally as well.
There are no special immunization requirements for travel to Peru. Hepatitis vaccinations are advisable, though, and you should be up to date with all standard inoculations. Peru's rainforest region (areas east of the Andes and below 3,500 feet) is a yellow fever and malarial zone; a yellow fever vaccination and malarial prophylaxis are recommended protections. Although it has been many years since we heard of anyone contracting yellow fever in Peru, the government still urges travelers to get yellow fever vaccinations if headed to the rainforest. Keep in mind that this vaccination is recommended or required for travel in most rainforest areas around the globe, and has a 10-year validity. Plan ahead as it is only effective starting 10 days after administered; remember to pack your certificate. For more information about yellow fever and malaria, consult your doctor or other health advisors.

History

Although the Inca are Peru's best-known ancient civilization, other sophisticated cultures inhabited the Cuzco area long before them, such as the Tiwanaku (200–1000 AD), which has its origins on Lake Titicaca's southern shores, and the Wari (700–1100AD), from whom the Inca inherited their mummy worship and highway system.
But it was the Peru of the Inca, who ruled for 95 years (1438–1533 AD), that Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conquistador, discovered in Cuzco in the 16th century, complete with a huge central plaza, the Coricancha sun temple and Sacsayhuaman. Is it any wonder that Pizarro described these great works of the ninth Inca leader and master builder, Inca Yupanqui (later known as Pachacutek or "shaker of the earth"), as the greatest and finest ever seen in this country or anywhere in the Indies?
Despite this claim, it is Pizarro who made the imprint on Cuzco that we see today, in which perfectly masoned Incan walls, including a few relocated from Sacsayhuaman (now in ruins), serve as the foundations of colonial-style churches and monasteries. Of course, further changes have followed – the colonial buildings are now museums, the central plaza is packed with bars, travel agencies and internet cafes – all a result of globalization policies that intensified during the 1990s, when the Fujimori government opened Peru to new international trade and investment.
Could another big change be coming that returns Cuzco to center stage? Well, on December 8, 2004, the presidents and representatives of 12 South American nations gathered in Cuzco to mark the establishment of a South American Community based on the European Union model. Should this come to pass, the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco could again become the central city of a great union, the first time since surrendering rule over the vast stretch of land from Columbia to Chile to the Spanish.

the Pre-Inca site of Tiwanaku near Lake Titicaca

Language

Spanish is the main language of Peru. However, in indigenous villages in the Andes, some people still speak Quechua, the ancient language of the Inca. Also, in the highlands of Puno, called the Altiplano, native people speak Aymara, although it is not recognized as one of the country's official languages.

Qeros preparing a coca ceremony

Location

Peru is a coastal country in the northwest of South America. It shares land borders with Bolivia and Chile to the south, Bolivia and Brazil to the east, and Colombia and Ecuador in the north. The Pacific Ocean lies to its west. Click here for a map of Peru (opens in new window).

People and Culture

The people of Peru come from several races and ethnic groups. Importantly, though, Peru is the only country in South American where the majority of the population is native to the country, and of these almost 45% are indigenous. Other local populations with strong representation include the Chinese, Japanese and Africans of various origins.

Peru Embassy and Consulates in the USA and Canada

We also have a listing of Peruvian embassies in Europe and Embassies of Peru in the rest of the world

Embassy of Peru in Washington DC
Address: 1700 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,, Washington DC Ç20036
Washington DC
Email: webadmin@embassyofperu.us
Fax(202) 659 - 8124
Phone: (202) 833 - 9860/69
Website: peruvianembassy.us
   
General Consulate of Peru in Miami, United States of America
Address: 444 Brickel Avenue Suite M-135 , (esq. SE 5 St) Edificio Rivergate Plaza, Miami, 33131
Email: informacion@consulado-peru.com
Fax(305) 381-6027
Phone(305) 374-1305 (5 lineas)
Website consulado-peru.com

General Consulate of Peru in Atlanta Georgia
Address4360 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd., Suite 580, Atlanta, GA 30341, -
CityAtlanta
Email: informes@consulperuatlanta.com
Fax(678) 336-7010
Phone(678) 336-7010
Website peruvianembassy.us

General Consulate of Peru in New York
241 East, 49th Street
New York, NY  10017
USA
Phones:
(646) 735-3828
(646) 735-3862
(646) 735-3859

Peruvian Embassy in Canada
Public Hours Monday to Friday 9am - 1:00pm
Office Address: 130 Albert Street, Suite 202
Ottawa ON, K1P 5G4
Email: seccionconsular@embassyofperu.ca
Tel: (613) 233-2721
Website: embassyofperu.ca

We also have a complete listing of embassies in the USA and Canada

Public Holidays in Peru

Date Weekday  Name National/Local
1-Jan Thursday New Year's day National
2-Apr Thursday Passion Thursday National
3-Apr Friday Good Friday National
5-Apr Sunday Easter  National
1-May Friday Labor Day National
24-Jun Wednesday Inti Raymi Cusco only
29-Jun Monday Saint Peter and Saint Paul National
28-Jul Tuesday Independence Day (1st day) National
29-Jul Wednesday Independence Day (2nd day) National
30-Aug Sunday Santa Rosa De Lima National
8-Oct Thursday Battle of Angamos National
1-Nov Sunday All Saints Day National
8-Dec Tuesday Feast of the Immaculate Conception National
25-Dec Friday Christmas Day National
Women on the Plaza di Arma's in Cusco during Santirantikuy selling Christmas decoration

Religion

The vast majority (81%) of Peruvians are Roman Catholic, while another 2.1% practice other religions and 16.3% either made no claim to a specific religion.

When to Visit Peru

Although you can travel in Peru at any time of year, high season for tourism in Peru runs from June through August, principally because of the North American and European summer holidays. October is another busy month as it is when Peruvian students travel domestically. Peru's dry season (May through November) is the best time for trekking. March through December are best for visits to the Amazon.
In general, to stay clear of the crowded high-season months, we suggest visiting Peru in March, April, May, September, November and even December, during which there usually is not much rain. This is true in other parts of the country as well.

Visas and Passports

To enter Peru, you must be in possession of a passport valid for six months and a ticket showing proof of onward passage. Visas are not required of citizens of the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and many other countries traveling in Peru as tourists. Please check before travel as this could change.
A tourist visa permits a stay in Peru for a maximum of 90 days; a longer visits requires a visa extension available from the Migraciones, or Peruvian immigration authorities. All visitors to Peru must fill out and at all times retain a tourist card provided at border crossings or during the flight to Peru. This tourist card is presented to immigration authorities when leaving the country.

General Information

The current population of Peru is 28.7 million people, living in a country covering 1,285,220 square kilometers (496,225 square miles). The capital city is Lima, which is home to about 8.7 million people, or nearly one-third of the total. Peru is five hours behind GMT (GMT -5).