The In Country Experience – Peru

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To continue with our series of travel tips for specific destinations, Peru is next on the list.  A few team members just returned from a fantastic trip to Peru.  Here are tips from the field:

ATM

  • The only ATMs we found at Lima Jorge Chavez airport are from Globalnet.  While completely OK to use, they charge 14.50 soles to withdraw cash.  That’s over $5!  The cab fare to the city center can run you anywhere from 35 to 50 soles.  You may also have success paying in Dollars but I wouldn’t rely on it.  If you need cash for a cab bring some soles with you.  More on taxis later.  Either way there are plenty of ATMs outside the airport in the city center to withdraw cash later.
  • There is an option to withdraw Dollars with most ATMs – make sure you select soles!

Taxis

  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate!  Cab drivers see you as a tourist and most will try to rip you off.  They can either be hailed on a street or requested by phone for pick-up.  Either way negotiate BEFORE getting in a cab.  A ride to an adjacent neighborhood should be no more than 10 soles.  Obviously a longer ride will cost more.  Use common sense here.
  • Many hotels have a fleet of their own taxi’s that always charge more.  They are readily available and cleaner and more reliable but you will be paying a premium.  We did find some success negotiating with them too.  It doesn’t hurt to try.

American Express Acceptance

  • We didn’t run into any major issues in Peru with acceptance of Amex cards.  The only issue we ran into is with Amex cards with a smartchip.  For one reason or another the chip wasn’t readable.  It wasn’t a major issue – just have the merchant swipe the card instead.  In case you didn’t realize, we at The Flight Deal prefer the AMEX Platinum for its lack of a foreign transaction fee and it doesn’t employ Dynamic Currency Conversion like Visa and Mastercard.

Shopping

  • Likely you’re going to be shopping for something made with local flair.  Something made of Alpaca is high on everyone’s shopping list.  There are many articles on the Internet regarding real vs fakes so we’ll let you research there.  Our main takeaway was that it costs less for souvenirs in Cusco than in Aquas Calientes.  The market in Aquas Calientes by the train station is HUGE and you would think that fosters competitive pricing.  This is not the case. Unless you find something truly unique there I would buy in Cusco instead.  As with the taxis, NEGOTIATE!  It’s easy to cut half off the ask and bargain from there.  Think of a price you want and work towards that.  If not, walk away.  There’s no harm in doing that.  They will even likely chase you back and agree to your price.

Traffic

  • Traffic was never TOO bad.  Expect some when traveling to the airport – I would give an hour of travel time in Lima to and from the city center.

Safety

  • Lima neighborhoods like Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro feel very safe.  It feels less so when traveling to the city center – I would use caution there with pick-pockets.  Also of note, should you happen to spot some illicit activity – say the illegal peddling of puppies – I would not snap pictures like a tourist.  Just sayin’.  Cusco and Aguas Calientes feel very safe, even at night.

Machu Picchu

  • Bring sunscreen
  • Bring bug repellant
  • Bring handi-wipes
  • If you hike Wayna Picchu I would opt for the earlier 7am entrance.  The city is gorgeous on the morning when it feels a bit desolate, and with the lifting clouds making way for the rising sun.  Gloves may be helpful for the hike when grabbing the cable along portions of the trail.
  • Pack plenty of water, trail mix and your favorite protein bars.
Machu Picchu, Peru (c) 2013, The Flight Deal

Machu Picchu, Peru (c) 2013, The Flight Deal

There you have it.  The food is our favorite in South America and pictures of Machu Picchu really don’t do it justice.  Go experience it for yourself!

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11 Responses to "The In Country Experience – Peru"

  1. Stella says:

    I also just came back for a 13 tour in Peru.

    Here are my tips:
    * All hotels I stayed at have ATMs. I was charged US$2.43 foreign fee to withdraw 200 Soles.
    * Shopping
    – Lima airport has outrageous prices. For example, baby alpaca scarves I purchased in Chinchero costed 20 soles. The same exact ones at the Lima Airport cost US$25!
    – Bargaining. I was told the locals expect bargaining but I’ve found, on many occasions, they don’t bother. I once saw a scarf for 140 soles. I expected to pay max 120 so I countered at 100 and expected the vendor to counter my offer at 120 but he didn’t even bother.
    – Baby Alpaca – the first shearing of alpaca, the softest and best quality. *Note that baby alpaca is a classification group, meaning it does not always come from young alpacas.
    – Vicuna – even more expensive than baby alpaca, very very soft.
    * Machu Picchu – get a seat on the left side of the train for the best view. The train tracks follow the Urubamba River which is to the left of the train tracks. There are no bathrooms within Machu Picchu. Public restroom are located at the entrance. There is a hotel and restaurant also at the entrance. You can come out for lunch (buffet) and then go back into Machu Picchu after lunch. Don’t forget to stop by the small table after entering to get you Machu Picchu stamp in your passport!
    * Wayna Picchu – The number of daily visitors allowed to enter Huayna Picchu is restricted to 400.
    * Food – my favorite are Chicha Morada (purple corn drink and candy), cancha salada (roasted corn – regular and large kernels), piso sour, inca cola (looks and tastes like mountain dew), quinoa soup, cuy, alpaca, rocoto relleno (stuffed pepper), lucuma, cactus fruit, mayacua (passion fruit).

    That’s all I can think of now. Peru is a wonderful country and should be on everyone’s bucket list.

  2. Anita says:

    I’ve been wanting to visit Manchu Picchu for a while. Joining organized tour or independent travel for non-Spanish speaking would be best? Thank you.

    • TFD says:

      @Anita, We only do independent travel.

    • Stella says:

      There are plenty of guides for hire at the entrance to Machu Picchu if you want to go semi independent. I find it’s better than just roaming around the ruins since the guides will give you history, stories and info etc.

  3. AAdvantage Geek says:

    Great advice!

    Don’t forget to pick up some Peruvian pima cotton sweaters and shirts. They’re expensive in the U.S. but a bargain in Peru.

    • TFD says:

      @AAdvantage Geek — we got some when we were in Peru in 2010, but not this time. Definitely a bargain compared to the US.

  4. dhammer53 says:

    If you plan on overnighting at MP, it will cost you another admission the following day.
    For goodness sakes, remember to but DEET before you head to MP. It’s legal there. USE IT!! People that didn’t, had hugh welts on their body.

  5. Anita says:

    Thank you all very much.

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