Are you heading to Peru for the first time? Or, maybe not the first time but definitely need a refresher on things to know before you go? I’ve got you covered! I started putting together this list of Peru travel tips while I was still there – in cabs and in vans on the way to excursions – and was adding to them as they came to mind. I feel like this comprehensive list would have been SUPER helpful for me if I’d seen it before I visited. So, let’s get started on my top 30 Peru travel tips
First Unofficial Peru Travel Tip? Book Excursions.
In case you haven’t started ANY planning for Peru yet, here are some incredible Peru travel excursions to consider. We spent most of our trip on guided tours and I’m so glad we did.
And finally as a heads up, I may receive commission if you make a purchase from some of the links in this list. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love or recommend.
30 Tips for First Time Travelers to Peru:
1. Acclimate for 2-3 Days Before Activities
This is the first of the Peru travel tips for good reason, because if you don’t acclimate your trip can be ruined. If you’re going to any of the higher elevation cities (think Cusco or Huaraz), definitely acclimate for 2 – 3 days before doing any strenuous activity to avoid altitude sickness.
2. Consider Bringing Altitude Sickness Medicine
If you’re going on any adventures that are higher in elevation, go ahead and pack some meds just in case. You may need them, you may not, but it’s way better to have them if needed than need them and not have them. Luckily, there are lots medicines/remedies to help you avoid/alleviate it. Here are a few:
- Diamox (I believe this requires a prescription)
- Coca or Muña Tea and candies
- Go to a farmacia when you get there and pick up whatever the pharmacist recommends
3. Consider Bringing Motion Sickness Medicine
Broken record? Maybe. But seriously, there are a lot of things that can make you not feel great during your Peru trip. If you get motion sick easily, definitely consider bringing medicine because the roads (particularly any outside of the cities or highways) are super bouncy.
4. Restaurant Portion Sizes Are Massive
I TRULY thought the USA had cornered the massive portion sizes market but boy was I wrong. We had some impressively huge dinners in Peru, and our guides or locals we went with finished them entirely! I was floored! We spent 10 days hiking around and working out a lot but still truly could not finish most of our meals.
5. You Will Absolutely Need Peruvian Cash (Soles)
I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere as cash-heavy as Peru. They also won’t take USD if they’re ripped, so your exchange cash needs to be in good condition as well. Definitely have soles on you if you plan to buy literally anything and do not count on a credit card or your country’s currency.
6. Animals Are Everywhere, But Seem Super Healthy and Happy
Livestock is literally EVERYWHERE and this was a huge bonus for me because I’m a big animal lover and got to see these snuggly babes all over the place. But, unlike many places I’ve seen with street dogs, etc., these animals looked super well taken care of. We were told that lots of them had homes, and their owners just let them out during the day to play with their friends. How ADORABLE is that?!
7. Can Likely Get By Knowing Only English
I studied abroad in Spain so I have a good base knowledge of Spanish, but let’s be honest, it had been over 10 years since being immersed in the language so I was a little rusty. I was better off than say, my brother who hadn’t taken Spanish since high school, but overall, you should be able to get by if all you know is English. Download a translation app to make sure you can get by more easily though.
8. Altitude Makes Hikes (or Everything) Way Harder
As mentioned, I did not really get any altitude sickness when in Cusco or in Huascaran National Park, but it’s super common. So, be prepared to be slow on hikes and while doing anything active. And that’s totally fine! It’s better to be slow than push yourself too far and not be able to finish your excursion or worse, hurt yourself in any way.
9. Don’t Skimp on Sunscreen
Especially if you’re up in the mountains, don’t forget sunscreen! You’re closer to the sun, and while it is cooler in temperature you’re more likely to burn.
10. Driving is Nuts
Whether it’s dealing with the absolutely insane traffic in Lima or the wildly narrow, ridiculously bumpy mountain roads, driving is bananas. I am a pretty confident driver and have driven in many countries, and I would never drive here. Be prepared for a bumpy ride no matter where you are!
11. Tipping is a Thing But Not Like in the US
Tipping isn’t necessarily expected but it is a thing. We tipped pretty heavily because some of these all day tours were 12+ hours and only cost $35 USD per person. So, don’t feel like you have to be tipping a ton, but we tipped well because we thought our guides truly deserved it.
12. Download Maps for Cities/Parks
This is super helpful for when you won’t have service, whether that’s your entire experience in Peru or just when general reception gets spotty. We downloaded the Google Map for each city we were in and for any park. This saved us specifically in Lima when trying to find our way around. Here are some of my other favorite travel apps/tools to help you on your trip.
13. If You Look Like a Tourist, You’ll Get Mobbed Like One
I was a little surprised by how much in Cusco at the plaza we were the target of such sales pressure, but also I should have expected it. I had my big camera and my brother and I are both blonde so we were clearly not locals. It reminded me of being in a market vs. walking through a public plaza.
14. You Can Haggle At Markets, But Consider How Much
Haggling isn’t considered gauche or wrong, but if you’re not necessarily traveling on a budget and can afford to purchase items without haggling too much, I’d consider paying it. Like I mentioned before, things are super cheap in Peru, and at least from my perspective, they needed the couple of dollars more than I did, so I was happy to pay mostly full prices.
15. Peruvian Food is Amazing
Not only are those serving sizes massive, but the food itself is amazing. Some of the most popular dishes I had or saw everywhere was:
- Lomo Saltado – mostly beef (but likely other meats as well) stir fry
- Ceviche – different kinds depending on where you are which was fun
- Aji de Gallina – creamy chicken
- Papas – so many different kinds of potatoes
- Choclo – so many different kinds of corn (and some that is absolutely giant)
- Cuy – Guinea Pig (we didn’t get to try this but apparently it takes like chicken)
- Trucha – trout, particularly good if you’re out in the mountains
16. Excursions Are Often Hours Away & Require Lots of Driving
Almost every excursion we did while in Peru required at least a two hour drive each way. And while it was super worth it to drive all that way every day, definitely have things to keep yourself entertained If you’re not someone who can sleep on buses/in vans/etc.
17. Don’t Shop in Super Touristy Areas if Cost is an Issue
Things are way cheaper if you don’t go to the main touristy hot spots for shopping. In a market in Chichero (near Cusco), I bought two sweaters and a number of other things for less than what a single sweater cost at a market in a more touristy spot of Cusco.
18. Hotels Are Loud
So, this could just be the ones we stayed in, but each of the hotels from our trip (all three of them) had very thin walls and you could hear every little thing happening outside or near your door. Basically, bring earplugs if you need them!
19. Headed to Mountains? Prepare For All Weather
Bring layers, layers, layers. A raincoat, a mid-layer zip up or pullover, hats and gloves, etc. You’ll thank me later. One hike we went on went from hot to freezing rain in about 10 minutes. So like, seriously… layers, my friend.
20. Bring Your Own Toilet Paper Places
Toilet paper is not everywhere, so if you are a person who needs to use toilet paper regularly, definitely keep it in your bag or pockets with you.
21. Bring Soles for Bathrooms
Lots of times the bathrooms are not free to use, so have a couple of soles on you to pay for those.
22. Have a Water Bottle With Filter
In order to avoid buying bottles of water everywhere, buy yourself a water bottle with a filter so you can fill it up with any type of water almost anywhere. We used this Sawyer bottle and it was awesome!
23. Coca and Muña Tea / Candies Help with Altitude Sickness
Coca and muña tea can be found pretty much everywhere and they definitely help with the altitude sickness as well. This tea was offered at our hotels, on our excursions, and at almost every restaurant, so you won’t have a hard time finding it.
24. The Earlier You Arrive to Touristy Destinations, the Fewer People You’ll See
This is a pretty common recommendation for almost every trip or popular/touristy place. The earlier you arrive, the fewer people will be there. For Peru trips, this means WILDLY early wakeup calls for some excursions. I know, I know, waking up at 3am hurts on vacation, but it’s also so worth it.
25. Palccoyo is an Easier Hike with a Similar Landscape as Rainbow Mountain
Vivicunca is the most famous rainbow mountain in Peru but it is not the only one! Palccoyo is another to consider if you want a less difficult hike with just as incredible of views.
26. The Inca Trail is Worth It, Consider a Shorter Trek if Low on Time
We only had 10 days on our trip and didn’t want to devote 4 full days to the Inca Trek, however we NEDED to do part of the trek. I was SO happy to find this two day/one night Inca Trek through Alpaca Expeditions. It was honestly perfect.
In total transparency, I was gifted my trek with Alpaca, but I would have 150% paid the full price it was that amazing.
27. Cruz Del Sur Overnight Buses Are Great
I had a GREAT time on my overnight bus from Lima to Huaraz. It was super comfortable, super smooth, and I only have good things to say about my ride.
28. Lima Airport is Surprisingly Smooth and Quick
I was shocked by how quickly I got through security in Lima. We had an hour layover after a delayed flight out of the US and we honestly breezed through customs and baggage claim so quickly and probably still had 30 minutes before boarding. That’s incredible to me.
29. Don’t Skip Huascaran National Park
When I was doing research and finding Peru itineraries online, I didn’t find many with Huascaran National Park and I think that’s a total loss. I’m so glad we put it into our itinerary and took the night bus up to Huaraz. The two days here might have been the highlight of my trip overall. Please, please don’t skip out on Huascaran National Park.
30. When Using a Taxi, Agree on Cost First
If you’re using a taxi, agree on the price before you get in. You don’t want to be surprised by a driver trying to maybe sneak a few more dollars out of a tourist.
So there we go, my top 30 Peru travel tips for first timers! As always, please reach out to me if you have any questions on these Peru travel tips, and check out my Peru Q&A Instagram highlight for more insights. Feel free to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more of my adventures, and I hope you enjoy Peru!