Peru is an amazing place, brimming with ancient history, mind-blowing hikes, old charm, and delicious food. However, it’s also home to some potentially trip-spoiling pitfalls. Even the most seasoned traveler can fall prey to one of these. So don’t let yourself be duped, do your homework, and make the most of your trip when traveling to Peru.
To help you get started, here’s a list of things you should know before traveling to Peru:
1. THERE’S MORE TO PERU THAN MACHU PICCHU
Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, the Inca Trail, and the monumental Machu Picchu are incredible and should, of course, be seen. However, make an effort to see more of Peru. Visit Lima and Iquitos. Relax in the small village of Vicos. Take in the splendid architecture of Cajamarca’s churches. And be sure to check out Choquequirao — the Machu Picchu no one seems to know.
2. IN IQUITOS, BE CAREFUL WHEN ORDERING “PASTA”
If a pasta-head looking guy comes up to you in the Amazon metropolis of Inquitos and asks if you want some “pasta,” say no — unless of course, you’re looking to buy crack. “Pasta” is the local colloquialism for crack cocaine.
3. USE CASH, NOT YOUR CREDIT CARD
Nearly all places in Peru that accept cards will charge you a steep 6 – 10% to make use of this privilege. So if possible keep your plastic holstered.
4. EAT CEVICHE, BUT DO IT EARLY
Ceviche is raw fish seasoned with a tongue-tingling combination of citrus juice and chili peppers. It’s a Peruvian staple and a must-try for any visitor. Every morning fishermen bring in their still-flopping haul, which quickly gets chopped up, marinated, and served to locals for breakfast or lunch. Yet, much to the disdain of locals, some popular tourist restaurants cash in on this popular food by serving it all day, even late at night. And though it may be safe to eat, chances are it’s neither as fresh nor cheap as it would be in the morning at a less touristy place.
5. USE THE RIGHT TAXI — BEWARE OF THE CLANDESTINE CABBIES
In addition to having to worry about the notoriously bad taxi drivers, you also have to worry about taxi scammers. There are loads of impostors driving around looking to scam or rob you. Make sure to avoid them by only taking cabs with the official lit-up taxi signs that also have some form of registration in the window. Also, do research on the current going rates and how much the fare to your destination should cost.
6. AVOID TRAVEL AGENCIES
This rule could be applied to nearly every part of the world, but it’s especially pertinent while traveling to Peru. The country is rife with fake guides, agencies, and hustlers looking to scam or charge you way too much. So be alert and avoid any suspected scammers. Buy train and bus tickets directly from the company or station. And do your research before booking hotels and tours.
7. FOLLOW STANDARD TRAVELING PRACTICES
Keep valuables hidden, wear modest attire, and squirrel away a secret stash of money. Also, learn a few key phrases in the local language, Español—this can really come in handy.