For all treks, the most important thing you can do to prepare is to pack lots of layers that can be added or removed during the trek, and to prepare for all types of weather. The weather in the Andes is fickle and unpredictable, and you should be prepared for sun, wind, rain, snow and cold. For more information on pre-departure preparations, check out Peru’s Wikitravel page and read our blog, How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
Clothing & Gear
Pharmacy & First Aid
Bringing Cash to Peru
We recommend traveling with about USD $200 in cash from your home country to Peru. This gives you plenty to get around with on your first couple of days while you get oriented to your new surroundings. Bills must be in pristine condition – it seems excessive, but they may not have any folds, tears or marks of any kind. Damaged bills may not be accepted at all, or if they are, they will be accepted at less than the going exchange rate.
Credit cards & ATMs in Peru
Most hotels and bigger stores and restaurants accept credit cards (mainly Visa). Smaller, local establishments will only accept cash in the local currency, the Nuevo Sol, colloquially referred to as soles and symbolized by “S/.”. There are numerous ATMs in the big cities (Lima, Cusco, Arequipa) and a few in the smaller cities (Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes), but these can be less reliable. ATMs usually dispense both US dollars and soles, but many have a limit of USD $200-300 per withdrawal. Most ATMs charge a dispensing fee in addition to the fee charged by your bank for international withdrawals.
If you withdraw money in dollars, they can be easily exchanged for soles at any of the numerous money exchange places or inside any major bank. When exchanging dollars for soles, be sure to check the bills carefully, make sure they are in good condition, and ask for enough bills in small denominations – many shops struggle to provide change from S/.100 or S/.50 bills.
Carrying Cash on Your Trek
When preparing to leave on your trek, we recommend ensuring you obtain enough cash in soles, in small denominations, to cover all your needs until you return to Cusco. The amount you need depends a lot on which trek you’re doing and personal preferences, so be sure to carefully read your itinerary.
Some things to consider include:
US dollars are welcome at some high-class shops, restaurants and service stations at the current exchange rate. The more expensive restaurants and hotels catering to travelers accept major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard, Diners and American Express. The use of traveler’s checks is not recommended as they are hard to exchange, and if they are accepted, will usually be exchanged at less than the current rate.
The exchange rate fluctuates and in recent years has varied between 2.6 and 3.7. A good rule of thumb is to divide prices in soles by 3 for an approximate value in US dollars.
Trekking with Children
Trekking with children can be a great experience – for the whole family! – but there are some things you should definitely keep in mind when considering whether your child is up to the challenge of a high altitude hike in the Andes. Physical and mental fitness and stamina are important, as well as a certain level of maturity and self-awareness. Experience walking for long distances and camping without the conveniences of home (like electricity!) are also essential. And planning extra time to acclimatize before starting the trek to make sure that you are all happy and healthy before heading out is highly recommended. For some more great tips on hiking with your children, check out this blog.
Trekking Over 60
We recommend that if you are over 60 years old you should talk to your doctor well in advance about how best to plan for the trek and also to ensure that your travel insurance covers such adventure activities. Taking extra days to acclimatize is also a good idea. We also ask that you have your doctor fill in Part III of our Medical Declaration & Insurance Waiver Form confirming that you are fit to participate in the trek. Unfortunately, if you do not have your doctor fill out this section of the form, we reserve the right to cancel your trek, and you will forfeit your trek deposit.
That said, Peru is not immune from the cat-calling culture prevalent elsewhere as well, and to avoid too much unwanted attention it is a good idea to dress conservatively and act confident as you move about. Don’t be shy about putting people in their place with a stern “no” if someone makes you feel uncomfortable. Do note, however, that Peruvian concepts of personal space differ from other countries and you may feel “invaded” when the intention is totally innocent. If this happens to you, please politely inform the person that their behavior is making you feel uncomfortable.
Hiking with Male Guides
Most of our guides are male, though we can request a female guide if that is important to you. Porters, chefs and muleteers are also predominantly male. Why is this? Except for guides, most trekking staff come from remote, traditional Quechua communities where gender-based social protocols are still observed. While men are considered more “mobile” and able to take work outside the community, women’s roles mostly revolve around maintaining the home, caring for children and looking after the livestock which requires them to stay in the community. This might seem outdated or offensive to some, but it is an important societal structure that works in traditional, community-focused societies.
We care about the opportunities that women receive in these communities, too, which is why we support Threads of Peru, a non-profit organization that provides home-based income-earning opportunities through the production and sale of traditional textiles.
Connecting with Other Women Travelers
If you are traveling on your own but would like to meet up with other women travelers on your hike, please check out our Trekkers Wanted page. It’s a great place for women to connect with each other in order to plan the perfect the trek, and make new friends! You can also start a new thread in our Forum in order to try to connect with more women travelers.
Internet and phone cabins can be harder to find in smaller towns such as Calca and Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, and completely non-existent in rural areas. On the trail, you may be surprised at how far cell service may reach, but there are still many areas with no coverage at all.
In much of the high Andean region around Cusco, the predominant language spoken is Quechua and you may encounter people who do not speak Spanish. Other indigenous languages are also spoken throughout Peru, including Aymara in the Puno area and Aguaruna, Ashaninka and Shipibo in the jungle regions.
Peru is currently in the process of revitalizing many indigenous languages by including them in primary school curricula.
Mind Your Things
Regardless, it is always a good idea to be smart when you are out and about. Be attentive to your surroundings and conscious of the bags or other items you are carrying on your shoulder, back or in your hands. Do not get careless and leave bags unattended inside cafes or restaurants. Be especially alert when riding local buses, as pickpockets can unzip a zipped pocket without you noticing!
Be Smart About Valuables
We recommend that you carry with you only what you really need, leaving the bulk of your money, credit cards and other valuables in the safe deposit box in your hotel room. Carry a photocopy of your passport with you, but leave the original at the hotel as well.
The Tourism Police
There is a specially designated Tourism Police which can be contacted in the event that something does happen. They will file a report of the incident and attempt to find any stolen goods. It is important to report such incidents as it helps the government improve prevention tactics.
For real police emergencies, the “911” equivalent in Peru is 105. For health emergencies, you can dial 133 to call an ambulance.
There are plenty of taxis all over Peru in the major cities with very affordable rates. Because none use meters, we recommend you check the likely rate with the hotel and negotiate a price BEFORE accepting a ride. In Lima it is recommended that the staff of your hotel write down the licence plate of your taxi before you depart.
A short ride in Lima within the same neighborhood typically ranges from S/.8-12; in Cusco, you should be able to travel anywhere within the center for S/.3-5. A taxi ride between your hotel and the airport in Cusco should range between S/. 6-15, depending on the location of your hotel and where you hail your taxi. Do not let them charge you more than that!
Safety in Taxis
It is important to be alert when riding taxis, as taxi-related theft can happen in the larger cities. Lock the doors if you can, and pay attention to the driver’s behavior. Don’t hesitate to ask to be let out early if you feel uncomfortable.
One of the best ways to get around Cusco outside the center is to take one of the numerous city buses, many of which have colorful names like “Pegaso” and “Batman”. Most buses charge 80 céntimos for a one-way ride. Be extremely careful with personal belongings when taking these buses as they are often crowded and known to have pickpockets. An unattended, zipped pocket does not keep thieving hands at bay!
Tipping Your Field Staff – Guides, Cooks, Porters & Muleteers
At Apus Peru, our philosophy is that tips should be voluntary and related to the quality of service received. Our trekking staff is well-paid, and tips are not needed in order for them to obtain a good quality of income. In addition, travel, food and accommodation on the trail is provided by the company, and does not come out of their salary. This is not necessarily the same at other establishments or agencies. However, tokens of appreciation for a job well-done are always appreciated, and do help to incentivize staff to go that extra mile.
How Much to Tip
If you do wish to tip, the amount is at your discretion, but we recommend that you calculate the amount based on the number of people in your group and the full length of your trek. That amount should be shared among the entire team, including guides, porters, muleteers and cooks.
Tips for Street Photo Ops
You will frequently see indigenous people dressed in their finest traditional clothing, often carrying baby goats or leading alpacas around the streets and plazas of Cusco. Many tourists like to take photos of these people, but then get offended when they are asked to provide a tip.
Although it might seem distasteful to be asked to pay for a photo you take of what seems to you to be “locals”, you should think of these people as providing a cultural service, in the same way that the official photographers who also line the plazas are providing a photography service. This is their job, and they deserve to be compensated.
Used toilet paper ALWAYS goes into the waste bin provided, and NEVER in the toilet itself. This is the case no matter what standard of hotel or restaurant you are in!
Many people tend to get vaccinations for Typhoid and Hepatitis, and some bring prescriptions for traveler’s diarrhea or bacterial infections such as Dukoral or Cipro. Yellow Fever vaccines are not required to enter Peru, though it may be required to enter the next country you visit after visiting Peru. Be sure to do your research. A Yellow Fever vaccine as well as malaria pills may be recommended if you are visiting the jungle.
Again, please consult a medical professional to determine your vaccination needs.
The maximum amount of time you can receive on a tourist visa is 183 days (approximately 6 months), though it is more standard to receive between 30-90 days. When you are at the Immigration desk at the border (Migraciones), be sure to ask for the time you need; it is not automatic.
If you later want to extend your stay – up to 183 days – you can either apply for an extension at the Immigration Office in Lima or Cusco, or renew your visa by leaving the country and returning. If you overstay your visa without taking pre-emptive measures, you will be charged USD $1 per day for each day past your visa expiration date, plus an administrative fee in soles.