Passports and Visas
All passengers require a machine-readable passport valid for six months beyond the conclusion of their trip, with appropriate visas. You should carry your passport with you at all times to ensure against its loss or theft in hotels. While a visa is not required for U.S. citizens, you must provide evidence of onward travel, such as an airline ticket. All other passport holders must check with the Peruvian Consulate to determine if any visas are needed. All travelers receive an Andean Immigration Card upon arrival, which must be presented when checking in for international flights. At some airports, local departure taxes have to paid in US dollars or local currency (cash only) when you check in for your flight. Airport taxes in Lima, Cusco and several other airports are included in the ticket. This information is a guide only and it is essential that you check all current passport and visa rules with your travel agent before departure.
Before traveling to South America, we recommend you see a healthcare provider at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip (particularly one who specializes in travel medicine). These professionals will have the most up-to-date information about required vaccinations and how to protect yourself from illness. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know all of the countries you will be visiting. If you have a medical condition, you should discuss your travel plans with any doctors you are currently working with. You can also check the CDC website, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.
It is recommended that travelers drink and brush their teeth with bottled water. Avoid eating uncooked vegetables, ice and fruits or vegetables that may have been washed in local, untreated water. Do not purchase food from street vendors. A good sun block and insect repellant should be worn at all times.
Many parts of South America and Peru in particular have very high altitudes, with air so thin that altitude sickness is a concern. Symptoms include a headache, loss of appetite, nausea, feeling weak or dizzy, insomnia and shortness of breath. When arriving at a high-altitude destination, plan on resting to get acclimated, drink plenty of water, and stay away from alcohol and heavy foods.
Peru's currency is the Nuevo Sol. One Nuevo Sol is broken down into 100 céntimos (cents). Banknotes currently circulating include 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 Nuevos Soles, and there are coins for 1, 2 and 5 Nuevos Soles and 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. US dollars are commonly accepted in most hotels, stores and supermarkets in Lima and in the main cities in the country. We recommend exchanging money in casas del cambio or banks, because they offer more security and guarantees. You will generally get a better exchange rate in a casa del cambio. Avoid street moneychangers. Also, in Peru, traveler’s checks are very difficult to cash.
The most widely accepted credit cards in South America are American Express, Visa, and MasterCard. International credit cards are accepted at most hotels, restaurants, stores and other companies that render services to tourists. Before you go, check with your bank to ensure your ATM card will work overseas and make sure your PIN is four digits, as some South American ATMs won't take PINs more than four digits long. ATMs are found in most major cities, however there is usually a transaction fee to use them. Purchases made with credit cards will be charged in the local currency. They will be converted at the exchange rate valid on the day the charge is received at the bank and shown in US dollars on your statement.
Peru has 220 V at 60 Hz, with a type A, B or C socket. America's electrical currents are 120 V at 60 Hz, with a type A or B socket, so you'll need a converter and possibly an adapter.
Wireless and wired Internet access is widely available in main cities throughout Peru. You may also find Internet cafés in major cities that allow you access, usually for a small charge.
Phoning home from another country can be expensive. All hotels will add a service charge to the cost of any phone calls you make from your room. This charge can be very high. It is always cheaper for you to use public telephones (payphones) if your cell phone is not set for international calls. Your Travel Director can explain how to dial internationally if you are unsure.
General business hours in Peru are:
Banks: Mon-Fri, 9:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m., Sat 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (most banks)
Stores: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m., some (especially grocery stores) are also open Sundays. Grocery stores in larger cities will sometimes open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Peruvian handicrafts such as alpaca wool sweaters, alpaca and llama rugs, Indian masks, weaving and silver jewelry make great souvenirs and gifts. Coca leaves are a popular souvenir from Peru, however please note that outside Peru, coca leaves (even in tea bags) are not a legal item to carry.
We suggest the following tipping rates: Hotel housekeepers US$1-$4 per day (or the equivalent in the local currency), Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped, but they appreciate the fare being rounded up, Restaurants and bars 10-15% of the total bill. If a service charge or propina has already been added there is no need to tip as much or at all.
Because the main cities in South America are generally quite a distance from one another, flying is often the best way to travel. Bus and train service is available as well.
The best way to get around in Lima is by taxi. Taxis in Peru are not metered, so ask the concierge at your hotel what the rate to your destination should be, and negotiate a price with the driver before getting into the car. Using pre-arranged radio taxis instead of hailing a taxi on the street is recommended. If you find you suddenly need a taxi, you can call one from any nearby hotel. Registered, licensed taxis are yellow; independent taxis should be avoided.
Between the colonial city center of Lima and Miraflores, there is a bus service called El Metropolitano, with established stopping points and special lanes for bus use only. The regular buses in Lima are microbuses, which tend to be older and smaller than El Metropolitano, and combi colectivos, which race along the major city roads. Combi colectivos move dangerously fast, frequently taking off before passengers have both feet in the vehicle. All buses are crowded and popular with pickpockets. Also, there are no established stopping points; routes are announced on the bus directly and by shouting out of the window.
In Cusco, the major tourist sights are within walking distance of the main square. The farthest you might have to walk is about a half hour up the path to the Sacsayhuaman ruins, a trip that should be taken with a group, not alone. While you are adjusting to the altitude, taxis and local buses are a convenient way to travel. Buses and minibuses have a fixed route and fares are inexpensive. Taxis are not metered, so make sure to settle on a price with the driver before getting in the car.
Clothing recommendations will vary with the areas you are planning on visiting. Generally, casual clothing is fine, though shorts should not be worn when sightseeing in churches, cathedrals, museums and other sites where they might not be appropriate. Pack according to the time of year you are traveling and general temperatures, always remembering to bring comfortable walking shoes (essential), a sun hat or visor, and a sweater or jacket for cooler evenings. Also, don't forget a swimming suit, sun screen and sunglasses. If you are traveling to a jungle or rainforest, long-sleeved shirts, pants and insect repellent are advisable for protection from mosquitoes