Thinking about traveling to Peru soon? Peru is an amazing country filled with culture, history and tons of amazing adventures to be had. As with any trip to a new culture and continent, there’s a few things you should keep in mind before you go. Here’s 10 things you should know before traveling to Peru!
1. There’s Incan history everywhere.
While Machu Picchu is definitely the most famous of the Incan archeological sites in Peru, they’re definitely not the only places worth visiting. Check out Inca Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Coricancha during your trip to Peru if you’re interested in Incan history!
2. Altitude sickness.
Many places in Peru are at quite a high elevation—Machu Picchu is almost 8,000 ft. above sea level and Cusco, Peru (the city nearest Machu Picchu) is a whopping 11,000 ft. above sea level. If you’re not used to living at such a high altitude, altitude sickness is definitely something you’ll want to watch out for. Dizziness, fatigue, headaches and nausea are all signs of altitude sickness. You can avoid this by adjusting to higher altitudes slowly (i.e. stay in a lower-altitude city for a few days before moving to a higher altitude), drinking LOTS of water, not over-exerting yourself and drinking some coca tea or taking altitude medication to help yourself adjust. FYI: higher altitudes mean you’re closer to the sun, aka sunburns in Peru will be worse. Wear your sunscreen.
3. It’s a bit of a culinary hotspot.
If Peru isn’t on the top of your list for foodie destinations, a quick trip there might change your mind. From the famous ceviche to lomo saltado (stir-fried beef) or even cuy (guinea pig!) for the adventurous eaters, there’s plenty to try. Pro tip: the locals don’t eat ceviche after the sun sets, so enjoy it at lunch or even breakfast if you want to blend in! Avoiding meat? There’s tons of veggie dishes that Peru is famous for too, like Papas a la Huancaina (potatoes in spicy cheese), ocopa (potatoes in spicy sauce) or causa (potato casserole). And of course, don’t forget to try an alfajor, the famous South American cookies.
4. Plan your Incan Trail adventure in advance.
Planning on just showing up in Peru and hopping on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu when you arrive? You might want to reconsider, because hiking the Inca Trail requires some planning. You have to reserve tickets several months in advance and currently, there’s not an option to hike the Inca Trail on your own, you must book tickets through a tourism agency and go with a group.
5. Don’t drink the water.
While it may be fine in some restaurants or hotels, better safe than sorry. Drink bottled water only, avoid ice and wash any fresh fruits and vegetables really well before eating. Depending on where you’re staying, you may also want to brush your teeth with bottled water (and avoid getting any water in your mouth when you shower, too!).
6. Do try the coca tea.
It’s a regional specialty and it’s historically been used to counteract altitude sickness. One important note: you can’t bring it back with you—it’s illegal in the US.
7. You might need vaccines.
Depending on where you’re going in Peru and what you’re planning on doing, you might need some additional vaccines (think Hepatitis A, Malaria or Yellow Fever) before you go. Check the CDC recommendations and/or with your doctor to see what you’ll need.
8. Carry cash!
Sure, most places in the bigger cities will accept cards with no problems, but in smaller remote areas, cards may not always be accepted. Plus, cash can help you save on credit card fees. It’s just a good idea to have it on hand!
9. Be prepared to pay for photos.
Not all of them, of course. But especially in well-touristed cities, you’ll find women and children walking around in colorful traditional clothing and leading around llamas as well. It’s the perfect photo-op…which is what they’re hoping for. They’ll ask you for a tip once you take their photo. If you want the photo, ask them how much (it’s usually not much) and take your pics. If you’re not going to tip, don’t take the pics.
10. Expect delays.
If you’re coming from a time-sensitive culture, you may find the frequent delays in Peru frustrating. Try to roll with it and just expect that many things—buses, trains, meeting times, etc.—will not be exact to the minute. If you can stay chill and expect the delays as they come, you’ll be a lot less frustrated during your travels!