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Holidays in Peru

Understanding Peru

Although Peru has rich natural resources and many great places to visit, many of the people live in poor conditions 36% of the population live under the poverty line The rich, consisting mostly of a Hispanic or "Criollo" elite, live in the cities Nevertheless, most Peruvians are great nationalists and love their country with pride largely stemming from Peru's history as the center of both the Inca Empire and Spain's South American Empire Also, many Peruvians separate the state of Peru and its government in their minds Many of them distrust their government and police, and people are used to fighting corruption and embezzlement scandals, as in many countries

The Peruvian economy is healthy and quite strong, however, still some Peruvians see their economy as stuck in a rut It is indebted and dependent on industrial nations, especially the United States This dependence, combined with US foreign policy decisions in recent years has contributed to a widely held negative view about the United States government in Peru, but not against individual US citizens

The word gringo, is used commonly, but is not generally intended as offensive The original meaning encompassed all white-skinned people who do not speak Spanish Many people use the word gringo exclusively for Americans or American look-alikes It's not uncommon for blonde people to be called gringo Peruvians do not hesitate to greet you with "¡Hola, gringo!"

Generally, people are very friendly, peaceful and helpful When in trouble, you mostly can rely on getting help But as with any setting, it is always good to watch out for yourself and try to avoid bad situations If you get into an argument, it is a good idea to remain amicable, but firm Most of the time, you can find a compromise that satisfies everyone

Peru is not exactly a haven for efficiency Do not expect things to be on time, or exactly as they intend to be Outside of the more upscale tourist services and big cities like Lima, English is uncommon and the people, trying to be friendly, can give wrong or inexact advice, a translator can always be helpful in this cases Plan ahead and leave plenty of time for traveling

You may also want to see Tips for travel in developing countries for some useful hints

Talking in Peru

Like most of South America, the official language of Peru is Spanish

In tourist centers like Cusco and Machu Picchu or in high class hotels, English and sometimes other languages are spoken If you intend to visit other sites, or other areas of the country, you'll need Spanish Like every other Latin American country, Peruvian Spanish replaces vosotros and its 2nd-person plural conjugations with ustedes 3rd-person plural For example: ¿Cómo están? instead of ¿Cómo estáis? South American Spanish likes diminutives gringuito is more affectionate than gringo

If you learn languages easily, try to learn Quechua, the language of the Incas It will be highly appreciated in the countryside of the Sierra, where many indigenous speak it as a first language On the Altiplano, the unofficial language Aymara is widely spoken Aymara was the language of the Tihuanacu culture

What to see in Peru

Wildlife

With 84 of the earth's 104 known life zones, Peru is rich in wildlife diversity The Amazon basin is home to pink dolphins, jaguars, giant river otters, primates, 4,000 types of butterflies and one-third of the world's 8,600 bird species

Folklore

The diversity of Peru's people and cultures is reflected in a rich tradition of festivals, dance and music In the Andes, the plaintive wail of the flute and beat of the drum accompany songs depicting indigenous life while dancers masked as devils and spirits are a marriage of pagan and Christian beliefs In the jungle, ceremonial music and dance are a window into tribal life And along the coast, a blend of elegant Spanish sounds and vibrant African rhythms reflect the Conquest and later slave labor of the New World

Buying stuff in Peru

The currency of Peru is the nuevo sol As of 16 July 2010, US$1 is worth S/282 S/ is the symbol for "nuevo sol" Coins are available in five, two and one sol, and in 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1 centimo 5 and 1 centimo coins are not normally accepted outside of big supermarkets or banks, so avoid them or bring them home for a collection or to give to friends Notes are available at 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 soles denominations; 200 soles notes are uncommon and will not be accepted in the same places that will not accept a 100 USD note or a 50 pound note

Counterfeiting is common: take time to get familiar with the money and do not hesitate to reject any note or coin especially the 5 sol coins that look suspicious, just like any Peruvian would do In other words, if you want to look like a savvy foreigner, take 10 seconds anytime you receive a paper note to look it over All bills have a watermark and security stripe, and the large number on the extreme right denoting the denomination of the bill will change from purple to green when viewed at an angle Don't take any note that is ripped; you won't be able to use it anywhere else but a bank

If you are stuck with a counterfeit coin or note, if you try to use it at big stores they may want to confiscate it Don't accept damaged/ripped bills, since you will have to take them to a bank in order to change them into new ones before you can spend them Be especially careful when exchanging money with money-changers on the street a common way for counterfeit money to enter the money supply or at the border notably the one with Ecuador

Typically, small bills are very helpful to carry around Change large bills into small ones as often as possible If you only have 50 and 100 Soles notes on you, consider changing them at a bank Local merchants and taxistas often claim to not have any change on them, forcing you to wait in public while they search for some potentially dangerous and sometimes with the hope that you'll grow impatient and let them keep the change

Travelers checks or credit cards are usual Although cash has a ca 2% better change rate, you are strongly advised not to carry large amounts of cash on your journey The Banco de Credito BCP gives good rates on traveler checks Rates in change offices are often somewhat worse It's always worth comparing them before changing your money When changing your money in change offices, check their calculations Most of them make calculations on the fly for the amount you want using an electronic calculator in plain view, even showing you the process step by step unless they are brutally obvious, like changing tens or hundreds If they don't show, keep the money in your pocket and find someone that does Even in the bank, check your bills for authenticity

ATMs are available in big cities, upmarket hotels, and touristic areas With a Cirrus or Maestro sign on it, you can withdraw cash easily Make sure nobody is trying to see your PIN code The exchange rate is the same as credit cards but fees are much lower Most banks do not charge a fee for getting cash from their ATM's, however some do Stay away from BBVA Banco Continental - their ATM's charge very high fees and don't tell you until it's too late the fee is printed on the receipt, but not on the screen or next to the ATM as it is in other countries

In smaller towns, it can happen that there are nobody who will accept your credit card or traveler checks For this case, you should have taken care that you have enough cash with you Nice new Dollar bills not too high,10 or 20 US$ bills are fine can help, too, since they are easier to change than travelers checks In Peru, it not as common for US$ to be accepted in transactions as in other countries such as Ecuador Often in small towns, local shops will change money for you If so, it will be clearly marked Take only US$ bills in good condition since bills slightly torn or even old-looking will not be accepted

Costs

As a low budget traveller, you can live on US$ 15 per day without problems Basic hotels or hostels hospedajes can be easily found in all Peru The cost per night is about US$ 3 - 6

There are a lot of very cheap restaurants US$ 050 - 150, but maybe this is not the best place to save your money In somewhat better restaurants you can get lunch and dinner menus for US$ 2 - 3 Of course, in every city you can find restaurants where you can spend US$ 20 and more if you want

Buses are not very expensive The usual price for a 10 h bus ride in a normal bus not "Royal Class" or something like that is about US$ 6 However, you'd do well in paying the extra buck, the difference between a $6 ticket and a $12 is enormous Again, avoid bus companies that allow travellers to get into the bus outside the official stations They are normally badly managed and can be dangerous, due both to unsafe practices or to highway robberies, which are unfortunately not uncommon This should be heeded especially by female travellers going on their own Get information at the hotel, hostal or tourist information booth before catching a ride

Trains except the ones for Machu Picchu, which are relatively expensive run for similar fees

Don't forget to retain your exit fee of US$3025 They do accept USD or Soles for the fee and be sure to pay the exit fee before you get in line for security checks or you'll get to wait again

Handicrafts

Peru is famous for a lot of different, really nice and relatively cheap handicrafts Keep in mind that buying handicrafts support traditional skills and helps many families to gain their modest income Look for:

  • Pullovers, and a lot of other alpaca-woolen products in all the Sierra Puno is maybe the cheapest place
  • Wall carpets tejidos
  • Carvings on stone, wood and dried pumpkins
  • Silver and gold jewellery
  • typical music instruments like pan flutes zampoñas, skin drums
  • many other

Do not accept any handicrafts that look like or actually are precolumbian pottery or jewelry It is illegal to trade them and there is the possibility not only of them being confiscated, but of being prosecuted for illegal trading, even if the actual artifacts are copies or fakes Dealing with the police from the criminal side is messy and really unpleasant

Buyer beware: Watch out for fake BambaAlpaca wool products many items sold to the unsuspecting gringo are actually synthetic or ordinary wool! That nice soft jumper in the market for $8 or so is most certain to be acrylic Even in places such as Puno there is no easy way to tell if it is made from Alpaca, sometimes it might have a small percentage of Alpaca mixed in with other fibres Baby Alpaca is not from baby animals but the first shearing and the fibre is very soft and fine Generally Alpaca fibre has a low lustre and a slightly greasy hand to it and is slow to recover from being stretched Shop and compare; real Alpaca is expensive

Bargaining

Bargaining is very common If you are not used to it, respect some rules If you intend to buy something, first ask the price, even if you already know what it actually should cost Then check whether everything is all right Does the pullover fit you? Do you really want to buy it? Is the expiration date on the cheese exceeded? etc If the price is OK, pay it If not, it's your turn to say a lower price, but stay realistic First get an idea about how much you would expect to pay Then say a price about 20-30% lower It's always good if you can give some reason for that Once you have said a price, you cannot give a lower one later This would be regarded as a very impolite behavior If you feel that you can't get your price, just say "No, gracias" and begin to walk away This is your last chance If you are lucky, the seller will give you a last offer, if not, say "No, gracias" again and go on walking Realize that most of the products in touristy markets ie the market in Pisac will be sold in nearly every other market throughout your travels in Peru and South America, so try not to worry about never again finding that particular alpaca scarf

You have a way for bargaining without saying an exact price, and it's saying "¿Nada menos?", then you will be asking just if they can lower a bit the price

Keep in mind: Never begin to bargain if you don't really want to buy! It is similarly important not to over-bargain Poverty can force a vendor to sell, even without making a fair profit In fact, when dealing with vendors in poorer areas of the country it is worth considering whether getting the "best price" is really what is most important to you

General Notes

Supermarkets can only be found in cities and are somewhat expensive In every town, there is at least one market place or hall, except Lima that has a dense concentration of supermarkets, malls and department stores In cities, there are different markets or sections of one big market for different articles

Stores with similar articles tend to be grouped in the same street So, if you once know the appropriate street when looking for something special, it shouldn't be no more problem to find it quite soon

Giving tips in restaurants at least when basic or middle-range is not very common but 10% for good service is polite In the cities, you will always find some beggars, either sitting on the streets, or doing a musical number on the buses Many of them really need help, especially the elderly and handicapped Usual givings are about 010 - 020 Soles US$ 003 - 006 This is not much, but some unskilled workers don't get much more than 10 Soles for a hard working day Whether you want to give money to child beggars or not is your decision But consider that doing so may make it more attractive for parents to send their children begging in the street instead of sending them to school Buy them food instead, they do need it

Food and eating in Peru

Peruvian cuisine is among the most varied in the world Not only does the country grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it does so throughout the year Peruvian geography offers at least 8 different climates desert along the coast, steep and high mountains, the Amazon basin In Lima, due to its history as an important Spanish colonial port, the dishes are a mixture of amerindian, spaniard, african, asian and even italian influences that contribute to the ever changing platos criollos creole dishes Rice is the staple foodstuff, and expect many dishes to include rice, in the Siera it's corn and potatoes, and in the Jungle yuca Meat is traditionally included in most Peruvian dishes Chicken pollo, pork, sheep and beef are common Alpacas are actually kept for wool, not for meat Mostly, you will find that alpaca meat is rather tough An Andean delicacy is guinea pig cuy Peruvian cuisine includes dishes which use various organs, including anticuchos, a kebab made from very marinated and spicy beef heart, and cau-cau sounds like cow-cow, made from cow stomach served in a yellow sauce with potatoes Anticuchos are a standard street stall food, but be careful with it

Fish can be found along the coast of course, but also in the jungle area since the rivers supply fresh fish but beware of contamination in the area known as high jungle or selva alta, where most of the cocaine is made and strong chemicals get dumped into rivers; mining is a minor source of pollution in this area In the Sierra, trout truchas are bred in several places A very common fish dish is ceviche, raw fish prepared by marination in lemon juice Popular variations of the dish can include shellfish, and even sea urchin The exact recipe and mode of preparation of ceviche will vary from region to region Definitely worth a try, especially in summer, but cleanliness and sanitation make all the difference Use care when buying from street vendors and remember that it is often served spicy

Throughout Peru there is a wide variety of potato dishes papas, not patatas as in Spain, the traditional Andean vegetable Papa a la Huancaina is a tasty dish of potato slices and diced boiled egg topped with a thin, creamy yellow sauce, and usually includes a lettuce leaf and an olive or two A similar green sauce, called Ocopa, can be served over potatoes or yuca Papa rellena is mashed potato reformed into a potato-like shape, but with meat, vegetables, and other spicy filling in the middle Aji de gallina is shredded chicken in a thick, spicy, cheese-based sauce over sliced potatoes, often with an olive and slice of hard-boiled egg Causa is mashed potato layered with mayonnaise-based tuna salad mixed with hot peppers

Many Peruvian dishes can be very spicy and heavy, so if you have a weak stomach, proceed with caution

Nowadays, the transport routes from the flat jungle areas are good enough to supply all the country with vegetables and fruits Nevertheless, vegetables still have the status of a garnish for the meat Vegetarian restaurants exist in all cities, but are relatively rare In most areas, there is a rich offering of tropical fruits and fresh squeezed juices

The natives typically eat in small restaurants or Chinese eateries "chifas"; a menu there costs 5-8 Soles and includes a soup, a choice of main dish, and a drink

If you count on international fast food chains, you will be disappointed You find them almost nowhere except in the largest cities, and the prices are uniformly astronomical

Peruvians are quite proud of their desserts, especially in Lima Try them with care, since they tend to be extremely sweet and loaded with sugars, eggs yolks and similar ingredients Try mazamorra morada, or purple custard, made from the same purple corn used for chicha morada drink; together with arroz con leche rice with sweetened condensed milk is called a combinado combination Picarones are a sort of donut, made from fried yams dough and served with chancaca, a very sweet sugarcane syrup And the sweetest dessert suspiro Limeño is perfect if you are in sore need of a high-calorie glucose shock

Drinking in Peru

The Pisco-Nasca area is famous for wine cultivating Their more expensive vintages compare favorably against Chilean imports Beer is nice, stronger than American brands but less full bodied than European ones Most of Peruvian beers are made by Backus, currently owned by SAB Miller

When drinking at bars and/or restaurants, be aware that Peruvian "Happy Hour" is a little different than in most countries Prices for drinks will usually be posted on the walls and be a little cheaper than normal The real differences is that you will be served 2 drinks, instead of one, for the listed price -- giving a new meaning to the term "half price" This can be a great way to save money if you are traveling with a group or to meet locals if you are traveling alone It can also lead you to get completely falling-down-drunk by accident, so be careful

  • Inca kola, 5 The Peruvian equivalent of Coca Cola in the rest of the world, which was recently purchased by Coca Cola yet retains its unique taste It is bright yellow and tastes like bubble gum
  • Pisco Sour An alcoholic drink with an interesting ingredients list, such as egg whites, that is the main drink in Peru and is available in most places It is made from Pisco, a peruvian kind of brandy that is worth a try; it is a strong drink as pisco is over 40° around 70 to 80 proof spirit, and the sweet taste can be deceiving Since Chile registered the brand Chilean Pisco for commercial purposes in some countries, peruvian producers decided to defend the denomination of originPisco is a very old city in Peru by being very strict about the quality standards Be sure that you will find a very high quality product in any brand of Pisco made in Peru
  • Emoliente Another popular drink in Peru, often sold in the streets by vendors for 50 centimos approximately 16 cents US Served hot, its flavor is best described as a thick, viscous tea, but surprisingly refreshing - depending on what herb and fruit extracts you choose to put into it, of course Normally the vendor's mix will be good enough if you choose not to say anything, but you're free to select the mix yourself Normally sold hot, is the usual after-party drink, as a "reconstituyente", but it can be drunk cold too
  • Chicha de Jora, A cheap traditional alcoholic drink made from corn that is fermented and rather high in alcohol content for a non-distilled beverage Not normally available at formal restaurants and quite uncommon in Lima outside of residentail areas Places that sell chicha have a long stick with a brightly-colored plastic bag on it propped up outside their door
  • Chicha morada, not to be confused with the previous one, is a soft drink made from boiled purple corn, with sugar and spices added not a soda Quite refreshing, it is widely available and very recommendable Normally Peruvian cuisine restaurants will have their freshly made supply as part of the menu; it is also available from street vendors or diners, but take care with the water Bottled or canned chicha morada is made from concentrates and not as pleasant as freshly-boiled chicha
  • Coca Tea or Mate de Coca, a tea made from the leaves of the coca plant It is legal to drink this tea in Peru It is great for adjusting to the altitude or after a heavy meal It may be found cold but normally is served hot
  • You can find many places that serve fresh fruit drinks Peru has a wide variety of fruits since its natural variety, so if you get a good "jugueria" you will have lots of options to choose from
  • The peruvian amazon cities offer some typical drinks too as: masato, chuchuhuasi, hidromiel and others
  • Coffee Peru is the world's largest producer of organic coffee Ask for 'cafe pasado', the essence produced by pouring boiling hot water over fresh ground coffee from places like Chanchamayo
  • All of Peru's wines are inexpensive Tacama, Ocucaje and Santiago Queirolo branded wines are the most reliable
  • Cusqueña is the local brand of Peruvian Beer, available at most bars and restaurants It is light, cheap, and surprisingly tasty There other reliable brands, however Be careful when drinking in high altitudes ie Cuzco as you will get drunk much faster than normal
  • When traveling in cosmopolitan areas Lima, etc, be sure to check out a supermarket chain such as Wong's This is a great way to stock up on snacks for traveling, as well as a place to buy hard-to-find products such as imported Cuban Rum especially sought after by Americans

Accommodation in Peru

Hotels in Peru are very common and fairly cheap They range from 1 - 5 stars 5 star hotels are normally for package tourism or business travel, and very uncommon outside of Lima 4 star hotels are usually a bit on the expensive side > US$30 per night and not common, but in large cities 3 star hotels are a good compromise between price and quality and usually US$10 - US$30 2 and 1 star hotels are very cheap < 10 US$, but don't expect hot water or a particularly safe neighborhood

In many cities there are hotels in residential areas, but they are not tourist hotels but "couples" rooms for lovers They are usually signed as "Hostel", which can confuse the unaware traveller thinking it was a backpackers

Working in Peru

While there a very limited options for unskilled work and local wages are very low, teaching English or other language tutoring is an option

Avoid paying for volunteering Simply contact a bunch of NGOs and let them know you are interested in working for them Sometimes you can also get a paid job after doing some volunteer work Just be clear that you are able to stay a fixed amount of time for unpaid work, and that you would need some money to continue your work

Cities in Peru

abancay  acari  acobamba  acolla  aguas verdes  ambo  andahuaylas  anta  arequipa  ascope  ayabaca  ayacucho  ayaviri  ayna  azangaro  bagua grande  bambamarca  barranca  barranca  bellavista  bellavista  bernal  buenos aires  cajabamba  cajamarca  cajaruro  calca  caleta de carquin  camana  campoverde  caraz  carhuamayo  carhuaz  cascas  casma  catacaos  celendin  cerro de pasco  chachapoyas  chancay  chaupimarca  chazuta  chepen  chicama  chicla  chiclayo  chilca  chimbote  chincha alta  chivay  chocope  chongoyape  chosica  chota  chulucanas  chupaca  cocachacra  colan  concepcion  contamana  coracora  corrales  cusco  cutervo  desaguadero  el alto  eten  ferrenafe  guadalupe  huacho  huallanca  hualmay  huamachuco  huancabamba  huancavelica  huancayo  huanta  huanuco  huaral  huaraz  huari  huarmey  huasahuasi  huaura  huayucachi  huicungo  iberia  ica  ilabaya  ilave  illimo  ilo  imperial  iquitos  jaen  jauja  jayanca  jepelacio  juanjui  juliaca  juli  junin  la arena  la brea  lagunas  la huaca  lamas  lambayeque  lampa  la oroya  la peca  laredo  las lomas  la union  la union  lima  lircay  llata  lluta  los aquijes  macusani  mala  mancora  marcavelica  marcona  matucana  mazamari  moche  mochumi  mollendo  monsefu  moquegua  morococha  morrope  morropon  motupe  moyobamba  nauta  nazca  nicolas de pierola  nuevo imperial  nunoa  olmos  orcopampa  orcotuna  oropesa  otuzco  oxapampa  oyon  oyotun  pacanga  pacasmayo  pacocha  paijan  paita  palpa  pampas  pangoa  papayal  paramonga  pativilca  paucartambo  perene  picota  picsi  pilcomayo  pimentel  pisco  piura  pomabamba  pucallpa  pucara  pueblo nuevo  pueblo nuevo  puerto maldonado  puno  punta de bombon  puquio  putina  querecotillo  quilmana  quiruvilca  ramon castilla  requena  reque  ricardo palma  rio grande  rioja  salas  salaverry  salitral  san agustin  sana  san clemente  san ignacio  san jeronimo de tunan  san jeronimo  san jose de sisa  san jose  san juan bautista  san luis  san miguel de cauri  san miguel  san pedro de cajas  san pedro de lloc  san ramon  santa ana  santa eulalia  santa lucia  santa maria  santa rosa  santa  santiago de cao  santiago de chuco  santiago  santo tomas  san vicente de canete  saposoa  saquena  satipo  sauce  sayan  sechura  sicaya  sicuani  soritor  subtanjalla  sullana  supe  tabalosos  tacna  talara  talavera  tamarindo  tambo grande  tambopata  tambo  tarata  tarma  tingo maria  tinyahuarco  tocache  torata  trujillo  tucume  tumbes  uchiza  urcos  urubamba  vegueta  vice  vichayal  villa rica  viru  vista alegre  yanacancha  yanahuanca  yauya  yungay  yunguyo  yura  yurimaguas  zarumilla  zorritos  

What do you think about Peru?

How expensive is Peru?
(1 PEN = 0.31 USD)
Meal in inexpensive restaurant9.8 PEN
3-course meal in restaurant (for 2)68.15 PEN
McDonalds meal16.65 PEN
Local beer (0.5 draft)5.64 PEN
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 7.28 PEN
Cappuccino6.06 PEN
Pepsi/Coke (0.33 bottle)1.97 PEN
Water (0.33 bottle)1.28 PEN
Milk (1l)4.23 PEN
Fresh bread (500g)5.02 PEN
White Rice (1kg)2.83 PEN
Eggs (12) 5.88 PEN
Local Cheese (1kg) 23.61 PEN
Chicken Breast (1kg) 20.52 PEN
Apples (1kg) 6.69 PEN
Oranges (1kg) 4.8 PEN
Tomato (1kg) 3.81 PEN
Potato (1kg) 2.53 PEN
Lettuce (1 head) 1.9 PEN
Water (1.5l)2.8 PEN
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range) 26.95 PEN
Domestic Beer (0.5 bottle)4.88 PEN
Foreign beer (0.33 bottle) 7.51 PEN
Cigarettes8.26 PEN
One way local bus ticket1.37 PEN
Monthly pass for bus128.32 PEN
Taxi start5.31 PEN
Taxi 1km3.84 PEN
Taxi 1hour waiting23.13 PEN
Gasoline (1 liter) 3.98 PEN
Utilities for a "normal" apartment187.1 PEN
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend) 23.32 PEN
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre 985.16 PEN
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