Home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Peru has stunning mountains, ruins and multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites. Between hiking the Inca Trail and sandboarding in a desert oasis, my ten days in Peru were my most adventurous moments in South America.
I planned my Peru trip with a local friend who has lived there for the past 12 years and here, I share practical tips on visiting the country. This post covers:
- 🗓️ 10-day itinerary
- 💡 A local’s practical tips
- 📍 Map with key places pinned
- 🇵🇪 Trip planning information
- ✏️ Peru trip planner
Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!
Trip Planning Information for Peru
Here is some general travel information on Peru to save you research time:
⭐ Known For
Peru is known for:
- Beautiful nature (e.g., Lake Titicaca, the various national parks)
- Archaeological sites and ancient ruins (e.g., Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, Colca Canyon, Sacred Valley)
- Dune hiking and sandboarding (e.g., Huacachina)
- Peruvian food (e.g., ceviche, lomo saltado, cuy) and drinks (pisco sour being the most famous)
Spanish is Peru’s official language. About 8% of Peru’s population speaks English. You can expect a higher percentage of English speakers in Lima, but English is otherwise not commonly spoken.
A tourist visa is not required for United States nationals visiting Peru.
🌎 Time Zone
Peru’s time zone is the Peru Standard Time. Here’s the country’s current time.
The local currency is the Peruvian Soles. At the time of writing, the exchange rate was $1 USD = S/ 3.79.
US dollars are widely accepted in Peru, but you may not get a favorable exchange rate. This Peru trip cost breakdown outlines other cash-related tips.
💳 Credit Card
Peru’s economy is largely based on cash transactions, so credit cards are not widely accepted. Carry cash when traveling to Peru.
💵 Tipping Etiquette
Tipping is expected and customary in Peru, so make sure to carry a few small bills.
If you’re hiking the Inca Trail, here’s a thorough tipping guide for the trek.
Peru uses three types of outlets:
- Two-prong type like the United States
- Three-prong type that United States plugs can use
- Circular two-prong type
US visitors should bring an adapter just in case they need to use the third outlet type. I bought and used this well-rated plug adapter.
Tap water is not safe to drink in Peru, but you can drink boiled or filtered water there. Consider bringing a reusable water bottle that keeps water cold.
☀️ Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Peru is during the dry season, which runs from April to November. This is also the high season, so it’s a good idea to book early.
Peru’s rainy season runs from November to April, which January to April being the wettest months. During the rainy season, you will see fewer crowds and more lush scenery.
I visited in April since I knew I was going to do the Inca Trail hike which is best during the dry season, but less crowded towards the beginning of it.
🗓️ How Long To Visit
Most people recommend spending at least seven days in Peru to see some of the highlights. Aim to spend 10 to 14 days in Peru to give yourself the opportunity to explore different locations and visit some of the country’s best places.
The Peru trip planner below has all the information above in a downloadable Notion.
Tips for Getting Around Peru
Here are three tips for how to get around Peru:
- Consider not renting a car
- Rely on buses and flights to travel to different regions around the country
- Take taxis and rideshares to get around a town or city
🚙 Renting a Car and Driving
Renting a car is generally not advised in Peru for a variety of reasons:
- Driving is not necessarily cost-effective due to the long distances you have to travel to get from one area to another (e.g., driving between Lima and Cusco takes over 20 hours).
- In cities like Lima, traffic is bad and Peruvian drivers are known to be aggressive.
- Outside of the cities, Peru’s road conditions can be poor with unclear road signs, unpaved roads and potholes being common.
- Cell and GPS signals can be weak or nonexistent in certain areas, even on roads between two popular areas.
Unless you understand and accept the risks and inconveniences outlined above, you should instead consider taking buses, flights, taxis and rideshares in Peru.
✈️ Getting Around Different Regions
Navigating around Peru’s different regions can be challenging. Peru doesn’t have reliable public transportation.
The two safest and best ways to travel to different areas of Peru are:
🚌 Option 1: Bus Company
Booking a bus company is not the same as getting on a local bus, which can be challenging to navigate as a tourist.
Make sure to research your Peru bus company before using them as the reliability and quality varies by company and location.
✈️ Option 2: Flying
Peru has five international airports in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, Iquitos and Piura, and 18 domestic airports. The main international airport is Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima.
Flying is a lot more expensive than taking a bus in Lima, but it’s sometimes the best way to get around (e.g., the bus journey between Lima and Cusco can be long and daunting).
Welcome Pickups, a highly-rated airport transfer service, is also a great option for the same price as a regular taxi if you want to have an English-speaking driver ready for you when you land in Lima.
🚕 Getting Around a Town or City
Once you’re in a city or town in Peru, you can rely on taxis and ridesharing apps, like Uber and Lyft. Ridesharing apps are only available in tourist, non-remote areas like Lima and Cusco.
Uber and Lyft are ridiculously cheap in Peru, so consider taking them over taxis and make sure to tip as tipping is customary.
When you arrive at a Peru airport, ignore the aggressive taxi drivers following you and telling you that Uber or Lyft is illegal. Walk with confidence towards your Uber. After landing at Lima’s airport, I was aggressively followed by three taxi drivers before reaching my Uber.
Peru Map With Recommended Places
This Peru map has all recommended places pinned in Lima, Cusco and Huacachina.
It also shows Peru’s biggest major cities by population: Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo and Iquitos.
Peru Travel Tips From a Local
Below are tips for visiting Peru, broken down into three categories:
- General Peru travel tips
- Tips for visiting Lima, the capital and one of the most visited destinations
- Tips for visiting Cusco, the closest major city to Machu Picchu
All of these tips were provided by Isabela, a Peru local of 12 years and my childhood friend, or friends who have spent nontrivial time in Peru.
💡 7 Practical Tips for Visiting Peru
Here are seven essential tips for traveling to Peru:
✊🏻 Tip #1: Research the political situation before booking your trip.
Unfortunately, civil unrest and protests or strikes are common in Peru. I visited Peru during two temporary strikes that significantly impacted my 4-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.
While you can’t predict protests, you can reduce your chances of being impacted by avoiding traveling during Peruvian holidays. Strikes are often planned during a busy travel time to give the group on strike more negotiation leverage.
💵 Tip #2: Withdraw soles and expect to tip.
Peru’s economy is largely based on cash transactions, so make sure to bring at least $50 worth of cash per day in Peru. Note that in some areas, like Cusco, ATMs are not always well-stocked with cash.
US dollars and Peruvian soles are both widely accepted, but you may not get a favorable exchange rate if you use the former.
Tipping is customary and expected in Peru. This is a good reason to withdraw soles and carry small bills.
For more tips related to costs and cash in Peru, see this Peru trip cost breakdown.
🚗 Tip #3: Be careful when crossing the streets.
Unlike the United States, pedestrians do not have the right of way and there are no cultural norms to stop for them in Peru.
As my local friend said, “This is not New York City. Peruvians will run you over, so please don’t think that drivers will stop for you.” I learned from personal experience that many stop signs, especially in Lima, are mere suggestions.
💬 Tip #4: Download WhatsApp.
Like other countries in South America, the majority of people and businesses in Peru use WhatsApp to communicate.
💰 Tip #5: Haggling is expected, but don’t do it excessively.
Peruvians, like many people from South America, are generally kind people who will try to help you if you need it.
But keep in mind that Peru is also one of the poorest countries in South America, so they will upcharge or rob tourists in poorer areas if the opportunity presents itself.
Haggling is expected, especially in tourist places like Cusco, but don’t overdo it. Since you’re traveling to Peru, your earning potential is likely much higher than the average Peruvian seller.
😣 Tip #6: Prepare for an upset stomach.
In Peru, don’t drink tap water or eat raw vegetables, and avoid street foods if you have a sensitive stomach.
Peru’s food tends to be very well-seasoned and can use ingredients foreign to your body. It’s not rare to get an upset stomach or food poisoning in Peru (in fact, one of my travel companions got sick). If you’re prone to an upset stomach due to food, consider bringing Pepto Bismol tablets.
🦟 Tip #7: Bring insect repellent.
Peru has mosquitos and some areas have high risks of certain diseases, including dengue, Zika, malaria and yellow fever. Mosquitos are especially prevalent in the Amazon rainforest and rural areas of Peru.
I’m a mosquito-magnet and I didn’t see many mosquitos in cities like Lima and Cusco, but I saw them during the beginning of my Inca Trail hike. It’s a good idea to pack some insect repellent just in case.
💡 3 Practical Tips for Visiting Lima
Here are three Peru tips that are specific to Lima, provided by my local friend who lives in the capital city:
🗓️ Tip #1: Spend at most one to two days in Lima.
While Lima is a large city with many things to do, the consensus is that it’s not differentiated enough from other modern cities in Latin America to warrant spending meaningful time there.
I spent two days in Lima and did a day trip to Huacachina, which I highly recommend.
✨ Great Things To Do in Lima
If you only have one or two days in Lima, my local friend recommends the following:
- Walk around Miraflores and Barranco. Miraflores is a beachfront district with parks, shops and gardens, and Barranco is an artistic, upscale district that’s pretty at night and offers paragliding. I primarily walked around Miraflores and recommend it for both the day and night time.
- Go to Museo Larco or Centro Histórico. Museo Larco is a beautiful art museum, complete with a cafe and garden, that’s expensive for Peru, but cheap by United States standards. Centro Histórico is a crowded city center surrounded by museums, food and architecture.
Museo Larco and Centro Histórico are both popular to visit, but far enough apart that you likely can’t do both if you’re in Lima for less than 2 days (see tip #3 regarding Lima’s traffic).
- Visit Lima’s Chinatown (or maybe not). Lima’s Chinatown, unlike many United States Chinatowns, doesn’t have Chinese residents so it can be an interesting experience walking around it. My local friend warns that it’s a very poor area that many locals avoid, so watch out for pickpockets and petty theft.
🍤 Tip #2: Eat your way through Lima.
Lima is known for its food scene. You can not only find delicious, local food, but also get upscale dining experiences that are worth the price.
Local Food in Lima
Traditional Peruvian food that my local friend recommends include:
- Lomo saltado, which is a stir-fry with sirloin steak. You can get these in many traditional Lima restaurants, including the affordable restaurant chain, Tanta, which is founded by a famous Peruvian chef.
- Anticuchos, which are beef heart skewers. This is a must-try and you can find many good places that serve them in Lima.
- Ceviches, which are usually made of raw fish and shrimp. Seafood is common in Peruvian cuisine and many restaurants in Lima, particularly ones in Miraflores, serve them well.
Pisco sour is Peru’s most famous alcoholic drink and many restaurants will serve it. It’s refreshing and made of lime juice, pisco, egg white and sugar.
Upscale Food in Lima
Lima does upscale dining, often mixed with other cuisines, really well:
- Nikkei is a mix of Japanese and Peruvian food. Maido is a famous Nikkei restaurant that requires ~2 months of advanced reservations. I ate at Osaka and highly recommend it.
- Chifa is a Chinese Peruvian style that has Cantonese elements.
- For upscale, traditional Peruvian food, Central is one of the more popular restaurants in Barranco that’s difficult to get reservations at.
🚦Tip #3: Lima’s traffic is notoriously bad, so budget commute time.
Lima’s traffic is bad enough that even if you see districts located right next to each other on the map, it might take you longer to travel than you think.
For example, Lima’s airport and Miraflores district are 12 miles apart, but can take anywhere from 35 to 60 minutes to commute.
Considering Lima’s traffic:
1. Don’t plan to travel too far between each district when planning your Lima itinerary
2. Stay in the district you’re most interested in walking around. Many visitors choose to stay in Miraflores or Barranco.
💡 5 Practical Tips for Visiting Cusco
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cusco is one of the most visited towns in Peru partially because you have to get there to visit Machu Picchu either by train or the Inca Trail trek.
Cusco itself is worth at least one overnight stay in your Peru itinerary. Here are five tips when traveling to Cusco:
🏔️ Tip #1: Give yourself one to two days to acclimate to Cusco’s altitude.
Cusco is located in the Peruvian Andes, a mountain range that cuts across seven countries. The town is over 11,000 feet above sea level. Roughly 50% of people who don’t live at high elevations will experience some altitude sickness symptoms starting at 10,000 feet.
Give yourself one to two days to acclimate to Cusco’s high altitude in case you experience some symptoms (e.g., headache, nausea, shortness of breath).
Things that may alleviate altitude sickness symptoms include:
- Hydrating a lot and eating light
- Drinking coca tea
- Bringing or buying altitude sickness medication which is available in Peru pharmacies
- Avoiding sugar (it leads to headaches for some people) and alcohol
🌙 Tip #2: Spend at least a day walking around Cusco’s town.
Many people travel to Cusco to go on day trips to other places, like Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley and Rainbow Mountain, but the town of Cusco has great things to offer, making it worth spending at least half a day there, if not one or two days.
For example, you can explore the very walkable Centro Histórico area of Cusco:
- San Pedro Market (also called “Mercado Central de San Pedro”) is a large local market that sells traditional food, fresh fruits and souvenirs. Note that they may be closed during Peru holidays.
When visiting a Peru market, consider trying a local fruit. Some of my favorite fruits are guanabana, cherimoya and granadilla.
- Cusco Main Square (also called “Plaza de Armas”) is an urban square surrounded by shops where you can walk around and enjoy a sunny day. Street vendors can be pushy here if you acknowledge them.
- Chocolate Museum has a chocolate workshop and sells chocolate infused with spices and coca.
- Several streets around this area sell souvenirs (e.g., alpaca sweaters varying in quality and prices, Peruvian art).
🐷 Tip #3: If you’re going to eat the guinea pig delicacy, eat it in Cusco.
Cuy, a fried or roasted guinea pig, is one of Peru’s most famous dishes. Cusco has historically raised guinea pigs as food and has several restaurants that serve this delicacy.
While Americans may hesitate to eat guinea pigs, there are environmental benefits to eating them compared to other meat alternatives. In Peru, raising and selling guinea pigs also help farmers get out of poverty.
I tried the guinea pig dish at Pachapapa. I value trying different, regional foods and I thought the restaurant cooked it well, but I can’t say that I found the meat as delicious as some people claim it is. Also, it’s a small animal, so there’s not much meat to eat.
A tip from my local Peru friend: don’t eat ceviche or raw seafood in Cusco as you can potentially get sick there. Lima is where you want to eat seafood in Peru.
💰 Tip #4: Arrive prepared in Cusco with cash and Wi-Fi.
Peru has a decent Wi-Fi infrastructure, but it varies by location. Despite it being a popular destination, the Cusco airport does not have Wi-Fi, so be prepared for that if you need it when you land.
Cusco also has many ATMs, but people have mixed experiences with them. Some people have no issues withdrawing cash while others have run into ATMs that are not well-stocked with cash.
Since you’ll need cash in Cusco for tipping, guided tours and small businesses, it’s a good idea to come with cash in hand.
☀️ Tip #5: Take day trips from Cusco.
Many people travel to the Cusco region because of its central location to other top attractions where you can spend a full day or more:
- Machu Picchu. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the ruins of Machu Picchu is a three-and-a-half-hour train and bus ride from Cusco. Alternatively, you can also hike the Inca Trail to it.
- Rainbow Mountain. Vinicunca (nicknamed “Rainbow Mountain”) is a marbled, multi-colored mountain that’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Cusco. You can hike to Rainbow Mountain’s summit with this highly-rated guided tour that provides transportation from Cusco.
- Sacred Valley. A lush green valley about one-and-a-half-hour from Cusco, Sacred Valley has Inca ruins, local markets and a much more cultural vibe than Cusco despite it also being a popular tourist area. This well-rated Sacred Valley guided tour also stops at Chinchero, a town of weavers selling high-quality textiles.
Some of the most high-quality souvenirs come from the town of Chinchero. Unlike Cusco, Chinchero’s products are mostly made by locals, so they’re not mass-produced.
10-Day Itinerary for Peru
Below is a great way to spend ten days in Peru while visiting several distinct destinations full of natural beauty and adventure.
This itinerary allows you to:
- Hike the Inca Trail to reach one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu
- Sandboard down the sand dunes of Huacachina, the only desert oasis in South America
- Spend time in a big city, Lima, as well as a small town, Cusco
- See the colorful and marbling effect of Rainbow Mountain
- Visit the beautiful landscapes of the Sacred Valley
This itinerary is the improved version of my ten-day trip to Peru. It should give you an idea of how to efficiently sequence activities and visits.
10-Day Peru Itinerary
The Peru trip planning template below has this itinerary prefilled with details.
|Day 1||✈️ Fly into Cusco’s airport|
⛰️ Explore Cusco’s and get acclimated to the altitude
|Day 2||🧣 Take a day trip to Sacred Valley|
|Day 3-6||🥾 Spend four days hiking the Inca Trail|
☀️ See Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu at the end of your hike
🚂 Visit Aguas Calientes and take the train back to Cusco
|Day 7||🌈 Take a day trip to Rainbow Mountain|
❤️🩹 Alternatively, have a recovery day in Cusco
|Day 8||✈️ Take a short flight to Lima|
💐 Explore Miraflores and Barranco
|Day 9||🏂🏻 Take a day trip to Huacachina and stop at Ballestas Islands|
|Day 10||✈️ Explore Lima and fly home|
I broke down all my Peru travel expenses in detail doing an itinerary similar to the one above.
Peru Trip Planner
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information as well as an itinerary, packing list, and map with key places pinned.
The trip planner is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.
🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours researching each destination to ensure its accuracy. If you find my tips helpful, say thanks by buying me bubble tea!