Two things are true of Peru – its ancient history is a wonder to behold and its natural beauty is equally as captivating. The combination of the two creates an utterly spellbinding, and compelling, journey through time and nature that will leave you lovestruck and wanting more. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Before you even get off the ground on your way to Peru, you may face your biggest challenge – the task of packing for two splendid Andean countries with such contrasting climates. Your best bet is to take a whole range of clothes, and layers, to cover all bases. In the Amazon, a small bag containing the bare necessities for your stay at a forest lodge will suffice, with the rest of your luggage at base camp. The same goes for Machu Picchu – you’re restricted to just one bag weighing 5kg on the train that goes there, so it’s best to just pack the essentials. The good news is that any domestic flights you take generally have the same luggage allowance as international, around 23kg.
Peruvian Sol is Peru’s currency. Cash is king in the country and retailers are multiplying at great speed in cities and bigger towns. Carry smaller denominations with you at all times as giving change on big-ticketed products isn’t always possible, especially in rural locations. ATMs are dotted around, but they’re not always the most reliable. Hotels and good restaurants accept credit cards. Armed with smaller bills, you’ll be able to haggle like a pro in markets and souvenir shops. Savings aren’t as substantial as in other parts of the world, but it’s still worth taking the time to negotiate.
Tipping is common in Peru – guides, though they are already well paid by us, can expect the equivalent of £2-5 per person per day, the driver around half that. Around £1-£2 to porters and housekeeping staff is sufficient. It’s customary to leave 10% of the bill in restaurants if the service was good. For taxis, the price is either displayed on the meter or negotiated before you get in. Drivers don’t expect a tip, but if you feel yours was particularly helpful, round up the fare.
Spanish is the national language and like with all counties, Peruvians will widely appreciate anyone who attempts a few pleasantries in their own dialect. Besides courtesy, it’s also the best way to be understood in more remote areas of the country. Upon arrival, you will be given an Andean Migration Card that allows entry and exit of the territories of Peru as well as Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia. It’s also your key to a smooth holiday – it’s required in all hotels, for purchasing tickets to sites like Machu Picchu and your return flight.
Peruvian delights are many and another in its armoury is of the culinary variety – the food and drink in Peru is so good, its influences have spun off across the continent. Enjoy a delicious Peruvian feast, packed with spice and flavour, then savour a pisco sour – an alcoholic, citrus delight of a drink – as the sun slowly sets on another magnificent day in South America.