Peru Pre-Departure Information

GENERAL PERU INFORMATION

Time Zone
Peru is in the Eastern Standard Time zone (GMT-5). Daylight savings time is not observed.

Language
The official language is Spanish. Quechua, the language of the Incas, has finally received some official status and is widely used in the mountains. Aymara is the language of the mountain people of Lake Titicaca and Bolivia. The jungle tribes have their own dialects. English is not widely spoken outside the tourist industry & the normal tourist routes.  It is advisable, if you are the adventurous type, to carry a small Spanish phrase book with you.  And remember that hand gestures and a smile go a long way.

Currency
The official currency is the Nuevo Sol. For the past several years, the exchange rate has been about 2.60 soles per US$1.

Electricity
220 Volts / 60 Hz / American Style two-pin plugs

ATMs & Credit Cards
There are plenty of ATMs in the larger cities in Peru, but you want to make sure you have plenty of cash when you head into the rural areas.  Be sure to ask the staff at your hotel or your guide where you can find a reliable ATM.  Credit cards are accepted in some establishments, but not everywhere.

HEALTH

For the most up to date information, please read the Center for Disease Control’s page on Traveler’s Health in Peru.

As for every trip you take abroad, general good health is required. If you are under medication, be sure to bring enough for the entire length of your trip.

No immunizations are required for your trip to Peru, however, for travel to the rainforest prevention against malaria & yellow fever may be considered.

Recommendations 
– Do not drink tap water
– Bring a refillable water bottle.  Your guide will provide you with drinking water.  When you’re on your own, purchase a large bottle of water and use it to fill your water bottle.  This will cut down on waste
– Avoid ice in your beverages while traveling in Peru (Consult with your guide)
– Try to avoid eating raw vegetables and salads or any raw foods. Always prefer cooked food
– If you wear prescription glasses, it is advisable to bring an extra pair
– Always use sunscreen lotion even in cloudy days
– We recommend eating lightly the first day you arrive in Cusco. Due to altitude you might suffer some digestive problems, as well as light dizziness

SAFETY

Petty theft is wide-spread with thieves being quick and clever. Most of the time people are unaware they have been robbed until later. Be vigilant with your possessions, use a money belt, hook your rucksack through your leg whilst sitting at tables and checking in and do not carry expensive items of value on display late at night in busy markets and stations. At night in towns the normal street rules apply – so do not walk alone. Ensure any taxi you take is an official taxi. In your room and at campsites keep valuables hidden to avoid temptation. On the whole Peru is still safer than most European cities. If you are really worried about losing anything precious then leave it at home.

Travel Insurance 
Be aware that adventure travel activities, in particular trekking, white-water rafting, inflatable canoeing, mountain biking, and traveling in remote areas such as Southern Peru carry certain inherent safety risks that you, the client, assume. You MUST purchase adequate travel insurance covering these risks and any costs incurred due to sickness, delayed flights, and any other factors beyond the control of your trip operator.

WEATHER

Despite the sharp divide between the dry season (May to November) and the wet season (December to April), Andean weather can be unpredictable. In the forested fringes of the Amazon basin where Machu Picchu lies, rain showers are common year around. Rain-jackets and rain-paints are essential gear and should always be handy in your daypack.

Daytime temperatures can vary greatly, from about 10ºC/50ºF to 28ºC/82ºF with nighttime temperatures from 10ºC/50ºF down to around 0ºC/32ºF, though seldom much lower.

PERUVIAN FOOD

One of the exciting parts of travel is getting to try all sorts of new foods.  And you’re in luck!  Peru has some amazing food.  With the ocean, mountains, and tropical rainforest all so close together, Peru has a huge variety of ingredients and food.  Here are a few of our favorites that you shouldn’t miss!

Ceviche: Chunks of fish marinated in lime juice, chile peppers, and onions.  What’s not to love?

Chirimoya: aka Custard Apple, aka Ice Cream Fruit.  This is a delicious tropical fruit about the size of a grapefruit that looks like an artichoke if all the leaves were stuck together.  The inside is white, creamy, and it has the same texture as sorbet.  Trust us, it may be the most delicious fruit you’ll ever taste!

Alpaca: If you want to try some traditional meat, alpaca is the way to go.  You may have heard that guinea pigs are regular fare in the Andes, but their meat is quite greasy and not very good.  Alpaca is must tastier.

Pisco Sour: Pisco is a grape brandy produced in Peru, and the best way to drink it is in the cocktail Pisco Sour.  The drink is a mix of Pisco, lime juice, sugar, whipped egg white, and bitters.  You will become extremely popular with your guide and your fellow travelers if you buy a round!

ARRIVING IN PERU

Check your Passport Expiration Date
You must have at least 12 months remaining validity for your passport past your departure date in order to enter Peru.

Visas
US Citizens are not required to obtain a visa if they are staying for less than 183 days in Peru.

Lima Airport
On arrival at Lima airport, please pass through immigration to the baggage reclaim area. Here is an ATM (VISA) cash-machine and a change-house for any Peruvian Soles.  Please keep your luggage tickets handy as in all Peruvian airports you may be asked to show these to prove it is your luggage you are removing from the baggage hall. You will pass through customs where you must press the customs ‘button’. This is a random counter and if the red light shows then customs will ask to look in your baggage. Note you must collect your bag and pass through customs even if it checked all the way to your final destination – you then must then re-check it at the relevant desk if you are continuing on to another city.

WHAT TO BRING

On your expedition you will be experiencing all of the Peruvian climates, from cold and windy Altiplano evenings to hot sunny days in the valley.  On sunny days, it will generally be warm enough for shorts and t-shirts, though we recommend keeping a fleece jacket and rain gear handy. It will get chilly in the evenings, so bring a warm fleece jacket and warm clothes (i.e. long underwear, gloves, scarf and warm hat). As a general rule, we discourage packing lots of cotton clothing that takes a long time to dry (pack synthetic materials instead). Also, keep in mind that Cusco is a bustling city with great museums, restaurants and bars; consider packing some clothes appropriate for going out on the town. Finally, there will be lots of opportunities to purchase locally made Alpaca sweaters, which double as warmth and a great souvenir.
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
• Night-life / City clothes
• Synthetic hiking clothes (comfortable)
• Zip-off / lightweight hiking pants
• T-shirts and shorts
• Long-sleeved t-shirts
• Warm fleece, down jacket, or Alpaca sweater (available in Cusco and in surrounding market towns)
• Rain-jacket and rain-pants or poncho
• Socks and underwear
• Long underwear
• Sturdy, broken–in walking / hiking shoes
• Day pack (with rain-cover)
• Money belt/secret documents pouch
• Sunglasses (with leash)
• Warm hat
• Sun hat
• Refillable water bottle
• Headlamp / flashlight
• Sunscreen (recommended at least 15spf, biodegradable is preferred) & lip balm
• Swim suit
• Personal hygiene / toiletries kit
• Camera
• Book, Notepaper & Pen
• Personal first aid kit to include: painkillers, band-aids, moleskin, antiseptic cream, itch cream, anti-diarrhea medicine, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication. (Most guided trips carry an extensive first aid kit & oxygen on all trips, but these are generally for emergencies only)

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS REGARDING PACKING

For the majority of your adventure you will have vehicle support. Any spare clothes / equipment can be stored in the bus, but please bring a small daypack to hold your belongings.

Luggage on the Machu Picchu train is restricted to 5kg(10lbs) / 20ltrs(1300 cubic inches) carry-ons only.

Top quality outdoor equipment is difficult to find in Peru. If you wish to donate any clothing, gear, etc. it will be gratefully received by any guides or staff for your trip.

If you would like to give a donation to charity while in Peru, just ask your guide for a good recommendation.

TIPPING IN PERU

Peru Tipping
Tipping in many countries can be a problem and can add a great deal of stress to your holiday. This is a rough guideline to try and help you work out how much you should tip. Remember Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.

For background, Peru has a minimum salary of 800 Nuevo Soles (US$300) monthly for a 6 day 48 hour week. However in many of the lower paid jobs (ie. waiters, porters etc) this is not always enforced. 2.60 Peruvian Soles are roughly the equivalent of GBP 60p, USD$1 and 1 Euro.

Airport baggage carriers
Strictly this is not a tip as these people make their living by carrying your luggage from the carousel to your bus. The general rule is one or two soles per bag.

Hotel staff
If the hotel staff are helpful and friendly a tip of roughly one / two Soles per bag for the porters helping carry bags to your room, and for the breakfast staff, leave on the breakfast table a tip of roughly one Sol per person per breakfast. In many hotels this is not expected but the staff will be grateful.

Drivers
Generally drivers doing transfers from the airport to hotel or vice-versa don’t expect tips.  However if you have a driver for a few days then it is generally expected to tip. Again the service supplied (ie. did he drive safely, did he help with luggage, was he friendly) should determine the size of the tip. A reasonable average would be a total of 10-30 Soles a day from the group.

Specialist guides
On many trips you will have a number of specialist guides e.g. cultural, jungle, rafting, biking, or trekking guides. In most instances these guides have spent a number of years studying at Colleges or Universities to qualify as guides. Generally these guides will be with you for a few days but sometimes just for a day trip.

As a general guideline it would be expected to tip each specialist guide US$10-30 a day in total from the group. Again the group size, depth of knowledge of their area or specialist skill, command of English and friendliness should help determine the tip.

Inca Trail
The Inca trail where you will be supported by a full crew of cooks, porters, waiters etc is far more complicated to organize in terms of tipping. We recommend that each traveler contributes 100 – 200 soles (US$40 – 80) into a pot and following the advice of the guide divide it out between the crew of cooks, waiters and porters.

For tipping the actual Inca trail guides and assistants we recommend following the advice for specialist guides above.

Tour Conductors
On some of our bigger tours you will be accompanied by a Tour Conductor who will help deal with all the small problems that crop up when traveling in a foreign non English speaking land. Again it would be expected that the group would tip the tour conductor around US$10 – 30 per day. The group size, their friendliness, patience, availability and ability to resolve your problems should help determine their tip.

Restaurants
As with most places in the world it is normal to tip in restaurants if the service was reasonable and the food good. A tip of 5% would be adequate, 10% is normal and 15% would be considered excellent.

Airport porters: Minimum 1-3 Soles per bag – compulsory
Hotel staff: 1-2 Sole per bag / per breakfast
Transfer drivers: Generally not expected
Drivers: 10-30 Soles per day total from the group
Specialist guides: US$10-30  per day total from the group
Inca trail cooks, porters: 100-200 soles per client divided up following advice of guide
Tour Conductors: US$10-30 per day total from the group
Restaurants: 5-15% for adequate to excellent food and service

We hope you find the above information useful, remember this information is a general guide, the only rule with tipping is that:  IT IS VOLUNTARY

OTHER IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain Permits
Due to permit restrictions, please let us know when booking if you want to climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain.

If trekking in from the Inca Trail, current cost are Huayna Picchu ($65) & Machu Picchu mountain ($60) – If just on a day trip or overnight to Machu Picchu, current cost are Huayna Picchu ($15) & Machu Picchu mountain ($10).  These are subject to change.

Adventure Travel in Peru
On an adventure trip, you will be traveling through remote parts of Peru. The isolation that makes these areas so special can also cause certain challenges. While your operators strive to minimize the chances of unexpected obstacles, the strict adherence to an itinerary is rare. This is the nature of adventure travel and travelers must be prepared for delays and slight alterations in their itineraries.

Trekking in Peru
Adventure travel in Peru involves trekking over several high passes up to 4500m (approx. 13,700ft) and involves steep descents on centuries-old rock steps carved by the Inca. It is recommended that all clients have some trekking experience and be in reasonably strong physical condition.

Potential Itinerary Changes
Last minute international and internal flight changes, train schedule changes, and excess baggage charges are beyond our control. Your trip operator will keep you abreast of any itinerary changes as early as possible. They have considered all the possibilities in planning this expedition and have allotted sufficient leeway enabling them to successfully run your exceptional trip.

Dietary & Medical Restrictions
Most dietary and medical requirements can be accommodated, but please notify us of these needs at the time of booking.

Travel Insurance
Be aware that adventure travel activities, in particular trekking, white-water rafting, inflatable canoeing, mountain biking, and traveling in remote areas such as Southern Peru carry certain inherent safety risks that you, the client, assume. You MUST purchase adequate travel insurance covering these risks and any costs incurred due to sickness, delayed flights, and any other factors beyond the control of your trip operator.

RECOMMENDED READING

• 1491 – Charles Mann
• Turn Right at Machu Picchu – Mark Adams
• The White Rock or Cochineal Red – Hugh Thomson
• Exploring Manu or Where the Andes Meets the Amazon – Kim MacQuarrie & Andre Bartschii
• Field Guide to the Birds of Machu Picchu – Barry Walter
• Exploring Cusco – Peter Frost
• Lost City of the Incas – Hiram Bingham
• The Inca Trail – Richard Danbury
• Neo-Tropical Companion – John C. Kricher
• Running the Amazon – Joe Kane
• The Last Days of the Incas – Kim MacQuarrie
• Birds of Peru – Clive Byers
• The Bridge of San Luis Rey – Thorton Wilder
• Conquest of the Incas – John Hemingway
• Into the Forest of the Night – John Simpson
• Touching the Void – Joe Simson
• Heart of the Amazon – Yossi Ghinsberg
• Inca Kola – Matthew Paris
• Inca Gold – Clive Cussler
• Realm of the Incas – Max Milligan
• Peruvian Wildlife  – Gerard Cheshire, Huw Lloyd & Barry Walker