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Peru For Less

Peru For Less .Peru is an excellent destination for travellers on a budget. When is it safe and smart to save money? How to make the most of your Peruvian holidays? How to travel through Peru for less?

Learn about useful tips regarding planning, packing, accommodation, food, health, transport, and souvenirs to avoid tourist traps and unnecessary expenses.

 

 

 

 

Planning

Have a day by day itinerary based on your interests. Plan some time for rest (especially if you are going to need to adjust to the high Andes altitude). Include an extra day or two, so that in case you wanted to modify your itinerary on the spot, you will be able to do it without having to change your international flights, which would only increase the cost of your journey. This way you will make the most of the most expensive item on your budget. Travelling in the low season, or right before or after the high season, will also help you to reduce many costs. One more advantage is that Machu Picchu will be less crowded. In this case the ideal time is either April (after the rainy season) or October (before the rainy season). Count with the fact that a trip to Machu Picchu or hiking the Inca Trail is expensive. If the 4 Day Classic Inca Trail is on your bucket list make sure to book it before December 15th the previous year, because the permits (sold exclusively by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to all the competing agencies) run out quickly – especially for May through July. Cancelled permits are still not allowed for resale. Andina Travel Cusco gives better rates to clients who book in advance and pay in full. Make sure your passport is valid at the moment of booking, because changing a passport number on any ticket issued by the Peruvian government has an extra fee. Take advantage of your ISIC card if you have one.

Packing

Try to fit everything you need into a 40 liter back pack. This way you will be able to move around easily on foot or on public transport, and limit the need for taxis to a minimum. Don’t bring any objects that would attract unwanted attention. Use your smartphone or a laptop indoors only and always keep an eye on them. Bringing functional clothes with light and easily removable layers will make you ready for a wide range of weather conditions and decrease your chances of catching cold. If you are going to be trekking a pair of serious boots is a must to feel comfortable and avoid injuries.

Health Insurance and Plan B

Although this is another item that can be expensive, choose your company and the product well, so that it covers all the activities you are planning. Design an Action B Plan in case you had (a health or financial) emergency. Should you need your Plan B you will be prepared. Find out which vaccines are needed. If you take any medication, bring enough from home to cover all your stay.

Money

Find out how much your bank will charge you for payments and withdrawals in South America. Also, tell your bank when you are going to be travelling, because the last thing you want is your credit card blocked without warning. Banks in Peru limit withdrawals to maximum USD200 or PEN500 – 700 per day, so repeated withdrawals can get expensive. In cash you can legally bring maximum USD10.000 to Peru without having to pay taxes.

Calculate the exchange rate between Peruvian Soles and your home currency, to have a better idea about your spending. Being up to date with USD – PEN exchange rate is also practical. US dollars are widely used and accepted in Peru, but the notes have to be in excellent shape with no tears or stains on them.

When paying with Nuevo Sol notes memorize the series number on the note, so that in case you are accused that your money is fake you can argue otherwise. Some vendors and taxi drivers have mastered the swindle of instantly switching valid notes for fake ones. Carefully examine the change too (notes especially).

Negotiate prices before accepting a service – most importantly when it comes to taxis or tours. If you feel that the taxi driver is charging you too much, wait for another taxi. Bargain in the markets – you can get 10% – 20% off the price of souvenirs which is a fair amount for both sides – using phrases like: ‘¿Nada menos?’ or ‘¿Un descuentito?’ Learning some Spanish will help you access better deals.

Tip your guides, porters, horse wranglers, and cooks only if you are happy. This is how Peruvians would do it. Tips are completely up to you and you shouldn’t feel pushed to tip. Taxi drivers usually don’t expect tips. Locals usually don’t tip in local menu restaurants.

Accomodation

Several hostel chains have branches in many key Peruvian cities; some of them even have one outside Peru – Pirwa chain has a branch in La Paz, Bolivia, Loki chain has a branch there too and another one in Salta, Argentina. So booking all or much of your trip with the same hostel company may lower the overall price.

Hospedajes, locally owned accommodations, are even a cheaper option. For longer stays or homestays visit Airbnb. In some parts of Peru Couchsurfing is also available.

For more comparison see also Trivago and Booking.com.

Transportation

Walk whenever you can in cities. Of course, always trusting your intuition to stay safe. Use public transport – an option with fixed price much cheaper than taxis. In Lima for example Metropolitano buses are new, big, and clean, and only cost 2.50 Soles per ride. On the main traffic corridors there are SIT buses (usually blue, sometimes grey and dark red) that charge 1.50 Sol per ride. The ubiquitous Lima colectivos will charge 1 – 3 Soles depending on the distance you travel, but the ride is uncomfortable and stressful even for the locals. And going by a colectivo may increase your chances of getting pickpocketed. In Cusco and other smaller cities you can easily get around the entire historical center on foot. Cusco colectivos charge 70 cents to 2 Soles (if you travel further away from the center to Saylla or Tipón). As colectivo routes can be quite confusing always ask the cobrador or the driver if they go to your destination.

For travelling in between cities buses will be much cheaper than flights. For comfort and safety use first class buses (bus cama) – Oltursa or Movil Tours have the newest fleet at the moment. Overnight buses will also help you save time and money on accommodation.

Food

Peruvian cuisine is world famous and Lima became the gastronomical capital of South America. Cooking classes get more and more popular. Peruvian celebrity chefs have elegant restaurants in many cities. But you don’t have to spend a fortune to eat well in Peru. The most filling and economic option for lunch is eating what is called a menu. Menu in Peru means a soup, a big main course (like: lomo saltado – beef with tomatoes, red onions, and Peruvian fries, trucha – trout, bisteck montado – beef with a fried egg, chuleta con pallares – pork with big white beans, lentejas – it is believed that eating lentils on Mondays helps to have more money), usually a drink, and often a small desert. All of the above dishes are served with rice. Menus are served at lunch time (that starts between 1:00pm and 2:00pm), not at dinner time, and the best way to recognize a good local restaurant is to see if it is full of eaters. This is how locals choose restaurants. If a nice looking restaurant is empty at lunch time it is not a good sign.

Great alternatives to a menu are a pollo a la brasa or chifa. Pollo a la brasa is a Peruvian seasoned grilled chicken with Peruvian fries, a salad, and commonly a soup too. This chicken is among the top three favorite meals by Peruvians throughout the country. Chifa is a fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian cuisines. Chifa restaurants also sell menu, which consists of sopa de wantam (chicken wonton soup) and a main course based on rice like arroz chaufa (with egg, chicken or beaf, ginger, and spring onion), or pasta – tallarin – with similar ingredients like the former, or a combination of both called aeropuero. Pollerias and chifas sell meals at night too, unlike menu type restaurants. Observing where locals eat you can eat like a king for 5 – 10 Soles a meal. In Cusco visitors often eat in the San Pedro market where you can get a menu for less than 5 Soles. In the market food courts all over Peru you can also get a yapa.

Cooking is the cheapest option and here in Peru you can find hostels with kitchens where guests can cook.

Be careful with luring street stalls especially with dishes like causa limeña, which contain mayonnaise and ceviche  – fish prepared with lemon juice and seasoning (no heat involved), because they can go bad in the sun. Street stall sellers tend to touch the food with the same hand they receive money with, so avoiding miscellaneous fruit, juices and other drinks, ice-creams, and raspadillas (snow cones) even roasted anticuchos, will best protect your digestion.

It is wise to be mentally prepared, and also with medication brought from home, for the event of travel stomach problems. You are simply new to Peruvian seasoning and coca leaves that can both upset your stomach. Furthermore from a digestion point of view hand sanitizers sometimes do more harm than good lowering your natural defenses. Extremely strong black tea, or anise brew (infusión) are easy to find natural remedies. Coke or electrolytes will help restore your energy.

For colds and flues a great alternative to medicine is ginger tea ideally with honey and lemon. These are like a natural pharmacy. Ginger tea is also great for prevention of many diseases. Always travel with health insurance in case you had a more serious health problem.

Limit your alcohol intake. In Peru beer is the cheapest. Tips from a pro: Benny Lewis, who avoids alcohol completely.

WC TIP: Always have your own toilet paper, pharmacy alcohol, or hand sanitizer. It’s a great idea to wash your hands both before and after using a toilet.

Street smart

Visitors stand out among the locals. But try not to call more attention to yourself by wearing expensive looking accessories and using fancy looking electronics in public. If you are to withdraw money, do it indoors and always look around first. Avoid unsafe neighborhoods.

Souvenirs

The saying: ‘take only pictures leave only footprints’ in not only environmentally responsible but also budget wise. Be very picky with souvenirs. Here in the Cusco region you can get truly traditional handmade Andean textiles for example in Chinchero or Lares. Pisac is a great place to buy silver jewels. All of the above is also sold in Cusco, but it is not necessarily the place where the item was produced. Tip: You can recognize Alpaca sweaters, gloves, hats, or socks from other wools by their weights. Clothes made of alpaca feels significantly lighter than you would expect when you hold it. There are fancy alpaca shops in the center of Cusco, but on Saturdays there are ferias in San Blas district, or next to the SUNAT building near the Plaza de Armas for example, where you can buy alpaca clothes directly from the makers for lower prices. If you are in Cusco in December don’t miss Santuranticuy.

What other advice would you give? Tell us about your Peru for less experience in the comments.

 

 

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