Top Ten Peru Travel Tips (spoiler: bring your own t.p.)

Posted on
Dec 1, 2011

Historically, the times that I’ve actually known what I was talking about have been few and far between. This is particularly true when it comes to travel, or geography, or really, facts of any kind.

Once, when we were in downtown Seattle, a middle-aged couple stopped Rand and me and asked where they could find a liquor store (at 2pm on a Saturday. I suppose they were putting the magic back in their relationship). I gave them very specific directions that, had the couple followed them to the letter, would have led them not only the wrong way down a one-way street, but nowhere near a liquor store. Rand looked on, in awe – he would later tell me that I spoke to the couple with such confidence that, against his better judgement, he didn’t question it.

I have no idea what became of that couple. Odds are, they probably gave up, headed home, and promptly divorced. But some small part of me is convinced that they are circling those blocks down which I sent them, doomed to spend an eternity yelling to each other, “It must be here. She said it was here. And she sounded so confident.

The lesson is a simple one: asking me for advice is a terrible idea and it will ruin your marriage if not your life. And yet, on a nearly-daily basis, some poor misguided soul sends me an email, asking me what they should do in x country, and where they should stay. My response is usually, “HOW THE HELL SHOULD I KNOW? GO ASK THE INTERNET.”

And then I realize with no small measure of horror, some people have already done that and ended up on my site. To them, I am the internet. I am filled with curse words and rude comments and things you weren’t looking for.

And on very rare occasions, just like the internet, I have an answer. Like when blog-reader and certified chicken hawk wrangler (I totally made one of those up) Janine mentioned that she was going to be traveling to Peru. Janine sent me a message on Facebook (because she “liked” the Everywhereist fan page. Hint-hint) and I was quick to reply with some actual useful information, which I’ve shared below. Hopefully, I’ll was slightly more helpful to Janine than I was to that poor couple looking for liquor. Funny thing, too, because god knows they needed a drink after what I put them through.

  1. Instead of a visa, you will get an “Andean Migration Card” – a little white slip of paper that will be handed to you, rather nonchalantly, at the airport. Like your virginity, no one will impress upon you the importance of it until it is lost. That slip of paper is as important as a visa – you will need it when you check into hotels and when you leave the country. So don’t get drunk and hand it over to the next guy who comes along.
  2. The sun in Peru is intense, even when it is cloudy. Be sure to wear sunscreen. We all got scorched in Machu Picchu, but that might be because we’re pasty Seattlites. Ever lift up a rock and see the bugs underneath writhe around in a panic? That’s us on a sunny day.

    We expose ourselves to melanoma while enjoying the scenery.

  3. Watch your bag. Hold it on your lap in restaurants, and not, say, over the back of a chair. Even though Peru is relatively safe, it’s still a good idea to this. Fortunately, my bag weighs roughly the same as a medium-sized anvil, so I would love to see someone try and take it, then throw out their back in the process.
  4. Nearly every place accepts either soles or U.S. dollars. So don’t panic if you only have American currency – it’s actually worth something in Peru (and no where else. Seriously. Stupid euro.)
  5. If you go to Machu Picchu, you must bring your passport to get in (having dragged it all that way, you can also get a novelty passport stamp from Machu Picchu. I did this, but kind of regretted it – the stamp is about the size of a child’s foot and takes up valuable real-estate)
  6. If you are desperate for food, there are a few chains in Peru that are great – one is Pardo’s chicken, which is surprisingly authentic and yummy, and the other is Bembo’s, which is less fantastic but not bad in a pinch. We had dinner at the former, and dessert at the former and the latter (What? This is me we’re talking about).

    Dessert at Bembo's. I was very happy. Rand was very dorky.

  7. Haggle like crazy. Really, you shouldn’t be paying more than a few dollars American for hats or scarves, depending on the quality. There are lots of little artisan markets in Peru – you might want to walk around a couple and see the different prices and compare (in one place, scarves were 10 soles before we even started negotiating – in another they were 20 for the exact same scarf. Guess how much I paid for mine? That’s right! 25 soles.)
  8. Carry tissues with you, and hand sanitizer or wet wipes, if you can get some. A lot of more rural places don’t have t.p., and don’t have running water or soap to wash your hands. Oh, and did I mention lots of meals are communal? So … yeah.
  9. In many villages, bakeries are denoted by these hanging baskets. Obviously, this is the most important thing you will need to know when traveling in Peru.

    They also had a bunch of guinea pigs in a pen.

  10. Usually your hotel can help set up a tour for you if you want to see stuff in neighboring towns. This is usually incredibly affordable. We spent a day traveling to Moray and Pisac from Cuzco, and they served us a snack and gave us an elaborate tour for $30 U.S. a person. The market at Pisac was absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.

    Rand with Nicolas, our totally awesome tour guide who spoke English, Spanish, Quechuan, and Japanese.

    So there you go – proof that I’m not entirely worthless when it comes to giving advice. Unless it involves finding liquor stores in my hometown. Then you’re on your own.

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