As my time in Peru is over now, I have decided to compile a list of travel tips and oddities, that I have incurred along my time spent in this country.
Machu Picchu: Probably the most popular tourist location in Peru, if not South Amrica, Machu Picchu is stunning and worth the hype. Daily tickets are limited, therefore, depending on the time of visit, it might be wise to book in advance. Note though, that you can get 50% off the ticket price as a student. In order to do so, you have to have an ISIC student card and need to visit the Direccion Regional in person to purchase the ticket. As there is a lot more tips to give on this topic, I have written a seperate guide to Machu Picchu.
Lima: The capital, where most people will land. Although often not appreciated, Lima has a lo to offer and you should spend a couple of days there. The most popular districts are the Centro, Miraflores and Barranco. Stay in the Centro Historico if you want to be close to all the main attractions. Miraflores is a good neighborhood for families or people looking to spend a lot of time in beautiful parks or at the beach. It is also amazing for shopping and dining. Barranco is the artsy neighborhood, well suited for young people looking to do cool cultural activities during the day and go out at night. Furthermore, it is always worth a visit and you should not miss MATE, the museum of Mario Testino.
Student discounts: If you are visiting as a student, you definitely want to get an ISIC student ID. It will save you a lot of money in many different places. Personally, I saved 75soles on my ticket to Machu Picchu, 7 soles at MATE Museo and 5soles on my ticket to the Coca Museum in Cusco.
Money: It is definitely advisable to take a certain amount of US-Dollars for changing with you. Cash is still king but if you want to pay with credit card, VISA is most widely accepted. From personal experience, Caja de Cusco, BCP and Scotiabank are good places to withdraw money with limited or no fees, but this will depend on the type of account and your main financial service provider.
Food: Eating at the local market will be the best and cheapest option to try local food. Every market usually has one level for buying everything from bread to bags, and one level with food stalls. These would not pass European hygiene standards, but I have never gotten sick from any market food. Something you definitely want to try in Peru is Ceviche. Apart from that, Alpaca is everywhere in Peru, you might see them running around in the streets, wear Alpaca clothing or try Alpaca steak (which is GOOD). If you want to eat food from Gaston Acurion, Peru’s most famous chef, but do not have the money to spend on the 15-course tasting menu, you can always try Papacho’s, which he created especially for burgers.
Shopping: For buying from street vendors, haggling is a big part of getting the best price. You might want to learn a few basic Spanish phrases to avoid being ripped off. Hospedajes, or guest houses, could be another place where this comes in handy, as some places are willing to discount their nightly.
Language: Basic knowledge of Spanish helps and will definitely make your stay easier. Even in touritsy places, restaurants off the main attraction sites might not have English speaking staff. And asking people for directions will also be much easier in Spanish. There is a lot of inner South American travel, so many people get away with not knowing English or speaking it only to a limited extent.
Culture: Out of the major cities, the culture is still traditional and you will see this reflected in clothing and mannerisms. In remote locations, communities might still speak the indigenous language. When it comes to punctuality or things going smoothly, expect the worst and hope for the best. For the most part, I got by without any problems. When taking a colectivo or shared taxi, you should definitely ask when they leave. And after they tell you “20mins” ask again whether its 20mins or 20MINS. One funny thing that occured to me on multiple occasions: I have sometimes gotten back candy instead of 30cts, as even big supermarkets had no coins in their cash register.
Things To Do: In Peru, there is no shortage of treks, hikes and other adventures to be had. Depending on where you go, you might want to try sandboarding, mountainbiking, zip lining or kayaking. My two big excursions were Machu Picchu and the Rainbow Mountain. If I could have only done one, I would choose the Rainbow Mountain, but if I were you, I would allow for enough time for not having to choose.