You will find a lot of recommendations for your trip to Peru. Probably, all of them are true in one way or another. Here is what we experienced. Just to get a glimpse of it …
Learn some Spanish
Even though there are a lot of tourists in Peru, you cannot expect the people there to speak English or your native language. I thought, my basic Spanish skills are enough to get me through basic conversations … I was wrong. It was definitely not enough. Especially when we stayed with families in their homes. It was very hard to keep a conversation going. Therefore, I dearly recommend to get some Spanish skills. Maybe prepare some questions beforehand to avoid awkward silences during dinner.
Take clothes for all weather conditions
I know, this can be annoying when packing your things. However, it is really true – within one day you might experience summer temperatures of more than 25 degrees and at night you wish for a big hoody and skiing underwear. Safe some room in your luggage for hats and gloves. They might come in handy when you visit higher altitudes or when you opt for homestays.
Wear sunscreen all the time
Despite the quickly changing weather conditions, the sun is very strong … which is just logical at heights of 3,000 metres or more above sea level. So, the sun is closer to you as you are probably used to. Protect your skin, especially your face, as it might get burnt easily. Even if the sky is cloudy and the temperatures are low.
Pack your trusted medicine
Before my Peru trip, I was worried mostly about the high altitudes and how my body would react to this unknown condition. Consequently, I was very nervous when we travelled from Arequipa to Chivay via a pass of 4,910 metres above sea level. Eventually, I was fine with a little headache and pressure in my head. However, others suffered a lot: headaches, nausea, stomachache or even fever. Please do not underestimated your sufferings in high altitudes, as it can cause severe health issues and even death. Therefore, follow the recommendations Peruvian people share with you: drink a lot of water, avoid coffee and alcohol, drink coca tea or chew coca leaves. And my personal recommendation: Carry your trusted medicines for all those conditions with you. If that doesn’t help, there is a special medication called Alti Vital here in Peru. Make sure to get it in one of the many pharmacies in the cities.
Get some coins as soon as you can
Money is an important issue when you are travelling on your own. In Peru, you can find ATMs in all the cities, but of course not in rural areas like small towns or in the islands of Titikaka Lake. Make sure to get enough money before you leave the cities. We had good experiences with the BCP (a Peruvian bank). It works very well with Maestro Cards and allows tourists to withdraw 700 Soles per withdrawal (other banks allow only 400 Soles). However, you will get 100-notes and they are not accepted everywhere. Or, let’s say it that way, they do not have change everywhere. Therefore, make sure to get rid of the big notes as soon as you can, and get coins instead. You will need them for public toilets, little snacks and tea and of course, for pictures with people in traditional clothes and alpacas.
Yes, they are utterly sweet and this is why they deserve a point in this listing. I know, it is a bit off-topic. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t see alpacas in Lima or Arequipa. Sometimes, ladies in colourful clothes pose for photos with sheep. Don’t let yourself be misled and wait for the real alpacas. As soon as you get to the more rural areas and higher altitudes, you can see them in their natural habitat and you will also have tons of chances to get close-up photos or selfies with the cuties. It is definitely one of the most touristy things in Peru … but hey … who can resist a baby alpaca? My favourite is named Fernandito 🙂
Organise your journey well
I hate to say it, but you cannot always rely on other people. Therefore, organise your trip well. There are many agencies to help you with organising your tour individually. They take care of the transfers and you can do your trip on your own, without a group you have to follow. However, be prepared for a lot of time spending in buses or tansports and make sure to have all your valuables with you inside the bus. For our trip it worked perfectly fine and we could definitely rely on our organisation (we booked via a German agency with an office in Cusco and local guides, transfers etc. called Fairaway).
Be an early bird
The trips within Peru are long and start early. Most of the time tours start at around seven, sometimes earlier. Be prepared to get up very early, sometimes 4:30 or 5 am to get to the desired spot. As your journey in Peru will be very active (at least, I hope so :-)), you will be tired in the evening. Drink enough water during the day and schedule your dinners rather early than late. You might want to sleep early or you fall asleep early anyway … and of course, take a reliable alarm clock or mobile phone with you to make sure to be on time for your pick-ups. Be prepared that your mobile won’t be able to be charged everywhere, thus an old-school alarm clock will do the job perfectly :-).