THE ULTIMATE BACKPACKING GUIDE TO PERU
Peru is a land of mystery, magic and enchantment. Long a highly coveted destination for seasoned and amateur travellers alike, Peru leaves all in awe of its beauty. Peru is undoubtedly the most backpacker-friendly country on the continent and its bus network makes it super easy to get around. The historical wonders of Machu Picchu, the beautiful beaches of Mancora and the jungle wildlife of Iquitos are merely a small taste of what’s on offer.
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Have a look at this article we have written for the best backpacker locations in Peru
A backpacker’s guide
Wherever there are backpackers there is usually a variety of accommodation to choose from. Most opt for hostels and why not? It’s the perfect place to meet other travellers, make friends and have fun.
⇓Here is where we stayed and recommend⇓
⇒ Other recommended hostels made to us by travellers we met along the way
- Arequipa – Friendly AQP, Vallecito backpackers
- Colca Canyon – Llahuar lodge, Hostal Rumi wasi
- Cusco – Tayta wasi hostel, Pisko & soul
- Lima – Pariwana backpacker hostel, Mana Lima hostel
- Huacachina – Bananas adventure
- Paracas – Kokopelli hostel
- Tarapoto – Home yuntawasi BP, Colores mishki shunku
- Iquitos – Hosperdaje florentina, Amazon house, flying dog hostel, Huayruro hostal
⇒ Accommodation costs can amount to a considerable portion of your budget whilst travelling but there are ways to reduce these costs –
- Take the night bus – If your next destination is going to take you 8 or more hours on the bus, then you may want to consider the night bus. You’ll save on a nights accommodation and most buses are pretty comfortable. Just be aware that the air-con will be on the whole time so dress warm and bring a blanket.
- Airbnb – Whilst hostels are fun, sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet. You’ll be surprised at the price of some Airbnb listings, sometimes half the price of a hostel.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is awesome! It’s free but, more importantly, you get to meet like-minded people who know the local area inside out. Couchsurfing is a fantastic way to save money and enrich your travelling experience.
We found land travel very easy and accessible in Peru. Buses are very comfortable and provide you with food and blankets! Most bus companies are available for booking tickets online and the ones which aren’t online are best avoided. Roads in Peru are pretty good and overnight travel is fairly safe.
⇒ IMPORTANT – ALWAYS KEEP YOUR BAG NEXT TO YOU AND DO NOT USE OVER HEAD STORAGE.
⇒ Top Tip – You can purchase tickets at the bus station on the day or a previous days before travel and availability is not a problem. Unlike in other South American countries the prices of tickets do not vary between booking online and purchasing at station. Red bus is a great app to have on your phone to book bus tickets in Peru and there’s no need to print anything! If buying at the station only deal with the reps in the bus company’s office. Don’t accept help from anyone from outside the station as fake tickets are a common problem. Do your research on which companies are good for backpackers as some buses that the locals use are very rundown.
⇒ Cheap Cruz del Sur tickets – Cruz del Sur is the best and most comfortable bus company in Peru by far but not cheap.We discovered that very cheap Cruz del Sur tickets can be found on busbud.com if you are able to book a few days in advance. You may want to consider doing this especially if you’re planning on doing long overnight bus journeys and need some extra comfort.
⇒ Taxis – Always ensure that you use a taxi which has been called from the taxi company rather than hailed from the street as issues with tourist are common. Also make sure the registration of the vehicle printed on the outside and inside of the rear door matches the actual registration of the car. If you do use taxis make sure you agree a price upfront as none of the meters work.
⇒ Hitchhiking – You must always take extra care when attempting to hitchhike anywhere. Whilst is is becoming more common, extra caution should be practised if hitchhiking in Peru. If you are considering hitchhiking here then read this first http://hitchwiki.org/en/Peru
⇓Here is a summary of our main transport costs in Peru⇓
- PeruHop, Transveula, Oltursa, Cruz del Sur
- LAN, StarPeru, TACA, LC Peru, Peruvian Airlines
- www.perurail.com (for travel between major cities and sights)
⇒ In summary, travel in Peru costs
⇒ Days in country – 42
⇒ Total spend – 9,108 PEN £2.204
⇒ Average daily spend – 216.90 PEN £48.20
⇒ Average Accommodation per night – 62.65 PEN £13.90
⇒ Average transport cost per hour – 5.30 £1.20
⇒ Biggest expense – 5 Day Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu 1,000 PEN £230
**The numbers above are our spend in Peru for two people!**
Food in Peru, whilst massively geared towards the tourist market with European style dishes, is varied, cheap and delicious. Definitely one of the cheapest countries for food in South America. Hostels and restaurant serve all the comfort foods of home at a fraction of the price, but be sure not to forget to try out the local specialities too.
⇒ BREAKFAST – More often than not, a local breakfast will consist of fruit, bread, butter and jam. Maybe eggs if you’re lucky. In the local joints you can opt for a ‘big breakfast’ which is more like a main meal and usually consists of chicken soup or pork or beef with yuka, potato or corn
⇒ LUNCH – The biggest and most important meal of the day. Our personal favourite is ceviche – raw fish cured in lemon juice and served on a bed of onion, cilantro and corn (The coastal areas of Peru have incredible seafood and should not be missed). Soups and stews are very popular lunch dishes, as are chicken and beef with rice, corn, quinoa or potatoes. 2 course menu del dias (menu of the day) will cost 5-10 PEN (£1.10-2.20) and are great value and a good way to sample the best local food.
⇒ DINNER – Typically a lighter version of lunch, you’ll see the biggest lines at the street vendors around dinner time with sandwiches, empanadas and tamales being the most common choices. Cuy al horno (guinea pig) is a popular national dish. Most Peruvian dinners at home are more of a repeat of breakfast.
⇒ DRINKS – A heavily contested point with neighbouring Chile is which country makes the best Pisco (a brandy made from grapes). Who makes the best is still up for debate but we can tell you that both countries make great Pisco and have a wide selection of Pisco based cocktails to try. Beer and most other spirits are really cheap.
Inca Kola is a bright yellow soft drink made using lemon verbena. It’s sweet and fruity and tastes like bubblegum – an absolute must try.
Peru is the most popular country in South America for backpackers and, for the most part, is reasonably safe. However, there are some dangers to be aware of and tips to bear in mind to make sure you have the best possible time.
⇒CHOOSE BUSES CAREFULLY– Peru doesn’t have the best safety record when it comes to buses. Do your research about companies and routes as some as best avoided at night due to poor road conditions or potential robbery. Cheapest isn’t always best.
⇒STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS – Drugs are a big problem here and it’s almost inevitable that you will be offered drugs at some point. Not only are street dealers known to rob tourists but they may also be working with the police in order for the police to extort money from you.
⇒ONLY PURCHASE IN OFFICE – There are a lot of scams involving selling fake bus tickets and tours in the streets, plazas and other busy areas. Don’t fall for the hurry hurry sales tactics and always insist on completing transactions in the official office as many sales reps are legit.
⇒ LEARN SOME SPANISH – There is a lot of English spoken in the main tourist hotspots but very little outside of these areas. Locals won’t respond well to you shouting at them in English. It’s respectful to at least make an effort to speak Spanish and you’ll find people much more willing to help you.
⇒ AVOID TAP WATER – Tap water is generally unsafe to drink and can cause some pretty unpleasant stomach related issues if consumed. Bottled water is cheap but recycling isn’t exactly a big priority so its best to either buy a refillable bottle with a filter or water purification tablets.
⇒ PLAN AHEAD – If you know you’re going to be out and about all day prepare a lunch and take a few snacks. Simple cheese and tomato sandwiches and packs of peanuts and fruit are a good way to watch your expenses and maintain a fairly healthy diet.
⇒ SAFETY – As always, wherever you are, keep a close eye on your belongings and be weary of any over-friendly individuals offering unsolicited assistance. Keep your wits about you at all times as pickpocketing and scams towards tourists can occur especially in big cities. If you ever feel unsafe make your way to a crowded area or into a shop/restaurant as quick as you can. If in immediate danger, make as much noise and draw as much attention as you can. We have never had a bad experience here but you always need to be aware. Good practice for any country you’re in is to have the phone numbers for the emergency services, tourist police and your nation’s embassy stored in your phone.
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