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How To Travel on a Budget in Peru

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 25-08-2022

Traveling to Peru on a budget can be as expensive or as economical as you make it.  Affordable travel requires discipline and money management skills, especially for extended stays. You can still experience Peru to the full on a tight budget, and quite often, you will have a more authentic experience of the country.  Here are a few ways to help you stretch your Peru budget as far as possible and see all the most important sights without costing you an arm and a leg.


Travel Panning


The Peruvian Currency

Keeping track of your spending is of vital importance. If you don’t know how much the Peruvian Nuevo Sol is worth, you’ll have difficulty understanding how much cash you’re spending. Get to know the local currency and, just as importantly, stop comparing Peruvian prices with prices back home.  The cost of living in Peru is lower than in most European countries and the USA. There are bargains to be had in Peru, but avoid buying for “buying's sake” It all adds up.


Cheap Eats in Peru

Touristic restaurants, especially in the major cities such as Lima, Cusco and Arequipa, are considerably more expensive than the typical restaurants frequented by Peruvians. A local person will always know where to eat and where the best dining deals are.  Eat where the locals go, and you’ll be surprised at how well you can eat in Peru on a budget. Shoestring travelers should make the most of lunch in Peru when big, three-course meals are at meager prices.




Watch Out for Scams in Peru


Scams are the enemy of any traveler's budget. Whenever money is involved, be wary. Always check your change, especially at night and in taxis and be aware that false notes are an issue in Peru, and even local people who know their currency well, can be duped. It’s a good idea to learn about the types of scams in Peru and how to avoid them.


Set Prices in Advance


Whenever possible, agree on a price before accepting the service. You might be presented with an unexpectedly large bill if you don't. Peruvian taxis are a prime example. With no meters, it’s up to you to negotiate a price before each cab ride. If you think the fare is too high, find another taxi -- much more accessible than arguing over an inflated price at the end of your trip. 


Fix your Price


Know How Much to Tip in Peru

Peru isn’t a big-tipping nation, so don’t go blowing your daily budget on unnecessary tips. There are a few occasions when a dividend is expected, such as in midrange to upscale restaurants and touristic services, but don’t feel the need to hand over your loose change to taxi drivers. Peruvian taxi drivers don't expect tips in general.


Reduce your Alcohol intake


Alcohol is a financial black hole for budget travelers, and you might have a worryingly light wallet after a night on the town. When you go out drinking (you’re on holiday, after all), avoid tourist traps, super-trendy hotspots, and expensive shots. Beer is generally the cheapest option in Peru.


Drinks Time


Learn How to Haggle

Don’t be afraid to haggle over prices in the traditional markets of Peru. Prices generally start high, so it’s your job to settle on a price acceptable to both parties. Also, try negotiating prices for hotel and hostel rooms. You’ll often receive a clear no, but trying is no harm. It’s easier to get a discount if you're staying for more extended periods. For souvenirs, haggle; at the end of the day, the seller will not sell their products if they are making a loss.

Eat Your  Breakfast - It Included

If your hotel has breakfast included, drag your bones out of bed and make the most of it before it’s gone. Breakfasts typically start at about 7 a.m., finish at 9 or 10 a.m., and keep you going till lunchtime.



Peruvian Breakfast


Learn Some Spanish

If you don’t speak Spanish, your ability to negotiate prices, haggle and avoid scams will be severely limited. Spanish lessons can be expensive, but if your Spanish skills are up to scratch, you will save money on your Peru trip.


Prioritize Tours Wisely

Don’t always assume that a tour is necessary. Many historical sites and natural attractions in Peru are easy to reach by public transport, usually a much cheaper option than private tours. You can often hop on a cheap bus and find a local guide when you arrive at your destination. Save the tours for places that are more difficult to reach and trekking tours such as the Inca Trail, where you have to go with an authorized company.


Glacier, Cordillera Vilcanota


Learn About ATM Fees in Peru

Find out which ATMs charge the lowest withdrawal fees abroad. Ask your bank for information before you leave home. You may find that your bank is part of the Global ATM Alliance, in which case you might be able to avoid some withdrawal fees. Scotiabank, for example, is part of the alliance and has more than 270 ATMs in Peru.


Buy Souvenirs at the Source

If you want to buy souvenirs, buy at the source or in local markets rather than in touristy shops or airports. The center of Cusco and the Miraflores district of Lima are good examples, with fancy stores selling overpriced items to tourists. Take a short taxi ride to a traditional market, and you’ll probably find the same things for almost half the price. Visit local communities and buy weavings, textiles and handicrafts from the community; this will guarantee the authenticity of the products, and your money goes straight to the productor.


Hand Woven Bags


Avoid Paying for Other People

One irritating aspect of traveling in Peru is the belief that all foreign tourists are rolling in money. The offshoot of this mentality is the appearance of “hangers-on,” locals eager to invite you to a bar or club for a drinking session, only to leave you with the small matter of paying for everything. Many Peruvians are happy to chip in and pay their share, but keep an eye on the situation unless you are willing to pay for a hefty bill.

Use the Internet to Call Home

There are inexpensive internet cafes everywhere in Peru, so there’s little point in making expensive telephone calls to friends and family back home. Most public computers have Windows Live Messenger (MSN Messenger) installed, and install WhatsApp on your cell phone. If your parents aren’t computer savvy, try to give them a brief Messenger or WhatsApp class before you leave. It will save you a lot of money on your travels.




Keep Your Valuables Safe

Opportunistic theft is rife in Peru. If you leave your camera on a restaurant table, don’t be surprised if it vanishes. The same applies to all valuables in various situations, so keep your gear close and don’t be careless. Buying a new camera or cell phone will ruin your travel budget.


Use Long Distance Buses in Peru

Flights aren't too expensive in Peru, but hopping from one city to the next will soon put a dent in your budget. If time allows, use long-distance buses to get from A to B. Not only will you see more of Peru, but you'll also arrive at your destination with extra cash to spend on tours and entertainment. However, one important thing to remember is to stick with the midrange and top-end Peruvian bus companies. You will travel long distances (Over 24 hours on some routes). The cheaper buses are not safe and should be avoided.


Long Distance Bus


Travel at Night if Possible

If you’re going to travel by bus, consider traveling overnight. The top-end buses are comfortable enough to get a reasonably good night’s sleep, saving you the expense of a hotel. While overnight trips can save you money, you should always check for potential safety concerns along your intended route. Some roads in Peru are much safer during the day, so avoid overnighters if safety is an issue. (For example, Cusco to Ayacucho and Cusco to Puerto Maldonado should be avoided at night Cusco to Puerto Maldonado should be avoided at night, for example).


Join a group

Specialist tours are usually much more expensive if you book a private tour. Excursions such as the Inca Trail are often available in group service. Look to join a group (ask when booking functional groups) or hook up with other travelers for tours or treks. This means that costs are shared and work out cheaper for everyone!


Group Tour in the Jungle


Happy Travels!