Peru has rapidly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Since the political situation has become more stable and the tourism infrastructure is much improved, the country is attracting more and more visitors by the day. Peru is a diverse country that offers the traveller ancient ruins, beautiful colonial architecture, spectacular landscapes and let’s not forget, Machu Picchu. If you happen to be one of the million tourists visiting Peru each year, there are some things you should know beforehand so that you have a safe, enjoyable, and successful trip. Here are some tips!
Attitude is everything! If you require service in a store or shop you usually have to demand it. This is the same in restaurants and cafes where you will usually have to use a variety of hand signals to get the waiter’s attention. Don’t be timid on these occasions be polite but upfront about your requirements and normal service will be resumed.
Queuing is a somewhat alien concept in Peru, unless you’re in a bank. Don’t be surprised if you’re in a queue, and a local person walks right past you to the front. While queuing post pandemic is a lot more common, it can be annoying when someone simply stands in front of you but a simple “hay una cola” usually sends people to the back of the queue and just remember, you can do it also, if not!
Never think a Peruvian will be on time, there are unwritten laws about punctuality on a visit to Peru! Peruvian people see time very differently, so that meeting you had planned for 7 p.m. may not show up until 8 or 9 p.m. Please don´t take this personal, it’s just the way they do things in Peru. If you have a time for a party or get together, allow an hour or so before you arrive, it is normal to be the only person in a place if you actually turn up on time!
Peru is famous for its ceviche and spicy rocoto relleno, but don’t expect all the Peruvian cuisine to be spicy. Even in the case of the ceviche it is normal to ask for it “sin picante” and it will be served non-spicy. Most of the time restaurants will keep the blander side of things when serving national dishes to travellers, so if you do like spicy food, make sure you ask for the “aji”.
Peruvians use the word “ya” for just about everything. The word is also used in the same way as “ok”, or “already” on many occasion, but is used for a number of situations. If you are still learning the lingo when in Peru, expect to hear “ya” for every other word! Don´t be frightened to use it also… ya? 😊
Peruvians are incredibly sensitive about their neighbouring country. The two countries are always competing for who invented what and Pisco is no exception! In Peru, remember that Peru ALWAYS does it better 😉 If you want to make friends and influence people, make sure that you claim that pisco sour´s Peruvian and not Chilean and that there is even a town called Pisco, it will do wonders for your popularity on Peruvian soil!
Peruvians will always ask if you are married or have children, even if they only just met you. Don’t be offended if you get in a taxi and the driver asks you whether or not you’re married it is a common ice-breaker such as “how is the weather”. If the person is trying to hit on you unwantedly, then of course feel free to say “Estoy Casado/a”, which means - yes, I´m married!
This isn’t necessarily because you might be robbed, though this is also a possibility, but because having big denominations such as 100 soles note, is virtually impossible to change! You will only be able to break them up at restaurants or a big supermarket and they generally attract suspicion for being fake or simply, it may be too much bother to change it!
A lot of people make the mistake of getting all their souvenir shopping in Cusco or the Sacred Valley, which means lugging their Andean paintings and textiles around with them for the rest of their trip. To get the authentic souvenirs from the region, we recommend shipping it from Cusco back home, or even sending it ahead to Lima by bus, which will cost around 15 soles, where you will need to collect it, but will save a fortune on extra baggage at the airport.
Coca is widely used throughout the Andean region of Peru, and has been since Pre- Inca times. It was used during Inca ceremonies and is still used today to help with altitude symptoms and hunger. It also tastes pretty decent in a mate de coca, and is a perfect remedy for the cold temperatures and high altitudes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley regions. Coca is also a super food with a high nutritional value and while you may not be able to take it back home, stock up on nutrients when in Cusco, by chewing or sipping on a tea.
Inca Cola is the national soft drink of Peru and is consumed everywhere by everyone at all times. The semi-addictive bubble gum flavoured “gaseosa” is surprisingly pleasing especially served cold and you can even mix it with vodka for an alternative night time party drink! (It has to be sampled to be believed!)
While the main tourist locations in Peru will most probably have English speaking staff, don´t expect that people will speak English everywhere. Learn some Spanish phrases before you come to Peru and these phrases will go a long way. Even if your Spanish isn’t perfect that fact that you are making an effort, goes a long way around these parts.
You’ll find the signs in every bathroom reminding you not to throw toilet paper into the toilets. It clogs them up and the sewage systems were not built to handle this type of waste. Further down the tubes they will clog up and cause a mess if you do not adhere to these rules 😊
When visiting a beautiful location, either at some Inca ruins or in a national park it is common to see a Peruvian toss their empty water bottle or plastic wrapper on the ground without a second thought. While this can be frustrating to see, it is better to let things lie and avoid a confrontation…. The issue is common and there are government initiatives to educate those who litter including hefty fines.