Read on for more information about preparing for your holiday to Peru. Information about getting there, entry requirements, money and vaccinations should answer many of questions. If you have any other queries about travel to Peru, then please don't hesitate to contact us.
Before your trip, we strongly recommend that you check the latest travel advice to your destination. For visitors to Peru from the UK, we suggest the Foreign Office Website.
You can't fly direct to Peru from the UK, so you will need to change planes en route. You have the choice of flying via Madrid (Iberia, BA, Lan Peru), Amsterdam (KLM), Paris (Air France) or via New York or Miami in the USA and then take a connecting flight to Lima. From Lima, you can connect with one of Peru's several domestic airlines to take you to your next destination. Most flights from Europe fly over night, landing in Lima in the morning and departing Lima in the evening. Prices start from £600 in the low season, to £900 in the peak season.
Tourdust can help you to arrange your flights, please contact us for further information.
Visas are not generally required for travellers entering Peru, but you will need your passport to be valid for at least 6 months. Tourists are granted a 30 - 90 day stay on arrival and are also given a tourist card, which you need to give back at the end of your trip. Don't lose this, or you will need to join a long queue at the airport on your way out.
Depending on the type of air ticket you have purchased, you may be liable to pay taxes at the airport. This can pertain to domestic as well as international flights. International departure tax is around $30 from Lima and internal departure tax is around $6. Check with your ticketing agent to see if this fee is applicable to you.
The currency in Peru is the Peruvian Nuevo Sole, although the US Dollar is also in circulation. Many businesses working in the tourism industry accept both forms of currency, but you will need Soles for tipping. We recommend you take some USD with you. ATM's can be found in most major towns, cities and airports, you can withdraw USD & Soles from most. Credit cards are accepted at more upmarket shops and restaurants.
It is very important that you go to your local travel clinic at least 8 weeks before departure to confirm which immunisations you need and to check whether you need anti-malarials. The information below should be used as a guide and is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
Travellers to Peru should make sure that they are immunised against the following: Tetanus, Hepatitis A, Typhoid.
You may also want to consider protecting yourself against the following: Diptheria, Tuberculosis, Rabies (there are a lot of stray dogs in Cusco), Hepatitis B, Cholera
If you are visiting jungle areas in Peru, you will need a yellow fever vaccination. Please remember to take your certificate with you, as spot checks for this can be performed at Puerto Maldonado airport. Depending on where you are in the jungle, you may need to take anti-malarials. In the north of the country, they are an absolute must. The Tambopata Reserve has not had any recent cases of Malaria, but if you are travelling ion the wet season (October - March) they are recommended.
Altitude Sickness - most people get some form of altitude sickness when they fly into high-altitude destinations from sea level. In Peru, this includes Cusco, Puno, Arequipa and Huarez. The best remedies are rest, plenty of fluids and coca tea. For more information, please read our notes on acclimatisation.
For more information on health in Peru, please go to this excellent site: http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Please ensure that you have insurance in place that covers you for all the activities you are undertaking on your holiday. It is worth double-checking that you are covered for trekking at altitude, as sometimes you need to pay a premium for this activity.
There are two seasons in Peru - wet and dry - although weather patterns and temperatures fluctuate throughout the country depending on the geography of the region.
In the highlands, the dry season is from May - October. Days are bright and sunny and whilst rain is a possibility, it is unlikely. Average highs are 19C - 20C with night time temperatures hovering around 0C - 1C June - September is the high tourist season in Peru and at this time of year accommodation, transport and the treks can sell out months in advance. The Incan celebration of Inti Raymi (The festival of the Sun) falls on the 24th June, making it a particularly busy time to visit.
November to March is the wet season. Trekking in these months will be wet, especially in January - March when a soaking is pretty much guaranteed. Average day time temperatures are 19C - 20C with night time temperatures around 6C. The Inca Trail is closed throughout February, although Machu Picchu itself is still open and other treks are available.
In the rainforest, the wettest months are November to March. At this time you can expect high humidity with rain showers every day, full rivers, wet paths and mosquitoes. In the dry season, it is still very humid, with average temperatures in the mid 30's. However, sometimes a cold wind blows though, bringing lower temperatures for a few days. In general, the dry season is a better time to visit.
To see an uptodate weather forecast for the region you are visiting, check www.weather.com
Tipping in the tourist industry in Peru is customary and expected. At the end of any tour, drive or meal, your guide or waiter will be most forthright in asking for their gratuity. Whether you like this direct approach or not, tips are relied upon to top up incomes and you need to budget for them. In hotels & larger towns, you can tip in either Soles or USD, but if it is the latter, please ensure that the bills are not crumpled. When tipping in rural locations, or on treks, Soles are more appropriate. Here is a guide to the amounts you can expect to pay.
You don't normally tip for a regular taxi ride. Make sure that you agree a fare upfront, the driver will have factored a tip into the fare already! For private drivers, a tip of $5 - $7 per passenger, day would be about right.
If you are eating at a moderate / lower end restaurant, then it is fine to round up the bill; most Peruvians wouldn't tip in this type of establishment. In higher end eateries, a tip of 10% is a good amount.
Tips for tour or nature guides do depend on the level of service you have received. $10 per person would be the amount you would tip for excellent service.
Tipping makes up for an important part of the porters income and whilst we try to ensure that the guides and porters used on your trek receive a good, fair wage, they still appreciate (and expect) a tip. There will be a tipping ceremony on the penultimate evening of your trek. This is the point when you will have a chance to thank your porters, cooks and guides. It is worth ensuring that you have sufficient soles with you for your tipping, in small enough denominations. Guideline amounts are as follows:
Porters: 60 - 80 Soles per porter from the group
Cooks: 80 - 100 soles from the group
Guides: 160 - 200 soles from the group
Please bear in mind that, depending on your group size, there will be 1 or 2 guides, 1 or 2 cooks and 10 - 20 porters. Porters don't just carry your baggage, but also all of the camping equipment, food and dining equipment. At your pre-trek briefing, you can ask how many porters are trekking with you. If you have any other questions about tipping the trekking team, please ask your guide.
Machu Picchu, the famed lost City of The Incas is perched in the most dramatic setting amidst the high peaks of the Andes. Here's our guide to what makes it so special and of course, the best ways to see it.
Without a doubt, what makes Machu Picchu quite so special is the combination of the dramatic ruins and the majestic mountain setting, here is what to look out for:
Before European explorers ‘found’ South America there were other powers at work there. Along with the Maya, the Aztec, the Olmec and the Tolec, there were the Inca. The Incan Empire grew from a strong governmental and administrative core in the Andean mountains and spread out until it stretched down the northwest coast of South America, encompassing much of Ecuador and Peru, as well as large swathes of Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The most famous remnant of this empire is the legendary terraced settlement of Machu Picchu. Carved into a mountain from which it takes its name Machu Picchu, crudely translated from the Quechuan, means ‘Old Mountain’. The site escaped the fate of so many other marvels of the Incan Empire at the hands of Spanish conquistadores, simply because they did not know where it was. It remained unknown to the invaders for nigh on 300 years until a young Quechuan boy led an American historian to the site. Hiram Bingham had been looking for an Incan site called Vilcabamba, and along the way had learnt about some ruins located on the top of a steep mountain. In reality a Quechuan farmer had already been using the terraces for some time and a number of others had visited the site, some even leaving their names carved into the rocks. Yet because Bingham wrote a book called ‘Lost City of the Incas’ he was able to claim that he had discovered it.
There are a number of theories abounding as to the purpose of Machu Picchu. Many believe it was the estate of the Incan Emperor, Pachacuti. Other historians claim it was a religious site due to its positioning on the mountain, and the way this aligns it with the stars. Some believe it is a place for royal ceremonies, such as coronations of Incan kings, while still others see it as an agricultural testing site, where plants were tested in the micro-climates of the mountain.
The favoured route is the classic Inca Trail, a famous four day trek that finishes at the site of Machu Picchu. But there are many easier ways to reach Machu Picchu for those short of time, unwilling to trek or unable to get hold of permits for the Inca Trail! From Cusco most visitors head to Aguas Calientes and then to Machu Picchu.
There are limited services on a direct train from the village of Poroy (nr Cusco) to Aguas Calientes. Alternatively you can catch a bus to Ollantaytambo(~65km) and then the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. There are a number of services offering this route:
From Aguas Calientes you can trek the 90 minutes up to the ruins, or you can take the $8 bus direct to the site (along with all the other day tourists). This bus runs throughout the day from 5.00am to about 5.00pm.
Classic Inca Trail from £334pp: The Classic four day Inca Trail is top of most people's agendas. And whilst, yes it is busy, yes getting permits isn't all that easy, it is still the ultimate way to see Machu Picchu and the stunning surrounding scenery.
Short Inca Trail from £255pp: A 2 day one night Inca Trail for those with less time or less inclination to trek for four days. This trek misses some of the best mountain scenery but does take in the spectacular approach to Machu Picchu. This trail is still subject to permits.
The Salkantay Trail from £395pp: The 5 day / 4n night Salkantay Trail was named one of the 25 best Treks in the Worlds by National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Salkantay (Salcantay) is an incredibly beautiful if sometimes demanding trek. After 3 days of trekking you are transported to Machu Picchu for a guided tour.
Lares Valley from £410pp: The Lares trek takes you off the beaten path through beautiful valleys and traditional communities. The emphasis here is on exploring villages, visiting markets and seeing the locals produce wonderful hand-made textiles. After 3 days trekking you're transported to Machu Picchu for a guided tour.
Choquequirao Trek from £555 pp: Choquequirao is often touted as the new Machu Picchu. It is believed to be the last refuge of the Incas and has gained in popularity since restrictions were placed on the Inca Trail. The trek itself takes in stunning mountain scenery and abundant inca ruins.
It's an alarm clock with a difference. Compared to the high pitched electronic squeaks that drag me from my dreams at home, the gentle tap on the tarpaulin and the cheery "Buenos dias!" made a pleasant change. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee further compensated for the early wake-up. It is 5 o'clock in the mountains of Peru and it's time to get started. Welcome to another day on the Inca Trail.
For those who have completed this world-famous trek this will probably sound very familiar. When I signed up for the trek in order to see the famous Machu Picchu ruins, I was unaware of the level of luxury and pampering in which we would indulge. Four days of hard trekking I thought, followed by late evening fumbles in the dark to erect a tent while battling the elements. Dinner might be a tin of soup cooked over a humble stove, with maybe a biscuit to go with a cup of tea to finish. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Here's a snapshot of a typical day on the Inca Trail.
Woken with a cup of tea or coffee and a bowl of hot water for the morning wash. By the time we were up and about, breakfast was served. Eggs (or another hot dish) accompany more hot drinks and breads with spreads. A big breakfast set us up perfectly for a big day.
Once breakfast is finished, it was time to pack into our day sack those items that we would be needing for that day's hike (water, snacks and layers). The rest, we left behind. No packing of the tent or washing up here. It's taken care of by the team.
An hour or so after starting the hike, we noticed the porter team come jogging past. They were carrying our luggage, the kitchen supplies and the tents. And they were smiling as they waved to us before shooting ahead along the path.
A little while later we saw them again. They had set up a makeshift lunch spot, where another excellent spread was laid out in front of us. No need to do anything except eat it, relax and regain our energy for the afternoon push to the next camp.
Again the same men passed us a little way after lunch, this time with a little more spring in their step.
It's always good to reach camp, and it's especially welcoming to find the tents already erected, our luggage safely installed in your allocated tent, and a hot drink waiting for us on arrival. Part of me felt guilty for being so pampered here in the high mountains of Peru; another (bigger) part of me lapped it up and thought "this is the life!".
And a final word about the evening dinner - how those guys can cook up such imaginative and hearty meals with such basic facilities never ceased to amaze our group of trekkers. I have completed several treks in different parts of the world and this was the only one on which I suspect I gained weight!
More information about trekking along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can be found here.
The Inca Trail has to be the most iconic trek in the world encompassing dense sub-tropical vegetation, stunning mountain scenery and finally building towards the first glimpse of Machu Picchu through Intipunku, the Gateway of the Sun. Our guide to trekking the Inca Trail covers everything you need to know to begin planning your trip.
If there are no Inca Trail permits available, or you would prefer to avoid the crowds, then there are a number of alternatives to the Inca Trail. None (except for the short Inca Trail) offer quite the same experience of Inca ruins and the spectacular approach to Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, but are fantastic treks in their own right which include a day in Machu Picchu.
Classic Inca Trail: The Classic four day Inca Trail is top of most people's agendas. And whilst, yes it is busy, yes getting permits isn't all that easy, it is still the ultimate way to see Machu Picchu and the stunning surrounding scenery.
Short Inca Trail: A 2 day one night Inca Trail for those with less time or less inclination to trek for four days. This trek misses some of the best mountain scenery but does take in the spectacular approach to Machi Picchu. This trail is still subject to permits.
The Salkantay Trail from: The 5 day / 4n night Salkantay Trail was named one of the 25 best Treks in the Worlds by National Geographic Adventure Magazine. Salkantay (Salcantay) is an incredibly beautiful if sometimes demanding trek. After 3 days of trekking you are transported to Machu Picchu for a guided tour.
Lares Valley: The Lares trek takes you off the beaten path through beautiful valleys and traditional communities. The emphasis here is on exploring villages, visiting markets and seeing the locals produce wonderful hand-made textiles. After 3 days trekking you're transported to Machu Picchu for a guided tour.
Choquequirao Trek: Choquequirao is often touted as the new Machu Picchu. It is believed to be the last refuge of the Incas and has gained in popularity since restrictions were placed on the Inca Trail. The trek itself takes in stunning mountain scenery and abundant inca ruins.
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Permits were introduced on the Inca Trail in between 2003 and 2005 to protect the trail against overcrowding and abuse. Permits are sold on a first come first served basis.
The Inca Trail is restricted to 500 people a day, this allows for around 300 staff (guides, porters etc.) and 200 trekkers. There are around 150 registered tour operators that have licenses to operate on the Inca Trail, and it is through these that all trekkers must make their arrangements. It is not possible to the trail independently, although it is theoretically possible (but difficult) to arrange your own qualified guide.
The Inca Trail regulations require all licensed tour operators to meet certain minimum standards that govern porter welfare and group sizes. There is a set minimum wage for porters and a maximum weight which they are allowed to carry (this is vetted at a checkpoint on the trail). The tour operators are required to use professional qualified guides, and provide emergency first aid, oxygen and radio equipment. Group sizes are limited to a maximum of 16 trekkers, with a maximum guide to trekker ratio of 1:8.
Availability of the Inca Trail permits is controlled by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/. Availability moves incredibly quickly so it is only really useful as an aid to planning. We will book the permits for you (you can not do it yourself through this website).
To find out whether there is avaiability on the Inca Trail, click on the month you would like to trek below. These pages are regularly updated so should reveal the exact number of permits available:
February 2015 - CLOSED
To give an idea of the typical profile of trekkers on the Inca Trail, the following snapshot shows the demographic breakdown of trekkers booked on the Inca Trail.
- 50.2% are male, 49.8% are female
- 19% are Argentineans, 12% US, 11% UK, 9% Australian, 8% Canadian and 8% French
- 78% are between the ages of 21-40, with the youngest under 10 and the oldest over 70
If you are planning on trekking the Inca Trail the following sites are superb resources:
http://www.raingod.com/angus/Gallery/Photos/SouthAmerica/Peru/IncaTrail/ A virtual tour of the Inca Trail by Angus McIntyre
http://matadortrips.com/how-to-trek-the-inca-trail A guide by Richard McColl who has trekked the Inca Trail five times.
http://www.panoramas.dk/fullscreen6/f2-machu-picchu.html A 360 degree panorama of Machu Picchu
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2YBVlgqqco Michael Palin takes a tour around Machu Picchu.
The incredible shot of Machu Picchu was taken by Flickr user jayegirl99
An in depth guide to the history, stories and people of Machu Pichu, Peru and The Incas.