Peru

Peru is located on the western side of South America bordering Ecuador and Colombia in the north, in the east with Brazil, in the southeast with Bolivia, and in the south with Chile. Peru means “land of abundance,” and it stays true to its meaning as the country is extremely biodiverse, and it also is rich in history and culture. The archeological patrimonies of pre-Columbian cultures and the heart of the Inca’s empire are the main attractions. Peru is the paradise for those travelers that seek adventure; rafting, paragliding, zip lines, and bike trails, you name it, you’ll find it here. Traveling to Peru is like traveling through time as it allows you to rediscover the thrilling lives of the Incas, Chancas, Chachapoyas, Mochicas, and Wari as well as their art and folklore. Peru is an overall safe country for tourists, although some areas of the country and some parts of the cities have to be absolutely avoided.

SAFETY INDEX

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Is Peru a Safe or Dangerous Country?

As most countries, there are areas that are recommended to avoid. Peru can be safe as long as you use common sense and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators. It is important to follow the news on television and radio closely. Be aware of your surroundings at all times like you would in any large city. Criminals tend to work in groups and use different ruses to distract travelers. Yet, there is no need to be overwhelmed by this risk : most tourists visit Peru without any harm, and are absolutely thrilled to discover this marvelous country. Make sure you always have an ID on you, a photocopy of your passport and any other identification in case of loss or seizure.

Crime

Street crime, including muggings and theft, is a significant problem in Peru, especially in LimaCusco, Arequipa, and other major cities. It is important to be vigilant at all times and preferably avoid walking alone at night. People have tried to steal passports by acting like plain clothed police officers at the border crossing from Ecuadorto Peru. They will give you a fake form to fill in, so make sure you see and official identification. If you want to take a walk along the banks of Lake Titicaca, do so with a group as there have been reports of armed robberies against tourists walking on their own. Local authorities advise against travelling alone at night in the Desaguadero area on the Peru-Bolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.

Transportation Safety

Visitors have been robbed by unlicensed taxi drivers. Make sure to get a registered taxi at a bus terminal or book one in advance from a well-known company. Always take a quick look in the back seat and in the trunk to make sure that there is nobody hiding there. If you are taking a bus, wrap put your backpack under your seat with the strap hooked around your leg. Sometimes, buses are held up and the passengers are robbed.  

Natural Dangers

Peru has different climates. Flooding and landslides are common in the Andes during the rainy season (November-May). They are also common in the Machu Picchu/Inca Trail/Aguas Calientes area. This may interrupt transport services. Peru is also located in an active seismic region. The last major earthquake was near the Peru/Chile border (8.2 on the Richter scale). A tsunami warning was in effect for Peru immediately after that earthquake. In the south of Peru, there are still a few active volcanos. Ubinas and Sabancaya erupted a couple of times in 2016. Make sure to keep an eye on local media. The Geology, Mineralogy and Metallurgy Institute Instituto Geologico Minero y Metalurigico (INGEMMET) provides up-to-date information.

Political Situation

Local protests are common and can become violent very quickly. They are usually in response to local labor or social issues and can disrupt public transportation and affect areas like Cusco, Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos.

Terrorism

Terrorism and drugs/organized crime are linked. With that said, there is a higher risk to your safety in regions where there is coca cultivation and handling like the Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia, Apurimac-Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM) rivers basins. There have been reports of activity by the “Shining Path” terrorist group in the Upper Huallaga river valley in Huanaco and San Martin zones.

Spiritual Cleansing

In the Amazon area and Cusco, shamans and other people offer “spiritual cleansing” (also reffered as Ayahuasca or San Pedro) to tourists. This service usually involves the consumption of a mix containing a hallucinogenic drug. The consumption of this drink is not regulated and people have suffered serious illnesses, sometimes even death after participating in these ceremonies as they take place in isolated areas, which make it difficult to access medical attention.

Hiking

If you decide to hike on the Inca Trail, do so with a guided group. You may need to book it in advance during the high season (June-August). Always register when entering national parks and watch your step in steep or slippery areas which are unfenced or unmarked. Several hikers have died and other have had to be rescued after serious accidents in Huayna Picchu and the Huaraz region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains.

Warnings & Dangers

Mid Priority-96 OVERALL RISK : HIGH

Standard safety precautions are recommended in Peru. Although violence against travellers does not occur often, there have been a few reports of robberies involving violence.  Exercise common sense and remain vigilant for suspicious behaviour as you would in any other country. Watch out for petty crime in tourist areas and protect your valuables.

Mid Priority-96 PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH

Pickpocketing and purse snatching are common in tourist locations and public transportation.

Mid Priority-96 MUGGING RISK : HIGH

Muggings have happened in urban areas. People walking alone are often the targets, especially at night. In case of being robbed, do not resist and hand over your valuables.

Mid Priority-96 SCAMS RISK : HIGH

As in any other country, taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travelers by overcharging them. Remain vigilant for thieves that use different strategies to rob you like a tap on the shoulder, spitting or getting something spilled on you. Credit card skimming is also common. Thieves have been known to pose as police officers, so always ask to see official identification and record the officer’s name, badge number, and district.

Mid Priority-96 TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : HIGH

Overall, taxis and public transportation are safe. Make sure you book a ride or use radio taxis from places like a hotel when possible as there have been reports of traveler being robbed and assaulted by taxi drivers.

Mid Priority-96 NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : HIGH

Flooding and landslides can happen during heavy rains and may result in public transportation disruptions. Peru has some volcanic activity. Ubinas and Sabancaya erupted a couple of times in 2016. Monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Mid Priority-96 TERRORISM RISK : HIGH

There is a general threat from terrorism. Remote areas in the Southern Highlands including San Martin, Huanuco, Pasco, Junin, Ucayali, Huancavelica, Ayacucho and Apurimac, may still shelter members of the Shining Path terrorist group. Remain vigilant and take advice from authorities, hotels and tour operators.

Mid Priority-96 WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : HIGH

Many women travel safely without any issues. However, there have been reports of sexual assault throughout the country. Avoid isolated locations and traveling alone after dark. Remain extra vigilant at bus terminals and in taxis.

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Useful Information

Most countries do not need a visa to enter Peru when the purpose of the visit is tourism. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date. Your stamp may be for 30 days on your passport though the limit is 180 days. If this happens, explain the immigration officials that you need more days and show your return ticket. You may also get a tourist card called Tarjeta Andina de Migración (Andean Immigration Card) that you must return when you exit the country. If you lose this card, you can visit an immigration office for a replacement (www.digemin.gob.pe). www.doyouneedvisa.com is a useful website that can help you know if you need a visa or not based on your nationality and the country you’re visiting.
The currency in Peru is the Nuevo sol (S). ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are accepted in main cities, but be careful of possible scamming and never leave your card out of sight. S100 bills are hard to exchange in small towns, so make sure to always carry small bills.
The weather in Peru varies per region as the country’s geography is very diverse. On the coast, the winter lasts from June to September. Expect heavy rains in the mountains and jungle from December to April. Tumbes and Piura have tropical climates, while it hardly ever rains in Lima and most of the coast.
The busiest international airport in Peru is Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima. If you’re looking for cheap flight deals, you can find some on JetRadar
As in any country, we advise travelers to get a travel insurance that covers not only medical problems but also theft and loss of personal items. Learn more on our travel insurance page