We really enjoyed Peru, although very well trodden at times, we felt we saw enough of the local side of the country through our volunteering, and also plenty of sights with Machu Picchu and the ruins of Trujillo.
Our time in Peru was obviously dominated by our time volunteering in Colan, which we had always planned. There were a few other things we would have liked to squeeze in, such as Ica and Mancora, and definitely more of Lima, but overall we saw plenty in the short time we had.
No visa or fee was payable to enter Peru, as British citizens I believe we got 180 days visa free. So that was all fine, but getting in was still a nightmare.
Entering from Ecuador, we were happy to discover that Peru and Ecuador share a large modern border crossing, with both countries passport stamps in the same building which in theory makes it much quicker.
In reality it was one of the slowest borders we crossed – we were waiting nearly 3 hours in a long queue just to get a stamp – typically the border guards had no interest in doing things quickly, I guess they don’t get paid enough to care. Not a lot you can do about this, but be warned.
All costs for 2 people over 28 days/27 nights
Accommodation – £502.83
Transport – £404.02
Eating Out – £203.45
Attractions – £103.41
Groceries – £101.97
Alcohol – £26.18
Laundry – £5.52
Shopping – £2.60 (sure we must have bought more souvenirs than this!)
Misc – £2.19
Total – £1,372.17
Per day – £49.01
Essentially we saved a lot while volunteering, and then used it for Machu Picchu. It worked out and we didn’t go too far over budget. Peru is a mid range country, it isn’t super cheap but it isn’t expensive either. But Machu Picchu will eat your budget, especially if you want to do a trek, likewise any Amazon trips (we opted for a cheaper one in Bolivia).
£1 = S./4.88, $1 = S./3.32
Mid range hotel room – S./70-100 (£14.36 – £20.51)
Dorm bed – S./30-40 (£6.15 – £8.20)
Menu del dia – S./8-10 (£1.64 – £2.05)
Meal from a local restaurant – S./15-25 (£3.07 – £5.12)
Long distance bus – S./45-60 (£9.23 – £12.30)
Large beer from a shop – S./5-10 (£1.02 – £2.05)
Bottle of Inca Kola (Peruvian soft drink) – S./1.5-3 (£0.31 – £0.61)
We were pleasantly surprised at what Peru costs, we were worried it would be quite expensive but generally it’s very affordable considering how well visited it is. Almost everything was a ripoff at Machu Picchu but apart from that, even touristic Cusco had cheap food to be found.
Food & Drink
Peru was probably the best South American country we visited for food. Mostly because of the incredible ceviche, but even among the cheap lunch menus, I don’t remember a bad meal.
Aside from Ceviche, we loved Causa (mashed potato sandwiched with prawns or other fish) and Papa Rellana (stuffed potato).
We did have a couple of meals in ‘Chifas’ – a Peruvian Chinese restaurant. These of course are far removed from actual Chinese food but are fascinating as they are part of Peruvian cuisine, with the menus very much adapted to local tastes. Probably not a culinary highlight but they are very cheap.
My favourite dish after Ceviche was Lomo Saltado – marinated beef stir fried and served with rice and fries. It’s somewhat Chinese in origin but you find this everywhere, not just in Chifas. It is delicious!
Drink wise, Peru was home to our new favourite soft drink – Chica Morada, a sweet drink made from purple corn. It sounds disgusting but it is delicious and served with pretty much any meal. Chicha describes any beverage made from maize and there are plenty of varieties – we sadly didn’t come across the fermented alcoholic versions.
We did however come across Pisco Sours. Pisco is a grape brandy, and the sour cocktail adds lime, sugar syrup and egg white. It sounds strange but is really refreshing and sharp, my perfect cocktail! Oh the beer isn’t bad either – Cusquena (which is seen in the UK sometimes) was my favourite followed by Pilsnen.
Generally, buses in Peru are affordable and decent quality. Not always though, as our first bus ride from the border to Piura testified – the bus was infested with cockroaches. At the other end of the scale, the potentially nightmarish 20 odd hour bus from Lima to Cusco with Cruz Del Sur was luxurious and made the time fly by.
Colectivos (shared taxis) are popular and cheap, they range from minivans to battered estate cars. The problem with them, as in everywhere else in the world, the drivers wait until their vehicle is completely full, and this can take a long time.
Taxis are reasonable, not dirt cheap but not expensive either, and don’t have meters as far as I can remember. Drivers we had seemed to be fairly honest.
Being that we spent over half of our time in a rustic shack at the animal shelter, I can’t offer much of an opinion on Peruvian accommodation. In the cities, hostels are abundant, especially Cusco which is home to some definite party hostels. A lot of the time we got rooms in hostals (notice the spelling difference) which are budget hotels and the quality was generally decent though no English was ever spoken – luckily our Spanish was decent enough to get by.