Peru Facts & Info
To help you prepare for your Peru vacation, check out this mini Peru travel guide. You’ll find here necessary basic information about traveling to Peru: when to visit, how to get there and around, visa requirements, money, and major festivals and events.
For detailed information about specific Peru destinations, please visit our extensive Destination Travel Guides.
- Peru covers 1,285,216 km2 (496,225 sq mi). It borders Ecuador and Colombia to the North, Brazil to the East, Bolivia to the Southeast, Chile to the South, and the Pacific Ocean to the West.
- Population: About 30 million
- Capital: Lima
- Official Language: Spanish
- Currency: Sol
- Time: GMT - 5
When to go
Peru has a wide range of climates, and the best time to travel to Peru depends on the destinations you would like to visit. The country is divided into three main geographic regions: the Coast (Costa), the Andes (Sierra), and the Amazon (Selva). Since Peru is located in the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are opposite if you’re coming from the Northern Hemisphere. This means summer lasts from December through March; fall from April to June; winter from July to September; and spring from October to November. But because of its proximity to the equator, temperatures generally do not vary drastically. In the summer expect rainfall in the mountains and the jungle, and sunshine for the coast, while the winter brings slightly cooler temperatures for all areas and a grey mist over the coast, particularly Lima.
The coastal region, with its arid, desert area between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, has a fairly temperate climate, warm in the north and a little cooler in the center and south. It very rarely rains, with the exception of the far north, where rain can be frequent in the summer months. Although Peru lies very close to the equator, the cold marine current of Humboldt, or the Peruvian current, brings cold waters from the south, lowering temperatures.
The Andes are generally cooler, due to the altitude. The highlands in Peru are best visited during the dry season (winter), from April to October. May through September is the peak tourist season. During this time, the climate is mostly dry, sunny, and warm during the day, with temperatures reaching 20° to 25°C (68°- 77°F). However, it gets very cold at night, with temperatures often dropping to just above freezing. The wet season is from November to March and is milder, with temperatures ranging from 18° to 20°C (64°- 68°F ) and dropping only to 15°C (59°F) at night. These months occasionally experience heavy rainfall in the afternoon.
The Amazon is generally warm and humid, and experiences the same rainy season as the Andes (December through March). Heavy showers are frequent during these months (usually lasting only a few hours), causing rivers to swell. While April through November is the "dry" season, it is always very humid in the jungle and it still rains on a daily basis during this period - just not as much. The average daytime high temperature in the Amazon is between 30° to 35°C (86°- 95°F ) and the average nighttime low is between 16° and 22°C (62° and 73° F). Nevertheless, between May and September, sometimes cold fronts from Argentina can sweep into southwestern Amazonia and push daytime highs down to 9° C (50° F) and the nighttime lows to 5° C (43° F), so during these months it is good to be prepared for cooler weather.
Getting There and Away
Lima's international airport, Jorge Chavez, is the main hub for flights to the Andean countries from North America and Europe, and has plenty of connections to neighboring countries. Some international flights also land in Iquitos, in Peru's Amazon region. Peru's major international airlines are Lan Peru and Taca. For flights leaving the country there is an airport departure tax of approximately US$30, which is now included when you purchase tickets.
There are overland border crossings between Peru and Bolivia at Desaguadero and nearby Yunguyo on the shores of Lake Titicaca; between Peru and Chile at Tacna; and between Peru and Ecuador at Tumbes. It is also possible to travel by river from Colombia and Brazil to Iquitos.
With the distances in Peru being so vast, many Peruvians and travelers are increasingly flying to their destinations, as all Peruvian cities are within a two-hour flight of Lima. It is also possible to get around the country by bus, as these go just about everywhere and are of extremely good value. For intercity rides, it's best to buy tickets in advance whereas for local trips, you can buy tickets on the bus itself.
PeruRail, the main train operator in the country, links some highlights of the Peruvian Andes and is undoubtedly the most spectacular way to discover the ancient land of the Incas, taking you through scenery of outstanding beauty and to places almost inaccessible by any other means. The company operates two main routes, between Cusco and the legendary Machu Picchu, and between Cusco and Lake Titicaca (Puno).
Boat travel is important in Peru's Amazon rainforest. Dugout canoes powered with outboard engines operate as water taxis. On the Amazon River, larger boats and cruise ships are also available.
Citizens from the United States, Canada, Australia, and the European Union do not require a visa to visit Peru. However, all travelers are required to hold a passport valid at least 6 months after their expected visit.
The official Peruvian currency, the Nuevo Sol - whose symbol is S/. - is still simply called a "sol" on the streets and has so far remained relatively steady against the US dollar.
In Lima and Cusco (and most other cities), Euros and US dollars can easily be changed into soles. In smaller cities Euros are more difficult to exchange. To change small amounts of dollars, street changers (cambistas) give the best rates, but be careful to check their calculations and check your soles before handing over your dollars. Other options are banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio), which are numerous in all Peruvian cities. Rates vary from place to place but not significantly, unless you try to change money at a hotel, as hotels tend to charge a high commission.
Many travelers find it easier to simply use a debit card as there are ATMs/ Cash Machines in all major cities. Credit cards are also now widely accepted in restaurants and stores, with Visa and Master Card being the most popular. Naturally street vendors and sellers in the markets don't accept credit cards, so you'll want to have some cash on hand at all times.
A combination of taxes and service charges are added to bills in the best hotels and restaurants and can total as much as 28%. Tipping is not expected in budget restaurants, although a minimal tip is gratefully received. A tip of 10-15% is fine in upscale restaurants if a service charge has not already been added to the bill. Taxi drivers are not tipped – make sure to bargain the price beforehand. Local guides should be tipped about US$3-5 per day. Bargaining in Peru is a way of life, people expect it, so you should not feel bad about negotiating a price (obviously keeping in mind that prices should be fair for both parties involved).
Peru enjoys a number of religious ceremonies, festivals, and local events. Carnival time (generally in late February) is especially lively almost everywhere in the country, with fiestas held every Sunday. It's worth noting that most hotel prices go up significantly during festivities, and bus and air transport should be booked well in advance.
Calendar of major public holidays & festivals:
February: Carnival - Wildly celebrated immediately prior to Lent throughout the whole country.
March/April: Easter Semana Santa - Superb processions all over Peru (the best are in Lambayeque, Arequipa, Cusco and Ayacucho). Read more about the celebration of Holy Week with our blog article on Semana Santa in Ayacucho.
June 24: Inti Raymi - Cusco's main Inca Festival of the Sun.
July 28 – 29: Peruvian Independence Day - Public holiday with military and school processions.
August 13 – 19: Arequipa Week - Processions, firework displays, plenty of folklore, dancing, and craft markets.
September: End of the month Festival of Spring - Trujillo festival involving dancing.
October 18 – 28: Lord of Miracles - Festival featuring large and solemn processions (the main ones take place on October 18, 19, and 28).
November 2: Diá de los Muertos (All Souls Day).
These are just a few of the highlights. Peru celebrates some 3,000 festivals a year throughout the country. Most of them are held in homage to a patron saint, although they have blended with the beliefs of ancient forms of worship.