The currency used in Peru is the Nuevo sol which is divided into 100 céntimos. The notes in use are S/10, 20, 50 and 100 and coins come in denominations S/0.05, 0.10, 0.20, 0.50, 1, 2 and 5.
Peru has two official languages, Spanish and Quechua. As well as this, however, there are a vast number of indigenous languages and as many as two million of the country’s inhabitants don’t actually speak Spanish. English is becoming more widely spoken but is still very much confined to the larger cities and tourist areas.
Although the entire country is situated in the tropics, Peru has a number of different climatic zones. In general, however, the wet season everywhere tends to last from January to March but heavy rains in the mountains and jungle usually last from December until April. The coastal and western Andean region are very dry areas with a moderate climate and average temperatures of about 20 degrees Celsius all year round. Further inland it is hot and sunny for most of the year. In the Andes themselves, the dry season takes place between May and September when average temperatures are 25 degrees Celsius and it’s sunny most of the time. From October until April, however, it’s wet season. Finally, the eastern Andean region the dry season is from May to December where conditions are similar to the highlands and where the wet season is much more defined.
Peru lies five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time and does not observe daylight saving time.
Most shops are open between 9.00am or 10.00am and 8.00pm but in smaller towns and more remote areas most close for up to three hours in the middle of the day. This is not the case in the larger cities however but in both areas very few shops open on Sundays.
Electricity in Peru operates on 220V, 60Hz with the exception of Arequipa which operates on 220V, 50Hz.
Most visitors to Peru will not require a visa but you will need to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months after your arrival in the country. Furthermore, you will need to obtain a tourist card which is free on your arrival. This card is usually valid for thirty days but if you ask for a ninety-day card there should not be any problems receiving such a card. Otherwise you can extend your thirty-day card at the immigration office in any of the major cities at a cost of US$20. You should note that you should keep your passport and tourist card on your person at all times but if walking around the city you are staying in a photocopy is sufficient.
If you intend working or studying during your stay or if are in doubt that you may be a national of one of the countries which do require visas, you need to contact the consulate in your home country before travelling to Peru.
You are recommended to carry both US bills and traveller’s cheques while you are in Peru. Any other currencies are virtually impossible to exchange once you leave the major cities and the commission is extremely high. In fact, there are only a few exchange bureaus even in these locations which will exchange other currencies.
You can change cash either in any of the banks or in the host of exchange houses or ‘casos de cambio’ which you will find in all the major towns and cities as well as the main tourist locations. Most choose the latter as the commission rate is usually better and the opening hours more extensive. For example, even in the capital banking hours are erratic with all banks opening only between 8.30am and 11.30am from January until March while casas de cambio open from 9.00am until 6.00pm.
Another alternative is the use of moneychangers which you will find in the street and while their rates are similar to those in banks you should exercise caution when availing of their services. Many exchange damaged notes at very poor rates while many more are notorious for short changing and fraud.
All major credit cards are also widely accepted and if you have the PIN you can use these to receive cash in compatible bank machines. The same applies to bankcards which are members of any of the international banking networks.
The country code for Peru is 51 so if you are calling from abroad you need to dial 00, followed by 51, the city code and the local six-digit number (seven for the capital). The main city codes are 1 for Lima, 54 for Arequipa, 74 for Chiclayo, 84 for Cusco, 94 for Iquitos and 94 for Puno. The same instructions apply when you are making an international call from within the country. You should also note that you need to omit the 0 from the local code where applicable.
The Peruvian public telephone service is an extremely modern one which has been upgraded in recent years with state of the art technology. Both national and international calls can be made from public phones which saves the hassle of looking for specific offices or phones. You will find street phones located throughout all major towns and cities. While some coin phones still exist, the majority are now card phones and you can purchase cards from kiosks or stores.
The more upmarket restaurants and hotels will include a 10% service charge as well as 10% tax in the bill but smaller establishments don’t do this. The staff in the latter, however, are not paid very well and really appreciate a tip of any size. Nevertheless tipping is entirely at your discretion. If you wish to do so 10% is considered sufficient and you should tip the waiter directly as opposed to leaving it on the table. Taxi drivers do not expect to be tipped but if you want to give them any small change from your fare this is perfectly acceptable.
It is worth noting what the public holidays are before you travel to a country as the majority of businesses, banks and shops usually shut for the day. In Peru they take place on January 1st, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, May 1st, June 24 and 29th, July 28th and 29th, August 30th, October 8th, November 1st and December 8th and 25th. It is a good idea to check the particular area too as certain towns and cities also shut down during special events.