Peru travel guide
South America doesn’t get much more evocative of generations gone by than Peru. Its mix of ancient civilisations and dramatic archaeology, set among some of the most extraordinary landscapes on the planet, means few destinations have as much to offer cultural visitors.
The old Inca settlement of Machu Picchu, now said to be the most visited site on the entire continent, is just the poster-child – it’s utterly magnificent, of course, but it’s just one of many highlights served up by the country. From mountain range to jungle, beach to desert, colonial town to cosmopolitan city, it’s a truly wonderful place to travel.
The coastal capital, Lima, can seem chaotic at times, but scratch the surface and you’ll unearth some great museums and nightclubs, not to mention some of the region’s best food and drink – from ceviche (raw fish in citrus) to cecina (dried pork) and from Peruvian wine (yes, really) to pisco sours.
But the country’s real appeal lies outside the capital. Contrasting beautifully with Lima is the ancient capital of Cusco with its winding cobbled streets and 1,000-plus years of history. It’s the gateway for visitors to the unmissable Machu Picchu, as well as those walking the Inca trail, but it makes for a colourful destination in its own right. There’s no better place to learn more about the country’s earlier times and the upheaval of the Spanish conquest.
Elsewhere in the country, the Nazca Lines, the beautifully excavated ruins of Chan Chan and the Chachapoya fortress of Kuelap boggle the mind. These extraordinary complexes are all set amid stunning landscapes.
But Peru doesn’t solely involve rushing up and down mountains or traipsing around ruins. If you’re searching for a relaxing beach destination, head to Máncora, which is popular with sun-seekers and surfers. A little more subdued, but no less beautiful, is the quaint coastal town of Huanchaco, where you can sit on the beach and watch fishermen ply their trade on traditional reed canoes. It’s a far cry from the lofty Andes and a testament to Peru’s staggering diversity.
1,285,220 sq km (496,226 sq miles).
31,774,225 (UN estimate 2016).
23.7 per sq km.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski since 2016.
Prime Minister Fernando Zavala since 2016.
Last updated: 14 December 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Heavy rains across many regions of Peru earlier in the year has caused flooding, landslides and mudslides. Tumbes, Trujillo and Piura and surrounding areas in the north of Peru were particularly affected as were areas of Lima province, around the capital.
There has been extensive damage to infrastructure and reconstruction work in some areas is taking place. Some areas of the country continue to have slight transport disruption.
If you’re in Peru, or planning to travel to Peru, please monitor local news closely and follow the authorities’ advice. For specific advice on conditions in the different regions of Peru, in English or Spanish, visit the Iperu website (the official source of information for tourists in Peru) or call them on +511 574 8000 (option 2 for English).
If you plan to travel between regions or undertake mountain trekking you should also consult your tour operator.
If you enter Peru without an entry stamp you’re required by law to apply for a new entry stamp at the nearest immigration office.
Demonstrations are common in Peru and can turn violent quickly.
Around 66,000 British nationals visit Peru every year. Most visits are trouble free.
Drug trafficking is a serious crime and drug smugglers face long terms of imprisonment. See Local Laws and Customs
There may be a higher risk to your safety in areas where there is organised crime and terrorism linked to the production of drugs.
There are serious risks involved in flying over the Nazca Lines.
There’s risk of robbery by bogus taxi drivers, especially to and from the airports and at bus terminals.
Driving standards are poor. Crashes resulting in death and injury occur frequently.
Terrorist attacks in Peru can’t be ruled out.
UK health authorities have classified Peru as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
Safety and security
Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Be vigilant in public places and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night.
There have been a number of recent thefts at gunpoint affecting foreign nationals, including British tourists and residents, in tourist areas of Miraflores and Barranco. These have taken place both during the day and at night. Don’t attempt to resist attackers or take any action that puts you at greater risk. If you’re the victim of an attack, report the incident to local police.
There have been a number of cases of rape, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas. Be alert to the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. If you’re in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Unscrupulous tour agents have targeted lone young female travellers in the Cusco area. Bogus taxi drivers have also targeted groups with young female foreign travellers in the route Huanchaco-Trujillo in Northern Peru. Criminals have targeted tourists and local people in the San Blas neighbourhood in Cusco including incidents of violent robberies and rapes.
Tourists have been targeted and robbed by bogus taxi drivers. Use a taxi registered at the bus terminal or book one from a reputable company. If you hail a taxi on the street make a note of the registration number before getting in. Be wary of taxi drivers offering cheaper than normal fares, which is often a lure for a robbery. If you have luggage, don’t take a station wagon cab where your luggage can be seen. It attracts robbers who use mobile phones to advise accomplices to hold up the cab. Robberies have been reported in taxis from the airport when luggage/bags have been visible. Put bags in the boot and never leave your luggage in the taxi with the driver behind the wheel.
Be particularly careful when arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Bogus taxi drivers and thieves pretending to be tour operators sometimes approach arriving passengers. If you take a taxi, use one of the three official companies located at desks directly outside the arrival halls. Further details are on the Lima Airport Partners website. When you travel back to the airport, book transport from a reputable company. Don’t use a street taxi.
Provincial and inter-city buses are sometimes held up and the passengers robbed. Passport theft is also common on inter-city buses and at bus stations. Keep your passport with you at all times during your bus journey and take particular care of valuables if you travel on a bus at night.
Local protests are common and can turn violent quickly. Sometimes they disrupt road, rail, river and air travel and affect tourist areas like Cusco, Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. Protests in Puno can result in the closure of the border crossing with Bolivia, including Lake Titicaca. Protests in Machu Picchu can result in the suspension of train services to the ruins. Protests in Loreto region (whose capital city is Iquitos) and the Manu National Park area can result in river tour boats being temporarily captured and held.
Seek local advice before you set off.
The website of the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism has useful information for tourists and visitors in English, and its local tourist Information and Assistance service - telephone +51 1 574 8000 (24 hours a day) can handle enquiries in English. On the Ministry of Tourism website you will also find information about the government offices that help tourists around the country. The Tourist Protection Network has launched a new 24/7 free line to contact the Tourist Police on 0800 22221. They can handle enquiries in English.
Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked. There is a higher risk to your safety in regions where there is intensive coca cultivation and processing, including the Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia, Apurimac-Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM) river basins. Remnants of the Shining Path terrorist group continue to conduct occasional ambushes and attacks mainly targetting Police and military forces. Activity by the “Shining Path” terrorist group has also been reported along the trekking route to Espiritu Pampa in Cusco region. Seek local advice about dangerous areas.
A state of emergency gives the armed forces responsibility for law and order alongside the police. Some civil rights are suspended. If you do decide to visit any area under a state of emergency you should follow instructions given to you by military, police or other officials.
A state of emergency for security reasons is in force in the following areas: Huanta and La Mar provinces in the Department of Ayacucho; Kimbiri, Pichari, Vilcabamba and Echarati districts in La Convencion province in the Department of Cusco (Cusco city and Machu Picchu are not affected); Tayacaja province in the Department of Huancavelica; Satipo province, Andamarca and Comas districts, (Concepcion province) and Santo Domingo de Acobamba and Pariahuanca districts (Huancayo province) in the Department of Junin; the districts of Cholon in Maranon province, the province of Leoncio Prado and the district of Monzon in the province of Huamalies, all in the department of Huanuco; the province of Tocache in the department of San Martin; and the province of Padre Abad in the department of Ucayali.
Be especially alert to the local security situation in the border areas with Ecuador and Colombia.
If you’re crossing the Peru-Ecuador border (by land) you should do so at official checkpoints only. Other parts of the border may still have unexploded landmines.
On the Putumayo river, near the Colombian border, there is drug trafficking and criminal activity, and the potential threat of incursions by armed guerrilla forces. You should exercise extra vigilance in these areas.
If you’re hiking on the Inca Trail go with a guided group. To protect the trail there is a government fee and restrictions on numbers. During the high season (June–August) you should make reservations with a travel agency well in advance. Always register when entering national parks and be particularly careful in steep or slippery areas which are unfenced or unmarked. Several climbers have died or suffered serious injuries after falling while climbing Huayna Picchu, a peak near Machu Picchu. Only very basic medical assistance is available at Machu Picchu.
Travel in groups when walking along the banks of Lake Titicaca. There have been incidents of armed robberies against travellers walking on their own. Take care at all times and contact the local tourist information centre for advice about known safe zones. Local authorities advise against travelling alone at night in the Desaguadero area on the Peru-Bolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.
There are risks involved in flying over the Nazca Lines. There have been a number of fatal accidents and emergencies involving planes operating from the Maria Reiche airport. Subsequent investigations showed that aircraft safety and maintenance standards were not being implemented. Though some improvements to operating practices have been made, problems continue to be reported.
Shamans and other individuals offer ‘spiritual cleansing’ to tourists in the Amazon area and Cusco. This service is often referred to as Ayahuasca or San Pedro and typically involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions isn’t well understood. People have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases death after participating in these ceremonies.
Spiritual cleansing retreats are usually some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it. Some retreats have basic medical services, including first aid, but others don’t. Some don’t even have an established plan for how clients can access medical facilities in case of an emergency.
Amazon Cruise ships
In July 2016 a cruise ship carrying foreign nationals was robbed while travelling along the River Amazon. Security arrangements vary between different cruise operators. For more information about safety and security on Amazon cruise ships, contact your cruise ship operator or iPeru (official tourist information and assistance).
Huaraz Region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains
Several hikers have died and others have had to be rescued after serious accidents in the Huaraz region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, where Peru’s highest peaks are located. Most rescues are carried out on foot because helicopters can’t fly to the areas where hikers are stranded. Contact iperu offices in Huaraz (telephone: +51 (43) 428812) before you set off.
River rafting and boating
Check that the company you use is well established and make sure your insurance covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. The weather can impact on white-water rafting and boating conditions.
There have been deaths and injuries involving recreational sand buggies, particularly in the sand dunes around Ica and Lake Huacachina. These buggies are unregulated and the drivers and agencies take no responsibility for the welfare of passengers.
You can drive for up to 6 months using a UK driving licence and up to 1 year with an International Driving Permit. Carry your passport with you at all times when driving.
Take particular care if you are driving close to places where protests are taking place. Don’t attempt to pass blockades.
Driving standards in Peru are poor. Stop signs and traffic lights are often ignored. Fatal crashes occur frequently. Drivers don’t always show concern for pedestrians.
Bus crashes are common, especially at night. Only use reputable transport companies, and where possible avoid overnight travel, especially in mountainous and remote regions. Cruz del Sur, Ormeno and Oltursa bus companies operate with two crews, but accidents still occur. Always wear a seat belt.
False accommodation websites
There have been reports that people searching for accommodation in Lima have been directed to false websites imitating genuine accommodation providers (eg, Airbnb). The false website link is sent to the customer by the fraudster, who then requests a rent payment transfer. If you’re booking through a website, make sure it’s genuine.
Terrorist attacks in Peru can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners.
The internal terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s has largely ended, but remnants of the Shining Path terrorist movement are still active in some of the main coca growing areas in central Peru (Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia and Apurimac-Ene VRAE river basins).
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
More than 10 British nationals are currently in prison in Peru for drugs offences. Drug smugglers face long terms of imprisonment and conditions in Peruvian prisons are unpleasant. Pack your luggage yourself and keep it with you at all times. Don’t carry anything through customs for anybody else. Don’t take coca leaves or coca tea out of the country. It’s illegal to import these items into the UK.
Some British nationals are being targeted for recruitment as drug couriers through email scams, where online fraudsters, through the promise of financial reward, ask people to travel to Peru where they are unexpectedly presented with some items/gifts to take with them out of the country. These items contain drugs and the person carrying them will face detention for drug trafficking. You’re strongly advised to ignore this type of e-mail or online request.
Sex with a child (in Peru this means under 14 years old) is illegal. Offenders will face long term jail sentences.
You are not allowed to take any archaeological artefacts from the country without the proper authority.
The sale of souvenirs made with any animal parts, including condor feathers, is illegal. These feathers are often sold in tourist markets in Cusco.
You should carry identification with you at all times. You can carry a photocopy of the relevant pages of your passport and keep the original document in a safe place.
Homosexuality is legal in Peru but social attitudes are generally conservative. Crimes against the LGBT community are not included in recently adopted hate crime legislation and same-sex partnerships are not formally recognised. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are likely to be frowned upon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
You should avoid taking photographs of anything of a military nature.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals don’t need a visa to travel if the purpose of the visit is tourism.
If you are travelling for any other purpose, check entry clearance requirements with the Peruvian Consulate-General in London.
On arrival, you’re normally given permission to stay for up to 183 days.
Double check the period of time you’ve been granted. If you overstay, you’ll need to pay a fine. In the worst case scenario you could be held in detention.
If you enter Peru overland from Ecuador, make sure your passport is stamped with a Peruvian entry stamp at the local immigration office. Most people crossing the border with Ecuador enter Peru through Aguas Verdes (Tumbes region) - you may need to ask for directions to the immigration office.
If you enter Peru from Bolivia by bus or taxi, make sure your passport is stamped with a Peruvian entry stamp at the immigration office in Desaguadero or Copacabana (Puno region).
Immigration authorities may also not let you leave Peru without a valid exit stamp from the last country you visited.
If you enter Peru without an entry stamp then you’re required by law to apply for a new entry stamp at the nearest immigration office. The immigration authorities will need you to provide your passport and evidence of your entry to Peru, eg air/bus ticket in your name, exit stamp from the last country you visited, and any other documentation they deem necessary. If you’re unable to provide any such evidence you must apply for an exit or expulsion order at the Immigration Office in Lima. You won’t be allowed to leave Peru without this, and you may be prevented from re-entering Peru for the next ten years.
The British Embassy can’t intervene in immigration issues. Make sure you get your entry stamp when you arrive in Peru.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Peru.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Peru. Your ETD should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Peru.
British nationals have experienced problems when trying to enter the country with more than one laptop. You should familiarise yourself with Peruvian immigration or customs procedures before you enter the country. For further details contact the Peruvian Consulate in London.
If you are returning to the UK via Europe, be aware that the customs authorities in European airports frequently confiscate duty free alcohol and other liquids purchased at the duty free shops in Lima airport from passengers in transit.
Travelling with children
Children under the age of 18 years travelling on a British passport who have resident status in Peru need written permission (Autorización de Viaje Notarial) from the non accompanying parent(s) to leave the country. This permission is obtained by a notary public in Peru. The letter must mention the proposed destination, the purpose of the trip, the date of departure and the return date. If unable to obtain a notarial permission, the child will need a judicial written permission (Autorización de Viaje Judicial) issued by a judge. If one of the parents is deceased, the other parent would need to submit the death certificate to a notary public, so that an indefinite notarial permit to travel with the child is issued.
Children who have tourist status do not need these permissions, but immigration officers are free to request them in circumstances considered suspicious by the immigration authorities or if the child has stayed in Peru for over 183 days. For further information, contact the Peruvian Consulate in London or the Peruvian Immigration Directorate.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
UK health authorities have classified Peru as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Yellow fever is endemic in certain areas.
Diarrhoea caused by contaminated food or water is common and is potentially serious.
Medical treatment can be expensive and is not always available in some parts of the country. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
Parts of Peru (including Cusco, Puno and the Colca Canyon) are at high altitude.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial one of the following numbers: 225 4040 (Lima - Alerta Med); 467 4861 (Lima - Clave 5); 241 1911(Lima - Plan Vital) and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Peru is in an active earthquake zone and there are frequent tremors. If in a building when an earthquake strikes keep away from the windows and make your way to the safe zones marked in most buildings with an ‘S’ sign. If you are outside keep away from buildings and other areas where objects, like trees or power lines, could fall.
To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, see the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
If you’re planning to visit areas of known volcanic activity, pay careful attention to all warnings and follow the advice of the local authorities. According to Ingemmet (the Institute of Geology and Mining), Sabancaya volcano in Arequipa is active. The local authorities have advised the public not to trek or climb in the areas of the Sabancaya, Ampato and Hualca Hualca volcanoes in Arequipa.
Tsunamis and High tides
Although tsunamis are rare in Peru higher tides are often experienced either after an earthquake or for other reasons throughout the year.
See the Peruvian Directorate of Hydrography and Navigation website for information.
Flooding and landslides
The rainy season in Peru runs from November to April. It can rain heavily in the Andes and there have been occasions of torrential rains in some parts of the country, including Cusco.
During the rainy season land, rock and mudslides can cause disruption to road and rail travel as well as to walking routes in mountain and jungle areas. These normally include Cusco, the routes to Machu Picchu, including part of the Salkantay route, the route to Manu (in Cusco and Madre de Dios) and the north of Peru. River levels are also higher.
Take care when travelling in these areas during the rainy season and check the latest conditions with your tour operator. Monitor local media for updates on travel information before starting your journey.
When using an ATM, try to do so during business hours inside a bank, supermarket or large commercial building. Be particularly vigilant before and after using an ATM on the street, especially at night. Some ATMs don’t automatically release your card when you receive your money. You may have to push a button to release your card.
Not all shops, restaurants, bars and hotels accept credit cards and it is worth checking whether they do before ordering anything. Keep credit and debit card receipts.
Western Union is represented in Peru, with bureaux in all main cities. If you need more cash this is a quick, reliable way of receiving money from abroad.
Be alert to the possibility of being passed counterfeit US dollars or local currency, especially from street money changers.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.