Peru Travel Guide on a Budget
Peru is a stunningly diverse country that has something for everyone, from ancient ruins and charming colonial cities to lush Amazonian jungles and towering Andean peaks. While it may seem like a pricey destination, it’s possible to experience the best of Peru without breaking the bank. In this comprehensive budget travel guide, we’ll provide you with tips and suggestions for making the most of your trip to Peru while keeping costs low.
Planning Your Trip
Timing is crucial when planning a budget trip to Peru. While the peak tourist season (June to August) offers the best weather for exploring the country, it also comes with higher prices for accommodations and tours. Consider traveling during the shoulder seasons (April to May or September to November) for more affordable options and fewer crowds.
Hostels are a popular and affordable choice for budget travelers in Peru. Dormitory-style rooms can cost as little as $5-10 USD per night, while private rooms are typically available for $20-30 USD. Many hostels also offer communal kitchens and social spaces, which can help you save money on food and meet fellow travelers.
Budget hotels and guesthouses are another option, with prices ranging from $20-40 USD per night for a private room. Airbnb is also available in most cities and can be a great way to find affordable accommodations, particularly if you’re traveling with a group.
Peruvian cuisine is diverse and delicious, and it’s possible to enjoy it without spending a fortune. Local markets are a great place to find fresh produce, meats, and prepared foods at a fraction of the cost of restaurants. In addition, small, family-owned eateries called “huariques” offer affordable, home-cooked meals.
Street food is another budget-friendly option, with many vendors selling traditional dishes such as anticuchos (grilled beef heart skewers), tamales, and salchipapas (sausages and fries) for just a few soles.
Bus travel is the most affordable and accessible mode of transportation in Peru. Long-distance buses range from basic to luxurious, with the latter often including amenities like reclining seats and onboard entertainment. To save money, opt for the economy class, which can cost as little as $10-15 USD for a several-hour journey.
For shorter distances within cities, combis (minibuses) and colectivos (shared taxis) are popular and inexpensive options, usually costing less than $1 USD per ride. Taxis can also be affordable, especially when shared with other travelers, but make sure to negotiate the fare before starting your trip.
Budget-Friendly Attractions and Activities
Peru is home to numerous free or low-cost attractions that cater to a variety of interests.
Historical sites: Wander through the charming streets of Cusco’s historic center, explore the ruins of the ancient Chan Chan city near Trujillo, or visit the pre-Inca pyramids of the Lima region, such as Huaca Pucllana and Pachacamac. While some archaeological sites charge entry fees, they are generally quite affordable.
Nature and wildlife: Take a hike in the Colca Canyon near Arequipa, visit the Ballestas Islands off the coast of Paracas for a chance to spot sea lions and penguins, or explore the lush Amazonian rainforest surrounding Iquitos. Many natural areas offer inexpensive guided tours or can be explored independently at little to no cost.
Cultural experiences: Attend free traditional dance performances, visit local artisan markets, or learn about Peruvian history at the many small museums and cultural centers that charge minimal entry fees.
Saving on Major Attractions
While some of Peru’s
major attractions, like Machu Picchu, can be expensive to visit, there are ways to save on these must-see experiences:
Machu Picchu: Instead of taking the pricey train and shuttle to reach the famous Inca citadel, consider hiking the Salkantay or Inca Jungle trek, which can be significantly cheaper. Additionally, you can save on entrance fees by booking your tickets well in advance and visiting during the shoulder season.
Nazca Lines: To view the mysterious Nazca Lines without splurging on a flight, you can visit the Nazca Lines Observation Tower for a small fee, or opt for a bus tour that includes stops at multiple viewpoints.
Lake Titicaca: Instead of booking an organized tour, travel independently to Puno and arrange a homestay on Amantani or Taquile Island through local organizations. This will not only save you money but also provide a unique cultural experience.
Budget Tips for Trekking
Trekking is a popular activity in Peru, and it’s possible to explore the country’s breathtaking landscapes without spending a fortune:
Independent trekking: For shorter, well-marked trails like the Santa Cruz trek in the Cordillera Blanca or the Lares trek near Cusco, consider trekking independently instead of hiring a guide. This can significantly reduce costs, but make sure you are well-prepared and have the necessary equipment, maps, and information.
Group tours: If you prefer a guided trek, look for group tours instead of private options. Sharing the costs with other travelers can make guided treks more affordable. Be sure to compare prices and reviews before booking.
Renting gear: Instead of purchasing expensive trekking equipment, rent gear from local shops in cities like Cusco, Huaraz, or Arequipa. This can save you money and lighten your luggage.
Shopping on a Budget
Peru is known for its beautiful handicrafts, from alpaca textiles to intricate silver jewelry. To save money on souvenirs:
Shop at local markets and artisan cooperatives, which often have lower prices and support local communities.
Bargain respectfully, as haggling is common in Peruvian markets. Start by offering 30-50% less than the asking price and negotiate from there.
Be mindful of your purchases, opting for unique, locally-made items that directly support artisans and their families.
Staying Safe and Avoiding Scams
While Peru is generally safe for travelers, it’s essential to be vigilant and take precautions to avoid potential scams:
Use reputable transportation options, especially when traveling at night. In major cities, use registered taxis or ride-sharing apps like Uber or Cabify.
Be cautious with your belongings, particularly in crowded areas or on public transportation. Keep your valuables secure and avoid displaying expensive items.
When exchanging money, use official currency exchange offices or banks instead of street vendors to avoid counterfeit bills.
Though it’s an additional expense, travel insurance can save you money in the long run if you encounter unexpected issues, such as medical emergencies, lost luggage, or trip cancellations. Look for a comprehensive policy that covers your specific needs and activities at an affordable price.
With careful planning and smart choices, it’s entirely possible to experience the best of Peru on a budget. By taking advantage of affordable accommodations, transportation, and attractions, you can immerse yourself in the country’s rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture without breaking the bank. This comprehensive budget travel guide should help you navigate Peru’s many offerings and create lasting memories of your adventure in this incredible destination.