How Safe is Peru for Solo Traveler: Things to Know

The beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu

I spent three weeks traveling in Peru as a solo female and never had any issues. Being confident is the key to having a pleasant journey, as there is so much to see. And better to have a plan of which places you want to see because Peru is an enormous country. But if you follow the gringo trail where most everyone goes, you will likely not be alone. And probably you are flying to Lima, the same as everyone where flights arrive in the evening or early morning from Europe.

I arrived at 5:00 am in Lima after a 14 hours flight and was exhausted. Even the customs and immigration were tired as it only took five minutes to stamp my passport.

However, the airport police were utterly awake and let their doggies snoop on everyone exiting the arrival hall.

And with weariness looking for the Express Bus to Miraflores, which generally cost only 8 dollars but nowhere to find, the service ceased since the Covid-19.

Airport Taxi in Lima

So I ended up at the airport counter haggling about taxi prices, but it was a flat rate of 60 soles (15 euros). All the information I’ve found on the internet is no longer accurate—the same as reading about safety in Peru, which freaked me out.

What You Need Before Flying to Peru

Traveling to Peru, you need a negative PCR test, and if you’re fully vaccinated, a copy of your vaccination is required. 

Also, 72 hours before departure, you must fill in the form online (health declaration affidavit) and print it out, as you need it at the airport during check-in. Also, it requires wearing a KN95 or FFP2 mask onboard.

Be aware that the mask mentioned above is mandatory in some places in Lima, like shopping malls, and sometimes you need to show the Covid-19 app from your phone.

In the Peruvian Amazon Lake Sandoval Puerto Maldonado
Canoeing at Lake Sandoval

Do You Need a Tourist Visa to Peru?

European citizens don’t need a visa. But your passport validity must be at least six months from arrival.
You get a stamp at the airport, allowing you to stay in Peru for three months. If you are not sure, check with your Embassy.

How About Exchanging Money at the Airport

If you are worried about paying for city transfers, the airport taxis accept credit cards unless you want to take the public buses outside the airport, which I don’t recommend for first-time visitors to Peru.

If you need to change your currency at the airport, there are exchange booths by the baggage carousel. But changing money at the airport is very low compared to the center where you get most of your currency.

Get a Peruvian Simcard

It’s good to have a local number in case of an emergency. You can always call. There were several providers, but I purchased my Sim Card at  Claro

The Sim card costs only five soles, and for the prepaid card, you can choose from 20 soles with 4 GB but limited call. 

However, if you pay more, like 30 soles with 10.5 GB plus unlimited call and text, and 40 soles with 13.5 GB internet free call and text – and convenient for 30 days.

The ruins of Pinkuylluna Peru
The ruins of Pinkuylluna Ollantaytambo

Currency Exchange Shops in Lima

The business hours in Peru are from 9:00 am, but some are already open at 8:30 in the morning.

If you are staying in Miraflores, many shops have a small booth for currency exchange. There is no sign outside, so you must look for them. And don’t fall for people on the street approaching you as a money changer.

For your safety, go inside the shops. And count twice the change you receive and keep it inside your pocket before going outside.

Using Credit Cards in Peru

Credit cards are widely accepted, but some merchants added 4 to 5%. So it is better to ask before you pay. The best thing is to bring cash and exchange it for Peruvian soles. If you live in the eurozone, don’t buy dollars because you will lose with the exchange rate.

Withdrawing cash from ATMs in Peru is not a great option. You can only take a maximum of 700 soles. However, if you need ATMs, use Scotia Bank – is no surcharge, but your bank probably will charge for withdrawal.

How Safe is Peru for Solo Travelers

Reading about safety and crime in Peru raised my anxiety. Some say to leave your new phones at home; from what I’ve seen, most Peruvians walk on the street with a new cell phone. What the heck!

That’s why don’t overdo reading about safety and criminality because you don’t want to leave any more of your comfort zone.

On my first day in Lima, I walk through the Malecon and Larcomar in Miraflores. I also took the bus from the historic center back to Miraflores. After the walking tour, everyone was going on their way, so I was going to take the Uber, but the guide insisted on taking the bus because it was cheaper.

It was indeed cheap at 50 cents euro, but it jammed packed. Everyone was squeezing inside, and that was a moment of panic while holding tight to my backpack. But I arrived safely, and nothing was missing from my bag.

Learn the Basic Spanish

Learn Spanish before you go because not everyone speaks English. The same as traveling in Central America, a phrase in Spanish is sufficient – because communicating with locals can be difficult without understanding their language.

However, most Peruvians who work in the tourist industry can speak a little bit of English, except for one guy who works in my hotel in Aguas Caliente.

I remember an American couple who checked in and didn’t have a word of Spanish, and the poor guy at the hotel counter he’s highly strung.
So I interrupted, which was a relief for both of them.

Strolling at Malecon in Miraflores
Strolling at Malecon in Miraflores

Stay in Miraflores, Barranco or San Isidro. 

Three areas are one of the best places to stay in Lima, which are considered safe. I picked Miraflores as I was hopping with Peru Hop, which was their pickup point.

I mostly slept in hostels but a private rooms. If you check on |BOOKING.COM|, there’s no shortage of hotels and hostels in Peru.

You can choose how much you want to spend on rooms. I pay a little more in some places, depending on the city. Also, I prefer the accommodation that is close to the main square.

But, of course, Peru is full of backpackers, so you never be alone.

Join the Free Walking Tour

It can be a good thing to do in Lima. The tour will take you to the historical center in places where I wouldn’t walk alone. If you look online, different companies offer a free walking tour, but I book mine with Inkan milky way. I have done the same in Arequipa and Cusco. 

Going with Peru Hop

Peru Hop is your best bet if you want to discover Peru with peace of mind, especially for a solo traveler – this could be worth it.

Drop off and pick up at your hotel save you from hassles. 

You can make your itinerary and hop on and off their buses anytime. The local guide on board can assist if you need any help.

Be Careful with Taxis on the Street.

I never took a taxi from the street. 

I use the Uber and Cabify apps, which are much cheaper and safer. 

Sometimes hotels recommend their taxi, but they are expensive, so if you have the Uber app, use it. Cabify is a Spanish app similar to Uber and is also pretty good – it’s the first time I have used it in Peru.

The ruins of Machu Picchu
The ruins of Machu Picchu

Don’t Underestimate the High Altitude!

Don’t fly straight from Lima to Cusco – inward south slowly to acclimatize. Stay a couple of days in Arequipa, and go on tour to Colca Canyon before going to Cusco for Machu Picchu. They say to drink a lot of coca tea, but that doesn’t work for me.

Being sick by altitude is no joke. I got hit while I was in Chivay – I thought my head would explode. But the best treatment is taking a painkiller and resting. And the next day, I felt much better and continued my trip to Puno before going to Cusco.

How Safe are the Night buses in Peru?

They are pretty safe and sometimes can be tricky. I heard some people went for the cheapest ride, but no comfort onboard. 

Because I’m traveling with Peru Hop from Lima down to Cusco, I only took a public bus once, and that was to Puerto Maldonado. 

The trip was approximately 10 hours with Transzela, while other companies made it in 8 hours. So I choose the slow one, but a comfortable journey with a 180 recliner seat and privacy. 

There are dozens of buses in Peru, from the cheapest to the most expensive ones. 

Nowadays, is no need to go to the bus station. 

You can compare the prices online the same as booking an air ticket. 

But there are so many websites with competitive prices, and sometimes it is challenging to choose which one is trustworthy. 

I booked with |12GO| – they sent the electronic ticket through email. And with that, claim your actual bus ticket at the station – where you see each company has its sales booth inside the station. 

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