Perú – the overestimated tourist hype?

Thru end of August to October 2022, we visited Perú for about 6 weeks.

Here some practical information about our overlanding journey. For more ample details and pics please refer to our respective posts.

Kindly note all information given is based on our personal perceptions and observations. Of course, you might experience it in a different way and judge situations differently.

To Start With – a Word of Warning:

  • Surely, the very 1st thing you realize when entering Perú is their very special waste disposal system. It seems to be strictly forbidden to collect waste and to dispose it the way we’re normally used to. In Perú you hire a moto-taxi, fill it with waste, and tell the driver to get rid of it. The guy drives out of town in search of space for his waste. Often not an easy task. The roadsides are sometimes solidly filled for km with all the waste a town produces. True, it’s pretty strange that such systems still exist today. Especially, in the coastal desert where all this waste will remain for decades, only the wind may blow off the colorful plastic bags deep into the desert.
  • Don’t even think about nice cities in Perú. Of course, a few towns like Cusco, or Chachapoyas have nice colonial centers. But never look at their outskirts. You’ll just discover the very worst 3rd world architecture has to offer.
  • We suppose there must be a law prohibiting Peruvies to drive a car without leaving their brain outside the car. While in most other countries drivers minimize stress, Peruvies just head for its maximum.
  • Probably no longer valid, but still interesting to know: Perú introduced some of the strictest Corona measures in South America. And they were lasting forever. Somehow, we have the impression they had the proof that all coronies sneak over the borders to infect poor Peruvies – thus they closed them for an eternity. Further, they probably follow the theory, that coronies preferably sneak around in the fresh air. So, priority is given to wearing masks outside. E.g. when walking alone somewhere in the countryside. A specialty is the use of 2 masks – 1 over the other 1. Of course, the poor guys have trouble breathing with 2 masks if wearing them correctly. But don’t be afraid of it: It seems to be forbidden to cover your nose if wearing a double mask. Whatever, every country has a slightly different appreciation of effectively fighting these coronies.
  • Be aware that the pandemic destroyed a lot of the tourism infrastructure in places less visited. You won’t feel much of it in major tourist hotspots such as Cusco or Valle Sagrado. Off the Gringo and the US-Citizen Package-Tour-Trail there are many places where next to no sleepery survived the pandemic, museums, and other sites closed down, etc. And don’t think these places update anything on internet. Often even not on booking platforms.

But now, let’s come to the positive side of the Peruvian world:

Are There Bad Girls Helping You to Get Rid of All Your Useless Stuff?

Yes, there are. Some parts of Lima are notorious for them. Of course, pickpocketing is a problem in tourist hotspots, like Cusco. No wonder – you see all these innocent, ignorant US citizens sneaking around with their expensive cameras without any idea of what is going on.

Otherwise, it’s normally no problem if you take minimum care of your belongings and avoid shuffling fully drunk in spooky areas of towns at 3 am.

A bit different for cars: never have your vehicle sleeping outside in the street. Even in small cities avoid that. Even if all locals confirm that there’s absolutely no danger. There might always be someone interested in giving your car an intense cleaning.

Please take note that Sendero Luminoso activists are part of Peruvian history. Nowadays, you won’t have any chance to participate in any of their brainwashing sessions to introduce you to Maoism in its purest form.

Red Type – Peruvies Even Ask for Your Passport to Enter the Country

Entering the country by a land border is pretty simple.

It looks like you only need to fill in a Declaracion Jurada de Salud on internet if you arrive by air. People crossing overland don’t seem to arrive with coronies in their luggage. Anyway, it’s a pretty simple form, you just have to swear that your grandma never had Covid – and that’s it. 

At the border you go to the immigration, give the guy your passport and receive a stamp. You’ll get 90 days. Nothing else.

Could be that you should prove your different Covid vaxxes.

You Even Want Your Car to Be with You in Perú

Definitely, your vehicle needs an import permit. You give the guy at customs your car papers and your passport. With that, he generates a wonderful piece of paper confirming to everybody concerned or not that you’re entitled to drive your car in Perú for 3 months. Takes about 10’. If you need more time, just renew it after having received an extension from immigration.

Of course, your car needs insurance. At most borders, it’s easily available. At others not. No worry, they let you drive to the next agent selling it. They just recommend you to effectively get 1 – to avoid frequent socializing with nasty police girls. Just the problem may be that these small agencies cannot issue insurance by themselves, but have to enquire to their head office 1st. That may take some time, sometimes even a few days. So better check with iOverlander before entering Perú about the situation and the possibilities to arrange everything on time. We contacted an agency in Jaen in advance, they prepared everything for us. Once there, it was just a matter of 1/2h – and we had the insurance. 

Don’t let your rig overstay the period given by customs. It might become pretty expensive for you. They may even confiscate your beloved car. Still, it’s a possibility to legally get rid of your vehicle, should you no longer need it.

Leaving the country with your car is easy as well. Just give them the TIP, they will do some admin stuff on their computer, and stamp the document. Hence, your car has left Perú. Maybe take a pic of the stamped paper – just in case.

Who the Hell Needs Money in Perú?

The answer is simple: everybody.

And please take note paying with US$ is impossible outside the worst tourist hotspots. Even for US citizens ignoring all currencies other than their greenback.

Thus, you need some Soles – true they call their money sun.

Best you have your credit card with a bank not charging any fee if using any ATM worldwide. Even better if you find as well a bank in Perú dispersing Soles without any charge. There are 2:

BCP and Multired of Banco de la Nacion.. Their ATMs don’t disperse huge amounts. But you can withdraw several times with the same card. Should you have a 2nd card you’ll definitely get enough money out of these machines for a couple of beers.

In most sleeperies and watering holes, you can pay without any surcharges with your credit card. So pretty straightforward’n’easy.

Sometimes You Want to Order Scrambled Eggs for Breakfast – how to tell them?

Easy, if you learn enough Spanish to communicate. Outside the tourist hotspots and the hostel bubbles, you won’t find many people speaking any other language than Spanish and/or Kechua. Of course, you may use Google Translator. Remains the question if the nice lady serving you breakfast is also used to communicate by app. Of course, some people also find their way by moving from 1 misunderstanding to the other. Nevertheless, it may not be the easiest way to communicate.

Probably You Want to Drive Your Car in the Country – Peruvian Roads and Drivers

Main roads are pretty good. Paved, with a few potholes – normally not too bad. Along the coast, there’s the highway. In very good condition, count of an average of more than 80km/h. On other roads 50km/h.

Gravel roads are pretty good as well. Mostly not too corrugated, no big stones. Don’t be too afraid of them.

On most roads, you pay a modest toll. Looks like the charge more the better the road is.

If driving in Perú don’t miss the many really spectacular roads they have. Mainly crossing the Cordillera are going up to nearly 5000m. Among others, the road going eastwards from Carhuaz to cross the Cordillera Blanca, or the 1 from Pisco to Ayacucho and on to Cusco. Roads less traveled, but spectacular.

Then there are these roads for vertigo-addicted girls. Probably the most 1 famous between Chachapoya and Celedin in the country’s northern part. Probably you haven’t experienced Perú without driving it.

Ok, that’s the positive part of this chapter. Now, let’s speak about Peruvian drivers.

Just to be clear: Normally, Peruvies are smart’n’nice guys. That’s something you experience everywhere. There’s just 1 exception: Peruvians driving a car. They immediately convert into a kind of monster, doing whatever nobody should do in a car, getting ruthless whenever possible, and trying to put you and your car constantly in danger, whenever there’s an opportunity to drive a little faster. Yeah, it seems to be a way of life, maybe a way to handle frustrations, maybe an attitude to make life more interesting for Peruvies. For you, it’s just a pain in the ass.

Still, you have to be aware of that. Otherwise, your beloved car may look slightly bumpy after a few days in Perú.

But, don’t worry, we’ve driven quite some km in this country. Without any accident, without any major issue with another driver. Just by driving carefully.

You’re Tired of South America, But Your Car Still Wants to Stay a Little Longer

If you intend to leave the country for a longer period than mentioned in the TIP you can suspend it. In Peru it’s a pretty lengthy process, people report of about a week for suspension and another week to get the new TIP after returning. You’ll have to do it together with the guy where you park the car as he will sign responsible for the vehicle until you’ll have a new TIP. Lengthy, but feasible. Quite a lot of people have done it. Check iOverlander for a reliable long-term parking in Perú and fb groups for the procedure. We didn’t leave the country without the car.

Should you return within the validity of the current TIP just find safe parking and make sure you’ll return within the required period.

You Need to Tell Your Mum That You’ve Not Been Kidnapped by Revolutionary Sendero Luminoso Liberation Fighters?

Of course, you have to call her. If she just receives a mail, she will be convinced it was written by 1 of these Sendero Luminoso girls.

If you’re a rich girl use the SIM card from home. Even for internet. Should you have other plans on how to spend all your money, buy a local card. It’s easy, cheap, and reliable. We got a prepaid card of moviestar. They have good coverage and fast internet. You need your passport to register it with an official agency. You’ll get 7GB for a month at a pretty reasonable price – offers change constantly.

Over-Tourism in Perú

A little bit of a sad story. Perú is the most visited country in South America. Especially, backpackies and US package tourists seem to like it. Maybe you think 2 pretty different groups with very different requirements and interests. Unfortunately, that’s not really the case. Both groups behave in a pretty similar way. This leads to over-tourism in certain areas, whilst others are rarely, or never visited.

Backpackies mainly follow the Gringo -Trail and the main attractions as mentioned in Lonely Planet. So, most of them concentrate on places like Lima, Huaraz, Ica/Nasca, Arequipa, Cusco, and Puno. They use those hotspots to book tours. To even distant sights. Often following recommendations in Lonely Planet, fb groups, or tour agencies.

Of course, package tourists do more or less the same. They’re in the same central towns and make tours of the same sights. Just, instead in the hostel bubble, they remain in the package group bubble.

Of course, the result of this kind of tourism is, that a few hotspots suffer from severe over-tourism with all its negative consequences. On the other side, most other places in Perú rarely see a foreign visitor – of course, also with certain negative consequences. As local tourism in Peru is not yet very developed, these latter places are often cut off and have no chance to develop their potential. A consequence is that even in famous places like the villages in the Valle Sagrado many hostels had to close down because even most backpackies stay now in Cusco and visit the area with tours.

To make it worse, as a consequence of the pandemic and the eternal lockdowns in Peru a lot of tourist infrastructure in places less visited has simply disappeared. Hence, just a few places for local businesswomen survived. Finally leading to more concentration in a few hotspots.

Well, the agencies organizing the tours are happy. And the backpackies are happy because they still think these tours are grassroot organizations showing them the real life of the innocent locals. Even if they are part of a super organized industry.

Save Water – Drink Beer

Of course, this rule also applies to Perú.

It’s pretty easy: Cusceña is the beer to head for. We think Cusceña Trigo is the best 1 they produce – a kind of wheat beer. But, the others are also ok. In Cusco and Huaraz you definitely want to go for artisanal brews: Perfect IPA’s and Ales – true a little bit more expensive, but still reasonably priced. Ask for Sierra Andina in Huaraz, and for brews of the Cervezeria del Valle Sagrado in Cusco. Surely there are others elsewhere we’ve ignored by accident.

If you think beer is not enough vegan for you, you may try Inca Cola. It’s sold everywhere, even in very big bottles. It’s a bright yellow soda loved by all Peruvies. And it tastes like liquified plastic mixed with diesel. It’s produced by Coca Cola, thus presumably ok to drink.

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