Getting ready for a trip to Peru can be challenging. The popular South American country is geographically diverse with everything from sunny beaches to mountainous regions, and even the Amazon rainforest.
I’ve put together this Peru packing guide along with some tips for what NOT to bring.
You’ll also find below some great tips for what to wear in Peru, the most-needed items for your trip, and FAQs to help you plan. Enjoy!
Table of Contents
What to Pack for Peru – 17 Essentials
Universal Waterproof Phone Case
This case has saved me not only money but also a lot of worry and hassle over the years. It protects my phone from water damage, dust and debris, and scratches. It also allows me to continue to use my camera and touchscreen while my phone is in the case. To top it all off, this case costs less than $10! You really can’t go wrong, especially since so many activities in Peru are outdoorsy and active, which makes them potentially risky to your devices.
Peru requires a bit more gear than many other places due to the kinds of activities it offers. When packing, it’s nice to have a system of organization that also acts to compress your items so that they’ll fit neatly into your suitcase without having to struggle to close it. These multi-size, zippered pouches make packing a breeze, and even allow you to switch items from your suitcase to your daybag and back without having to unpack them.
Especially when you’re in a country where climate, altitude, new foods, and risky water can all disrupt your digestion, you’ll want to have a backup plan. Activated charcoal absorbs toxins in your system and helps you get back to normal function so that you don’t have to miss out on prime travel days.
Peru outlets take both US style 2 flat type prongs and two rounded prong styles. If you are coming from the US most of your devices will already work in Peru. If you need to use something that is not dual voltage you will want to use a voltage converter. If you are coming from Europe or a country that does not use US style outlets you will need an adapter.
With any international trip you’ll want to keep your passport close. This pouch will allow you to do just that, and to keep your cash, cards, and ID docs safe and hidden under your shirt. They’ll still be accessible when you need them, you won’t look touristy because the pouch is concealed, and you’ll be able to walk through crowds and use public transportation without worrying about pickpockets stealing your most valuable items.
Peru is not an unsafe country, but there are always risks when traveling internationally. Medical emergencies, urgent and unscheduled trips back home, and thefts are among the more nerve-wracking events that can all be helped with a reliable travel insurance plan. In cases like these and when traveling far from home, the best offense against problems is a good defense.
Toilets are far less well-stocked in Peru than they are in the States, and that’s when you even have a toilet. Bringing travel toilet paper can really add to your comfort, and save you considerable sanitary hassle.
Women, you’ll undoubtedly find many of the bathroom facilities in Peru a challenge. If there’s a toilet, it often won’t have a seat. Add that to the fact that many travelers to Peru end up hiking and camping, and you may wish you had a better solution for when you need to “go”. That’s where this odd but handy device comes in! It makes it much easier for women to use any toilet facilities (or lack thereof).
Your camera will be much-needed in this gorgeous country – there will be a lot to take pictures of. You’ll also be exposed to considerable dampness and moisture from rains and other activities, so it’s important to have a camera with you that can handle the water. This camera is a more affordable option if you don’t want to shell out for a GoPro or a DSLR camera.
Hiking, walking, and exploring will take quite a toll on you if you don’t have the proper footwear. Quality hiking shoes are key, and they should be broken in before you travel with them or you’ll run the risk of painful blisters or foot cramping. These shoes are particularly comfortable right off the bat, and are well-reviewed for their water-resistance, quality, and affordable price.
Altitude, sun exposure, hiking, and sight-seeing will all dehydrate you faster than you’re used to. With Peru’s lack of potable tap water, it’s a good idea to carry drinkable water with you at all times. This water bottle with a built-in filter will allow you the freedom to do so, and will save you a lot of money on bottled water.
Being able to browse the internet while traveling is certainly handy, but can pose security risks when connecting to unfamiliar networks. I’ve personally had my credit card information stolen as a result of connecting to a wifi at my Airbnb, and it’s not a risk I’ll take again. A virtual private network adds an extra layer of security encryption to your data to protect your information. It’s easy to use – activated with the touch of a button on your phone screen – and reasonably priced.
When you’re out and about all day like you probably will be in Peru, it’s best to keep a backup charge for your devices within reach, as you will often be without the ability to recharge your devices otherwise. This small travel charger will hold multiple charges after being “juiced up” at your accommodations so that you can recharge multiple devices on the go with a regular USB cable.
Peru’s rains can come and go quickly, and it’s crucial to be prepared for them, especially if you’re going to be away from your accommodation all day without a change of clothes. This jacket is especially handy because it’s a great windbreaker, it’s quick-drying, and it is light and compact enough to carry with you in your daybag.
In a place with as much to see and experience as Peru, it’s always a good idea to let a professional book guide your decision-making. This book has extensive detail regarding various sights and attractions, as well as tidbits of valuable knowledge you’re unlikely to get elsewhere. It’s light and packable, too, so it won’t add weight or bulk to your suitcase or daybag.
A good daybag will save you a lot of hassle. This light bag is great for hiking and shopping alike, and will give you plenty of room for everything you need to keep with you on a daily basis like your rain jacket or poncho, your water bottle, your guidebook, and your phone if you plan to bring one.
The best advice for how to dress in Peru is to dress in layers. The mornings and evenings can be very cold, but it can get very hot in the afternoons so you need to be able to shed a layer or two as the day heats up. Layers should be easy to carry with you if you’re not planning to stop back at your accommodations during the day to drop off jackets or change, so lightweight and comfortable fabrics are key. Be sure you are always prepared for the rain, as well, especially if hiking. Lightweight long pants and long sleeves will also come in very handy to ward off mosquito bites.
Peru’s cities have some very nice restaurants and a vibrant nightlife that you may feel like dressing up a little bit for. While you don’t need to dress super fancy, it’s worth packing a couple of smart-casual outfits for the evenings and maybe some inexpensive jewelry.
When visiting one of Peru’s many religious sites it is strongly advised that you dress conservatively and cover up shoulders or bare legs if possible. Swimwear should be reserved for the beach and poolside only.
What NOT to take to Peru
1) Expensive Jewellery: As a tourist in Peru you will already stand out. Do not draw even more attention to yourself with expensive jewellery. Flashy goods can make you a target for thieves.
2) Unnecessary Electronics: Although you will still want to keep connected with home, if you carry too many electronics it will make you a target, or at least at risk of damaging your devices. Only take what you need.
3) Lots of Cash: Peru has ATMs. While it’s OK to take a small amount of emergency cash, don’t carry around large sums. Lots of places take credit cards too, so there is really no need to walk around with wads of cash.
4) Sleeping Bag: Hotels and hostels will provide all the bedding you need. Even if you are planning on camping, they will have the equipment. If you find some of the bedding a little old, a simple travel sheet should do the trick.
5) Heavy Books: They take up lots of room and they inevitably get damaged. Apart from the odd travel guide, you should avoid carrying a library in your backpack.
6) Mosquito Net: Although mosquitoes are a problem, in the places that need them, the hotel, hostel or guesthouse should provide them. Nets are simply too bulky to carry around with you.
FAQs for your Peru trip
1) Do People speak English in Peru?
Many people working in hotels or restaurants will speak pretty good English. Most people will know basic words or phrases but many will only speak Spanish. Having a basic grasp of common phrases, numbers, etc. is recommended. Don’t be afraid to try speaking Spanish, locals will appreciate the effort.
2) Do I need to tip?
Most restaurants have an automatic 10% gratuity on the bill, look for the word “propina”. If they do not it is customary to add 10%
if the meal and service were satisfactory. You do not need to tip taxis, but hotel porters will expect a small tip.
3) What is the best way to get around in Peru?
Peru is quite a large country with many of the main attractions spaced out and divided by many natural barriers. If you want to save time, inter-city flights are the fastest way – although not the cheapest.
The bus network is extensive and varies in quality. It’s by far the cheapest way to get around but you do need to pay more for better quality buses. Many of the routes offer overnight buses which can save a day of travel and hotel costs overnight. Theft is a problem on buses in Peru so keep your belongings close.
Some areas are served by train lines. Most visitors use the train system in and around Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley. The trains can be expensive but are the most comfortable way to do the rural scenic journeys.
Within cities, taxis are inexpensive by western standards. The local transport systems differ by cities but the buses are usually busy but cheap and regular. Many cities also have collectivos: shared mini-vans for both long or short journeys. These can be cramped but relatively cheap and faster than buses.
4) Is Peru dangerous?
While most people travel in Peru without incident, thefts and muggings are still an issue. Take precautions with your valuables and do not carry too much cash. Be careful when visiting non-tourist areas of bigger cities, especially after dark. Make sure to read up on the areas before you book a hotel, as some neighborhoods are safer than others. Always do research on local safety and travel concerns before visiting any city.
5) What is the best way to visit Machu Picchu?
If you are fit and have the time, hiking the famous Inca Trail is a popular way to visit Machu Picchu. Tour companies run various multi-day hikes which leave from Cusco and finish at the Incan ruins. You’ll need to be able to complete a challenging hike and feel comfortable camping overnight. You can also get to the nearby town of Aguas Caliente by train with a local bus most of the way up to Machu Picchu – if you want to visit but cannot do the trail, it’s possible to make your way there with limited hiking.
If you are visiting during the busy season, make sure to book everything in advance to avoid disappointment. There are limited spaces on trains and tours, and the local government even limits the daily visitors to Machu Picchu itself.
Yes. Honestly, many tourist attractions can feel like a let-down after so much hype, but Machu Picchu is not one of those. It’s an incredible and fascinating piece of history – a history that we don’t tend to learn much about in school. Just watch out for overpriced tours and try to get the best deal possible if you opt for a guide.
7) Are there any common scams in Peru?
The main “scam” in Peru is simply overcharging. Make sure you have a good idea of what goods and services are worth before you hand your money over. Always agree on a price before accepting a service, such as a taxi ride, or you’ll leave yourself open to service providers charging an arbitrarily high price.
Many of the souvenirs are priced higher and labeled as “handmade” or “artisan”, despite much of them being cheaply mass-produced merchandise. Be wary of overpaying for your trinkets.
8) Can I drink the water in Peru?
For the most part NO. Use bottled water if you do not wish to become ill.
Some nicer hotels will have drinkable water, but otherwise you should stick to bottles, or bring your own water bottle with built-in filter so that you can refill and carry water with you. Be careful with ice and ask wait staff if they get fresh ice delivered or use water frozen from the tap.
9) Do they have ATMs?
All larger cities will have ATMs and most of the rural places will have at least one. However, some small villages or towns will not have any so make sure you do research before you set off. Some guest-houses that accept cards in places without ATMs will let you take cash out on their machines – for a fee.
10) Do I need malaria medication before and/or during my Peru trip?
Most people travel in Peru without taking Malaria medication and have no problems. The side effects of Malaria medication can be discomforting.
If you decide not to take medication make sure to take all sensible precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites. The Amazon Basin and Brazilian border regions have a higher Malaria rate. The risk is yours to opt in or out of, but always consult your doctor before taking any medications.