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8 Mistakes Tourists Make When Traveling to Peru


Peru is rich in the beauty and culture of South America, making it a very popular tourist destination. However, there are some things people should avoid doing when traveling there.  Remember to keep your wits about you and be aware of your surroundings, and Peru can be an amazing place to visit. While in the county, here are a few common mistakes you should try to avoid:

Acting like a tourist

When you are walking the streets of Lima, for instance, keep in mind that the average monthly salary of a resident there is $250 to $350 USD.  Tourists shouldn’t flash large amounts of cash or expensive cameras around.  Doing this will make you a prime target for pickpockets or robbers.   Be wary of locals attempting to stop and ask you questions – answer the question or don’t, but certainly don’t stop walking.  This tactic has been used to surround an individual and take their valuables.

Don’t let this deter you from enjoying yourself, however.  Simply be aware of your surroundingsand keep track of your belongings.  Only carry enough money to get you through the day, and keep it in small amounts in different pockets.  That way, if you do experience an unfortunate pickpocketing, you won’t lose a great deal of money, and it’ll serve as a less painful reminder to you that you need to be aware of your surroundings.  Attempting to learn the language before you head to Peru is a good idea and will make you seem even less of a typical tourist.

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Not getting acclimated to the heights

For visitors heading to Machu Picchu, no matter how in shape they think they are, should get their systems acclimated to the heights before attempting to trek the Inca Trail.  Also, keep in mind that sunscreen is a necessity even more so in higher altitudes.  Remember to dress in layers, too.  While it will get hot and humid during the day, it can turn quite cold once the sun goes down.

If you are planning to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will want to acclimate yourself to the heights in Cusco for a day or two.  Also, avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water, and get in some good sleep while you’re adjusting.  This will help lessen the chances of you getting sick in the high elevations.

Attempting to use credit cards

Tourists should keep in mind that credit cards are not accepted everywhere.  In fact, many places in Peru only accept cash.  Cash should be in US dollars or Peruvian soles.  When you arrive at a tourist destination such as Machu Picchu without cash, you may find you do not have access to an ATM or have any other way to withdraw cash from your bank.

Before you leave for your day’s adventure, take out as much cash as you will need for next 24 hours.   Never use ATMs on the streets in Peru, only those that are in secure buildings or areas where guards are present.

Trying to drive themselves around

Peruvians are known to be crazy drivers.  That can be said for much of South America, but especially of Peru.  While you may arrive at your destination a bit shaken up, you will arrive in one piece.  Attempting to drive in unfamiliar cities on unfamiliar roads is not a good idea in this frenzied environment.  It seems as though the locals know something others don’t in the way of how to get around without causing accidents, so it is best to let those who know what they’re doing do the driving.

Photo by Martin St-Amant

Using tour buses rather than local buses

Tour buses will be more expensive than taking a local bus to an attraction.  Also, they will have a more rigid schedule and often be packed with tourists.  For those looking for a trip that will provide a more local flair, a local bus may be just the thing.  Those who have taken the time to learn the language will enjoy these types of trips much more, and have the ability to experience much more of Peru.

Not using official transportation from the airport

When you arrive at the airport, it may seem completely safe to use any taxi or bus company.  However, some of these transportation companies are less than reputable, and some have been known to overcharge, or worse.  If you want to start your trip off on a positive note, make sure to use an official taxi or bus to get you to your hotel.

Also, there are some things to remember when you’re in your taxi.  Your larger luggage should be in the locked trunk of the car.  This will keep it safe on the road to your destination.  Smaller bags or purses should ride on the floor of the taxi, not on the seat next to you.  Unscrupulous individuals who see tourists as easy targets will often walk by taxis stuck in traffic, reach in, and snag a bag or purse sitting on the seat.

Thinking that the Inca ruins are the only attractions worth seeing

The Incas and their history are a huge draw to most tourists who travel to Peru.  However, the Norte Chico people inhabited what is now Peru over 5,000 years prior to the Incans, and they built longer lasting civilizations.  It is good to keep in mind that there is much more to see and experience in Peru besides the amazing Inca attractions.

Lima is another wonderful tourist destination with awesome museums and great dining opportunities.  There is also the incredibly popular Miraflores district where you can drink beer or wine while looking out over the activity on the beaches.

Not leaving the attitude at home

While not all tourists carry a “don’t care attitude”, it does leave a bad taste in the mouth of many of the locals.  Avoid seeming as though you are looking down on them – the Peruvian people will be very helpful and friendly if you treat them right.   But those with an attitude will find it much more difficult to get along here.  Being a gracious guest in the country will go a long way towards helping you have an excellent vacation. It’s important to at least attempt to speak the language.  Most will not be offended at your misuse of words and such, but rather give you credit for the effort.


If you’re planning a trip to Peru, keep some of these tips in mind. Of course, when traveling anywhere you should take care of the basics, too, such as making sure your passport is in order and your flights are all booked. Learning the language of a country you plan to visit is never a bad idea – if you’re interested in starting from scratch, or just brushing up on your skills, contact us for help. Stay aware of your surroundings, learn from the locals, and enjoy your time in Peru!