According to expats, Peru is exciting, vibrant and adventurous to live in. Peru can provide all the challenges, the excitement and the life that one could want, and at a cost of living, most of us from elsewhere can manage. Peru has quickly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The diverse country boats ancient ruins, beautiful colonial architecture, stunning landscapes and, of course, Machu Picchu. If you’re one of the million of tourists coming to Peru each year, there are some things you should know from an expat perspective, so you can have a safe, happy, and successful trip.
While the main tourist locations in Peru will most likely have staff who speak English, don’t expect that to be the case everywhere. Learn some Spanish phrases before you come to Peru, because you will definitely need them. Do at least try to fumble your way through with some Spanish, rather than demanding that everyone speak your language, it will be appreciated.
If you’re at, say, a little corner store and want service, you have to demand it. The same goes if you’re at a restaurant; you’ll most likely have to get the waiter’s attention, otherwise you’ll be waiting all night. Don’t be shy; just tell them what you want.
Lines are almost non-existent unless you’re in a bank. Don’t be surprised if you’re in what you think is a line, and a Peruvian walks right past you to the front. It can be frustrating, but just remember, you can do it too!
Never think a Peruvian will be on time, because if you do, you’ll be let down. Peruvians view time differently, so that date you had planned for 7 p.m. may not show up until 8 or 9 p.m., but don’t worry, it’s nothing personal, it’s just the way they do things here.
Peru is known for its spicy ceviche and rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), but don’t expect everything else to be like that. Even in the case of the ceviche, if you don’t ask for it to be spicy, it won’t be. Most of the time they’ll err on the side of bland when serving a foreign visitor, so if you like spicy food, make sure to let them know that’s how you’d like it. You can often find some kind of chili on the table if you want to add a kick
In Peru, they mostly serve beer in large bottles that are meant to be shared with other people. While you can certainly consume one of those all by yourself, it’s always nice to drink a beer with a friend. Whenever there is a family fiesta in the Andean region the crates will arrive before the guests with “620s” or “margueritos” (half litre and 1 litre, approx.). You can find single small beers at expensive restaurants or big supermarkets, but they’re often more expensive than the larger bottles. Best to buy a big bottle and make some friends!
Peruvians use the word “ya” for just about every conceivable thing. OK, are you ready? already, did you? The word is often used in the same way as “yeah” is used in English. Don’t be afraid to use it and get your “ya´s” out in Peru!
Peruvians don’t take talk about their neighbouring Chile lightly. The two countries that share a border and a healthy competitive attitude to each other, and while you’re in Peru, remember, Peru does it better. If you want to make some friends, tell them that “pisco es Peruano” and Peruvian ceviche is better than Chilean….it will take you far!
Peruvians will always ask if you are married or have children, even if they only just met you. Don’t be offended if you get in a taxi and the driver asks you whether or not you’re married; how may children you have, where is your husband, its almost like the British talking about the weather!
Not so much so that you might be robbed, but because having big bills on you, such as 100 soles, is just as good as having no money on you at all! You’ll only be able to break them at a restaurant or a big grocery store; no one else will accept them and will be reluctant to search for change either.
A lot of people make the mistake of getting all their shopping done while in Cusco or the Sacred Valley, lugging their Andean prints around with them for the rest of their trip around Peru. You can purchase the bigger handicrafts in Lima who bring authentic handicrafts from all over the country in the massive markets or even think about shipping them back home to save on over-weight baggage on your flight home.
Coca is widely used throughout the Andean region of Peru, and has been since the Incas. It was used during Inca ceremonies and is still used today to fight off altitude sickness and hunger. It also tastes pretty good in teas, and is a perfect remedy for the cold temperatures and high altitudes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
This is the unofficial national drink of Peru and is consumed everywhere by everyone. While the taste isn’t that bad (it tastes like bubble gum and cream soda) don’t tell your Peruvian friend that.
You’ll find the signs in every bathroom reminding you not to throw toilet paper into the toilets. It clogs them up and the sewage systems can’t handle it. You will find a small receptacle at the side of you to throw paper and any sanitary products there.
If you have to do any paperwork, expect to wait in line and be passed to a number of different people before you are dealt with. Peru has very bureaucratic systems to deal with matters, especially official ones, which can be time consuming. A relaxed attitude goes a long way!
Often you will go to a store, have to choose your item, go to the cash register and then go back to receive your item. This is due to only one person being responsible for the cash. This generally happens in pharmacies, some bigger stores and even in restaurants.