Stuff to Know Before You Go...
Information on packing, money, health and safety, etc.
Orientation & Program Information Session
Online Orientation: You need to complete your online orientation through the office of international education by Friday April 10. See http://www.uwosh.edu/oie-abroad/abroad/guide/LPERUguide.php#orientation for more information about the online orientation.
In-Person Family Orientation. There is optional in-person Family Orientation for all study abroad programs on Saturday, April 11, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. This is run by the Office of International Education and is a general orientation for all study abroad programs. Family members of study abroad participants are encouraged to attend. Location TBD.
We will have an in-person Math Ed in Peru information session on Saturday April 11 from 1:30- 2:30 pm in Swart 217, following the general study abroad family orientation. At this session, Eric and Jen will give you more specific information about our upcoming trip, and answer any questions you or your family may have as you prepare for the trip.
We will be having class at UWO on Monday May 18 , Tuesday May 19, Wednesday May 20 and Thursday May 21 from 10 am – noon. Location is Swart Hall 127. A readings packet and course syllabus will be given to you at the study abroad orientation in April.
Accommodation during this time period is available on the Oshkosh campus. To make reservations, contact Gruenhagen Conference Center at (920) 424-1106. Be sure to reference "Study Abroad in Peru" when you call.
Information on Peru
This guide contains some information and general recommendations specific to our trip. A great supplemental source for information on where we will be going is the Lonely Planet Peru or the Rough Guide Peru.
One source of information is the Lonely Planet's website. They also have a separate site on Lima. Our tour company in Peru HappyTours-Peru has a nice website. Check out the facts for the visitor section. There's also the Nations On Line page that just contains links to important national and cultural information on countries. Wikipedia is also full of great information.
Peru is about twice the size of Texas and encompasses geography ranging from Pacific coastal desert to the Andean mountain highlands. Peruvians speak Spanish. Peru is bordered on the north by Ecuador and the south by Chile and Bolivia. More the half the country is made up of rainforest, in a region known as the Amazon Basin. Over 26 million people live in Peru, the majority along the stretch of coastal desert between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. Nearly 10 million people live in and around Lima. Peru will have the same time as the central region of the US in the summer. They do not observe day-light savings because they are near the equator; during our summer, they are the same time as us.
See the OIE's webpage for our trip for up to date hotel information.
We will be in Peru during their winter, and to the Peruvians the weather is quite cold, and people will be wearing sweaters and jackets. As we are used to colder weather in Wisconsin, you will likely feel comfortable dressing cooler than the Peruvians. The weather in Peru will vary quite a bit by our location, and vary quite a bit by the time of day. Be prepared to wear layers than you can take on and off throughout the day.
Lima and the Coast: In Lima in May and June, the average daily high ranges from 69 to 72 degrees, and the average daily low temperature is ranges from 57-61 degrees. This time of year, there may be mist and haze, but seldom actual rain. It feels cooler at night, so you will want to make sure you have jacket or sweatshirt with you at night. We will be staying close the Pacific Ocean, and there are some beaches in the city, however we advise against swimming in Lima because of water pollution problems. Also, the ocean water is rather cool in Peru. But during our first weekend trip to Ica, we will stay at a hotel with a nice swimming pool, so bring a swimsuit.
Puerto Maldonado and the Rainforest: Here it will be hot and humid, with highs averaging 85 degrees, and lows averaging 65 degrees. In the rainforest, it (surprise surprise) rains often, although June is the beginning of the "dry" season. Usually the rain is heavy but short, but there can also be prolonged rains, so having a rain poncho or an umbrella will make the hike through the rainforest more comfortable if it rains. Also be prepared for muddy hiking trails. While the hot weather suggests shorts, the mosquitos and undergrowth on the trails suggest long light-weight pants.
Cusco and the Andes Highlands. In the Andes, there will be more temperature variation, with highs between 65 and 80 degrees depending on whether it’s cloudy or sunny during the day. The sun is strong at high altitudes, so on a sunny day, you will feel like shorts and a t-shirt. But at night, the temperature typically dips into the 30's. The altitude (11,200 feet) makes the temperatures seem more extreme. It is common that during the day you'll be comfortable in a t-shirt, but at night you'll want a sweater and jacket. Rain is likely not likely at this time of year, but a windproof jacket will make the trip more pleasant. If you find you didn't bring warm enough clothes for Cusco, you can buy an alpaca or llama sweater there for $15 to $20, which will keep you plenty warm.
What to Pack
Luggage: On our flights you can check 1 bag up to 50 lbs. You are also allowed one carry-on sized bag and one personal item (purse or backpack). Pack light: remember you will want to bring more back from Peru than you will bring there.
Doing Laundry. In Peru, there are drop-off laundromats that tend to be reasonably cheap and will wash and fold your clothes for you to pick up in 24 hours. We will be gone a total of 22 days, so I suggest you plan on doing laundry once, and bring 12 days of underclothes. The right around the midpoint of our trip we will be in Lima, where it will be most convenient to do laundry, and then you will have clean clothes for the rest of the trip when we are traveling around Peru. You can also do small washes as needed in your hotel sink. Bring some laundry soap in a baggy.
Recommended list for clothes:
- up to 12 days of underclothes: socks, underwear, undershirts (Pack 11. You will be wearing your 1st day of underclothes on the plane).
- 2 short-sleave shirts (e.g. polo, button-front shirts, blouses) that you can wear more than once without washing
- 4 long-sleave shirts (e.g. polo, button-front shirts, blouses) that you can wear more than once without washing
- 2 heavier long-sleeved t-shirts or light-weight sweaters
- 2 pairs of light-weight jeans or khakis
- 1 pair of fast-drying pants (like Columbia sportswear)
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 1 swim-suit
- 1 medium weight jacket or polar-tec
- 1 pair of hiking boots
- 1 pair of comfortable walking shoes
Other things to bring with you.
- ATM Card and a back-up credit card. ATM machines are common in Peru: they're fast, easy, and convenient. It’s also a good idea to bring some US cash as a back-up. You can spend US dollars the same as Peruvian cash. Make sure they are small bills (twenties or smaller) that are in excellent condition. (Peruvians will refuse to take worn, torn, or written-on US dollars.) Do not bring traveller's checks. You do not need to have Peruvian money right away, so don't worry about trying to get some before our trip.
- A photocopy of your passport information page , kept separate from your passport.
- WI driver's license as a back-up photo ID. Your UWO student ID card, in case there is a student discount on admissions.
- Travel battery-operated alarm clock or cell phone with an alarm. Our hotels will likely not have clocks. You will need this for getting up for class and when we’re traveling.
- Camera, with back-up memory card and batteries and battery charger.
- You might consider bringing your laptop or tablet, as we expect to have wireless internet access at our dormitory and hotels.
- Comfortable, rugged shoes for hiking and walking. We’ll be doing lots of walking and you’ll want to enjoy it. You walk a lot more when you are travelling than you normally do at home. Waterproof hiking boots will be appreciated in the rain forest. Rugged sandals are also a nice option -- I don't recommend flip-flops. There's lots of stuff in Peru that you wouldn't want to step in. Don't bring new shoes, as this is a recipe for lots of blisters! If you want to buy new shoes for the trip, get them early and start wearing them all the time to break them in before you go.
- Necessary prescription medicines and the chemical names in case you need a refill in Peru.
- Women should bring their own feminine supplies. Tampons are difficult to find in China, and their feminine supplies are generally not of the quality we might expect or prefer.
- Birth control, just in case.
- A wind-proof, rain-proof coat.
- A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. We will be outside in the sun a lot when we are being tourists. At high elevations, the sun's rays at UV rays are much stronger.
- Swim suit.
- Insect repellant for the rainforest. Get the strong stuff and designate one long-sleeve shirt and pants to get sprayed up.
- A small backpack for day trips and bus and airplane rides.
- Kleenex mini-packs as most public bathrooms do not have toilet paper.
- Ear plugs, especially if you’re a light sleeper, for the plane rides and in case your room-mate snores.
- Zip-lock bags for anything you don't want to get wet in the rainforest.
- Band-aids—good for blisters among other things.
- If you like washcloths, bring your own.
- Sufficient contact lens solution if you wear them. The stores we were in didn’t seem to stock any.
- In general, you can buy cheaply in Peru. However, US brand toiletries are difficult to come by and expensive. Bring these things from home.
- Pack light. Pack once and then go through your stuff and take half that amount. Particularly at the end of the trip, when we’re traveling for a week, you’ll be happy to have a small, light suitcase. You might want to bring a foldable duffle bag to get all the things you buy home.
- Don’t bring anything that you’d be heartbroken if it got lost or ruined. It’s inevitable that your suitcase will be thrown, dropped, and bounced a few times. Especially when we’re traveling, a few rugged clothes in colors that don’t show dirt is the best way to go.
- Definitely don’t bring expensive jewelry, watches, or leather coats.
- Bring things to do on the plane and bus rides.
- If you plan to bring and use your phone, make sure you check your plan for foreign usage and international calling costs. Phone cards are pretty cheap in Peru—so that might be a better option. Or look into Skype for free video calling with your friends and family online.
- Some of the hotels will have hairdryers, but we might not be able to rely on this. If you bring a hairdryer from home, you'll need a voltage converter. A cheaper option might be just to wait and buy a hairdryer in Peru.
- Go in with your friends and spit up the things you’re bringing—not everyone needs an entire bottle of sunscreen, insect repellent, etc. Share hairdryers, travel alarms, books, and other entertainment. Buy one guidebook and share it.
When traveling abroad there are two separate issues for electricity: plug style and voltage. Most outlets in Peru uses the same style plugs as the US (flat two-pronged), so you will not need a plug adaptor. However the electricity in Peru is 220 Volts (the US is 110 Volts) so electrical appliances from the US will not work in Peru without a voltage converter. A convenient exception is battery chargers, which are almost always dual voltage. (Check the label: if it says input 110-220 V, then you're OK). So if the only electronic items you are bringing are battery chargers (such as for your camera or computer), then you will not need to bring any adaptors or converters with you.
Peruvian Currency and Getting Money
The Peruvian currency is called the Nuevo Sol, although everyone just it the sol, which is Spanish for sun. The plural is soles (so-lays). There are about 3 soles to the dollar. While Peru does not fix its currency to the US dollar, the exchange rate is very stable and everyone knows what it is. You can spend dollars as easily as soles, and sometimes you can pay with a mix. Coins are used for 1 sol, 2 soles, 5 soles, and for cents called centimos. Peru has bills for 10, 20, 50, and 100 soles.
Peru has some problems with counterfeit currency—usually the 1 sol and the 2 sole coins. It’s possible that someone will refuse a coin (particularly taxi drivers who check the coins with magnets). It’s no big deal—give them a different one and pass the bad coin off at another time. Grocery stores and tips in restaurants are good ways to get rid of the bad coins.
You can pay for just about anything with dollars, since everyone knows the exchange rate. However, for small items like taxis, fruit or soda from vendors, etc. you need to have soles in small denominations. Also, you’ll need small soles and exact change when shopping in the handicrafts markets.
You don't need to change any money before you go. Once we arrive, you can get soles out of the ATM, either at the airport, or the next day in the city. You won't be needing cash right away. If you have a UWO Credit Union account, you can use ATM machines in Peru four times a month with no fee. Find out what your situation is before you leave. Besides ease, another nice thing about ATMs is that you get the market exchange rate.
I do NOT recommend traveler’s checks. These have to be changed at banks in person (and many banks don’t even do this anymore). Peruvian banks are slow, slow, slow, and are not open all that often. This makes exchanging traveler’s checks a real hassle. The banks also charge a fee to do the exchange and you’ll get a poorer exchange rate.
I would recommend bringing some US cash with you, say about $50. It's good to have on hand in case of an emergency. If you plan on spending US cash, bring small bills (ones and fives) that are in excellent condition.
As for credit cards, you can charge some things like dinners in “nice” restaurants or larger stores. In many cases, you’ll get a better deal paying with soles cash, since both the store and the credit card company will assess a fee (sometimes up to 8%). So plan instead of paying cash for things. One good place to use your credit card is at the grocery store—they’re used to it and it’s easy. Often the grocery store has a cafeteria and lots of take-out food including sandwiches, roasted chicken and french fries, pizza, empanadas, desserts, etc.
What to Plan to Spend
In general, Peru is pretty cheap. We've made some arrangements that should help you all save money: breakfasts are included at the hotel, and lunch at the university cafeteria will be very cheap. While at the rainforest lodge, all three meals are provided.
You will be on your own for 17 lunches and dinners. The cost of meals can vary significantly depending on where you eat. American fast food and tourist restaurants tend to be more expensive, but a good dinner at a typical local restaurant can be quite reasonable. Lunch at the university cafeteria will only be $3-4. Large bottles of beer in local restaurants are about $2, and eating out in Peruvian-style restaurants will be $5-$7 for a nice meal, though you can certainly eat more cheaply. If you eat often at upscale restaurants, or eat a lot of American or fast food restaurant, or go out to clubs or bars, you'll want to budget significantly more. If you estimate averaging $5 for lunch and $10 for dinner and you should have plenty of food money in your budget.
In addition, you are responsible for your own taxi money for traveling around in Lima. We'll share taxis and share the costs. Taxi's are much cheaper in Peru, but still we'd recommend budgeting about $20.
You might budget $25-50 for optional tours and entertainment. We will have some free time, not much, but some. When we are staying at the oasis, there is a highly recommended dune buggy tour for $25. You might also want to budget $100- $200 for souveniers and things you might buy. There’s lots of stuff to shop for, so plan carefully.
Generally, tips are not included on restaurant tabs, and most people do NOT tip waiters in the cheaper restaurants. Waitpersons in these restaurants are usually family members of the owner. If you want to tip, something on the order of 5% is acceptable. In the nicer restaurants and tourist restaurants, you may find that a service charge has already been added in to the bill, so look carefully. You should not tip taxi drivers (see the section on taking taxis). You do not need to tip any of our tour guides, as our program has already budget money for tips.
Shopping and Bargaining
Shopping can get addictive in Peru, since there’s so much opportunity to do it. Native woven handicrafts are the most popular and include alpaca and llama sweaters, hats, gloves, pullovers, jackets, blankets, and rugs ($2 to $20, or as high as $100 depending on quality and originality). In addition, Peru is also known for pottery, silver jewelry, and wooden items. The best cheap souvenirs are found in the Indian Market in Miraflores and Cusco. The large market in Cusco is by far the cheapest place I've found to shop and their selection is huge. For “nice” things, the San Blas district of Cusco is probably the best place to shop. They have paintings in the Cusco style, lots of wood carving, lots of alpaca sweaters ($35 to $40 in shops, and they feel like silk), dolls, religious items like nativity sets, as well as pottery and jewelry.
Bargaining is expected in markets. Usually, if you bargain well, you can expect to get about 50% off the asking price for handicrafts. You can also get discounts easier if you buy several items at once. In nice stores selling Peruvian items, you can also ask for a discount for multiple items. So, there’s an advantage to shopping with friends.
Shopping and Bargaining Tips
- Better deals are found in the large Miraflores Indian Market and the main markets in Cusco —we’ll point these out. Competition makes for better prices. If anyone forgets, be sure to ask your tour guide to show you specifically where it is.
- You’re more likely to get a bad deal buying items at a tourist site or in Agua Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu.
- Always bargain. Exchange is bilaterally beneficial. You are not forcing them to sell to you, so if they agree to a price it must also be good for them.
- Bargain cheerfully and nicely; if the price is too high smile and shake your head. Sometimes it helps to show you only have 10 soles (or whatever). This is why keeping small change in your pocket is helpful.
- Go shopping with small change and try to pay as exactly as possible. People are unlikely to have change for large dollar denominations or large soles. They claim they don’t have change to get a better price from you.
- You can bargain even if your Spanish isn’t very good by writing down numbers, hold up fingers, or punching numbers in on a calculator. This is actually very common and everyone is used to it.
- Ask Peruvians to recommend stores or to go with you. Or, ask someone before you go what you should pay for something.
- If you absolutely love and must have it, buy it. There’s no telling if you’ll see another one or what it will cost. I can make you a list of 50 things I wish I would have bought in different countries and didn’t.
- The last rule is not to take anything personally. When it comes down to it, if you feel ripped off, it’s likely only for a couple of dollars (or less!). Not really a big deal to you, and it could be a lot of money to them.
- In regular stores prices are fixed. There’s also a rule of thumb that you cannot bargain for really small items like bananas or water at the fruit carts.
For many people, street vending is a legitimate business—especially with an actual cart and variety of beverages, snacks, and fruits. You’ll also see people selling all sorts of things on and in the road. I find these much more convienent than finding a store with what I want.
However, watch out for people who approach you to try to sell you items, as well as shoe-shine boys and candy girls. Some might try to take you for whatever they can get, and they are very hard to get rid of once you give them money. The street vendors and restaurant hawkers are especially aggressive in Cusco. Your best strategy is a firm “No” and no eye contact. If you seem remotely interested in whatever they have, you could be pestered for blocks.
Food and Water
Never, ever, ever drink the water out of the tap. Drink only bottled water, or water that has been boiled. Even brush your teeth with bottled water. The Peruvians don’t know what’s in the water, and they don’t drink it either. You can buy a liter of bottled water at the grocery store for a couple of soles. Dehydration will ruin your trip, so drink up.
When eating in restaurants you have to use varying degrees of caution, depending on the quality of the establishment. For really cheap non-fast-food restaurants only eat cooked foods, and avoid salads and ice. There’s nothing wrong with these cheap restaurants, just exercise caution. If you’re eating at a fast-food restaurant or a nicer “tourist” restaurant you can feel comfortable eating the fruit and salads and using their ice cubes. Don’t drink soda out of the bottle/can in restaurants. They often keep it cool using ice made from tap water, so the top isn’t clean. Use a glass. Watch out for fruit juice. The juice in the hotels with breakfast is fine. They make it with bottled water. Juice in cheaper local restaurants and on the street should be treated with suspicion.
Also, be careful when eating from street vendors—it can be very cheap and filling, but check out that the stand is frequented by locals, that the cook looks healthy and clean, and that the cooking facilities are clean. If you buy fruit, buy either fruit that you can peel, or wash it carefully with bottled water. The fruit in Peru is very good, so don’t let this scare you off.
Another handy recommendation that I have received—and I think really works—eat a chewable Pepto Bismal after each meal. Apparently they contain something like a mild antibiotic, which kills alot of the stuff that can make you sick.
Vaccinations, Medicine, etc.
The most common illness will be traveller's diarrhea. Usually a couple of doses of pepto will solve the problem, but I recommend you ask your doctor for a prescription for antibiotics to really kill those bugs.
No vaccinations are required by law to enter Peru, however a number are recommended. This is a decision best made by you and your doctor; if your health insurance covers lots of vaccines, load up. They last a long time. In addition, if you’re going to get vaccines, you want to do so soon. Most take several weeks to be really effective.
Everyone should consult with their doctor or someone at the campus health center to determine what vaccinations they should get before going to Peru. Ask your parents and your doctor about your vaccination record to see if you need any updates (like tetanus) and find out if any are covered by insurance.
The information provided here is to help you make the best decision for you and none of it should be taken as definitive.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) This the the site operated by the US government. They have a lot of excellent advice for traveling and staying healthy while traveling. Besides being up-to-date on your usual vaccinations, they also recommend vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.
MDTravelHealth.Com A site for doctors to use in determining what medicine and vaccines are necessary for their patients traveling abroad. They lots of good advice on staying healthy. Beside being up-to-date on your usual vaccinations, they also recommend vaccinations for Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid and Yellow Fever.
Hepatitis A and Typhoid are spread through contaminated food and water. A UWO student got Hepatitis A on a study abroad trip in 2005 and had to miss a whole semester. Drinking only bottled water and eating only in trusted restaurants are good precautions. Getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid might mean you can eat a little more adventurously and with greater peace of mind. Hepatitis B is spread through the blood, so avoid unprotected sex, needles and surgery while in Peru.
Malaria and Yellow fever are spread by mosquitos. While is the risk for both of these diseases is low, we will be traveling in the rainforest areas of Peru where there are lots mosquitos, hence the Yellow Fever vaccination recommendations. There is no vaccination for Malaria, but your doctor may recommend taking a course of malaria medicine. Note that malaria medicine does not actually prevent malaria, it only means that you're being treated in case you get it. Many of the medicines have side effects (some fun, like getting a purple tongue, and some not so fun, like hallucinogenic dreams), so its best to think carefully about whether or not you want to take the drugs.
You should bring your own supply of prescription drugs. However, it’s also handy to have the chemical name, since Peruvian pharmacies allow many more drugs to be purchased over the counter. Also good ideas are bringing some over-the-counter medicine you might need: ibuprofin or tylenol, Imodium, antiseptic cream, band-aids, and cold and allergy medicine. Bring your own birth-control/protection.
Altitude sickness can also be a concern when we are in Cusco. Altitude sickness usually includes things such as a headache, achy muscles, difficulty catching your breath, and in extreme forms fainting and nausea. The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to (a) stay super hydrated, (b) try the local coca tea, (c) avoid alcohol and cigarettes and (d) eat lightly—soups are highly recommended. In addition, just moving around slowly tends to minimize the effects. We plan on taking it easy our first day in Cusco as we get acclimated to the altitude.
Peruvian toilets are nothing to write home about. Most suffer from plumbing problems, except in nice hotels and restaurants. Most Peruvians avoid problems by not placing toilet paper in the toilet—use the small receptacle provided instead. I know this doesn’t seem very sanitary, but they are careful to empty the wastepaper bins everyday, and it is much better than having an overflowing toilet. Public toilets tend to be rare and not very nice. If using them (at bus stations, gas stations, etc.) be brave, bring your own kleenex, and don’t touch anything.
Always carry some form of identification with you. A driver’s license is a good choice. It’s official and has all your information, but is not as big a deal if you lose it as your passport. You'll also want to carry around your student ID. In addition, I know this sounds obvious: always know the name and street address of your hotel. Take the hotel's business card, available from the front desk, it's handy to just show this card to the taxi driver.
Leave your passport and extra money in the hotel. You can leave this with the hotel desk, and they will put them in the safe. Make a photocopy of your passport photo page to carry with out. You will need your passport number to write down on credit card transactions. If you choose to carry your passport with you, do not just put it in your pocket. Buy a "passport pouch" and carry it around your neck or strapped around your waist.
The US State Department and all guidebooks on Peru will include warnings about theft. If you take a few simple precautions becoming a victim of theft is unlikely.
- Don’t make yourself a target—no expensive looking jewelry, keep your camera in your bag, keep an eye on your bag, don’t wave money around, be discrete. There are lots of indiscreet people waving money around, who thieves will prefer.
- Don’t carry lots of money on yourself—minimize potential loss. Similarly, on a day-to-day basis, leave your passport in your hotel room (safely stowed in the hotel safe).
- Women use a travel purse that you keep in front of you; men keep your wallets in your front pocket. Or leave your wallet at home and only carry the money you need for the day in your front pocket. There are also neck pouches and money belts that are good theft deterrents.
- Keep a careful eye on your bag—when at a restaurant or on a bus, keep one strap around your leg, or keep it on your lap. Never put it down on the ground, especially when you’re talking to someone.
- Keep small change for taxis, snacks, and water in your pocket, so it is easy to get the money out without opening up your wallet.
- When in a crowd, keep careful track of your belongings and watch your friends', too.
When you get to Peru keep your eyes open: there’s plenty of folks like my dad who carry their wallet in their back pocket, a giant camera on their stomach, and who put their bag down on the ground. If you’re careful, you’re unlikely to be a target. The thieves have better options.
Stay very, very, very far away from drugs of all kinds in Peru. Don’t even talk to people about drugs. Their eradication program is draconian, as are the prisons. Don’t think they’ll let you off or let you out because you’re an American. Don't expect the US embassy to be any help. The authorities are more likely to want to make an example of you; minimum drug sentences are years in prison. Peruvian prisons are not nice.
Taxis are everywhere in Peru, and are a very common, convenient and cheap method of transportation. However, the taxis are not well-regulated, so there occasionally are reports of people being assaulted or robbed by rogue taxi drivers. Here are some tips on staying safe when taking taxis:
- Don't travel alone by taxi. Always travel in groups, and if possible, always have a guy in each group.
- When traveling at night, ask the hotel or restaurant to arrange for a taxi for you. They will call a trusted taxi company. This usually takes about 5 to 10 minutes and the fare is a little more but still reasonable.
Other Taxi Tips:
- Taxis do not run on meters, so when you first flag down a taxi DO NOT GET IN. Yell into the window where you want to go—first the city or suburb then the place. Next ask the taxi driver CUANTOS or how much? If you Spanish is not very good, use fingers. NEVER get into a taxi until you have both agreed to a fare. If you cannot agree to a price, flag down another taxi—there's always another one coming down the road.
- Taxis will allow you to fit as many as 4 people in. If you’re going for 5, flag down a bigger taxi. They key is confidence and you’ll get a good rate.
- Since the taxis do not run on meters, they all have their own opinions of the fastest routes and shortcuts. If you go to the same place 10 times, you’ll likely take 10 different routes. Relax—believe it or not, they know what they’re doing.
- Do not tip the taxi driver, just pay the fare you have agreed to before you got in. Also, have exact change or nearly exact change for the taxi, as mysteriously, the drivers never have change, or may give you counterfeit change.
- To go to the hotel, show the hotel business card to the taxi driver. However, sometimes a driver might not know our hotel. If they keep shaking their heads, either get another taxi or ask for an easier nearby landmark and walk the couple of blocks from there.
Women are advised against going out at night alone, (though you wouldn’t do that in Oshkosh either). You’ll be safer and more comfortable generally if you always take someone with you when you go out, avoid intoxication, and stay aware of your surroundings. Students on previous trips noticed that guys would come up and try to talk to them in Lima, but found if you just ignored them, they went away. If you don’t like being approached by strangers, take a guy with you.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about dating in Peru; interpret them as the situation warrants it and you see fit. Always use your common sense.
- Peru is an extremely Catholic country, where many forms of birth control are not legal.
- Peruvian men—particularly those with less education—have a certain view of American women, based entirely on US movies.
- Watch out for “Bridgeros.” These are people who immediately become your best friend—after a few days you might realize that you’ve paid for everything. They may also talk about your helping them get to the US.
- The machismo culture is still alive and well in Peru. If you don’t want to be bothered, take a guy with you.
- Peru ranks high on the international prostitution watch list. Be careful who you meet in bars.
Eating and Food
Peruvians eat their main meal during the day—usually at about 2pm—and then have a light dinner. You’ll fare better if you can make the same adjustment. You’ll also save money, since a big lunch is cheaper than a small dinner. During the week, we can eat at the university for $2-3. Just ask directions for the cafeteria or ask the students there to recommend something.
Included meals: We will get breakfast everyday with our hotel. Eat up, have the eggs, and take a piece of fruit to go. A few lunches are included in the trip cost. But, you pretty much get to choose where to eat lunch and dinner everyday. Here's some suggestions.
Eating in Lima
For cheap food, try Bembos (Peru’s version of McDonald’s), the upstairs cafeteria at 24-hour grocery stores, and Chifas—Peruvian-style Chinese restaurants. At the grocery store cafeteria, you can get half a roast chicken, French fries, and a beer for $4-5 to go. They also have a fruit and salad bar and lots of hot items, dessert, and beverages.
Otherwise, look for a clean restaurant with lots of locals in it. A good bet is any roast chicken place—Pollos a la Brasa. Pizza and any ethnic restaurant (except Chinese) will be a little more expensive. Also, pizzas are usually individual sized, unless you’re ordering out Telepizza. If you’re trying to each cheap, avoid American fast-food restaurants. For cheap food, look for restaurants that cater to the locals—they’re often spartan inside and don’t have heat, but the food is good and cheap. Look for fixed menus (el menu del dia) that usually include soup or salad, an entrée with potatoes/rice, a dessert (postre) and a drink (bebida).
When we’re traveling, we will be in tourist areas that have more expensive restaurants. I’ve recommended some cheaper options below, but your best bet is to walk away from the tourist area into the “real” part of the city and pick something that looks good. Of course, you’ll want to get good with Spanish food words, because cheaper restaurants will only have Spanish menus.
Andean food tends to be heavy, with lots of meat and potatoes. This is your big chance to try alpaca or cuy (guinea pig). I like the pizza in Peru, since its usually baked on stones in a wood-burning oven.
Look for the fixed menus in places -- you can get soup, entree with potatoes or rice, dessert, and a drink for 10 or 15 soles ($3 to $5). Usually the meals are quite good!