Prepare by reading. The Guardian published a short list on the best books on Peru (mostly fiction, which can be found here). It goes without saying, but fiction is a great way to develop an appreciation for cultural differences — and can help develop conversation points with locals. If fiction does not pique your interest, consider some of the following alternatives:
- The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics by Orin Starn. The text offers a look at the history and complexity of the country.
- The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru by Ruth M. Wright. Recommended for anyone who wants to know a bit more about Machu Picchu.
- The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara. Che’s lively/entertaining travel diary.
Don’t drink the water. Local tap water is not safe for drinking, according to the U.S. Dept of State Travel. The contamination can cause diarrheal illness, which can be medically serious but also an inconvenience because:
Toilets are different in Peru. Sometimes the toilets do not have toilet paper, sometimes they do not have toilet seats. Get in the early habit of carrying toilet paper with you when traveling — but also keep in mind that most of the plumbing/toilet drains cannot handle the impact of said toilet paper. Use the bucket.
U.S. Department of State Travel. It is recommended by the US Department of State Travel to receive an entry stamp from Peruvian immigration authorities when entering the country; it is vital because travelers without an entry stamp will not be allowed to exit! Find more info on Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements (via the US Department of State Travel) here.
Driving in Lima can be stressful as there are reckless drivers abound, however you can find a privately-owned taxi to drive you around the city. Luckily the public transportation is very good offering busses, an electric metro system and microbuses named micros. Tourists and visitors (or new dwellers) are encouraged to learn local law and driving customs before driving in the area. If you’re interested in shipping your car (or motorcycle a la Che Guevara) to the country (to avoid the taxis or to travel farther distances alone), find all the documents required here.
A few other notes/comments/concerns:
Carry cash. There’s no better time than now to break your codependence with Mastercard/Visa.
Try the Pisco. An elixir made from distilled grapes. Take it sour and shaken.
Take a map. Look east, find the Andes Mountains. Look a little further east, find the Amazon rainforest.
Visit Cusco. And Machu Picchu.
Don’t eat fish at night. Curb your love for ceviche past early afternoon; the fish is not as fresh and more than likely overpriced.