Addresses -- "Jr." doesn't mean "junior"; it is a designation meaning jirón, or street, just as "Av." (sometimes "Avda.") is an abbreviation for avenida, or avenue. "Ctra." is the abbreviation for carretera, or highway; "Cdra." means cuadra, or block; and "Of." is used to designate office (oficina) number. Perhaps the most confusing element in Peruvian street addresses is "s/n," which frequently appears in place of a number after the name of the street; "s/n" means sin número, or no number. The house or building with such an address simply is unnumbered. At other times, a building number may appear hyphenated, such as "102-105," meaning that the building in question simply contains both address numbers (though usually only one main entrance).
Area Codes -- Note that even though many area codes across Peru were changed back in 2003, you many find that many published telephone numbers may still contain old area codes. The area codes for the regions covered in this guide are: Lima, 01; Ica, Nasca, and Pisco, 056; Cusco and the Sacred Valley, 084; Puerto Maldonado, 082; Puno/Lake Titicaca, 051; Arequipa, 054; Huaraz, 043; Trujillo, 044; Cajamarca, 076; Chiclayo, 074; and Iquitos, 065.
Business Hours -- Most stores are open from 9 or 10am to 12:30pm, and from 3 to 5 or 8pm. Banks are generally open Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 4pm, although some stay open until 6pm. In major cities, most banks are also open Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm. Offices are open from 8:30am to 12:30pm and 3 to 6pm, although many operate continuously from 9am to 5pm. Government offices are open Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm and 3 to 5pm. Nightclubs in large cities often don't get going until after midnight, and many stay open until dawn.
Electricity -- All outlets are 220 volts, 60 cycles AC (except in Arequipa, which operates on 50 cycles), with two-prong outlets that accept both flat and round prongs. Some large hotels also have 110-volt outlets.
Embassies & Consulates -- The following are all in Lima: United States, Avenida La Encalada, Block 17, Surco (tel. 01/618-2000); Australia, Victor A. Belaúnde 147/Vía Principal 155, Bldg. 3, Of. 1301, San Isidro (tel. 01/222-8281); Canada, Calle Bolognesi 228, Miraflores (tel. 01/319-3200); and United Kingdom and New Zealand, Av. Jose Larco 1301, 22nd Floor, Miraflores (tel. 01/617-3000).
The U.S. consulate agent in Cusco is located at Av. Pardo 845 (CoresES@state.gov; tel. 084/231-474). It is open daily from 9am to noon and 3 to 5pm.
Guides -- Officially licensed guides are available on-site at many archaeological sites and other places of interest to foreigners. They can be contracted directly, although you should verify their ability to speak English if you do not comprehend Spanish well. Establish a price beforehand. Many cities are battling a scourge of unlicensed and unscrupulous guides who provide inferior services or, worse, cheat visitors. As a general rule, do not accept unsolicited offers to arrange excursions, transportation, or hotel accommodations.
Language -- Spanish is the official language of Peru. The languages Quechua (also given official status) and Aymara are spoken primarily in rural areas of the highlands. (Aymara is mostly limited to the area around Lake Titicaca.) English is not widely spoken but is understood by those affiliated with the tourist industry in major cities and tourist destinations. Most people you meet on the street will have only a very rudimentary understanding of English, if that. Learning a few key phrases of Spanish will help immensely.
Legal Aid: If you need legal assistance, your best bets are your embassy (which, depending on the situation, might not be able to help you much) and the Tourist Protection Service (tel. 0800/4-2579 toll-free, or 01/574-8000 24-hr.), which might be able to direct you to an English-speaking attorney or legal assistance organization.
Note that bribing a police officer or public official is illegal in Peru, even if it is a relatively constant feature of traffic stops and the like. If a police officer claims to be an undercover cop, do not automatically assume that he is telling the truth. Do not get in any vehicle with such a person. Demand the assistance of your embassy or consulate, or of the Tourist Protection Service.
Your first move for any serious matter should be to contact your consulate or embassy (see “Embassies & Consulates,” earlier in this section). They can advise you of your rights and will usually provide a list of local attorneys (for which you’ll have to pay if services are used), but they cannot interfere on your behalf in the English legal process. For questions about American citizens who are arrested abroad, including ways of getting money to them, telephone the Citizens Emergency Center of the Office of Special Consulate Services in Washington, D.C. (tel. 202/501-4444).
Mail -- Peru's postal service is reasonably efficient, especially now that it is managed by a private company (Serpost S.A.). Post offices are open Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm; some are also open Sunday from 9am to 1pm. Major cities have a main post office and often several smaller branch offices. Letters and postcards to North America or Europe take between 10 days and 2 weeks, and cost from S/7 to S/8 for postcards, S/9 to S/10 for letters. If you are purchasing large quantities of textiles and other handicrafts, you can send packages home from post offices, but it is not inexpensive—more than $100 for 10kg (22 lb.), similar to what it costs to use DHL, where you’re likely to have an easier time communicating. UPS is found in several cities, but for inexplicable reasons, its courier services cost nearly three times as much as those of DHL.
Newspapers & Magazines -- In Lima, you will find copies (although rarely same-day publications) of the International Herald Tribune, the Miami Herald, and the odd European newspaper, as well as Time, Newsweek, and other special-interest publications. All might be at least several days old. Top-flight hotels sometimes offer free daily fax summations of the New York Times to their guests. Otherwise, your best source for timely news is likely to be checking in with news outlet websites. Outside Lima, international newspapers and magazines are hard to come by. Among local publications, look for Rumbos, a glossy Peruvian travel magazine in English and Spanish with excellent photography. If you read Spanish, El Comercio and La República are two of the best daily newspapers.
Packing -- Outside of a few high-end restaurants and clubs in Lima, Peru is overwhelmingly casual. You should probably be more concerned about packing the proper outdoor gear than the best duds to go out and be seen in. If traveling in rainy season, you’ll want to be extra prepared for deluges in the highlands.
Taxes -- A general sales tax (IGV) is added automatically to most consumer bills (19%). In some upmarket hotels or restaurants, service charges of 10% are often added. Foreigners who can demonstrate that they do not reside in Peru (generally all you need to do is show your passport) are exempt from having to pay the IGV tax at hotels. Some unscrupulous smaller hotels occasionally try to dupe guests into believing that they have to pay this 19% tax; this is flatly untrue.
Time -- Peru is 5 hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Peru does not observe daylight saving time.
Tipping -- Whether and how much to tip is not without controversy. Visitors from the U.S. in particular tend to be more generous than locals and European visitors. Most people leave about a 10% tip for waitstaff in restaurants. In nicer restaurants that add a 10% service charge, many patrons tip an additional 5 or 10% (because little, if any, of that service charge will ever make it to the waiter’s pocket). Taxi drivers are not usually tipped unless they provide additional service. Bilingual tour guides on group tours should be tipped ($1–$2 per person for a short visit, and $5 or more per person for a full day). If you have a private guide, tip about $10 to $20.
Toilets -- Public lavatories (baños públicos) are rarely available except in railway stations, restaurants, and theaters. Many Peruvian men choose to urinate in public, against a wall in full view, especially late at night; it's not recommended that you emulate them. Use the bathroom of a bar, cafe, or restaurant; if it feels uncomfortable to dart in and out, have a coffee at the bar. Public restrooms are labeled WC (water closet), DAMAS (Ladies), and CABALLEROS or HOMBRES (Men). Toilet paper is not always provided, and when it is, most establishments request that patrons throw it in the wastebasket rather than the toilet, to avoid clogging.
Water -- Visitors should drink only bottled water, which is widely available. Do not drink tap water, even in major hotels. Try to avoid drinks with ice. Agua con gas is carbonated; agua sin gas is still water.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.