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.
Drug & Liquor Laws -- Until recently, Peru was the world's largest producer of coca leaves, the base product that is mostly shipped to Colombia for processing into cocaine. Cocaine and other illegal substances are perhaps not as ubiquitous in Peru as some might think, although in Lima and Cusco, they are commonly offered to foreigners. (This is especially dangerous; many would-be dealers also operate as police informants, and some are said to be undercover narcotics officers themselves.) Penalties for the possession and use of or trafficking in illegal drugs in Peru are strict; convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and substantial fines. Peruvian police routinely detain drug smugglers at Lima's international airport and land-border crossings. Since 1995, more than 40 U.S. citizens have been convicted of narcotics trafficking in Peru. If you are arrested on drug charges, you will face protracted pretrial detention in poor prison conditions.
Coca leaves, either chewed or brewed for tea, are not illegal in Peru, where they're not considered a narcotic. The use of coca leaves is an ancient tradition dating back to pre-Columbian civilizations in Peru. You might very well find that mate de coca (coca-leaf tea) is very helpful in battling altitude sickness. However, if you attempt to take coca leaves back to your home country from Peru, you should expect them to be confiscated, and you could even find yourself prosecuted.
The hallucinogenic plants consumed in ayahuasca ceremonies are legal in Peru.
A legal drinking age is not strictly enforced in Peru. Anyone over the age of 16 is unlikely to have any problems ordering liquor in any bar or other establishment. Wine, beer, and alcohol are widely available -- sold daily at grocery stores, liquor stores, and in all cafes, bars, and restaurants -- and consumed widely, especially in public during festivals. There appears to be very little taboo associated with public inebriation at festivals.
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. 01/434-3000); 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); United Kingdom and New Zealand, Av. Jose Larco 1301, 22nd Floor, Miraflores (tel. 01/617-3000).
The U.S. consulate is located at Av. Pardo 845 (tel. 084/231-474; CoresES@state.gov). The honorary U.K. consulate is at Manu Expeditions, Urbanización Magisterial, G-5 Segunda Etap (tel. 084/239-974; email@example.com). Both are open daily from 9am to noon and 3 to 5pm.
Emergencies -- In case of an emergency, call the 24-hour traveler's hot line at tel. 01/574-8000, or the tourist police (POLTUR; tel. 01/460-1060 in Lima, or 01/460-0965;). The general police emergency number is tel. 105. The Tourist Protection Service can also assist in contacting police to report a crime; call tel. 01/224-7888 in Lima, or 0800/4-2579 toll-free from any private phone (the toll-free number cannot be dialed from a public pay phone).
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.
Insurance -- For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancelation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling please visit www.frommers.com/planning.
Language -- Spanish is the official language of Peru. The Amerindian languages Quechua (recently given official status) and Aymara are spoken primarily in 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.
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 take between 10 days and 2 weeks, and cost S/5.50 for postcards, S/7.20 for letters; to Europe either runs S/7.80. 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.
Police -- Peru has special tourist police forces (Policía Nacional de Turismo) with offices and personnel in all major tourist destinations, including Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno, as well as a dozen other cities. You are more likely to get a satisfactory response, not to mention someone who speaks at least some English, from the tourist police rather than from the regular national police (PNP). The number for the tourist police in Lima is tel. 01/225-8698 or 01/225-8699. Tourist police officers are distinguished by their white shirts.
Safety -- Peru has not earned a great reputation for safety among travelers, although the situation is improving. Simple theft and pickpocketing remain fairly common; assaults and robbery are rare. Most thieves look for moments when travelers, laden with bags and struggling with maps, are distracted.
Although most visitors travel freely throughout Peru without incident, warnings must be heeded. In downtown Lima and the city's residential and hotel areas, the risk of street crime remains high. Carjackings, assaults, and armed robberies are not unheard of; occasional armed attacks at ATMs occur. However, in most heavily touristed places in Peru, a heightened police presence is noticeable. Use ATMs during the day, with other people present.
Street crime is prevalent in Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno, and pickpockets are known to patrol public markets. In Cusco, "strangle" muggings (in which victims are choked unconscious and then relieved of all belongings) were reported in years past, particularly on streets leading off the Plaza de Armas, the San Blas neighborhood, and near the train station. This form of violent assault seems to have subsided, but you should still not walk alone late at night on deserted streets.
In major cities, taxis hailed on the street can lead to assaults. (I highly recommend using telephone-dispatched radio taxis, especially at night.) Ask your hotel or restaurant to call a cab, or call one from the list of recommended taxi companies in the individual city sections.
Travelers should exercise extreme caution on public city transportation, where pickpockets are rife, and on long-distance buses and trains (especially at night), where thieves employ any number of strategies to relieve passengers of their bags. You need to be supremely vigilant, even to the extreme of locking backpacks and suitcases to luggage racks. Be extremely careful in all train and bus stations.
In general, do not wear expensive jewelry; keep expensive camera equipment out of view as much as possible; use a money belt worn inside your pants or shirt to safeguard cash, credit cards, and passport. Wear your daypack on your chest rather than your back when walking in crowded areas. The time to be most careful is when you have most of your belongings on your person -- such as when you're in transit from airport or train or bus station to your hotel. At airports, it's best to spend a little more for official airport taxis; if in doubt, request the driver's official ID. Don't venture beyond airport grounds for a street taxi. Have your hotel call a taxi for your trip to the airport or bus station.
Large-scale terrorist activities of the local insurgency groups Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) -- which together waged a 2-decade guerrilla war against the Peruvian state, killing more than 30,000 people -- were effectively stamped out in the early 1990s. However, in recent years there have been growing concerns about a possible resurgence of those groups (especially after a car bomb outside the U.S. embassy in Lima in 2002). In December 2005, a state of emergency was declared in six central Amazon provinces after Shining Path guerrillas killed eight policemen in the remote Huanaco region -- upping the total to 19 police and military officers assassinated in 2005 and again raising the specter of renewed violence across Peru. Though it remains a situation worth watching, to date the most populous (and traveled) regions of the country have not been affected, and neither group is currently active in any of the areas covered in this guide.
Smoking -- Smoking is common in Peru, and it is rare to find a hotel, restaurant, or bar with nonsmoking rooms. However, there are now a few hotels (usually high-end) and restaurants with designated nonsmoking rooms, and the trend is growing, albeit slowly. There are nonsmoking cars on trains, and most long-distance buses are also nonsmoking.
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. At all airports, passengers must pay a departure tax: $31 for international flights, and $6 for domestic flights, payable in cash only (either U.S. dollars or Peruvian nuevos soles).
Time -- Peru is 5 hours behind GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Peru does not observe daylight saving time.
Tipping -- Most people leave about a 10% tip for the 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.