A wide range of accommodations -- including world-class luxury hotels in modern high-rise buildings and 16th-century monasteries, affordable small hotels in colonial houses, rustic rainforest lodges, and inexpensive budget inns -- can be found in Peru. Midrange options have expanded in recent years, but the large majority of accommodations still court budget travelers and backpackers (outside Lima's hosting of international business travelers).
Accommodations go by many names in Peru. Hotel generally refers only to comfortable hotels with a range of services, but hostal (or hostales, plural) is used for a wide variety of smaller hotels, inns, and pensions. (Note that hostal is distinct from the English-language term "hostel.") At the lower end are mostly hospedajes, pensiones, and residenciales. However, these terms are often poor indicators -- if they are indicators at all -- of an establishment's quality or services. Required signs outside reflect these categories: H (hotel), HS (hostal), HR (hotel residencial), and P (pensión). As in most countries, the government's hotel-rating system means that establishments are awarded stars for the presence of certain criteria -- a pool, restaurant, elevator, and so on -- more than for standards of luxury. Thus, it is not always true that the hotel with the most stars is necessarily the most comfortable or elegant. Luxury hotels are rare outside Lima and Cusco; budget accommodations are plentiful across the country, and many of them are quite good for the price. Some represent amazing values at less than $50 a night for a double -- with a dose of local character and breakfast, to boot.
The great majority of hotels in Peru are small and midsize independent inns; few international hotel chains operate in Peru. You'll find a Holiday Inn here and a Marriott, Best Western, or Orient-Express hotel there, but, by and large, the chains you'll come into contact with are Peruvian chains. The most prominent, although they have only a handful of hotels each, are Casa Andina, Sonesta, and Libertador. Casa Andina and Sonesta hotels are comfortable, decorated similarly, and generally good values. Casa Andina also has an upscale line of Private Collection hotels in a few choice spots. The Libertador hotels are elegant four- and five-star establishments, largely in historic buildings.
In-room air-conditioning isn't as common, especially in lower-priced and moderately priced inns and hotels, as it is in many countries. In highland towns, such as Cusco and Puno, that's not usually a problem, as even in warmer months it gets pretty cool at night. In coastal and jungle towns (and at jungle lodges), it gets considerably warmer, though most hotels that don't offer air-conditioning units have ceiling or other fans. If you're concerned about having air-conditioning in your room in a warmer destination, it may be necessary to bump up to a more expensive hotel.
Advance reservations are strongly recommended during high season (June-Oct) and during national holidays and important festivals. This is especially true of hotels in the middle and upper categories in popular places such as Cusco and Machu Picchu. Many hotels quote their rates in U.S. dollars. If you pay in cash, the price will be converted into soles at the going rate. Note that at most budget and many midrange hotels, credit cards are not accepted. Most published rates can be negotiated and travelers can often get greatly reduced rates outside of peak season simply by asking. This is especially true of jungle lodges, where published international prices differ greatly from the rate one might obtain on-site.
Hotel taxes and service charges are an issue that has caused some confusion in recent years. Most upper-level hotels add a 19% general sales tax (IGV) and a 10% service charge to the bill. However, foreigners who can demonstrate they live outside of Peru are not charged the 19% tax (though they are responsible for the 10% service charge). In practice, hotels sometimes either mistakenly or purposely include the IGV on everyone's bill; presentation of a passport is sufficient to have the tax deducted from your tab. Many hotels -- usually those at the midlevel and lower ranges -- simplify matters by including the tax in their rates; at these establishments, you cannot expect to have the tax removed from your charges. At high-end hotels, be sure to review your bill and ask for an explanation of additional taxes and charges. Prices do not include taxes and service charges unless otherwise noted.
Safety is an issue at many hotels, especially at the lower end, and extreme care should be taken with regard to personal belongings left in the hotel. Leaving valuables lying around is asking for trouble. Except for hotels at the lowest levels, all have safety deposit boxes. (Only luxury hotels have room safes.) Place your belongings in a carefully sealed envelope. If you arrive in a town without previously arranged accommodations, you should be at least minimally wary of taxi drivers and others who insist on showing you to a hotel. Occasionally, these will provide excellent tips, but, in general, they will merely be taking you to a place where they are confident they can earn a commission.
A final precaution worth mentioning is the electric heater found on many showerheads. These can be dangerous, and touching them while functioning can prompt an unwelcome electric jolt.