Those who travel to Peru are usually those also stepping foot on the South America continent for the first time since the country serves as an easy gateway to wider adventure.
Peru is a diverse spectrum of landscapes beyond its famed jungle and highlands and the stretch of desert on the west coast. It dazzles with its Colonial architecture, marvels with mystery as people seek out its ancient Inca sites and the pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, and tempts people into its untouched nature from deep canyon to high mountain peak as travellers seek out adrenalin fuel with a view.
Despite being more on the trodden path (with a chance to get off it a little), and because it is one of the cheapest of the 12 countries that make up the continent, travelling to Peru can still seem overwhelming for a first time visitor.
My visit to Peru also marked my first time in South America. I searched high and low to gather all the information I needed to make sure I was capturing the scenic and historical highlights, making the most of my budget and time, as well as staying safe when South America still has a less than desirable reputation in parts.
Here, I’ve pulled everything you need to know as a comprehensive one-stop Peru travel guide, from what to see and how much you spend, to safety and the most responsible, ethical travel choices you can make here.
Onwards, with your Peru adventure!
When is the Best Time to Visit Peru?
Wet vs. Dry Seasons in Peru
The easiest way to determine when is the best time to travel to Peru is by breaking it down into the country’s wet and dry seasons:
- May to October / November is the dry season in Peru
- December to March / April is the rainy season in Peru
- April and November are typically considered the shoulder seasons in Peru, where anything goes as the seasons pass over
- February has been marked as the hottest month in Peru and August as the coldest.
Wet vs. Dry Landscape in Peru
Peru is an adventure holiday capital. Therefore, considering the diverse topography of the country, from desert to jungle, the weather is also dependent on where you are planning to visit Peru and what activities you will be doing. For example, it’s not a good idea to visit the jungle highland and mountain areas to the north, and those around Cusco and the Sacred Valley during the rainy season, where there is a high possibility of trails and pathways even to Machu Picchu being closed. Lima, on the other hand, would be more accessible since it is situated on the desert coastline.
Do you need a Visa for Peru?
As the Tourism website states, Peru is “a country of open doors” and for American and Western European countries, no visa is required for travel.
The citizens of the following countries do not require a Peru visa:
- North America: the United States, Canada and Mexico
- South America: All South American countries
- Central America: All Central American countries except Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua
- Europe: All countries within the European Union (EU) and Switzerland
- Africa: South Africa
- Middle East: Israel
- Asia: Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand
- Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
However, do check your country’s consulate for up-to-date information and any changes before you embark on your Peru holidays.
Tourist entry to Peru is a single entry stamp at the airport or land border that grants you a maximum stay of 183 days. You need a passport valid for at least six months and with at least two free pages. The entry stamp cannot be extended once you are inside the country and any overstay time can be met with a fine.
Travel to Peru from Neighbouring Countries Overland
A Peru trip is surrounded by travel temptation, with borders to Ecuador and Colombia in the north, Bolivia and Brazil in the east and Chile to the South. That makes Peru a perfect starting point for onward travel or the idea country to travel paired with a neighbour.
Entering Peru from neighbouring countries overland requires you to do a little immigration legwork afterwards. Immigration authorities may not allow you to leave Peru without proof of a valid exit stamp from the last country you visited and it is required by law to apply for an entry stamp once you are in Peru. That is if you didn’t get an entry stamp at the land border. You will need to show authorities various documentation of your travel journey.
Ecuador to Peru
Via Huaquillas (the most popular), Macará or La Balsa at Zumba. If you enter Peru overland from Ecuador, you will need to get your passport stamped with a Peruvian entry stamp at the local immigration office to where you are staying.
Bolivia to Peru
If you enter Peru from Bolivia via Copacabana, make sure your passport is stamped with a Peruvian entry stamp at the immigration office in Desaguadero or Copacabana (near Puno which is a known traveller hub).
What is the Best Way to Travel Around Peru?
Use the Peru Hop Bus – The Best Bus Travel in Peru
Furiously researching how I would travel from Lima to Cusco and see everything from the sand dunes, colonial cities and the manmade habitable lake islands in between, I mostly came across stories of dodgy local bus rides and rip-off taxi drivers.
Travel within Peru is no longer difficult. In this research, I came across a great and relatively new bus service in Peru called Peru Hop, who gave me a pass to try out during my two-week journey from Lima to Cusco.
Peru Hop offers a multi-stop Flexi ticket in either direction between Lima and Cusco (and one that also takes you to La Paz, Bolivia), stopping at Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa and Puno in between. More than just a transport service, it acts as a flexible experience where you can tour Peru independently, adapting to your own interests and itinerary. There’s even extra, exclusive stops and Peru tours along the way.
Peru Hop means having one ticket, one easy to use online booking system, maximum flexibility and not having to deal with rogue travel agents or the hassle of local bus stations. You can see the major cities and hotspots easily and safely (everyone who boards the bus has to have a valid seat booking, from which their passport details are logged), be picked up and dropped off at your hostel, and you have the help of an onboard local guide who speaks English and Spanish.
Tickets start from $159 (valid for one year)
Buses in Peru, for easy travel on the southern loop to major sites