Warning: In order to tell you if it is safe to travel to Peru, I’ve compiled lots of information to help you make informed decisions before and during your trip. I don’t want to scare you off from going to Peru. Here you will read about possible danger situations and how to avoid them, but please, bear in mind that for majority of things mentioned here, the chance of it actually happening to you is very small. As one of the travelers explained it: “You have a bigger chance to be robbed in Rome than in Peru.” So, let’s start!I’ve been thinking a lot about Peru lately. I’ve been reading all kinds of articles about Peru’s most famous sightseeing spots, best museums to spend days in, popular restaurants to try local delights and much, much more. I saw many videos and some travel documentaries and read all I could find about traveler’s experiences in Peru.
Things I’ve learned about it ranged from Peru’s rich cultural heritage to its breathtaking sights to how it really is an unforgettable experience. I found out recommended things to do in Peru as well as the most interesting things to do in Lima and soon, Peru was all I talked about.
Striking a Peru conversation with a friend of mine, for the first time I heard something of completely different tone: “Are you crazy to go to Peru? Do you watch the news? It’s all criminals and mafia over there, it’s definitely not the place you should go to.”
I was speechless. To be honest, in the whole craze over visiting a new continent I completely disregarded the safety question and now that it was set upon me I decided to find out is it safe to travel to Peru and share it with you, fellow travelers.
First I will give you a couple of facts about tourism in Peru and say something about general situation in the country and I’ll answer your most important safety questions. In case you are wondering is it safe to go to Peru solo, via organized tour or with your kids, no worries, I got you covered too
Peru & Tourism
Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries in Peru. World Tourism Organization data shows it clearly – since 1995 the number of tourists visiting Peru rapidly grew (the only exception to this rule is 1999) and in 2014 Peru was visited by more than 3 million people. Add to this Peruvian government’s long term plan of making the tourism second largest source of foreign currency in the country and it’s clear it is in their best interests to make Peru safe and welcoming for visitors. Police is located on all touristic destinations and you can see them mostly from early mornings to sunsets. According to Peruvian government report, the overall satisfaction of people after they’ve traveled to Peru is 94 percent.
Everything Peru safety related
First things first: before you get frightened about going there, let me tell you what majority of travelers agree after their adventuring in Peru: As long as you have some common sense regarding your personal safety, it’s same as anywhere else in the world. But let’s examine a little bit more this burning question on how safe it is to travel to Peru.
With high rate of unemployment and many poor people in the country it doesn’t come as a surprise there are issues with theft and pickpocketing. Criminal rates vary and there are some places you should avoid in order to stay out of trouble. Many travelers I approached told me their Peru trips were great and they loved being there, although they agreed you need to think of safety and be careful while there. However, it’s the same way as in any other country you go to. In words of a traveler: “Is it dangerous? Not if you take your normal precautions when travelling around the world.”
When you want to know how safe it is to travel to Peru, you probably think of researching about transportation, health and people so let’s see what it’s all about.
Transportation safety in Peru
As long as you are using officially registered taxi companies, you shouldn’t have any issues. The best way to keep yourself safe is to have taxi called for you from the airport, hotel or wherever you are staying at. Don’t use taxis lined up in front of the airports or bus stations. If they are not registered, you might be charged way more than you should and there were some cases when people got robbed in taxis that worked with local criminal groups. Although this is rarely happening, the safe bet would be simply to avoid these vehicles.
However, in case you don’t have options but to take such taxi make sure you write down the plates information and be sure to ask what they will charge you before they start the ride. Don’t pay before you come to the address you need and have an appropriate change as in most cases they won’t have it and then they will drive you around until they find a place to get the change.
You can find information about registered taxi companies here.
2. Local buses
Peru is known for very bad traffic. Many accidents occur due to high speed driving, rusty vehicles and general lack of attention or driver’s fatigue. In order to avoid this, the best way is to use better bus companies (middle to higher priced ones) than the cheapest ones as they might not be as safe. Also, in case you are going to Peru via organized group tour, make sure you go with some good companies that will take care of this issue and use only good local buses.
It’s recommended to travel by day and take good care of your stuff. Some travelers had bad experiences with stolen things so it’s not uncommon for people to buy an additional ticket and hold their things on the bus next to them. And if you want to check what are the best bus companies to use in Peru, you can do it here. If you speak Spanish, another useful resource for you may be the website of their Ministry of Transportation where they post information about bus companies that have the biggest rate in traffic accidents, you can check that here.
Police checks are pretty regular and sometimes they can cause delays. Always have an ID on you. And since I mentioned the documents, a general safety tip – have copies with you and put the originals on a safe place. Trust me, you don’t want to stress out over lost documents. Also, if you are wondering about other useful things to pack for your Peru trip, you can check out our ultimate Peru packing list post.
3. Car Rental
In general, roads in Peru are in somewhat bad condition and the lack of traffic signs doesn’t come as a surprise. In case you decide to rent a car, always purchase some kind of insurance with it. Don’t drive by night outside of the bigger cities and be particularly careful if driving through the mountains.
4. Local flights
The biggest precaution should be displayed when choosing your Nazca Lines flight. These impressive sights attract many tourists – the main attraction is flying over in a plane as the view is amazing. Some accidents, as well as emergency landings, occurred during past several years mainly due to somewhat loose safety measures.
Takeout: be very careful when choosing a company to take a trip with, make sure they take their security seriously and they don’t have a history of rough landings. One of the resources to do so could be this website.
Good option to diminish any worry about safety is to go on a guided tour. Many Peru tours include visiting and flying over the Nazca Lines and they have the responsibility on finding the safest flights. Some of the best tours are listed in the links, operated by world’s most reliable companies:
5. General safety
Advice to go by is – avoid any kind of political gatherings, demonstrations and marches as they can turn violent very quickly. Protests and strikes are quite common in Peru and they usually occur around elections. In some cases these events can disrupt public transportation, so make sure to check the bus schedules in case something like that starts happening during your stay.
6. Personal belongings’ safety
In general, travelers agree that Peru is a lovely place to visit with welcoming and hospitable people and without major personal safety concerns. However, the main problem is pickpocketing or petty theft. But again, as already said: “You have a bigger chance to be robbed in Rome than in Peru.”
Foreign travelers should avoid tap water despite the fact many locals drink it. It might not be clear all the time and people not adjusted to it can have stomach issues, so the best thing would be not to risk it.
Peru and food, an eternal love affair – I know you want to try all (or almost all) of their delicious, delicious food but some precautions here would be good. The advice goes just as in any other country you travel in the world: be very careful when it comes to street food. Make sure you eat at the places with good hygiene and check if they have reviews from other visitors, you shouldn’t have any troubles. If you’re traveling with a group, ask your tour guide to give you recommendations for safe and good places to eat.
Vaccinations are important thing to have in mind and it would be smart to consult your doctor regarding the best options for you, based on your travel plans. Ideally, you should do it 4 to 6 weeks prior heading to Peru. You can find more information about some specific vaccinations here.
You might be curious about various spiritual cleansing ceremonies usually offered by shamans. General recommendation is – stay away from it. These rituals are not regulated and might not be safe as they mostly include taking substances that can have serious impact on your health.
Another thing to have in mind is altitude sickness. It can manifest on the altitudes greater than 2500m and the symptoms can be overwhelming. It equally affects physically fit people and those who are not that action-ready. In Peru, areas higher than 2500m are Cusco, Machu Picchu, Puno, the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca.
8. Adventure Travel
Peru is a perfect destination to do some adventuring around its splendid landscapes, but being careful along the way is important as well. Some general precaution: always trek in a group and hire a guide with experience (always check the company as well). Make sure you are actually ready for physical demands of the trek so you don’t have issues along the way. When you buy travel insurance take the one that includes medical evacuation and helicopter rescue. Give main information about your trekking route to your friend or a family member and always register when entering national parks. Inform yourself on altitude sickness symptoms and carry some medicine with you so you are ready in case something happens.
Make sure to take care when swimming in jungle lakes and rivers as there can be some dangerous parasites and wildlife. Before swimming, ask locals (or a tour leader if you are going on a guided tour) for advice if you should swim there at all.
Take care when pursuing white-water rafting: again, the main concern is to find the good rafting company that follows strict safety guidelines.
Is it safe to travel to Peru – via organized tour?
Up to this point you’ve read lots of information about general safety issues in Peru and the one take-out for all of these could be: as long as you are very well informed and always look up for advice from officials, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Now, imagine how great would it be simply to go and enjoy your time there while having a person whose job is to make you feel safe, be safe and see the best Peru has to offer? Not bad, right?
Traveling via organized tour means you will get all the information you need prior starting your adventure, you will have a group of like-minded travelers that will become your new awesome friends by the end of the tour, you won’t have to worry about transportation, hotels and food and most of all – for any question you might have, you will have a knowledgeable and experienced tour guide to ask. That’s what I’d call hassle free travel. Tour leader’s job and responsibility is to find the safest options for all activities done on tour so you won’t have to worry about that either.
The only thing you have to do in this case is find a trustworthy tour company and enjoy your Peru time. We are working with some of world’s biggest and best tour companies – you can check out Peru tours they offer here. And of course, for any questions you may have, you can always talk to us about it.
Is it safe to travel to Peru – solo?
First things first, if planning to go solo to Peru, don’t feel paranoid about your safety there. There are some precautions to have in mind and you should be well informed about your travel destinations, but the main point is to enjoy your time exploring.
If you want to travel safely to Peru make sure you follow some guidelines.
Be friendly – if you go on your own, it doesn’t mean you should or want to be alone all the time. Vibrant backpacking scene in Peru means you will meet many people if you option for hostels rather than hotels.
If you’re solo female traveling – prepare yourself for catcalling in the streets. Although men are not aggressive, they will probably direct you many comments as you are walking around.
Some female travelers carry whistleblows in case they need help. This can be very effective as few high-pitched whistles might scare off potential assailants.
In case you are not feeling comfortable and cannot leave the situation without drama, don’t be afraid to make a scene – your safety is the most important.
As already said, be careful when choosing taxis.
Peruvian culture doesn’t suggest any particular dress code for women, but if travelling on your own it’s much better to dress down as it will prevent people trying to attack or rob you (staying of flashy accessories and expensive clothes is certainly a good idea).
No matter what you do or where you go – always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right – walk away. Always have your safety on mind.
Learning Spanish for some basic conversation can be very helpful in many situations, plus you’ll get the opportunity to talk to the locals in their own language which will certainly get you some good points. 😉
Be very careful of so-called bricheros, Peruvian men whose targets are female travelers with whom they forge intimate relationships for some personal gain. They usually play some crazy in love guy as long as the woman is paying for everything, and sometimes they even get that far they get a plain ticket to join the woman on her way back home. In short – just avoid these types of men.
Is it safe to travel to Peru – with children?
General answer: yes it is. However, there are some things you need to be careful of and as in most things Peru related, traveling with a tour company is the easiest, hassle free way to do so.
Bear in mind your kid’s general fitness, as most of the activities Peru is known for require a bit higher level of physical fitness and might not be suitable for very young children – for example Inca Trail.
Vaccinations are another subject you need to take special precautions and check if they need to get some medicine before travel.
Bear in mind that many streets are not stroller-friendly – cobblestones, uneven pavements and many stairs (especially in Cusco), you might want to think carefully whether to take your toddlers with you.
Cool activity to do while there – include your kids in some volunteer work, they will love it! Any activity that gets them in contact with local people will be very rewarding.
In general, when traveling with kids stick to the main tourist centres and cities. Always know where your kids are.
Yucatan, particularly the Tulum or Akumal area are great for kids, the ruins are much easier to explore and in this region you don’t have to worry about vaccines and malaria.
Summary of Main Tips & Tricks for a Perfectly Safe Peru Trip
- Basic knowledge of Spanish will go a long way, think of learning some phrases before your trip.
- Use official taxi vehicles booked by yourself or your hotel.
- When traveling by bus always make sure you are using a good company.
- Don’t take rides from people you don’t know.
- When strangers start talking to you on the street, be careful if they are in a group in case of someone tries to steal your things.
- Try not to carry valuable possessions with you (jewelry, expensive watches, lots of cash etc.).
- If someone tries to rob you, just let them and give them what they ask for, don’t risk being injured.
- Have your passport copy and some extra money in the safe place in case of emergencies.
- Do your best to look as you know where are you going and if you need to look at a map or guide book try to do it in some shop, thieves mostly try to rob off tourists.
- Be careful when using ATMs as well, if possible, always use the ones inside the bank not on the street. If you’re on the street, make sure it’s a safe environment.
- Avoid walking dark streets late at night by yourself.
- Additionally avoid wandering into deserted parks or streets. For example, in Miraflores there is a trail to the beach with footpaths down the cliff. Take them only if in a group because even if it looks deserted, suddenly some people can show up and try to rob you.
- In general, try to stick to the areas where you see other tourists too.
- If traveling around the country, try to travel during the day.
- Bring locks for your bags.
- Make sure you pack your luggage yourself and don’t take things from strangers.
- Taking coca leaves out of the country and into other countries is illegal, just avoid it and stay away from troubles.
- Taking archeological artefacts from the country without proper authority is not allowed.
- Souvenirs made with any animal parts, including condor feathers are illegal to sale. (Often you can find them being sold in tourist markets in Cusco).
Number for general emergency assistance is 105. For all questions and information related with tourism contact iPeru (tel.: (01) 574-8000, email: [email protected]). You can also contact tourist police from anywhere in Peru at 0800-2221. Another way to get in contact with authorities is through 24-hour number operated by the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (INDECOPI). The operators speak English and you can reach them at 08-004-4040. Although they work from 8am to 6pm there is an answering machine available after 6pm. However, their office at Jorge Chávez International Airport works 24/7.
I honestly hope this post didn’t scare you off from going to Peru and enjoying everything it has to offer. I hope you find this post informative and useful enough and it will save you from unnecessary complications on the road.
The final answer to ‘is it safe to travel to Peru’ questions is: Yes, Peru is safe country to travel to. There are some things you should have in mind and you should be informed and careful but that shouldn’t stop you from having great times there. Most of the crime happening here is opportunistic and you should make sure to limit the opportunities. Just like in any other destination around the world, what you need to be a successful traveller is to be open, curious, respectful and flexible. Have patience and stay positive.
p.s. In case you know some things I didn’t write about please share it with us in comments and help your fellow travelers enjoy Peru!