Peru – Travel Hacks for the Budget Traveller
Peru for the Budget Traveller | Best Budget Travel Hacks for Peru
I love Peru. And I am sure that you have heard that before. Peru is one of the most popular countries in South America for backpackers. After Brazil and Argentina, it’s the biggest country in South America by land area, and very diverse. If you go to Peru, you will meet all kinds of travelers. People flocking to Machu Pichu, hiking the Inca trail, taking helicopter rides to see the Nazca lines, just chilling in Cuzco, wandering in the Amazon, heading to Lake Titicaca or hitting the pristine beaches in North Peru. You can easily spend months here and not notice how time went by. And, if you plan to visit Peru, a Peru tourist visa is cheap and easy to get. If you are planning to backpack around Peru for a long time, it’s better to learn more about the entry and exit requirements for Peru, and Peru visa extension.
You know what else I love about Peru apart from all these gorgeous places and the mouth-watering food? That it’s not very expensive to travel here. If you plan it well and use the right budget hacks, you can easily travel in Peru for a long time, and save a lot of money.
Learn to love buses | Take Colectivos
While you could fly from one city to another, buses are very popular in Peru for intercity travel. Most of these buses are really comfy and cheap. On some longer journeys that last more than 6 hours, you will be provided a meal and comfortable seat that converts to a bed. Want more? If the bus is overnight, you can save that night’s accommodation. The whole time I was in Peru, I took many long-distance buses and saved money.
Inside the city, you can use colectivos rather than taxis or Uber. The colectivos look like vans. They are mostly white in color. Normally, they cost around 1–2 Soles ($0.30–0.60) for a ride. There is always a guy at the door to guide the people inside and collect the fare once the colectivo is on the road. You can ask him if it’s going to your destination if you are not sure.
Sample the traditional lunch “Menu” | Eat where the locals eat
Peru has some of the tastiest food out there. Be it Ceviche or Arroz con Marizcos ( Rice with seafood) or Causa (Potato Casserole), everything will leave you wanting more. And it’s cheap. Well, it’s cheap when you eat at restaurants that have a traditional set lunch menu that would cost anything from $2–5, depending on where you are. Most of these restaurants are run by a family, and the food they serve is delicious.
For dinner, you can choose to eat at local markets where locals eat. You can get everything starting from soups to noodles at these markets.
Learn and Speak Spanish
I know it’s not easy to just drop by and learn a new language just like that. But if you are gonna spend months backpacking in Peru, try to take a one-week course and learn the basics. The courses are not that costly. Rather than thinking of it as an expenditure, think of it as a small investment to save more. And if you are planning for a week or two, pick up some words. And download a Spanish dictionary or language app on your smartphone.
You would be taken aback how everything will suddenly become cheaper when you start haggling everywhere in Spanish. And if that’s not enough, you might end up making some friends.
Book tours last Minute
This one can sound weird but it happens all the time.
If you want to book a tour for the Inca trail or a city sight-seeing tour, don’t go for the impulse buy. Wait. Show up half an hour before they start, and you could get a tour for a lower price most probably. And this happens everywhere in Peru.
Learn to barter
Probably you come from a developing country where bartering is not the norm. In Peru however, you need to learn to barter. They often tell you a higher price as soon as they realize that you are a foreigner.
No, this is not about being the greatest haggler out there. Bartering here is pretty different from Asian countries. Be it for tours, taxis or markets, you can ask them politely to give you a discount. And to top it off, ask them in Spanish : Un pequeño descuento, por favor.
Avoid Package Tours | Go for DIY tours
Get this. While I was in Cusco, I saw all these pamphlets promoting these day tours to a bunch of tourist attractions like Sacred valley of Inca, Saqsaywaman, Qorikancha and a couple more for $100 (330 soles). This didn’t include the entrance fees to these places. And foreigners (except for those with Andean nationalities) were to pay an entrance fee that would be exponentially higher than the locals. And on top of that, some of these places were the kind I could easily give a miss. So I ended up taking a local bus on my own to a couple of places I liked and saved more than $50.
The same goes for Machu Pichu tours. Big chances are that if you are going to Peru, you went there to do the Inca trail and see Machu Pichu. Some of these Inca trail treks are quite pricey ( a few hundred dollars) and they are sold out months in advance. You can plan your own trek by taking a colectivo from Ollantaytambo to Hidroelectrica, and then hike for a couple of hours to Aguas Calientes, and take a bus to Machu Pichu from there. While coming back, you can plan it similarly depending on your budget.
Visit local markets
Peru has markets that are specifically geared towards tourists. These places are better organized. The shops look pretty, and most shopkeepers would speak a bit of English, if not fluent. There would be all these souvenirs. And you guessed it- the stuff you would buy from there would be on the costlier side.
What you can do is to visit a local market. Every city has got one of them. Most of these markets would be housed in a gigantic building with a couple of floors or more. Sort of like shopping malls. They would be selling all kinds of things starting from fresh produce to fish, meat, pullovers. And they would always have these small restaurants where you could have dinner.
Stick to these markets for most of your needs and you will end up saving a lot of money easily.
The truth is Peru is relatively cheaper than some of its neighbors like Chile, Argentina and Brazil. If you use these budget travel hacks, you can have a great time without burning a hole in your pocket.
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Deb is a writer and traveler who loves to travel slow and spend time with the locals. He runs an initiative on visas at The Visa Project with a mission to have updated and first-hand information on different visas.