What makes Peru a unique country to travel to?
Peru is a developing country with an expanding tourism sector. A wide variety of tourist facilities and services are available, with quality varying according to price and location.
Approximately 350,000 trips are made by U.S. citizens through Peru each year. A small but growing number of U.S. travelers have been victims of serious crimes. The information below is intended to raise awareness of the potential for crime and suggest measures visitors can take to avoid becoming a victim.
Violent Crime: Violent crime, including carjacking, assault, sexual assault, and armed robbery is common in Lima and other large cities. The Embassy is aware of reports of women being sexually assaulted in their place of lodging, or after their drinks were drugged while visiting bars or nightclubs. Women travelling alone should be especially careful to avoid situations in which they are vulnerable due to impaired judgment or isolation. Resistance to attempted robberies often provokes greater violence, while victims who do not resist usually do not suffer serious physical harm. "Express kidnappings," in which criminals kidnap victims and seek to obtain funds from their bank accounts via automatic teller machines, occur frequently.
In the recent past, there have been a number of cases of armed robbery, rape, other sexual assault, and attempted rape of U.S. citizens and other foreign tourists in Arequipa and in Cuscocity, as well as in the outlying areas in the vicinity of various Incan ruins. These assaults have occurred both during daylight hours and at night.
Taxis and Road Crime: Passengers who hail taxis on the street have been assaulted and robbed. Street taxis are not well regulated and are often used as a front by criminals to rob unsuspecting victims. The Embassy’s Regional Security Officer recommends that all Embassy personnel use telephone-dispatched radio taxis or car services associated with major hotels and not hail taxis on the street.
In the city of Arequipa, express kidnappings have become such a problem that all U.S. government personnel are prohibited from hailing taxis off the street. U.S. government personnel there must utilize cabs from well-established dispatch taxi companies. The Embassy’s Regional Security Officer recommends that all U.S. citizens visiting Arequipa also use dispatch taxi companies.
Some crimes in the city of Cuscoand in Arequipa have involved the drivers of rogue (or unregistered) taxis. Travelers should use only licensed, registered taxis such as those available from taxi stands in Cuscodisplaying a blue decal issued by the municipal government on the windshield of the vehicle. Visitors should not accept offers of transportation or guide services from individuals seeking clients on the streets. In recent years there have been several reports of U.S. citizens falling victim to so-called “express kidnappings” in Arequipa after taking taxis hailed on the street. On occasion, the victim was bound, beaten, and held for over 24 hours as the assailants attempted to empty cash from bank accounts with the victim’s stolen ATM card.
Theft: Travelers should guard against the theft of luggage and other belongings, particularly U.S. passports, at the Lima airport. Passengers arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport should be cautious in making arrangements for ground transportation. Upon exiting the airport, travelers may be approached by persons seeming to know them, or who claim that a pre-arranged taxi has been sent to take them to their hotel. Some travelers have been charged exorbitant rates or been taken to marginal hotels in unsafe parts of town. Travelers who are not being met by a known party or by a reputable travel agent or hotel shuttle are advised to arrange for a taxi inside the airport. At least two taxi companies maintain counters inside the international arrival area (between immigration clearance and baggage claim). An additional two companies have agents at the information kiosk just before the exit from the passenger arrival area.
Travelers should not leave any valuables in sight or unattended in parked vehicles as these become inviting targets for thieves. Visitors should also ensure they secure purses and other personal belongings when in cafés and restaurants as street criminals are adept at surreptitiously removing items of value from purses or clothing slung over chairs.
Street Crime: Thieves often smash car windows at traffic lights to grab jewelry, purses, backpacks, or other visible items from a car. This type of assault is very common on main roads leading to and from Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport, specifically along De la Marina and Faucett Avenues and Via de Evitamiento, but it can occur anywhere in congested traffic, particularly in downtown Lima. Travelers are encouraged to put all belongings, including purses, in the trunk of a car or taxi.
The threat of street crime is greatest in areas that attract large crowds, particularly crowds of tourists or wealthy Peruvians. A crowd allows a thief (or thieves, since petty thieves often operate in a group) the opportunity to select and approach the potential victim without attracting attention. Visitors should be especially careful when visiting tourist areas in Lima such as the Plaza de Armas (Government Square), the Plaza San Martin, Acho Bullring, Pachacamac, and any location in downtown Lima. Additionally, visitors to municipal markets as well as the Gamarra textile district of La Victoria should be extremely cautious. Street crime is also prevalent in cities in Peru's interior, including Cusco, Arequipa, Puno, and Juliaca. U.S. citizens traveling alone or in unescorted groups are more vulnerable to street crime.
Visitors are advised to keep cash and identification in their front pockets and to limit their cash on hand and unnecessary credit cards. Replacing items such as credit cards, U.S. driver’s licenses, and other identification while in Peru can be difficult and time-consuming. Handbags should not be carried, but if they are, they should be tucked into the crook of an arm or, if carrying a bag with a shoulder strap, do not allow the bag to hang freely, but keep a hand over the clasp. It is generally recommended that all jewelry be removed prior to going to a market or other crowded areas.
Visitors are advised not to carry their U.S. passports if they are not needed. If the police request identification, a copy of the passport is acceptable. A copy of the data page, the page with the Peruvian visa, and a copy of the page with the Peruvian entry stamp should be carried.
Tourists should be particularly cautious when visiting the Sacsayhuaman ruins outside Cusco. They should not travel alone, but ratherin as large a group as possible. Visitors should also avoid these areas at dawn, dusk, or nighttime, since roving gangs are known to frequent these areas and prey on unsuspecting tourists. There have also been reports of tourists hiking near the ruins of Choquequirao being robbed by armed men who may be affiliated with politically motivated terrorist groups. U.S. citizen backpackers have also been victims of armed robbery while hiking on trails other than the Inca Trail.
Crime also occurs on roads, particularly at night and outside urban areas. Clandestine, impromptu roadblocks can appear on even major highways, where bus and automobile passengers are robbed. The risk is even greater on rural roads after dark. In addition, numerous U.S. citizens have reported the theft of passports, cameras, and other valuables on overnight bus rides, by thieves who take advantage of sleeping passengers or their stowed luggage in the cargo area underneath when opened during scheduled stops for passengers to disembark or enter the bus.
Fraud: Counterfeit U.S. currency is a growing and serious problem in Peru. In many areas of Lima, moneychangers openly change money on the street. These individuals should be avoided as they are a conduit for counterfeit currency, and in many cases, work togetherwith pickpockets by pointing out potential victims. In addition, these individuals have frequently been the victims of violent robberies in which bystanders have been injured. There have also been several reported incidents of counterfeit currency being paid out as winnings by casinos, though the Embassy has not received reports of this happening at larger, well-known casinos.
Incidents of credit card fraud are on the rise, particularly the electronic “skimming” of credit card data. Travelers should keep their credit cards within their sight while making transactions.
Don't buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may also be breaking local law.
One increasingly common extortion technique is known as the “grandparent scam.” It involves calls placed by persons alleging to be attorneys, local law enforcement or U.S. government employees claiming that a person’s relative—nearly always a grandchild—has been in a car accident (or other ruse) in Peru and has been arrested/detained. Often the caller will put another person on the line purporting to be the grandchild, who claims he doesn’t sound like himself because he has a cold or has been crying. The caller asks for a large sum of money to be sent by Western Union to ensure the subject’s release and admonishes the relative not to speak to any other family members. If you receive a call like this, BEFORE YOU SEND ANY MONEY, contact family members to confirm the actual whereabouts of the supposedly detained grandchild. If it turns out he or she might actually have traveled to Peru, contact the State Department's Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 or the U.S. Embassy in Lima for assistance.
While you are traveling in Peru, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have a copy of your passport with you. In some places, it is illegal to take pictures of certain buildings. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in Peru, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not wherever you go.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Peru, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Medical care is generally good in Lima and usually adequate in other major cities, but it is less so elsewhere in Peru. Urban private health care facilities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural ones. Public hospital facilities in Cusco, the prime tourist destination, are generally inadequate to handle serious medical conditions. Although some private hospital facilities in Cuscomay be able to treat acute medical problems, in general the seriously ill traveler should return to Lima for further care as soon as is medically feasible.
Visitors to high-altitude Andean destinations such as Cusco(11,000 feet), Machu Picchu (8,000 feet), or Lake Titicaca (13,000 feet) should discuss the trip with their personal physician prior to departing the United States. Travel to high altitudes could pose a serious risk of illness, hospitalization, and even death, particularly if the traveler has a medical condition that affects blood circulation or breathing. Several U.S. citizens have died in Peru from medical conditions exacerbated by altitude. Tourists or business visitors, particularly those who suffer from cardiac-related problems or high blood pressure, who wish to travel to high-altitude areas in Peru should undergo a medical examination before traveling. New arrivals, even healthy and fit persons, will feel symptoms of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) at high-altitude, and most will need time to adjust to the altitude. Most people will have increased respiration and heart rate. Many will have headaches, difficulty sleeping, lack of appetite, minor gastric and intestinal upsets, and mood changes. To help prevent these complications, consult your personal physician, avoid alcohol and smoking for at least one week after arrival at high altitudes, and limit physical activity for the first 36 to 48 hours after arrival at high altitudes.
In jungle areas east of the Andes mountain range (cordillera), chloroquine-resistant malaria is a serious problem. Cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, dengue fever, and other exotic and contagious diseases are also present. Yellow fever is endemic in certain areas of Peru; in general, those areas are located on the eastern side of the cordillera and at lower elevations in jungle areas. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Peruvian government recommend that travelers to Peru receive a yellow fever vaccination and carry documentation of the vaccination with them on their trip. Diarrhea caused by contaminated food or water is very common in Peru and is potentially serious. If suffering from persistent symptoms, seek medical attention. Local tap water in Peru is not considered potable. Only bottled or treated (disinfected) water should be used for drinking. Fruits and vegetables should be washed and/or disinfected with care, and meats and fish should be thoroughly cooked. Eggs, meat, unpasteurized cheese, and seafood are common sources of the bacteria that can cause travelers' diarrhea, and they should be properly prepared or avoided.
Philanthropic groups and individuals planning to enter Peru with medical supplies in quantities greater than for personal use are strongly advised to consult with a Peruvian consulate in the United States prior to arrival in Peru. Medical, dental and other kinds of charitable donations are subject to confiscation by Peruvian authorities for failure to comply with Peruvian regulations. Medical teams, non-profit organizationsor visitors to Peru who plan to donate medical supplies, medicines or other similar items may wish to review Peruvian regulations governing such donations (Spanish only) or contact Agencia Peruana de Cooperacion Internacional (APCI) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 51-1-319-3632 before proceeding. The U.S. Embassy cannot accept such items by mail, assist in evading customs requirements, or provide a broker to secure their release if they are held.
Safety and Security
The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) terrorist group remains active in Peru and has previously expressed an intention to target U.S. interests. Sporadic incidents of Shining Path violence, mainly against Peruvian security services, have occurred in the recent past in rural provinces within the Regions of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, Huánuco, and Junín. Incidents have included attacks by large, heavily armed groups of Shining Path on Peruvian army and police patrols in remote areas, as well as kidnappings of Peruvian and foreign workers. Local community self-defense groups (“rondas campesinas”) may operate legally in some rural areas with minimal police presence; visitors are encouraged to cooperate with the rondas’ directions. Mining prospectors, adventure travelers, and others considering travel to remote areas of Peru are strongly advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Lima for current security information.
Night-time road travel between towns or cities is generally prohibited for all U.S. Embassy employees due to the risk of robbery and unsafe road conditions. The only exception is nighttime travel on the Pan-Americana Highway. U.S. Embassy employees are permitted to travel at night on the Pan-Americana Highway south from Lima to Paracas or north from Lima to Huacho.
The U.S. Embassy restricts travel of U.S. government employees in Emergency Zones designated by the Government of Peru (where certain rights are restricted and the military may be in charge of providing security) and areas where terrorist groups or narcotics traffickers are known to operate or have recently resorted to violent actions. Overland travel in or near these areas, particularly at night, is risky. The Embassy also strongly recommends that, when traveling in areas near the Emergency Zones, U.S. citizens heighten their security awareness and implement additional security measures. The following list contains the current restricted zones:
Apurimac: Restricted: Provinces of Andahuaylas and Chincheros.
Permitted: Everywhere else.
Ayacucho: Restricted: Provinces of Huanta, and La Mar. Road travel from Ayacucho to San Francisco.
Permitted: Daylight road travel from Ayacucho City to the city of Huanta. Staying within the city limits of Huanta. Daylight road travel from Pisco to Ayacucho City.
Cusco: Restricted: The province of La Convención. The districts of Kimbiri, Pichari, Vilcabamba, and the Echarate.
Permitted: Everywhere else, including Machu Picchu area and the city of Cusco.
Huancavelica: Restricted: Provinces of Pampas, Churcampa, Acobamba and Tayacaja. In the province of Concepcion, travel east of the cities of San Antonio de Ocopa and Santa Rosa (located northeast of Concepcion city). Travel to Huancavelica City.
Permitted: Daylight road travel from Pisco to Ayacucho City.Train travel from Lima to Huancayo. Daylight road travel from Lima to Huancayo.
Huánuco: Restricted: All zones; ground travel is permitted only with Deputy Chief of Mission authorization.
Permitted: Flying into and staying within the city limits of Huánuco and Tingo María.
Junín: Restricted: Provinces of Satipo and Concepción east of the Rio Mantaro. The District of Santo Domingo de Acobamba in the Province of Huancayo.
Permitted: Daylight road travel from La Merced to Satipo.
Loreto: Restricted: 20-kilometer swath of territory contiguous to the Colombian border. Travel on the Putumayo River.
Permitted: Everywhere else.
San Martín: Restricted: Provinces of Tocache, Mariscal Caceres, Huallaga, and Bellavista. Ground travel is permitted only with Deputy Chief of Mission authorization.
Permitted: Flying only into and remaining within the city limits of Tocache, Saposoa, Juanjui, and Bellavista.
Ucayali: Restricted: Provinces of Padre Abad and Coronel Portillo west of Pucallpa City and west of Ucayali River. Road travel from Pucallpa to Aguaytia and all cities west of Aguaytia.
Permitted: Flying into and remaining within the city limits of Pucallpa and Aguaytía. The province of Coronel Portillo east of the Ucayali River.
A number of assaults on rivers in the Amazon jungle have been reported in recent years. River pirates continue to operate on tributaries of the Amazon. Inca Trail hikers are significantly safer if they are part of a guided group trail hike.
Political demonstrations and labor-related strikes and marches regularly occur in urban and some rural areas. They can also cause serious disruptions to road, air, and rail transportation. Demonstrations are often—but not always—announced in advance. While these activities are usually peaceful, they can escalate into violent confrontations. As a general rule, it is best to avoid large crowds and demonstrations. Visitors are encouraged to keep informed by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides.
The Peruvian government is working to remove mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the 1995 Peru/Ecuador border conflict, but crossing or approaching the Peru-Ecuador border anywhere except at official checkpoints can still be hazardous. The entire Peru/Colombia border area is very dangerous because of narcotics trafficking and the occasional incursions of armed guerrilla forces from Colombia into Peru’s remote areas. Although there are no mines on the Peruvian side of the Peru/Chile border, seasonal heavy rains occasionally wash unmarked and unexploded mines across the border from Chile into Peru.
The U.S. Embassy in Lima has put tours over the Nazca Lines in Nazca, Peru, off-limits to its direct-hire personnel if the flights originate out of Nazca’s Maria Reiche Airport, due to potential safety hazards of small commercial aircraft based at that airport.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Peru, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Peru is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving conditions in Peru are very different from those found in the United States and can be considerably more dangerous. Visitors are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with local law and driving customs before attempting to operate vehicles. Road travel at night is extremely dangerous due to poor road markings and frequent unmarked road hazards. Drivers should not travel alone on rural roads, even in daylight. Convoy travel is preferable. Spare tires, parts, and fuel are needed when traveling in remote areas, where distances between service areas are great. Fog is common on coastal and mountain highways, and the resulting poor visibility frequently causes accidents. Inter-city bus travel is dangerous. Armed robbers, who force passengers off buses and steal their belongings, sometimes hold up inter-city buses at night. Bus accidents resulting in multiple deaths and injuries are common, and they are frequently attributed to excessive speed, poor bus maintenance, and driver fatigue. Because of these safety concerns, the U.S. Peace Corps in Peru restricts Peace Corps volunteers’ use of overnight inter-city buses and requires Peace Corps volunteers who make inter-city bus trips to use certain bus lines with good safety records. Current approved lines are Cruz del Sur, Linea, Movil Tours, CIAL, OLTURSA, Ormeño, TEPSA, and ITTSA. The Peruvian Ministry of Transportation also publishes a list in Spanish of theintercity bus companies with the highest rates of traffic accidents resulting in fatalitiesand serious injuries. For further information, travelers may contact their nearest automobile club, or (for information in Spanish) the Associacion Automotriz del Peru, 299 Avenida Dos de Mayo, San Isidro, Lima 27, Peru, telephone 51-1-440-0495.