Peru Demographics

What is the population of Peru?

Population 31,914,989
Population Growth Rate 1%
Urban Population 77.3%
Population in Major Urban Areas LIMA (capital) 9.13 million; Arequipa 804,000
Nationality Noun Peruvian(s)
Nationality Adjective Peruvian
Ethnic Groups Amerindian 45%, mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 37%, white 15%, black, Japanese, Chinese, and other 3%
Languages Spoken Spanish (official) 84.1%, Quechua (official) 13%, Aymara (official) 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages) 0.7%, other 0.2%

Peru Learning

What is school like in Peru?


Peruvian schools are very careful to teach the importance of knowing the national identity as a Peruvian. In connection with that strong feeling of nationalism, the school uniform is a sort of military cadet-looking uniform.

Elementary schools are found throughout the country. Peruvians feel very strongly that younger children must get an education in order to improve their life situation. However, secondary schools are much less available. The educational ministry simply does not have enough resources to build all the secondary schools that are needed, and many children drop out of school after elementary in order to work.

Most schools will have a plaza or courtyard where the students gather at the beginning of the day. On the positive side, the government has done a very good job of building schools; however, they have not done well at maintaining them. Therefore, many schools and the teaching resources in them are in poor condition.

In rural areas, school buildings are often simple and poorly equipped. Students might sit around sawed-off tree stumps instead of at desks, and often only the teacher will have a book—no students. The poorest families cannot afford to give their children notebooks and pencils, and computers cannot even be thought of. Fortunately, for these children, the school tries to often provide a simple breakfast, which they would otherwise not have.

Interestingly, sometimes when temperatures in parts of Peru become unseasonably cold, school schedules will move to later in the day in order to avoid early morning cold hours.

Education Culture

Like much of Latin America, education has been on the rise for several decades. The adult literacy rate has risen from approximately 40 percent in 1940 to over 90 percent in 2005. 

Public education is free and required for children between the ages of 6 and 16. However, many rural children stop attending after elementary school because of too few schools and too great a need to work to support their families. The dropout rate nationally after elementary school is nearly 50 percent. Also, although Peru does a fairly good job of getting their children into the schools, the teachers there are not as successful at teaching the children. In 2000, Peru entered a 43-country education test—and came out at the bottom, lower than any other Latin American country by a significant amount. Since then, the educational leaders of the country are slowly trying to improve the quality of schooling in Peru. They still have a long way to go, however, to catch up to the rest of Latin America.

Besides the public school system, there are a number of private schools, primarily in the larger cities. However, these are often too expensive for most families.

Several decades ago, nearly 40% of all Peruvians spoke only a Native American language. Frequently, Spanish speakers were better educated and received better-paying jobs. Others were looked down on. As a result, people in rural and largely native areas looked to schools as a way of learning Spanish and avoiding prejudice. Perhaps because of this, an important part of each school’s mission is to teach nationalism and a common national identity, in addition to standard subjects taught throughout the world.

Well-educated people are viewed highly in today’s society, and people are often addressed by their advanced degrees (Doctor So-and-So, Engineer So-and-So, Profesora So-and-So).

The school year in Peru, as in many Latin American countries, runs from April through December, with no school being held during the hotter summer months.


Children are required to attend elementary school for six years (ages 6-11), followed by five years of attendance in secondary school (ages 12-16). Classes are usually taught in Spanish, although that depends to some extent on where the school is. In some areas with high populations of native peoples, their local language is also taught in school. These tend to be in rural areas removed from cities and larger towns. 

There are five major subjects taught in Peruvian schools: communication (writing, speaking, etc.), math, social studies, science, and religion. Until recently, the Roman Catholic church was the official religion of Peru; it no longer has that status, but it is viewed as being very influential nevertheless. If non-Catholics want their children to be taught in their own religion, they must provide their own teachers for doing so.

There are three national languages in Peru—Spanish (spoken by 70 percent of the people), Quecha (one of the main languages of Native Americans in the country), and Aymara (another Native American language). English is also learned and spoken in much of Peru. The biggest source of revenue in Peru is tourism, so being able to speak English is valued as a way to make money.

Because of poorly trained teachers, large class sizes, and inadequate teaching resources, the quality of education in Peru tends to be lower than what is available in most other Latin American countries.

To School

School generally begins at 8:00 in the morning and is done at around 2:00 in the afternoon. Kids will usually walk or ride a public transportation bus to school, depending on how far from the school they live. Parents who can afford to do so might either drive their children to school, organize carpools, or participate with others in the community in hiring a private transportation company to take their children to and from school for a monthly fee.

In most rural areas, native Indian children may walk as far as two or three hours in mountainous areas in order to get to school, which means they must leave home before 6:00 a.m. In these cases, where possible the children will stay with a family who lives closer to the school during the week, and return home on the weekends. However, school is important to improving living circumstances, so parents try to do whatever they can to ensure that their children get to school somehow.

Peru Health Information

What are the health conditions in Peru?

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate - female 15-49 68.9%
Death Rate - deaths/1,000 population 5.97
Drinking Water Source - percent of rural population improved 71.6%
Drinking Water Source - percent of total population unimproved 13.2%
Drinking Water Source - percent of urban population improved 91.2%
Food or Waterborne Disease (s) bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
Health Expenditures - percent of GDP 4.8%
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 0.4%
HIV/Aids Deaths 4,100
Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population 1.5
Infant Mortality Rate - female deaths/1,000 live births 18.49
Infant Mortality Rate - male deaths/1,000 live births 23.1
Infant Mortality Rate - total deaths/1,000 live births 20.85
Major Infectious Diseases - degree of risk very high
Maternal Mortality Rate - deaths/100,000 live births 67
Mean Age for Mother's First Birth 22.3
Obesity - adult prevalence rate 15.7%
People Living with HIV/AIDS 75,000
Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population .92
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of total population unimproved 26.9%
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of urban population improved 81.2%
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of rural population improved 44.8%
Total Fertility Rate - children born/woman 2.25
Underweight - percent of children under five years 4.5%
Vectorborne Disease (s) dengue fever, malaria, and Bartonellosis (Oroya fever)

Peru Life Expectancy

How long do people live in Peru?

Life Expectancy at Birth 72 Years
Life Expectancy at Birth - female 75 Years
Life Expectancy at Birth - male 71 Years
Median Age 26 Years
Median Age - female 27 Years
Median Age - male 26 Years

Peru Infant Mortality - per 1,000 live births

Peru median age, birth rate and death rates

Birth Rate - births/1,000 population 19
Death Rate - deaths/1,000 population 5.97
Median Age 26 Years
Median Age - female 27 Years
Median Age - male 26 Years
Net Migration Rate - migrant(s)/1,000 population -2.86
Population Growth Rate 1%
Sex Ratio 0-14 Years - male/female 1.04
Sex Ratio 15-24 Years - male/female 1
Sex Ratio 25-54 Years - male/female .93
Sex Ratio 55-64 Years - male/female .97
Sex Ratio at Birth - male/female 1.05
Sex Ratio of Total Population - male/female .97
Sex Ratio Over 64 Years - male/female .9

Peru Medical Information

What are the health conditions in Peru?

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.

Peru Education

What is school like in Peru?

Education Expenditures - percent of GDP 2.8%
Literacy - female 89.4%
Literacy - male 96.4%
Literacy - total population 92.9%
Literacy Definition age 15 and over can read and write
School Life Expectancy - female 13 Years
School Life Expectancy - male 13 Years
Total School Life Expectancy - (primary to tertiary) 13 Years

Peru Literacy

Can people in Peru read?

Literacy - female 89.4%
Literacy - male 96.4%
Literacy - total population 92.9%
Literacy Definition age 15 and over can read and write
Predominant Language Spanish (official) 84.1%, Quechua (official) 13%, Aymara (official) 1.7%, Ashaninka 0.3%, other native languages (includes a large number of minor Amazonian languages) 0.7%, other 0.2%

Peru Crime

Is Peru a safe place to visit?

Crime Information

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.

Peru Penalties for Crime

Criminal Penalties

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.

Peru Population Comparison

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