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Peru is a country that will dazzle you. Its natural wonders, historic treasures and friendly people create a rich and rewarding experience for the traveller.
The diversity of Peru’s landscape extends from the deserts of the coast, sprinkled with beautiful valleys and excellent beaches, to its green mountains and the incredible snow-capped peaks of the cradle of the Inca Empire, to its wild jungle in the Amazon Basin, with its great variety of trees, plants, and birds. Thousands of archaeological sites throughout the country range from the campsites of early hunters to the monumental stone walls of sixteenth century Inca Cusco. By 2000 B.C. Peruvians were building temples and irrigation systems. They had domesticated the llama, grown a variety of food crops, and created amazing ceramics and textiles. By the fifteenth century, the Incas began to emerge from the Cusco valley to build their empire, which came to an end with the arrival of the Spaniards in 1532. The legacy of colonial Peru is found in the churches and mansions built by the Spaniards who made Lima the seat of the Spanish viceroyalty until independence in 1821. Peru’s highlights are so many that planning an itinerary can be challenging! Essentials are the historic Cusco and Lima, the floating reed islands of Lake Titicaca, the Moonstone Trek and the Inca Trail to discover the ruins of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, lost city of the Incas.
Peru is a large country on the Pacific coast of South America, encompassing a desert coastline, tropical rainforest and soaring mountains, each with distinct environments. These offer an exceptional opportunity for travellers to experience a variety of landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, a rich history and archaeological heritage, and the vivacious character of durable native cultures, all within one nation.
Fishing villages, fine beaches, agricultural lands, and Peru's major towns and cities, including the capital of Lima, are interspersed along the narrow belt of desert coastline that stretches the length of the country. The lush Amazon Basin takes up half of Peru and is an ecologically rich area of tropical rainforest that encompasses some of the world's most remote and least explored areas, sparsely populated and for the most part, inaccessible. Separating the coastal desert from the jungle is the splendid Andes mountain range, an endless chain of soaring peaks over 22,000 feet (7,000m) high, and home to millions of indigenous highland people, speaking the ancient Inca language of Quechua, and living in traditional villages with steeply terraced agricultural fields, with their wandering herds of llamas and alpacas.
Peru, 'Land of the Incas', offers a stimulating and rewarding travel experience and is one of the most diverse and exhilarating of the South American destinations.
If there's one place in South America brimming with ruins of ancient civilisations and a wealth of fascinating and awe-inspiring attractions, it's Peru.
Boasting wonders such as Maccha Pichu, the Colca Canyon, Nazca lines, the Coricancha Inca Ruins and Pisco, it's no wonder Peru is fast becoming one South America's most popular tourist destinations.
The best time of year to visit Peru is between March and April when the weather is warm and humidity levels are low.
Getting around Peru is fairly cheap and easy with plenty of internal flights operating on an almost daily basis and an affordable and reliable public transport system. It's advisable to fly between cities when possible or rent a car and explore all this mystical country has to offer yourself.
Business in Peru centres on the capital, Lima. Business is usually conducted in a formal and somewhat conservative manner, and it is worth noting that a business visa is needed from a local Peruvian Consulate. Dress should be formal, with suits and ties the norm. Titles and surnames are usually used upon greeting, and handshakes are standard for men and women. Business cards are usually exchanged and it is useful to have them printed in Spanish on one side. Although English is fairly common, it will be an advantage to have business materials translated into Spanish; an effort to speak Spanish will be well received. Women may encounter some sexism. Punctuality is important, although meetings are not likely to begin on time. Business hours can vary but are usually from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Some businesses can close for siesta from 1pm to 3pm.
The weather on the Peru coast is generally sunny with little rainfall, but from April to November there is a heavy sea mist. The highlands have a wet season (October to April) and a dry season (May to September), when the days are clear and sunny but it's very cold at night, especially at altitude.
The international access code for Peru is +51, and the outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City/area codes are in use, e.g. (0)1) for Lima. A mobile phone operator provides a GSM 1900 network with coverage limited to major towns and cities. Peru is well connected to the Internet with a proliferation of inexpensive Internet kiosks, called cabinas pública,available on street corners in most towns and cities.
Do not take photographs of anything to do with the military. Homosexuality, although legal, is frowned upon. Visitors should avoid wearing any native Indian clothing as this will be seen as insulting, regardless of intention.
Travellers to Peru over 15 years old do not have to pay duty on 400 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 50g of tobacco; 2kg of food; 3 bottles of alcoholic beverages not exceeding 2.5 litres; and gifts to the value of US$300. Items such as sausages, salami, ham and cheese may only be brought in if accompanied by an original sanitary certificate. The import of ham from Italy and Portugal is prohibited. The export of cultural or artistic items from the country is not permitted.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 60Hz (Arequipa 50Hz). Two-pin, flat blade and round plugs are standard.
There are several health issues to consider for travel to Peru. Those entering the country from an infected area require a yellow fever certificate, and outbreaks of yellow fever do occur; vaccination is recommended but is not necessary for Lima, Cuzco or Machu Picchu. No other vaccinations are officially required but visitors are advised to take precautions especially if planning to travel to jungle regions. Immunisation against typhoid is sensible. Malaria is a risk all year round in the lowland areas, except for Lima and the coastal regions to the south, and dengue fever is on the increase. There have been a number of incidents of rabies transmitted by bites from vampire bats in the Madre de Dios and Puno provinces, and near the border with Ecuador; visitors are advised to have a course of rabies injections and not to sleep in the open. Chagas' disease, Cholera and cases of the plague do occur. The most common ailments for travellers are diarrhoea and altitude sickness. Drink only bottled water, avoid drinks with ice, and be wary of food bought from street vendors. Health care is good in the major cities (better at private clinics than at public hospitals) but is expensive; health insurance is essential. Screening for HIV is inadequate and visitors should avoid blood transfusions.
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages, but many other dialects are spoken. English is spoken only in major tourist centres and hotels.
The official currency is Nuevo Sol (PEN) divided into 100 céntimos. Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, but all major international credit cards, including Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted in many, but not all, establishments. Outside Lima facilities may be more limited. Travellers cheques may also be difficult to exchange in small towns and villages, and travellers are advised to have cash on hand. US Dollars are the easiest currency to exchange and plenty of restaurants, hotels and shops in the main cities accept dollars for payment. Casas de cambio(exchange bureaux) often give better rates than hotels and banks and can be found in any town on the tourist circuit. ATMs are available in the main cities.
All travellers require return or onward tickets, all documents required for onward travel and proof of funds. If travelling for business purposes, a visa is required. Visas cannot be obtained on arrival. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Safety in Peru is improving. Thieves are the biggest problem; be especially cautious in crowded areas, on public transport, in bus and train stations, and in the centre of Lima at night. Special care should be taken in the cities of Lima and Cuzco against street and violent crime. There have been attacks on foreigners trekking in the Huayhuash region near Huaraz and trekkers should be cautious and seek advice before setting out. Thieves and muggers also operate in Huaraz and Arequipa. Women should take particular care to only take taxis that have been pre-booked by a hotel or official company, and travellers arriving at Lima International Airport should be wary of thieves posing as taxi drivers or tour operators. There has been an increase in the number of crimes associated with taxis in the main cities. Visitors should avoid all political gatherings and demonstrations as these have the potential for violence.
Local time is GMT -5.
Some restaurants add a service charge of between 5% and 10%, which will be indicated by the words propinaor servicionear the bottom of the bill. Even if service charge has been added the waiter can be offered an additional 10% for exceptional service; this is also the going rate for tipping where service charge has not been added. In hotels porters expect about US$0.50 per bag. Taxi drivers are not tipped (the fare should be set before departure). Tour guides are customarily tipped.