Peru is located on a narrow strip of the central west coast of South America, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and the peaks of the Andes Mountains on the other. Some Bible translation is still needed in Peru, but the focus is on literacy and Scripture use to help people understand the portions of the Bible that they do have.
Do not exchange the majority of your dollars into soles in the airport upon arrival. You will get a much better exchange rate in other places in the city. However, you may want to change about $10-$20 in the airport when you first arrive, so you will have some soles handy for snacks, taxis, etc.
Peru's official currency is the nuevo sol (new sol); its symbol is S/. The denominations in circulation are bills of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 nuevos soles; coins of 1, 2, and 5 nuevos soles; and coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 céntimos, or hundredths of a nuevo sol.
Money Transfers (giros)
These can be done at any bank. At least three days should be allowed for international transfers. National transfers should take only 24 hours or less to conclude. It is also possible to make cash withdrawals by charging them to a credit card.
The credit cards most commonly accepted in Peru are VISA, American Express, Diners and MasterCard. However, they are not used extensively in the provinces except in a few large hotels, stores and restaurants. Please do not expect to use a credit card.
ATM or Debit Cards
There are ATM machines (cajeros) in most banks and sometimes in other places, in most towns, where you can obtain cash amounts of up to $300 at a time (and more than once a day) from your bank account in the U.S. (The amount that is allowed from individual banks will vary). This only takes a minute and is the most practical way to get cash.
Personal and Traveler’s Checks
The use of traveler's checks is not widespread among Peru's commercial establishments. It may even be difficult to cash traveler's checks at some banks (count on a loss of 2% to 5% of the amount exchanged). Therefore, we do not recommend that you use traveler’s checks. Neither are personal checks accepted.
Banks are generally open to the public Monday through Friday, 9am to 6pm, and Saturday until noon (varying). They may be open fewer hours during summer months (January to March).
Bring US cash in clean crisp bills only (i.e. no rips); this is essential. The organization and/or its representative will NOT accept bills that are worn or are even slightly torn. You cannot exchange bills with the tiniest rip. ATM machines are available to get cash. Credit cards are rarely accepted and only at large stores. Do not expect to use a credit card.
On your flight to Peru, you will be given a short form to fill out to obtain a free tourist visa. When you enter Peru, this same form will be stamped with a 30, 60, or 90-day tourist visa. Do NOT lose this paper! Keep it in your passport—you will need it to leave the country.
Immunizations and Health
For complete travel vaccine information, please consult the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/travel.
Evacuation insurance is required. The recommended companies are listed on the Evacuation Insurance page under the "Travel" section.
Altitude in Cusco
To aid in the transition to the altitude of Cusco, visitors may take Diamox (acetazolamide). A few other tips to help acclimatize:
- Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Coca tea will be available and is a local herbal remedy for altitude sickness.
- Limit your caffeine intake. You do not need to completely avoid caffeine. Just be sure to drink plenty of caffeine-free drinks.
- Take it easy on your first day or two in the altitude. Do not do any excessive physical exercise on the first day or two. Consider having others carry your luggage upstairs, etc.
Existing Medical Conditions and Prescription Meds:
If you have any significant medical conditions, be sure you let your doctor know that you are traveling into a third-world country. Please be specific about your destination, whether you are going to the altitude in Cusco or into the jungle of Pucallpa.
- Request a write-up of what you should do in the event of a flare-up.
- If you have a special diet that needs to be followed for medical reasons, we can try to accommodate your needs, but you need to let us know before your arrival.
- Be sure to have an ample supply of your prescription meds. Most meds are available in Peru, but will often have a different name. Be sure you know the generic/medical name of your medicines in case you need to purchase more in Peru.
- Bring over-the-counter meds you think that you could need (allergy meds, etc.).
- Please have someone in your group have the following information for you on hand: blood type, allergies to foods or medicines, doctor's name and phone number and insurance information.
Tickets, Airports, and Flights
International and National Air Travel U.S.-Peru
Possibilities for flights from Lima to Cusco include: American Airlines, TACA, LAN, Star Peru, and Peruvian Airlines. All airlines offer the option of purchasing your ticket via the internet; however, we suggest you purchase your entire flight from a travel agent as you must use a verified credit card to purchase Peruvian flights on-line. Star Peru is often cheaper, but the advertised hour of the flights can vary by two to three hours either direction. If using Star Peru, do not schedule flights tightly.
Lima Airport Information and Taxes
Approximately $6 airport tax is needed for each national flight and $33 for an international flight (return to US). The $33 is sometimes included in the cost of the ticket, but don’t assume this. Save some extra cash if you are not positive that these fees are included in your ticket as it is a CASH ONLY fee.
In Lima be prepared to collect your baggage, go through customs (aduana) and then re-check it in for the domestic flight to Cusco. When you get past customs, men in official uniforms ask to help you with your bags. They are very helpful and trustworthy, but they do ask that you give them a tip. While you are waiting for your connecting flight, even in the very early morning hours restaurants/fast food places are open for your convenience.
Do not exchange the majority of your dollars into soles in the airport upon arrival. You will get a much better exchange rate in other places in Cusco and Abancay.
What to Bring
Packing Suggestions for All Locations
Travel as light as possible. Remember, you will be responsible for carrying what you bring. We suggest a small carry-on backpack for your absolute necessities just in case your luggage gets lost. This could be your toiletries (be sure to check on airline restrictions), a change of clothes, your prescription meds, camera, etc. Then you could have a medium-sized personal pack/duffel/suitcase to check in. If you are traveling with a team, you might consider sharing a hairdryer or such items with another team member so as to not duplicate items.
Here are some suggestions of the kinds of things you might want to bring:
- A day pack is essential for carrying a jacket, water, camera, etc. You should use this as your carry-on.
- Sleeping bag for an overnight trip to the village. (if at all possible)
- Small flashlight or headlamp.
- A few first aid items.
- Small bottle of hand sanitizer. Regular use will greatly reduce your risk of getting sick.
- Rain gear is necessary from October-April.
- Work gloves (optional).
Abancay, Pucallpa and Iquitos
- Hydro-cortisone Cream
- Bug Repellant
Leaving Things Behind
Some people like to leave behind their clothes and other items to give away to those in need. If people want to do this we will collect all items at the end of your trip. We will then leave the partner organization in charge of distributing the items to those in greatest need and in a culturally appropriate manner. When you go out to visit a village, please do not give away things to people. This can cause later problems for the local church or organization you are out there with. Please keep in mind that the people here generally wear smaller sizes.
Life in Country
Peru is nearer the equator. The following items are essential:
- Wear shoes or light hiking boots. Shoes/boots need to be comfortable for walking long distances. You may or may not want a separate pair of shoes/boots for the work-site. Sandals are not a good idea for working, though fine for around town in Abancay. You may want flip-flops for going to the shared bathrooms and showers.
- Temperatures fluctuate a lot in the higher altitude so it is best to always have a sweater or fleece on hand. Wear layers!
- Please consider the conservative nature of the churches in Cusco and Abancay. Many evangelical Christians disapprove of tattoos and piercings, other than in the ear lobe. Please be respectful and come prepared to remove these and/or cover them to the best of your ability.
- People never take off their shirts in public, even playing soccer in the hot sun or working in the hot sun, though light t-shirts are normal for those situations. In some locations very light, long-sleeved shirts are helpful because they are not too hot, but protect from gnats.
- T-shirts are fine but have a collared shirt for church.
- Jeans are fine. Do not bring army fatigues.
- It is always better to err on the side of conservative than risk offending people.
- Peruvians value looking good. Ripped or ragged clothing means you are likely an irresponsible person. It is amazing how people who live in tiny shacks can come out dressed to perfection.
- No shorts unless you are playing sports or while playing tourist (Machu Picchu, etc.). Men can wear shorts, but you don’t see locals in shorts unless they are playing soccer. Shorts should not be worn at the work site.
- Hat with brim. Ball caps are OK but hats with full brims keep the sun off the ears and the back of the neck.
- Bandanas are good to keep the sun off the neck and can also be hung from under and the back of a ball cap to shade the ears and the neck.
- Light long-sleeved shirt; sunscreen only helps so much.
- Lots of sunscreen. You need enough to be able to apply it several times a day.
- Sunglasses (optional). But when in a village do not talk to people with sunglasses on.
- Chapstick with sunscreen.
- Sleepwear. You will be staying in a dorm situation with shared bathrooms. You may need to go outside to get to the bathroom. Flip flops are a good idea.
Dress appropriately for the climate that you are visiting. Here is some climate information for Cusco and Abancay.
May – August is the cold season. Remember, at night, temperatures in Cusco drop to around freezing. If you plan to spend time sightseeing in Cusco, remember that there is no heating and you will regularly be out in the evenings and early mornings in freezing or near-freezing temperatures. For the cold of Cusco, each person should have the following:
- A warm polar fleece jacket.
- Wool or fleece gloves.
- Wool or fleece hat (optional).
- Warm vest either fleece or down (optional).
- Warm socks.
- Windbreaker or raincoat (rain is rare from May-September, but frequent December-March or April).
- Light long-sleeve shirts, some nicer and some for work, in the mid-day sun and gnats.
In Abancay, except for the village visit, short-sleeved shirts and a sweater are fine, especially if working inside. When working outside, gnats can be bothersome, so light long-sleeved shirts are helpful.
Ladies can wear pants, no need to wear skirts unless they prefer to. Just make sure they are not too short or tight. Capris would be acceptable but shorts are not.
Ladies should wear modest tops (i.e. keep your shoulders and mid-section covered).
For a jungle location, a conservative one-piece bathing suit is recommended.
When conducting business or attending church men wear long pants and a collared shirt. At other times shorts and t-shirts are acceptable if appropriate for the weather.
Cusco: Volunteers live and work at the ATEK Training Center. Housing is a dorm-like situation with shared bathrooms. Each bathroom has hot showers and flushing toilets. There is no central heating even though the temperatures drop quite low. Air-conditioning is not needed.
Long term Cusco: Housing will be decided on an individual basis and help will be available from local personnel. Housing may be available at ATEK for several months (cost $15/day). Other options may include housesitting or renting a room or apartment (avg. of $300/month plus utilities and start up costs). Before arrival, personnel in Cusco will talk through the various available options with the volunteer. Some arrangements may be made prior to arrival and some may need to wait until after they arrive.
Pucallpa: Volunteers will live and work at the FAIENAP center. Housing is rustic with no extra amenities. Volunteers will most likely share two rooms (one male and one female) and sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. Bathrooms are outhouses shared with indigenous translator families. Showers are also very simple or are “bucket baths".
Abancay: Volunteers stay at the AIDIA offices or in a nearby apartment. It is a dorm situation. Flushing toilets and hot showers are available. There is no central heat or air-conditioning.
Current and Voltage
Electrical current in Peru is 220V. Do not plug in anything that is 110V! Many electrical things now come multi-voltage. Some automatically work for both kinds of voltage. Some have a switch. Check out your blow-dryers, camcorders, battery chargers, etc. first! If you plug something that is 110V into 220V you will fry it! You can also purchase a small transformer in the US which would be the most convenient - but, be sure to purchase the transformer for the amount of watts (W) that your appliance requires. Generally outlets are designed to accept North American plugs, but some polarized plugs do not fit in the outlets. You may want to consider bringing an adapter plug for South America.
It will be most convenient to wash small amounts of clothes by hand if need be. Some locations will have laundry services available for a fee.
AIDIA (Abancay) has a washer available for teams to do their own laundry.
Tips for the Third World
- Waist-packs, backpacks, etc. are helpful for travel. However, once in Peru, keep your valuables in them to a minimum and always be prepared because they can be snatched. Do not carry wallets or documents in your pockets, but put your dollars or Peruvian currency, credit or ATM cards, passports, etc. in a canvas packet around your neck and inside your shirt where they can’t be seen or use a money belt. In your pockets you can carry small amounts of cash for shopping but not enough to be devastating if stolen.
- It's good to keep on your person the name, address and telephone number of where you are staying. That way if you get separated from the group, you can get a taxi to take you "home" and you don't need to feel like you will be lost in Peru forever.
- Leave your original passport at the dormitory and only carry a copy of your passport.
Machu Picchu Information
Cusco is the jumping off point for going to the 7th Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. Many people who come through Cusco want to take a day or two to make the trip. While you are here in Peru, you are welcome to participate on this tour, guided in English. This tour is best planned at the end of your time in Peru with your final night spent in Cusco prior to flying out of the area. You can look at place descriptions in a Peru travel guidebook or online.
For Abancay visitors: If you desire to tour Machu Picchu or other areas you are expected to make your own arrangements. You have a couple of options:
1) Leave mid- to late-afternoon from Abancay and spend the night in Machu Picchu. You
can tour Machu Picchu the following day and then return to Cusco late evening.
2) Tour the Sacred Valley on Day 1 (includes the ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisac) and
spend the night in Machu Picchu. On Day 2 you tour Machu Picchu and then return to
Cusco late evening.
3) OR you may want to include other, less expensive ventures: Cusco City tour, Sacred Valley
of the Incas, or Sacsayhuaman Complex. If there are any hikers in the group you may want
to visit Choquequirao (other Inca ruins closer to Abancay).
Peru is generally safe. Volunteers should be aware that petty theft is a common practice; thus, volunteers should take proper precautions such as wearing a money belt and carrying possessions such as cameras close to the body. Please check the State Department’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Food prepared by the cook at each location is safe to eat. When not at the work-site, or if you choose to buy things on your own, please follow these guidelines:
- Do not drink un-boiled water. Bottled water is readily available in every city. If you will be traveling to the villages, water purifying materials (found at an outdoor sportsman’s store) are a good idea; options include filters, SteriPens, UV purifiers, and tablets.
- Do not eat any raw vegetables or fruits that have not been treated. Raw veggies and fruits need to be cleaned in an iodine solution or an alternative disinfectant first.
- As mentioned previously, it is expected that visitors will receive the hospitality of the village people we visit or serve. They give their best, and we want to receive it gracefully. The food is not always prepared to our health standards, but we do our best to accept and eat what is gifted to us. We pray that God will protect us from any infirmity as we share His love with the people. Your SVC or host will give you more instructions on how to best handle culturally delicate situations.
Spanish is the language spoken in Peru. Do not expect to communicate in English beyond numbers and a few English words people use when selling their wares. Occasionally people will surprise you, but it is not common to find English-speaking Peruvians, such as taxi drivers or sales associates. Within the airports there are a limited number of people who speak English.
At each work-site translation will be available. Tour guides will also speak English.
Internet and Email
Internet cafes are available for low rates but are not always easily accessible.
Leisure and Recreation
Sundays are a day of rest everywhere in Peru.
Please see www.state.gov for the most current travel information about Peru.
It is safe during daylight hours to walk around in the neighborhoods of Cusco, Abancay, and Iquitos. Of course, it is always wise to go with a companion and let others in the group know where you are going.
Pickpocketing and petty theft is common throughout Peru. See Tips for Third World Countries above.
In Cusco there is much to see and do in the downtown area. It is common for volunteers to spend a Sunday afternoon or a couple other evenings exploring the city.
There will be plenty of opportunity in Cusco and Machu Picchu to shop for souvenirs like alpaca wool sweaters, etc. It is helpful to have smaller bills for this. There are not many souvenir markets in Abancay.