Home to Machu Picchu, beautiful coast, arid desert and yes, even rainforests, Peru ends up on travelers’ itineraries for a variety of reasons.
Many people assume that it is one of the world’s cheaper countries to travel, but is that really the case? Lima, Peru’s capital, has been consistently listed as one of the most expensive places to live on the continent. In this post we will explain how budget friendly Peru really is and we will offer up some money-saving tips in the process.
Peru is serviced by a number of airlines, but the biggest factor in your ticket price will be where you are departing from. In many cases, taking a flight from another South American country can actually be much more expensive than a flight from, say, the southern United States, despite the fact that an intra-South America flight may cover a shorter distance.
Arranging a departure from Houston, TX or Miami, FL may increase your options for an affordable flight. If you are a US citizen, see if you can get a cheap domestic flight to one of those cities and then a cheap flight from there to Lima, Peru. For more on this, see our guide to creating a multi-flight itinerary.
If you are not a US citizen, go ahead and take a look at our guide to finding cheap international flights. It’s worth keeping in mind that certain airlines service Peru more often than others and they may be able to provide cheaper tickets. For example, TACA and LAN have a high number of flights to Peru.
I found accommodation in Peru to be very affordable for the most part. I mostly stayed in hostels or small guest houses and I also did a bit of couchsurfing. For more on these forms of accommodation see our guides on budget alternatives to hotels and free forms of accommodation.
I typically paid around $10 a night or less and this often included basic accommodation (sometimes a private room, usually less for a dorm bed) and a shared bathroom. If you go up to $15, you can find private rooms with a private bathroom as well.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate for prices in Peru when it comes to acccommodation. While this may be more difficult in tourist areas like Cusco, which is the jump-off point for trips to Machu Picchu, you may find that in smaller, less touristed cities and towns, you have a lot more room to talk down the price, especially if it is clear that there are available rooms. For more on this, see our guide to negotiating for travel discounts.
Transportation within Peru is generally very affordable. Within cities there are options for taxi and privately run minibuses, which are the cheapest option. Keep in mind that you need to negotiate for the price of your taxi. For some advice on this, learn how to bargain.
For intercity travel, buses are the most affordable and often they are relatively comfortable and efficient. You can take overnight buses between many towns. These buses are typically well maintained and offer air-conditioning as well as (typically Spanish) films.
Finally, you can also find reasonable flights between the cities of Lima and Cusco. Because the overland route takes several days, many travelers prefer this option. The high number of flights helps lower the prices and this may be the most affordable and convenient way to get to Cusco from Peru’s capital on the coast.
If you know where to eat in Peru, this will be one of the cheaper items in your budget. If you make the mistake of eating at tourist or expat-focused restaurants, however, you will be paying through the nose.
The best approach to saving money on food in Peru and eating delicious meals at the same time, is to eat locally. Most local restaurants have set menus for lunch, which often have a small starter, a main course and a drink. This menu can often be had for $1-3, which is incredible value! Ask locals for which eateries are best or simply follow the crowd (of locals, not tourists). The busiest spots are usually the most affordable and the most delicious.
If you are looking for a snack or a lighter meal, try one of the many street vendors that can be found throughout Peruvian cities and towns. Everything from barbecued meat to fresh fruit is on offer, and again, the more popular the stand, the better the food is.
While dinner is generally more expensive than lunch, you can still find reasonable deals if you stick to local establishments. You can also try cooking for yourself every now and then. For more tips regarding eating on the cheap, see our article on saving money on food while traveling.
Activities and Entertainment
From the famed Machu Picchu to Amazon rainforest to the incredible Colca Canyon, Peru is loaded with attractions. Often these attractions require a tour or at the very minimum, the hiring of a guide. This can add up quickly, but if you are careful, you can find some great deals.
If you are visiting a place like Machu Picchu, it’s important to pick the right time of year to do so. This is why it’s always important to have as much flexibility as possible as a traveler, especially if saving money is your goal. Try visiting in May, which is after the rains, but before large crowds start showing up. You will likely have great weather and you may find that you can get decent discounts.
Also, consider taking an alternate trek to get to Machu Picchu. The Inca Trail is always the most in demand, but other treks, like Salkantaye, are beautiful and you won’t have to fight over real estate with other people on the trail. As a bonus, these treks are typically priced cheaper.
Finally, whether it’s Machu Picchu or any other attraction requiring a guide or tour company, take your time when selecting an operator. Compare prices as well as company reputations and give yourself some time to decide. Hasty decisions usually result in poor choices, in the financial as well as experiential sense.
When it comes to other, more conventional forms of entertainment, Peru has plenty to offer and it is almost always affordable. High profile bars and clubs in areas like Lima will certainly be expensive, but you can always find cheaper, more local bars.
There are great beaches to visit up and down the coast and small towns like Huacachina, a desert oasis near Ica, offer great budget accommodation and activities like sand boarding.
Peru is a remarkable country to visit and thankfully, it can be traveled in a very affordable manner. If you have any budget travel tips to offer when it comes to Peru, please share them in the comments below.