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Peru Travel Tips

The South American country of Peru stretches from the steamy jungles of the Amazon all the way across the majestic peaks of the Andes and out along the desert to the Pacific Ocean. With three climatic zones to traverse and a wealth of ancient Incan ruins to explore, Peru stands out as one of the continent's top places to visit.

Destinations

The Amazon Basin occupies roughly two-thirds of Peru, according to Fodor's Travel Guide. Visitors will encounter incredible biodiversity in Manu National Park, reachable via the jungle city of Iquitos. The central highlands run along the Andes. Cusco and the Sacred Valley attract the majority of Peru's tourist traffic. The town of Cusco serves as a base for excursions to the Machu Picchu ruins, Peru's most iconic attraction. The capital of Lima lies on the Pacific Coast, bustling with activity at all hours. It may be smoggy and crowded, but Lima has much to offer in terms of museums and nightlife. The northern coast of Peru features scenic surfing beaches and sunny weather year-round. The southern coast boasts the Nazca Lines, a mysterious series of formations in the desert. Farther inland sits Lake Titicaca, one of the highest navigable lakes in the world. Surrounded by traditional indigenous villages, Lake Titicaca is one of Peru's biggest draws apart from Machu Picchu. Also in this region is the White City of Arequipa, glimmering against a backdrop of three volcanoes. Arequipa's colonial center was constructed mostly of sillar, a white rock that shines as it reflects sunlight.

Transportation

All international flights go through Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima. Domestic flights from Lima go to cities such as Iquitos, Cusco, Arequipa, Trujillo and Juliaca near Lake Titicaca. Private bus companies such as Cruz del Sur and Ormeño offer reliable service along most routes throughout the country, according to Frommer's travel guide. Tourists must go by train to Machu Picchu. Peru-Rail operates three classes of trains running from a station near Cusco to the town of Aguas Calientes at the base of the Machu Picchu sanctuary. Trains also run between Cusco and Puno, the highland town overlooking Lake Titicaca. To get around in towns and cities, visitors can take taxis or combi-buses. The latter is much less expensive but also uncomfortable and less reliable.

When to Go

Peru's seasons are the opposite of those in the northern hemisphere. Summer lasts from December to March, and winter spans July to September. Andean Travel Web recommends visiting the coast during the summer and the highlands during the winter. The Amazon is hot and humid all year long. Peak tourist season is from June to August, according to Lonely Planet. This period coincides with the dry winter in the Andes.

Social Conventions

It's customary for men to greet each other with a handshake, whereas most greetings with women consist of a hug and a grazing cheek-to-cheek kiss. Tourists should wear conservative clothing to avoid offending locals or inviting unwanted sexual advances.

Safety

Peru is beautiful, but it is also a third world country. Use common sense to stay safe. Leave valuables in a secure place and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Travel in groups when possible, and ask a trustworthy person such as a hotel concierge or club bouncer to help you hail a safe cab at night.

Health

We recommend that travelers visiting Peru get vaccinations for typhoid, polio, tetanus, hepatitis, malaria and yellow fever, especially when heading to the jungle. Diarrhea is the most common ailment for tourists. Tap water is unsafe to drink, but bottled water and purification tablets are readily available in most stores, restaurants and pharmacies. Altitude sickness in the highlands may cause nausea and fatigue. Peruvians drink mate de coca tea to relieve these symptoms. This coca leaf tea is perfectly legal, and quite effective for altitude sickness and upset stomach.

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