Tips for backpacking in Peru (Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon/Cotahuasi Canyon)

So this post is definitely going to be a list of things that we found to be helpful when we were in Peru, particularly Lima, Colca Canyon, and Arequipa.

When I was searching for things to do in Peru/tips to travelling to Peru,  it was pretty easy to find stuff to do, but not really those small tips that make travelling easier — that’s what I’m hoping to do here — so here’s what I can remember:

Arequipa + Colca

    1. Arequipa: We stayed at the Flying Dog here in the “touristic” part of the city, and we loved it. There was so much around that we could do. The food in Arequipa is phenomenal — Hatunpa, Cafe Fez-Istanbul, ZigZag, Crepisimo. Delicious. Super easy to find vegetarian food, and never a time when we were bored. Definite must sees: the Mirador (viewpoint) in Yanahuara, the HUGE mercado San Camilo, Santa Catalina Monestario.
    2. Cruz del Condor, Colca: This is worth it. It just is. These condors are incredible. If you can, get there early, around 7:30 before all the tour buses arrive and get a good seat near the canyon edge and just watch. When the sun comes out, and it warms up, the condors will take flight and wow. Just wow. Not to mention it is an incredible canyon to look at. Also, there’s a hiking trail along the canyon that’s not too challenging tha

Money

      1. No need to exchange your money for soles (Peru currency) in the US: When you land in the Lima airport there will a be a ton of exchange locations for you to go to, where you can change out money. You can also get money from the ATM for a fee (or not fee if you have Charles Schwab bank).
      2. Bring crisp, perfect US dollars: You can pay for some things with US dollars in Peru (i.e. cab rides to and from the airport). It was helpful. BUT make sure those dollars are sharp. What I mean is they should not be crumpled, marked, or deformed (like torn) because they are unlikely to be accepted.

Getting around random tips

      1. Cabs: Are relatively cheap to get around in Lima and the prices are negotiable. Most cabs don’t have meters, so make sure to negotiate the price before you get into the cab otherwise you’re out of luck once you get somewhere. Also, use common sense when getting into a cab, check out the person, the car, etc before you step into a cab.
      2. Airport Green Cab: When you’re getting out of the airport in Lima, you’ll see a lot of people that are cab drivers. The airport contracts with one group, Green Cab. They have set prices to go to various parts of the city (it was 60 soles/20 US dollars to get from the airport to the tourist/beach district of Miraflores). These prices are not “negotiable” like a lot of cab prices are, and the company is pretty reputable, so we used them when we left the airport. If you need a same day pick-up, you can also arrange it with your cab driver.
      3. Going to and from the airport: If you are staying at a hostel, they will usually be able to call a cab for you to get to and from the airport. For example we stayed at the Flying Dog hostel in Lima and Arequipa, and in Arequipa I called ahead and asked for an airport pickup which was easy. Make sure you have the address of the place you’re going queued up to show the driver just in case

Hostel Life

      1. Flying Dog: We stayed here most of the time when we were in Peru and were quite happy (particularly with the one in Arequipa). It wasn’t super loud, we had EXCELLENT private rooms and showers, and breakfast was included. We could get our laundry done, get an airport pickup for a little extra, and loved the architecture of the hostel in Arequipa.
      2. Flip-flops: Depending on where you stay, in a group hostel, or in a private room with a shared shower, or if you’re going to hot spring later, you want to bring these. You never know when you’ll need those precious shower shoes.

Food/Water

      1. Water: We drank bottled water while we were there, and took iodine tablets for when we ran out. When we went to Colca Canyon, we knew that water would be more a lot more expensive, so we loaded up on water bottles because we had a car. But if you don’t have that luxury, a platypus water bottle and iodine tablets/other water purification system works just as well
      2. Food: As vegetarians, we had an okay time finding food in Lima and a great time finding food in Arequipa, but we brought trail mix which was CLUTCH on our hikes/when we were in more remote areas and didn’t have a lot of options. I recommend buying it or bringing it.

Medicine

      1. Travel clinic: Go see a travel clinic before you go to Peru and they’ll see you up with the appropriate vaccines (i.e. Hepatitis A and Typhoid) and prophylaxis medicine if you need it. I recommend getting a prescription of antibiotics for GI illnesses and asking your providers to tell you what the signs and symptoms are for when to use it.
      2. Drugstore Meds/other stuff to bring: We brought Tylenol, Ibuprofen, anti-allergy medicine (Claritin), Anti-diarreah medicine, ace bandage, band-aids, moleskin (for blisters) and neosporin. They sell all these things there, but it wasn’t hard for me to pack a few of these things for if we needed them

Random things to bring that I am SO thankful we brought

    1. Earplugs: We stayed in hostels for the whole time, and these earplugs were a GODSEND. For the most part it was quiet, but if it there was traffic, or someone was throwing a party, or whatever, these earplugs allowed us to sleep
    2. Baby wipes: Critical. Tyler had…some GI problems when we were travelling and a lot of the restrooms didn’t have toilet paper or dry toilet paper to use, so baby wipes came in SO handy. Or just to wipe off your hands before eating if they are messy from hiking or wipe off your face, etc. CRITICAL.
    3. Long synthetic fiber shirt/pants for hiking: It’s sunny there. Like really, really sunny, which makes sense because Peru is basically at the equator. So when we were hiking, a hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves were so important to keep us from getting burnt. The synthetic will wick away the sweat without taking away your heat. On that note, heavy duty titanium dioxide sunscreen. It looks kinda silly, but when you’re out in the sun, it’ll be your best friend in terms of keeping you from being burnt to a crisp
    4. Notebook + Pen: I brought a small notebook to right down the names of the cool stuff we saw/ate/did that I knew would be hard to look up later. Totally worth it.
    5. Rain Jacket: We went during rainy season and boy was I glad we had a rain jacket
    6. Project Fi Google Phone: This is another post in and of itself to be honest. Tyler and I both had our google phones with us and were able to use data in certain places and make cheap international calls when we were in Peru. It was excellent.
    7. Quick dry towel: This was great to have and we used it so much in the hostels/when we went to hot springs, etc. It’s light and easy to pack.
    8. Chapstick/Lotion: My lips and skin get dry like woah, s0 I’m glad I remembered to pack a small thing of each.

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