Staying safe in Peru

5 minute read
peru machu picchu

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What are the common security risks in Peru?

Petty Crime

Peru has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America, so it’s not surprising that the main threat you’ll face comes from petty and opportunistic crime, especially in urban areas. Travellers are particularly vulnerable to crime because they are viewed as wealthier and more likely to be carrying large amounts of cash and other valuables.

Natural Disasters

The country is prone to powerful earthquakes and tsunamis, notably in coastal areas, and a lack of a comprehensive emergency management raises the risk of devastation, inevitably affecting travel plans and threatening safety. Peru is currently on high alert due to a potential El Nino developing in the Pacific. El Nino refers to the periodic warming of ocean temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, which can cause major weather disruptions. The Peruvian government is preempting a potential disaster in 2018 by warning people of an imminent threat.The government has preempted a disaster and is warning people of an imminent threat.

Torrential Rain

Episodes of torrential rain and thunderstorms occur with high regularity during the monsoon season, which runs from January to April. Heavy rainfall is not only a recipe for landslides, but also causes flooding with damage to infrastructure and roads in urban areas.


Prepare to stay safe ahead of your trip

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Vaccinations

Make sure you get the recommended routine vaccination courses and boosters before travelling to Peru. Routine vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella (chickenpox), polio, and annual flu vaccine. Pregnant travellers should be wary that the Zika virus is present in Peru, along with other mosquito- borne illnesses. With this is mind, mosquito prevention efforts are recommended; use insect repellent containing DEET, cover exposed skin and consider mosquito netting. Visit your GP to discuss your options.

Check and prepare for the weather

If visiting Peru during the rainy season (from January to April) be sure to pack appropriately, particularly when planning to partake in any outdoor activities such as hiking. Minimise the risk of injury with good quality boots (preferably with ankle support) and equipment, making long hikes on uneven terrain not only safer but also more enjoyable. Check the latest weather conditions and monitor local media for travel information.

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peru market local

Travel Insurance

Before you go, ensure that you have a travel-insurance policy that covers theft, loss, accident and illness. Not all policies compensate travellers for lost luggage, and some even exclude ‘dangerous activities’, which can include trekking, so be sure to check the small print. And as always, carry your insurance card with you.

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Staying safe in Peru

Effective preparation is the basis of any successful trip, especially if you are heading abroad for months at a time. Below you’ll find some of our key preparation tips before travelling to Peru, but for more in-depth info on travelling safely, check out our ultimate guide to staying safe while travelling.

Don’t drink the water

Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink! Only bottled or disinfected water should be used for drinking, and make sure your bottle is sealed before consumption. Although generally very cheap and accessible, bottled water becomes more expensive the further away from urban areas, so other options include boiling tap water or bringing purification tablets with you.

Remain discreet

Avoid displays of wealth and dress appropriately for the environment, for example in religious sites be sure to cover up shoulders and bare legs. Don’t obviously display the possession of Sol (the Peruvian currency) and keep large amounts of cash and cards in a separate place, such as a safe in your hostel/hotel or a concealed bumbag.

Avoid using credit or debit cards

We’d also recommend avoiding the use of credit or debit cards unless absolutely necessary. Firstly, criminals are known to stake out banks and rob the person they have just spotted withdrawing money. Secondly, tourists have been known to fall victim to ‘card skimming’, where card numbers are stolen and sold on the black market. If you must use your card, make sure it never leaves your sight and only use it in respected, well-known retail and service establishments.

peru train travel

Be street-smart

As always, be aware of your location and surroundings. Avoid high-crime areas, such as Lima airport, and walking through dimly lit streets after dark. Try to get to know your routes beforehand and carry a map if necessary, but keep it concealed. In crowded situations, such as the bustling markets of Lima or Cusco, be aware of jostling as this may be a ploy for pickpockets. Always keep your valuables close (this is where the not so stylish bum-bag really does come in handy).

Responsible trekking

Peru attracts all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts, with the most popular activity being trekking. It is important to be aware of the rules and regulations in order to stay safe, such as registering when entering national parks and always sticking to the marked walking paths. You should also take extra caution on steep and slippery trails as several climbers have died, or suffered serious injuries after falling.

Prepare for bug bites

The sand flies around Machu Picchu and its surrounding trails have a reputation for being deadly – something I can vouch for with first-hand experience! Sand fly bites are painful, causing red bumps and often blisters, leaving sores for weeks or months after the bite. The easiest way to avoid any nasty reactions is to stay covered up with long sleeves and trousers, but a strong DEET insect repellent is also recommended (you might want to buy this before you travel but they are available in chemists around Peru).

Peruvian local


Conclusion: Safe Travels in Peru

Peru is definitely one worth ticking off the bucket list. By taking these small precautionary steps there is no reason why you can’t relish the wonders this vibrant country has to offer.

As always, careful planning and preparation will help your trip go smoothly and safely. For more travel advice on Peru contact the CloseCircle team today.

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