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Safety in Peru

Before continuing

Peru is a large country, with a lot of safety issues specific to certain regions. Here, we will provide an overview of safety suggestions for traveling in Peru, but we highly recommend reading all of the U.S. State Department’s Safety and Security information. We also recommend enrolling in the Smart Traveler program in order to receive the most current safety advisories

Important Phone Numbers

  • Police: 105
  • U.S. Embassy: +(51) (1) 618-2000

The U.S. State Department on Safety in Peru

Coporaque, Colca Valley, Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Peru

The State Department has quite a lot to say about safety and security in Peru. Click here to read their full report. Read on for a few highlights, and look to the bottom of this page for a list of officially restricted areas.

The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist group is still active in Peru and responsible for sporadic kidnappings of both locals and foreigners and armed clashes with police. Any

one intending to travel to rural parts of the country are strongly advised to contact the U.S. Embassy for up-to-date safety information.

There have been incidents of buses being stopped at night by unofficial checkpoints and robbed. Because of this and unsafe road conditions, U.S. government personnel are not allowed to ride buses in Peru at night.

There are still unexploded land mines along the Peru/Ecuador border, so crossing the border outside of official checkpoints can be hazardous. The entire Peru/Colombia border is considered hazardous because of narcotics trafficking.

Violent crimes such as carjacking, sexual assault, assault, and armed robbery is common in Lima and other large Peruvian cities. Women should be particularly careful at bars and nightclubs and not accept drinks from strangers. “Express kidnappings”, in which criminals kidnap victims in order to use their ATM cards to liquidate their bank accounts, are common, particularly in Arequipa.

The Embassy recommends using only telephone-dispatched radio taxis or car services and not to hail taxis on the street. In Cusco, for example, official taxis wait at taxi stands and are display a blue decal on their windshields.

Travelers should be particularly wary of theft when arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Only use taxis associated with the Lima Airport Partners. It is highly recommended to arrange airport pickup through your hotel or tour operator, even if it will cost a bit more. Do not leave valuables in sight or unattended in parked vehicles.

Lake Akilpo hike Peru Andes

Petty theft and robbery is common, particularly in crowded areas in cities. Travelers are discouraged from carrying hand bags, but if they do, they should keep a hand over the clasp, or tuck it into the crook of an arm. Keep all cash and IDs in front pockets. The Embassy advises against wearing jewelry in crowded areas.

Instead of carrying your passport, carry a copy of your passport, including the data page, the page with the Peruvian visa, and a copy of the page with the Peruvian entry stamp.

Tourists should be particularly careful near the Sacsayhuaman ruins outside Cusco, especially at night. Do not stray from the main, populated areas, as there are gangs of robbers that target lone tourists.

Counterfeit money is a major problem in Peru. In many parts of Lima, there are moneychangers walking on the street – avoid these individuals, as they are often involved in counterfeiting, working with pickpockets to pinpoint potential targets, and sometimes the victims of violent robberies, in which bystanders have been injured.

In Our Experience

One of our co-founders, Jack, traveled all over Peru for 2 months; he wrote the following section.

In general, be a little extra paranoid. Keep your bags very close at all times.

Buses

Buses in Peru
Peru is a large country that is extremely well connected by buses, so most travelers experience bus travel at one point during their trip. A simple Google search of “buses in Peru” will likely yield some frightening stories about buses crashing or falling from mountain roads. This is all the more reason to use credible bus companies, which monitor their drivers’ speed in real time. If you have a bag under your seat, wrap part of it around your leg, even if you are not sleeping. If you are going to sleep, either hold your bag in your lap, or make sure it is closed, wrapped around your leg, and preferably also locked. Many travelers decide to maximize their time in country by taking night buses between cities (which often takes 8 hours or more). Keep in mind that the U.S. Embassy restricts government personnel from taking buses at night, due to unsafe road conditions and increased chances of bus robberies.

Passport

Instead of carrying your passport, carry a copy of your passport, including the data page, the page with the Peruvian visa, and a copy of the page with the Peruvian entry stamp.

Changing Money

Don’t change money with the guys standing on the street with stacks of money. This seems sketchy because it is. They often work with pickpocketers to identify targets and are probably part of the counterfeiting network. Change your money at money exchange booths or at a bank.

Taxis

*Sigh of exasperation. Taxis in Peru are tough – they don’t have meters, so they can invent prices, and they are known for being involved with robberies or “express kidnappings.” The U.S. Embassy recommends using only officially marked cabs, and better, telephone-dispatched radio taxis. Most travelers will, honestly, not call a cab when they are out walking around. If you do hail a taxi, look for the registration and licensing numbers on the side of the vehicle. If you are alone, sit behind the driver. Don’t get into taxis that already have other people in them – they might be teaming up to rob people. If you do get in the front seat, check the back for someone hiding. If you are riding with the window down, keep your bag under you and anything valuable out of sight. Try and negotiate the price before getting into the cab.

Peru for Foreign Women

(Note from the founders: We had a female Peace Corps volunteer who served in Peru write the following section)

Peru Andes HikerPeru is fairly safe, and is comparable to other areas of Latin America in terms of issues that women traveling alone will face. Expect to be catcalled/whistled/hissed at frequently. While it is certainly infuriating, it is best to ignore this behavior. It’s also advisable to dress on the conservative side, despite the heat in many parts of the country. Try to avoid short shorts if at all possible. Generally speaking, the more rural you get, the more conservatively you should dress. The sierra (mountains) also tends to be much more conservative than Lima, the costa (coast) or the selva (rainforest); but since the sierra also tends to be much colder, dressing more conservatively shouldn’t be a problem. Women traveling alone should expect questions about where their husband/boyfriend/children are, and some women may find it comforting to make up a fake boyfriend or husband. If drinking or clubbing, do not accept drinks from strangers.

If you’re traveling alone, try to avoid doing so at night, especially in more rural areas where transportation can be less reliable. If taking a taxi, be sure to make sure there’s not someone hiding in the backseat. Also check to make sure any taxi or mototaxi (three-wheeled rickshaw-looking vehicles) have proper registration and licensing numbers; these should be clearly visible on the side of the vehicle. Taxis tend to be a bit more reliable than mototaxis.

Be especially vigilant of pickpockets — keep a close watch on your bags at all times, especially on the bus, even if they are directly bellow or above your seat. It’s a good idea to lock (or at least tie) zippers together on your luggage. Counterfeit currency is a huge problem in Peru, so learn what real bills look like. And always count your change, even at the supermarket. And beware of dogs!

U.S. Embassy Lima

U.S. Embassy Official Restricted Areas

The following areas are restricted to U.S. government employees. There is typically a very good reason for the Embassy to restrict an area, so keep these restrictions in mind if you plan on traveling to any of the following places:

Ayacucho:
Restricted:

  •  Provinces of La Mar and Huanta.
  •  Road travel from Ayacucho City to San Francisco City.

Permitted:           

  • Daylight road travel from Ayacucho City to Huanta City.
  • Staying within the city limits of Huanta.
  • Daylight road travel from Pisco City (Department of Ica) to Ayacucho City.

Cuzco:
Restricted:

  • 20-kilometer swath of territory contiguous to the Apurimac River and Ayacucho Department (specifically: the districts of Kimbiri, Pichari, Vilcabamba, and Echarate in the Province of La Convencíon).

Permitted:          

  • Everywhere else including the Machu Picchu area and City of Cuzco.

Huancavelica:
Restricted:

  • Provinces of Churcampa, Acobamba, and Tayacaja.

Permitted:          

  • Train travel from Lima to Huancayo City (Department of Junin) and Huancavelica City.
  • Daylight road travel from Lima to Huancayo City.
  • Daylight road travel from Pisco City (Department of Ica) to Ayacucho City (Department of Ayacucho).

Huánuco:   
Restricted:

  • All zones; no ground travel is permitted without the approval of the Deputy Chief of Mission.

Permitted:          

  • Flying into and staying within the city limits of Huánuco City and Tingo María City. 

Junín:
Restricted:

  • Province of Satipo.  In the Province of  Concepcion, travel east of the cities of San Antonio de Ocopa and Santa Rosa (located northeast of Concepcion city).  The Districts of Santo Domingo de Acobamba and Pariahuanca in the Province of Huancayo.

Permitted:          

  • Daylight travel from La Merced City to the Satipo provincial boundary.

Loreto: 
Restricted:

  • 20-kilometer swath of territory contiguous to the Colombia border. Travel on the Putumayo River.

San Martín:     
Restricted:

  • Provinces of Tocache, Mariscal Caceres, Huallaga, and Bellavista.

Permitted:          

  • Flying only into and remaining within the city limits of Tocache City, Saposoa City, Juanjui City, and Bellavista City. 

Ucayali:       
Restricted:

  • Provinces of Padre Abad and Coronel Portillo west of Pucallpa City and west of the Ucayali   River. Road travel from Pucallpa City to Aguaytia City and all cities west of Aguaytia.

Permitted:          

  • Flying into and remaining within the city limits of  Pucallpa City and Aguaytía City.  The province of Coronel Portillo eastof  the Ucayali River.