There appears to be a drought of change in Peru. Just about every exchange of money involves the person paying trying to convince the person receiving payment to give them change. This usually doesn’t end well for whoever is paying. On many occasions, I have had small business owners turn down my business, rather than […]
There appears to be a drought of change in Peru. Just about every exchange of money involves the person paying trying to convince the person receiving payment to give them change. This usually doesn’t end well for whoever is paying. On many occasions, I have had small business owners turn down my business, rather than create change for me. The mentality is clearly “I would rather make no money than be stuck with lots of large bills.” Since every single person in Peru is trying to get the smallest change possible, every day is an ongoing struggle to make change and successfully pay for things.
Let’s break down the money in Peru. The currency is called the Sol (sun), represented by S/. (note that the period is not a decimal); there are the following five bills and six coins:
Assuming you are conducting an everyday interaction like buying something from a store or paying for a locally priced meal (that is, spending less than S/.10), I’d say you can basically buy anything with a S/.10 note, but otherwise, you’re completely screwed. You may be able to end up paying with a S/.20 note, but you will likely encounter resistance. Resistance comes in three forms:
Whining is one of the funniest and also most annoying cultural habits I’ve encountered in Peru. It is fairly common for anyone, including full-grown men, to employ a high-pitched whine if a transaction isn’t happening in their favor. I’m yet to employ this technique and I hope I never do (though I absolutely won’t rule it out).
Anyway, despite resistance, you will probably be able to break your S/.20, though that’s not a guarantee. If you are stuck with only a S/.50 or S/.100 for a transaction of less than S/.20, I give you approximately a 0% chance of being able to pay. It’s the rough equivalent of going to a small, locally-owned pizza place in New York City and trying to pay for a $5 slice with a Gazillion dollar bill. The big difference is that 50 soles is a real denomination of money, which in Peru is not at all motivation enough to accept it.
The trouble for tourists is that to limit transaction fees, you will want to take out a few hundred soles from the ATM at a time, and the ATM will distribute S/.100 notes. Which means you will often be stuck with a few Gazillion dollar bills that need to be broken down. Luckily for you, I’ve learned from some of the best change-makers in the country – Peace Corps Volunteers – and I’m going to share with you 5 change-making strategies.
Change Making Strategies in Peru: