(Last Updated On: June 17, 2018)

Backpacking Peru.

Backpacking Peru will take you from feeling like your at the edge of the world in Miraflores, Via the desert, mysterious Nazca lines, through the Andes and High altitude to the sleepy Aguascalientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. This guide provides you with tips, transport, accommodation, budgeting and...

This overview of budget backpacking Peru covers:

General costs, things to know, tips, transport, accommodation options and my overall experience of the country.

The land of the Inca’s, a South American country seeped in its own traditions and history.

Peru is a country known far and wide for its jewel in the crown – Machu Picchu but that’s not all this country has to offer!

This is a country that will take you through the most diverse landscape, from feeling like your at the edge of the world in Miraflores, Via the desert and mysterious Nazca lines, through the Andes and High altitude to the sleepy Aguascalientes at the foot of Machu Picchu.

Peru has always had an air of mystery and intrigue about it. For years tourists have poured in to visit Machu Picchu, the mysterious Nazca lines and all it’s wonders, making it one of the most heavily visited countries in the world. However, with that comes a down a downside; locals are well adverse to tourists and want to make money from them. Attractions around the country are ladled with souvenir sellers, scam artists line every street, and petty thieves have a field day with unsuspecting tourists.

However that’s not to say you should stay away from Peru, on the contrary, Peru is a country for me that can’t be missed. While Machu Picchu will inevitably be on top of every backpacker’s list, this country from the coast to the Andes will blow your mind.

A few tips for backpacking Peru:

  • – Don’t buy tours and trips from people who approach you on the street.
  • – Learning some basic Spanish will help you.
  • – Try not to look like a wide-eyed tourist.
  • – Don’t book tours for Machu Picchu from Lima, it will cost a lot more. 
  • – If you don’t want to travel independently, you can use Peru-hop and travel in a group with other solo travelers.
  • – Lima is surprisingly a very modern city and can turn out to be quite expensive. 
  • – Lima has an amazing nightlife, lots of bars restaurants and clubs to choose from.
  • – Watching a sunset in Miraflores feels like being at the edge of the world and never gets boring.
  • – Paracas is a great place to do nothing.
  • – Try ceviche in Paracas.
  • – Haggle and shop around for best prices to see the Nazca lines. 
  • – Some tour companies in Nazca will not give you value for money, some will try to take you to the skies only for 20 minutes and only show you the bare minimum. (I met a lot of unsatisfied travelers who thought it was a waste of money.)
  • – Do try dune buggy and sand-boarding in Nazca.
  • – If you’re not used to altitude it will start affecting you in Cusco, chew of coca leaves to help with altitude sickness.
  • – Try Guinea pig in Cusco, it’s a local delicacy. 
  • – If you’re looking to do the full Inca trail, check the best time of year to visit and book well in advance.
  • – As a budget backpacker, you will find a lack of information on getting to Aguascalientes from Cusco if you don’t want to travel by train.
  • – The best way for a budget backpacker to get to Aguascalientes is to get a minivan with other backpackers from Cusco to the Hydro-plant. Then to hike the rest of the way (You won’t be alone, hundreds of backpackers do this trip every day). 
  • – Hiking from the Hydro-plant to Aguascalientes through the Andes is only a 2-hour walk but an amazing experience. 

Things to be wary of:

  • – With Peru being heavily visited by tourist there are lots of scam artists that will try signing you up for fake tours.
  • – Peru is not dangerous but as in all countries don’t flaunt that you are a tourist or you will be targeted especially in touristy areas.
  • – Peru is actually more expensive than what you first think, have a grip on your budget and watch what you spend.
  • – With Peru’s diverse landscape be prepared for all weather conditions. (One day you’ll be in the desert the next high up in the Andes.)
  • – Journeys can be long and arduous.
  • – Peru is where people go to do Ayahuasca, also known as Iowaska, A very powerful hallucinogenic if you don’t know what it is or its effects DON’T TOUCH IT. Also even if you do know what it is, be careful because some people who say they are shamans are not – make sure you do your research.
  • – Cocaine and other drugs will be offered to you on the streets even if you’re not looking for it.
  • – If you do any form of narcotics do not carry in public or get caught. Possession of drugs is illegal and the police will either make you pay a bribe or you’ll be arrested.
  • – Be wary of tour touts and people offering a guide services, if you want a guide get an official one when you book your tickets.
  • – If you go to Puno, Lake Titicaca tours are not worth it. Do them from Copacabana. The Bolivian side of the lake is so much better and cleaner.
  • – The floating village tour is just a tourist trap, unlike with floating villages in Asia, nobody lives on them here, they merely go to work on them through the day and pretend to live there. The harsh truth is it’s just another tourist trap.

Backpacking Peru will take you from feeling like your at the edge of the world in Miraflores, Via the desert, mysterious Nazca lines, through the Andes and High altitude to the sleepy Aguascalientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. This guide provides you with tips, transport, accommodation, budgeting and...

Basic things to know:

  •  -Language spoken: Spanish
  • – Is English Spoken: Basic
  • – Currency: Peruvian Sole
  • – Cost of Backpacking Peru is: Fair
  • – To check live exchange rate click here XE.com

Visa options:

  • – No visa needed for British tourists. You have permission to stay up to 6 months. GOV.UK for more information
  • – Check if your nationality needs a visa for Peru here 

Things to know when budgeting for backpacking Peru

backpacking peru

Peru is a funny country when it comes to working out your budget, as the prices fluctuate depending on where you are. There will be some places like up in the north, or in Nazca where it will be very cheap but then places like Lima and Aguascalientes where it will be ridiculously expensive.

So, you will have to be conscious of your spending and it will be a constant juggling act.

Activities:

There are plenty of activities and tours to keep you busy while backpacking Peru and there is something for everybody; It doesn’t matter if you’re a beach dweller, an adventurist, a history buff, culture king, conspiracy theorist,  or if you believe in Aliens – Peru has it all for you!

The costs of activities and tours will vary and in some cases can be quite extreme swings depending on how and where you book.

If you are looking to get out to Nazca and take to the skies to see the mysterious Nazca lines, then you will need to shop around. There are companies who will try and over price you and show you the minimum amount, some will literally take the skies point out one line and take you back down. Obviously, if you if you are in Nazca for the lines, you know what they are meant to be and will want value for your money, so do your homework on trusted tour companies.

Machu Picchu

Your biggest expense in Peru will be Machu Picchu – This world wonder is why most people to travel to Peru in the first place and for budget backpackers, the issue will be how to do it on the cheap.

There are different options for you, you can do the full Inca trail but do your research into when the trail is open, what tours are available and if you can afford it. The full Inca trail availability is available here.

A second option and most popular for other travelers not wanting to do the full trail is to take the train from Cusco to Aguascalientes, then in-turn a bus up to Machu Picchu itself. However again this option is quite costly for budget travelers.

The third option and most common for travelers on a tight budget is to buy your entrance ticket into Machu Picchu in Cusco, book a minivan from your hostel, which will take you halfway to the hydro-plant. From there along with other budget travelers you will take a scenic and easy 2-hour hike along the train tracks, through the Andes until you reach Aquas Calientes. – One one the best decisions I’ve ever made and you will feel like Indiana Jones!

The most expensive part of your trip to Peru will be Machu Picchu and how you’re planning to do it and get there. There are plenty of different options, you may want to do the whole Inca trail

Food/Drinks:

Food and drinks are also so varied in prices, the touristy places will charge the moon for a decent meal and in other places, food and drinks will be cheap but poor quality. To save money it’s a good idea to find local eats and eat from the set local menu, normally a lunchtime special. (Usually includes a salad, meat with rice with veg and a drink) Or to cook for yourself in your hostel.

As you can see I haven’t gone into specific pricing, as prices always change and information becomes irrelevant but to give you an idea there were days I was getting by with spending $10-15 a day, other times it was upwards of $30 per day.

If you are looking to compare live prices here is a couple of good sites for live comparisons to help you: numbeo and expatisan.

Also, this is a good site to get a kind of idea of prices and budget in Peru: How to Peru.

Getting around:

There is a lot of distance to cover in Peru, traveling from one place to another is long, and with that comes a lot of travel costs. A large chunk of your budget will go on buses even though taking overnight buses will save on a night’s rent the costs still pile up.

You will not be short of options though, as a country used to tourism, there are plenty of options to get around when backpacking Peru. However, due to its diverse terrain, even if there doesn’t seem to be much distance between places it will be!

Transport options:

Locally:

  • – Public buses – All cities have a good network of public buses.
  • – Metro – Runs throughout Lima.
  • – Tuk-tuks – Available in smaller towns and villages.
  • – Taxi – Quite expensive especially for budget travelers.
  • – Uber – Cheaper option than a taxi and quicker to get to your destination.
  • – Collectivo’s – Mini-vans that wait until they are filled up and run certain routes.

Nationally:

  • – Private buses – Main options Cruz del Sur and Ormeno (2nd class, 1st class and VIP available.
  • – Trains – Two main lines run through Peru, central and southern railways. Trains are available from Cusco to Aguascalientes for Machu Picchu (but very expensive for backpackers)
  • – Flights – Domestic flights are available.

Popular tour Companies:

There are hundreds of tour operators to choose from within Peru. There are official tourism offices you can independently book tours from yourself so you don’t get ripped of. (That’s what I did)

Accommodation options when backpacking Peru:

Whilst you’re more than likely to spend a lot of money of transport, accommodation is relatively cheap but you will have to look around. There will be lots of hostels and rooms available on booking sites but it’s the ones that don’t advertise that will work out cheaper. I always find cheaper and better quality hostels by just walking and looking rather than what’s on booking sites.

NOTE: If you’re planning on going to Machu Picchu, it’s the only time I recommend to book a hostel or room in Aguascalientes in advance. It’s a nightmare trying to find a room when you turn up, I had to pay over the odds in a hotel room when I got there. (And I went in low season)

  • Hostels – Range from grotty basic rooms to larger more sociable and clean ones.
  • Guesthouses or hospedajes  – smaller than hostels run by families.
  • Budget hotels – Great to have some privacy.
  • Air BnB – Available in Peru.
  • Couchsurfing – Stay with locals.
  • Camping – There are safe spots dotted around Peru to camp.

My overview of backpacking Peru:

Peru is an amazing country to backpack through from watching amazing sunsets in Lima to being able to experience Machu Picchu. There is so much beauty in Peru but something unforeseeable started to happen to me while in Peru.

As I was having a great time, ticking some major items off my bucket list I was starting to get worn out. Warn out from 6 years of constant travel and working around the world. Days were starting to becoming a constant mental battle. It’s hard to explain but I loved what was in front of me but at the same time, I wanted it to be over.

The more I traveled through Peru, traveling started to become a chore, it was only when I walked through the Andes to get to Aguascalientes and Machu Picchu that I was recovered some of that traveling buzz. However, once that trip was over and I arrived in Puno it all became a chore again and was the beginning of the end for me.

Don’t get me wrong, Peru did not put me in this mood, It’s a great country and one I would go back to, I just became mentally drained at the time. Thankfully it turns out I just needed a break from traveling, some people get burnt out at work, I got burnt out with traveling. Some people need to go on holiday to get over their burn out, I needed to go home to get over mine.

Some of my highlights:

Lima.

Mira Flores.

Watching sunsets in Mira Flores.

Paracas.

Ceviche.

Seafood in Paracas.

The Oasis.

The Peruvian desert.

Going from the desert to the Andes.

Cusco.

My Indiana Jones like experience adventuring through the Andes.

Falling in love with Aguascalientes.

Machu Picchu.

Backpacking Peru will take you from feeling like your at the edge of the world in Miraflores, Via the desert, mysterious Nazca lines, through the Andes and High altitude to the sleepy Aguascalientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. This guide provides you with tips, transport, accommodation, budgeting and...

Some of my dislikes:

My headspace at the time.

Tourist traps.

People trying to scam me everywhere I turned in Cusco.

Souvenirs being shoved down my throat.

Hoards of people trying to sell me overpriced tours.

Having to pay over the odds for a room in Aguascalientes.

Nazca.

Wondering where to go in Peru?

This is the route I took whilst backpacking Peru, my journey started in Lima and finished in Puno.

***

Did you find this backpacking Peru guide helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know.

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Backpacking Peru will take you from feeling like your at the edge of the world in Miraflores, Via the desert, mysterious Nazca lines, through the Andes and High altitude to the sleepy Aguascalientes at the foot of Machu Picchu. This guide provides you with tips, transport, accommodation, budgeting and...

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  1. This is a great post… I love it! It is so useful… I might try backpacking through Peru, although I must admit, I am not a backpacking kind of girl.. I am guessing you can always start being one, right? 🙂

  2. gaahh. you made me regret my decision of not taking that job offer in Peru. I almost moved to Peru last year in Lima. I’ve done my research and found it super beautiful but the salary was just not enough for me to say yes. But I do know that the cultural immersion and experience would have been awesome! You said the most expensive would be Macchu Picchu.. how much did you spend there?
    Justine recently posted…Sexmuseum Amsterdam Venustempel, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsMy Profile

  3. I’ve been to Peru and do agree with most of your tips. Only coca leaves against altitude sickness did not work for me. I didn’t have problems in Cuzco, I felt really dizzy in Puno so I took tablets – that helped only that they gave me a nose bleed; oh well. Peru – especially Lima – does have the reputation of being dangerous. I personally felt perfectly safe and never faced a sketchy situation, but things do happen. It’s always a matter of being in the wrong spot at the wrong time. By the way, Miraflores is quite crowded – it is THE tourist neighborhood in Lima. What’s still pretty cool with a hip villagie vibe to it is Barranco.

  4. You listed really great tips for people traveling in Peru! You are right about the weather, how diverse nature is, people offering overpriced tours, the scams, and actually, all of it! There are so many things that travelers should be aware of, but that won’t make Peru any less beautiful and amazing. I love this country!!!

  5. I would love to visit Peru but I’m not sure I could pull off backpacking in the region. I think it’s so weird how the price changes drastically from one area to another. Of course, in the touristy areas, I guess it’s expected. Not to mention the locals trying to push their tours and souvenirs on you. Great info. This is the ultimate guide to backpacking Peru!
    Mia Herman recently posted…No1 Lounge London Heathrow ReviewMy Profile

  6. Great tips! Looks like you hit up some great spots. That’s too bad you were burnt out at the time, but glad you still had some amazing experiences anyways! We have yet to make it to Peru–we really want to visit though. We would love to see the iconic sights like Machu Picchu and Nazca and the Amazon, beaches and several other spots are on our list to see as well!

  7. This is such a useful and neatly done post for anyone planning to visit Peru. I totally agree with your points of not buying tours and trips from people who approach you on the street. I have always researched a bit before paying the money. And I usually plan on my own. I am planning to go to South America next year and I am soon going to start learning some basic Spanish.

  8. Thanks for the detailed overview of your trip to Peru. I am going next January so this is very helpful. How did you find the legit tours? I was under the impression that there is a limited amount of tours to Machu Picchu.

  9. I;m so happy you got to visit Peru! I like your tips here again. can i ask you when or what year di dyou travel to Peru? I’m not surprised it’s gotten expensive at all, I lived there in 2008 and things were so cheap. but its a county no world traveller should ever miss out. i agree on those sunsets in miraflores!

    Bee recently posted…Volez, Vougez, VoyagezMy Profile

  10. Machu Pichu is apparently one the ten three most-visited / touristy places in the world. And there was a time when people rarely went to Machu Pichu. How things change with travel becoming more accessible.. Your post is so comprehensive, that I feel that I now know mostly everything about hiking to this fascinating place.

  11. That was an excellent comprehensive guide to Peru. I agree that the Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca are a total tourist trap and there in no point in even visiting. The Bolivia of the lake is much nicer but honestly I would just stick to other parts of both countries. Machu Picchu, the Amazon, the beaches of Peru are all amazing and Lima is a totally livable city!

  12. Great tips about how to navigating your way through Peru. I loved both Cusco and Lima and really enjoyed exploring the country. From my experience, I found the local food to be really inexpensive. We would eat the local food pay less than 5 soles. The price range you give is expensive. Is it for local food or Western food?
    You’re right Machu Picchu was our most expensive trip, but it cannot be missed. Truly spectacular!! We missed Puno and hope to make it on our next trip to the country.

    • Thanks for your comment 😀 If Aguascalientes wasn’t as expensive as it was that would be my fave place haha. I think there is some confusion there, the price range I give wasn’t just for food, it was for what I would spend on average through a typical day. I can see why it looks like I’m talking about food, I’ll rectify that 😀
      foreverroamingtheworld recently posted…Next budget backpacking destination…My Profile

  13. great post with a lot of helpful and detailed information. The pics are also cool. I´d love to go there one day. South and Middle America are still a blank space in my collection which needs to be filled ?

  14. This is so cool you backpacked around Peru. I’m a flashpacker than backpacker, but I would have loved to stay with the locals, and speak Spanish with them! Such a beautiful country, and the sound of the train journeys sound like bliss to me!

  15. This is an extensive guide to Peru! I’ve bookmarked it. If I ever plan a trip, this will be the resource I use! I love the tip about the floating villages being a scam, makes me giggle to think they are totally faking it and yet tourists eat it up!

  16. This is a very thorough article! Though we are not backpackers, there are still some great tips that I can use for our future trip to Machu Picchu. Even though I love trying different cuisines and traditntal food, I already know I will not be eating guinea pigs. I will be picturing my moms class pets haha.
    Christina recently posted…How to Have an Epic Time at OktoberfestMy Profile

  17. You’ve really included a lot of helpful information and advice into your guide here – well done. I went to Peru about 15 years ago. I did lots of touristy things, but also stayed a while with friend who was teaching in Lima at the time.. Staying with a friend allowed me to get more of a feel for the city – but I still really enjoyed my time there. Your piece brought back some great memories.

  18. I’ve been to Peru earlier in the summer and your post brought back lovely memories. Just one correction – to deal with altitude sickness in Cuzco you should chew coca leaves, not cocoa leaves. I’ve got a feeling there is a big difference between them ?

  19. I love your tips part, very useful and operational tips! I really want to travel to Peru, I’ll come back to this once I backpack in the region! I can speak Spanish fluently so I guess it will definitely help; just need to learn the local slang haha. I don’t know much about the country except the Machu Pichu (and the famous picture!) and the Inca Cola! Do you think that all what you disliked would also be apparent in the Northern part of the country?

    Dinh-Long recently posted…Why You Should Go To BeninMy Profile

  20. Peru is beautiful and still one of the top countries to visit on my bucket list ! I’m a true nature lover so I would really enjoy the Peru’s fabulous breathtaking landscapes. Being several days on high altitude is probably not an easy feat for a regular individual. I guess it is important that you are physically and mentally-prepared for this journey ?
    C-Ludik recently posted…The Mercantour: destination MerveillesMy Profile

  21. I’ve always wanted to visit Peru, however, it is so far from where we live (UAE). Getting to Mexico itself took us more than 30 hours, and South America would be ever more. I want to be able to tick off Machu Picchu from my bucketlist. And I agree — food can be pretty itself. Thats the reason we ended up eating at local restaurants in Mexico, and thankfully never had any issues.
    We are planning to visit South America next year, as thats the only continent we haven’t set foot it. Will keep Peru in mind.

  22. Loved the header image. Machu Pichu will forever be on the list of any self-respecting backpacker and for good reason too!
    Loved your tips: Especially don’t look the wide-eyed tourist one:) Would love to see the South American Tuk Tuks too!

    • Yeah it was a shame but after 6 years of continuously going from one country to another without going home for any prolonged period of time I guess it was bound to happen at some point, however I’m over the burn out now and ready to start my nomad life again haha

  23. The scammers! I think they’re everywhere even in rich countries such as Paris. I’ve read somewhere they even pack in the Louvre Museum. Whenever I’m traveling, I’ll always keep my skepticism at bay. Scammers come in different guises so every tourist should be aware.

    Regarding the souvenirs, I actually find it a lot more times cheaper when you buy in airports. Hahaha. Not that you can’t find it elsewhere cheaper. But compared to the tourist spots, prices at the airports are really much lower.

    • You’re completly right the scammers are in every country it doesn’t matter if it’s a poor or rich country – You walk through London your going to get the same as in Peru, and that’s the point I’m trying to gt across don’t be scared but be wary, use common sense and have your wits about you and you will be fine.

  24. Woe, you’ve also been to Machu Pichu, that’s pretty cool. My husband always wanted to trek the Inca Trail but I’m not sure I can, it looks tough. I do want to go to Peru though, despite the fear of being looted and taken advantage of being a tourist. I hardly know any Spanish (I’m horrible with learning new languages) and I’m sure I’ll end up looking like the ‘wide-eyed’ tourist who gets taken for a ride LOL. Thanks for yet another descriptive post, Amit, My plans to travel to South America are for 2018 and I’m surely going to refer back to your blog posts (so many of them!) once I know my dates.
    Medha Verma recently posted…Accepting the Liebster Award for Travel BloggersMy Profile

    • Haha Medha, you just have to keep your wits about you and you will be fine, I didn’t do the whole inca trail (from what I heard it is very tough) but Machu Picchu is just spectacular 😀 – I will be happy to help if you need any advise when you plan your trip 😀

  25. Great overview of visiting and touring the country and other tips of what to do and see. I haven’t been, but always love to read tips about a person’s experience and how to save time, money and effort in visiting a place

  26. Machu Picchu is still on my travel list. I started planning on going to South America last year and it has not materialized yet. I’ve read some travel tips and came across once that Lima is a place to avoid. I love small towns and I like to experience life in big crowded cities since I get to experience the local lifestyle and understand the culture better. This is a great travel tip I am saving for future reference.

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