How much money do I need to visit… Peru

Expenses - South America.

Do you wonder how much money you might need to visit Peru? We know that sometimes it is difficult to find specific information on costs of traveling around the country. That’s why we decided to share our financial summary at the end of each stage of our journey. Here’s part number three – Peru.

How to count the expenses?

As we said in the previous financial posts from Canada and USA, before traveling around the world we estimated budgets. One general budget for the entire trip, and the budgets for individual countries or stages of the journey. All were done on a quick and rough estimate. We focused on total spendings in every country, rather than a daily average. We didn’t include the costs of flights between the continents, as we bought RTW ticket before we left our country.

From the first day of our trip, we were writing down all our expenses: accommodation, transport, shopping, tickets to tourist attractions, and so on. Every week we tried to verify if we’re not spending too much. Although our journey ended a few months ago, we systematically analyze the finances of each trip stage on our blog. This way we know if our estimates were accurate or not. In addition, we want to share our insights and perhaps help some people who want to visit given place/country, by providing the calculation of our spendings.

Summary of our spendings in Peru

All figures are in Peruvian soles (PEN). The current average exchange rate is 1 USD = 3.26 PEN. Total expenses are divided into different categories, as seen in the following diagram:

Accommodation includes the cost of accommodation in Peru. Unlike Canada and the United States, in Peru, we have not even once stayed with someone from Couchsurfing. We had to book accommodation in almost every place we visited. Therefore, all the costs of accommodation totaled to more than 19% of our expenses in Peru. This doesn’t include the accommodation part of organized tours – e.g. in the jungle, the Colca Canyon and on the Amantani island. These few overnight stays are included in the Entertainment category, as the total cost of each of the trips.

The last category Other, or 1.1% of our costs, are expenses such as laundry, buying cosmetics and pay toilets.
Transportation includes all intercity transport tickets (buses, minibusses or colectivo) and any taxis in cities. Similarly to Accommodation part – Transportation doesn’t include boats, ferries, and bus rides within the package tours – e.g. on Titicaca Lake, Madre de Dios river, motorboat to the Islas Ballestas and the bus ride to Colca Canyon. These were included in the Entertainment category. The total cost of transport is close to our cost of accommodation and is nearly 19% of total expenditure in Peru.

Food totaled to almost 25% of the of our spendings in Peru. It’s a lower percentage than in Canada or the US (around 31% of all expenditures in these countries). We didn’t eat less, but most of the accommodation did include a complimentary breakfast. Similarly, the organized tours – jungle, Amantani Island, Colca Canyon – all the food was included in the tour price. However, we didn’t cook our own meals in Peru at all, that’s why Groceries category is only 10.5% of the total costs. Food in Peru is also much cheaper than in Canada or USA, which contributed to such a part of the budget.

Remaining food-related 14.2% of spendings we have recorded in the Restaurants category. Here are all food expenses while traveling and eating out. Although we almost always ate at restaurants and diners, we did save some money by going for so called menu del dia or promotional menu of the day. In a few PEN, you could get a 2-course dinner with a juice and sometimes even dessert. This category also includes very occasional beer in the pubs.

Entertainment is more than 36% of our spendings in Peru. This includes, among others, organized tours – to the jungle, to the Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca cruise, cruise to Islas Ballestas and a trip to the Paracas National Reserve. In addition, all entrance tickets to various tourist attractions – Bolleto Turistico in Cusco, Monastery of St. Catherine in Arequipa, museum and observation tower in Nazca and many others. Also, crazy buggy ride in Huacachina, a short cruise on a traditional Uros boat and a small gift for our host family from the Amantani island are included in this category as well.

The last category Other is 1.1% of our spendings and includes expenses such as laundry, cosmetics, and paid toilets.

Budget or extravagance?

Here is a small list of cost for all categories, divided in 3 cost variants we assumed:

Average expenses (PEN)
Category Budget Extravaganza Our expenses
Accommodation (per room/bed) 20-30 60+ 57
Transportation (daily per person) 0-20 60+ 39
Groceries (daily per person) 5-10? 22
Restaurants (meal per person) 0 40+ 24
Entertainment (attraction per person) 0 200+ 205
Other (per expense) 0 10+ 14

Budget

Traveling on a budget, or “I want to see things, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend”:

Accommodation: cheapest would be Couchsurfing in Peru. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily work. In larger cities, there’s a fair amount of hosts, but some of them were hard to trust after reviewing their profiles. The cheapest turned out to be staying in hostels and dorms. However, in the low-cost hostels the double room is usually only slightly more expensive than the dormitory, so we always decided on a double room. In fact, throughout Peru (also in Lima) it’s not much of a problem to find accommodation after arrival – usually, there’s no need to book in advance.

Transportation: more adventurous might try to go hitchhiking between different places. But this is not a safe way to travel around Peru. Every tourist, especially with non-Latin American looks, stands out in the crowd – and in the not really safe way. So if you’d like to keep all the money, documents and electronics, it might be better to choose official intercity connections. At shorter routes, the cheapest way is to use colectivo (small buses which depart when they have a set of passengers). On long routes, the most convenient way is to choose buses with retracting seats. Several operators offer the opportunity to purchase tickets on-line, such Excluciva or Cruz Del Sur, but you can also just come to the bus station and buy a ticket directly at the box office, before the departure. The cost of a ticket for a more comfortable bus is usually much higher, but very often the price also includes a meal on board.

Food: preparing the food yourself and buying only the most necessary food products. In Peru, it’s quite cheap to eat out in small diners when ordering so-called menu del dia, a simple dinner set. Personally, we preferred eating out more than buying meat at a local market and cooking on our own.

Entertainment: seeing only free attractions, and watching those paid only from the outside. Unfortunately, all the greatest tourist attraction in Peru are neither free nor cheap. You either have to pay or enjoy only the architecture in cities and looking at the Inca ruins from behind the fence. Prices definitely depend on the attractions, sometimes they are not so large amounts (Inca ruins around Cusco), but sometimes the prices are paralyzing (flight over the Nazca lines).

Other: there’s no sense to buy unnecessary things when on a budget. As for souvenirs – photos and memories can be sufficient.

Extravaganza

The variant most preferred by people with a stable financial situation, who like to spend their holidays comfortably:

Accommodation: in hotels or renting a room via Airbnb, Booking.com, and other portals. Prices for a decent room in a 2* hotel start at 60-70 PEN per night (depending on the city and location) and end up where you can see the bottom of the wallet. But keep in mind that the Peruvian standard “stars” are not equal to “stars” in European hotels. Even in the better looking little hotels we visited, the hot water was often heated by an electric heater hung next to the shower, and he looked like it was just repaired by a sloppy electrician (in Lima Dawid felt a slight electrical shock when he turned the water under on of such showers).

Transportation: using public transportation between major cities – trains, buses and even airplanes or rented car. Unfortunately, there are only few plane or train routes. Also, very often the ticket price is much higher for the tourists who don’t have the Andean passport (i.e. from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador or Colombia). The best optimal choice seems to be bus transport. 60 PEN is the cost of a ticket on the route Lima-Paracas (about 4 hours journey) in one of the largest transport companies. All longer bus routes will be more expensive, but the price of a comfortable bus very often includes also a meal.

Food: in Extravaganza variant – mainly eating out at restaurants and certainly not the cheapest menu del dia. You have to assume at least 40 PEN for a dinner only plus some drinks, coffee, and dessert. As an example – for around 40-60 PEN you can try roasted guinea pig in an inexpensive restaurant. Obviously, the more sophisticated dish or a more elegant restaurant, the cost will be higher.

Entertainment: visiting all the major tourist attractions in Peru can be quite expensive. A single Machu Picchu entrance ticket (purchased via the Internet) is a cost min. 68 USD. And if you want to get there by hiking the famous Inca Trail, you need to add the three-digit amount in USD (minimum 350 USD per person). Flight over the Nazca lines costs about 100 USD for roughly 30-40 minutes on the plane. For the same money, you can have a 1-2 day trip to the Amazon jungle. The cheapest seem to be tickets to attractions such as the Monastery of St. Catherine in Arequipa (40 PEN per person), cruise to Islas Ballestas (45 PEN along with the admission ticket to the Nature Reserve) and tickets to various museums and churches.

Other: here, the sky (or rather – the wallet) is the limit 😉 Usually, souvenirs fall into this category. In Peru, this could be alpaca wool sweater (it’s best to buy them on the Sunday market at Pisac) or hand-woven colorful bags for holding the water bottle.

Our variant

From the very beginning, we try to spend our money wisely. We save where we can, but we don’t save on tourist attractions that we really want to see. We’re also not walking hungry to save money on food. Therefore, our costs fall somewhere in the middle between the “Budget” and “Extravaganza”.

Accomodation: As we already mentioned, in the contrast to USA and Canada, in Peru, we were not able to use Couchsurfing. We did rent a room in each place we visited. The only savings that we have achieved were through price negotiation or choosing overnight buses on long journeys, and one night stay at the airport upon arrival to Lima.

Some of the accommodation we had included in the organized trips we took and we couldn’t change the standard of these rooms. These were bungalow in the jungle (we actually liked this one), an overnight at a homestay on Amantani island on Lake Titicaca (very modest and without running water) and bungalow at the Sangalle oasis in Colca canyon (left much to be desired). The rest we did organize on our own. Sometimes we used hotels found eg. on Wikitravel, often from sites such as Booking.com or Airbnb. Once we happened to book a room from the uncle of the owner of another hostel we were staying in at that moment. Another time we just walked around and asked about the price and we chose the best suiting one. We always took double rooms, with private bathroom if available. These cost a little more than dormitories, but sometimes we preferred to pay extra for more comfortable experience.

In Lima, the very place we visited in Peru, we had an unpleasant situation – despite booking a private room over the internet, after arrival we had to look for another accommodation. Hostel, which had fairly good reviews, “rented” us a room a standard they didn’t have. The confused receptionist first explained that the room is busy, as the owner family came, and later offered us another room – the size of 6m2, with bunk beds, a beat-up window facing the corridor and mold on the wall so terrible, that we could barely breathe. We left that place quickly and found an affordable room on the next street.

The average price we paid for a room was about 57 PEN. It’s not the lowest price, but when converted to US dollars it comes around 17.50 USD, which is an amount significantly lower than the cost of any hotel/motel/Airbnb room in Canada or the USA.

We traveled around Peru as cheaply as we could. When possible we used local colectivo minibusses and on longer distances traveled by bus, preferably on the night routes to save on accommodation. In the cities, we rented a taxi only when the distance from the bus station to the hostel was too big to walk, or (as in Arequipa) we arrived after dark and it wasn’t too safe to walk 2km. Once, we took a taxi because we wanted to see Moray and Salinas de Maras cause it was the most convenient option.

The biggest savings we did, was resigning from the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, on our way to Machu Picchu. Instead of the train (2h), we chose the bus (5h) and 10km walk, but thanks to that we paid 1/4 price of train tickets. You can read more about our combination in Machu Picchu – Pearl of Peru.

From the diagram, at the beginning of the entry, you can see that the total cost of transportation in Peru didn’t exceed the cost of accommodation. With the route we had, it wouldn’t be too easy to cut the costs much lower.

Food: unlike Canada or USA, where we mostly cooked on our own, in Peru, we almost never did that. First of all, because most of the hostels didn’t provide a kitchen access. The big plus was that almost every accommodation included breakfast in the room rate. You have to note, that the breakfasts were very basic – usually scrambled/fried egg and few pieces of bread/bread roll and strawberry jam (do not ask…). We had lunches/dinners usually in small diners where locals were eating – and often we were the only tourists there. Thanks to the aforementioned menu del dia, the cost of our daily average food spendings didn’t exceed 25 PEN per person. However, we didn’t only eat menu del dia and sometimes we did treat ourselves to dishes such as alpaca steak, tenderloin or roasted guinea pig.

Entertainment: unfortunately (or fortunately), the major part of our expenses in Peru were tourist attractions. First of all – almost all tourist attractions are paid (and expensive quite often, too), and secondly – we wanted to see as much as possible. We simply didn’t want to give up Machu Picchu or the jungle just because it was more expensive than a walking tour of Arequipa.

Again – we tried to save as much as we could. We bought Machu Picchu entrance ticket bought at half the price at the registered office of the Ministry of Culture of Peru in Aguas Calientes. The transport to Aguas Calientes was also cheaper as we mentioned above (1/4 of the price tourists normally pay). We also always tried to negotiate the prices at the tourist office when going on an organized tour (it helps to go after the high season).

We gave up on the Inca Trail, because of the cost. As soon as we learned that the Nazca lines can be seen from the observation tower, which costs 2 PEN, we immediately resigned from the flight that costs 100 USD (!!!). We preferred to spend the money for a longer stay in the Amazon jungle. We usually didn’t give up on the attractions below 50 PEN. And although quite frankly, we were a little tired of the pace at which we visit Peru, we do not regret a single Peruvian sol spent!

Other: these spendings could hardly be avoided – laundries, cosmetics, and toilet at the bus stop are a small, but often a necessary expense.

Assumptions vs. reality

So how much money did we need for Peru? After summing up all the costs, our average spendings totaled to about 100 PEN per person per day. At today’s exchange rate is 30.70 USD. We exceeded our assumed budget by a vast 32%. Yet it wasn’t associated with extravagance, but with the desire to see more than we thought when we were estimating the budget. As we mentioned, our initial estimates were fairly general. We did not include it, e.g. the cost of a trip to the jungle. If we give up these few days in the wilderness, along with the cruise on the Titicaca Lake, we could have saved some USD for our next stop – Fiji.

Sample prices

Finally, we present a brief table of prices of certain articles:

Sample prices in Peru
What Price
Dinner in the restaurant for two (main course + drink) 60 PEN
Lunch menu del dia for two (soup + main dish + drink + occasional dessert) 25-30 PEN
Roasted guinea pig 40-50 PEN
BBQ chicken (pollo a la brasa) 20 PEN
500ml beer at the bar 8-10 PEN
Ice cream (scoops – medium size) 4-6 PEN
Fresh fruit juice 3.50 PEN
A bottle of mineral water (1.5l) 1.50 PEN

We know that you might want to know more than we covered, that’s why we recommend looking at www.numbeo.com, where you can compare the cost of living between different countries and cities.

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