32 Most Common Tourist Scams in Peru

Safety at Lima, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Chiclayo, Cuzco, Iquitos, Puno, Trujillo, Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu, Máncora
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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu


Peru is one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America and with good reason.

Known for its mighty monuments such as Machu Picchu, Peru is home to some of the most beautiful Inca architecture in the world.

It is also famous for its dazzling cloud forests, the snow capped peaks of the majestic Andes, the Amazon River that cleaves through the heart of primary rainforest as well as the sprawling Atacama Desert.

However, visitors to Peru should exercise caution as the country is known for having a high crime rate. Tourist targeted scams are also common as visitors are seen as being wealthy targets.

So read on to learn how you can protect yourself here!




1. Sacsayhuaman horse scam

Horse riding at Sacsayhuaman

Horse riding at Sacsayhuaman. Source: thefabulousscript.com


How it works:

On the way up to sacsayhuaman, you might be approached by touts offering horse rides.

They come armed with professional brochures and claim that they can bring you to all the ruins, but in actual fact, no horses are allowed at any of these points.

What happens, is that although the ride itself can be fun, you will only be seeing the sites from a distance.


What to do:

Avoid taking.


2. Ayahuasca scam


Ayahuasca. Source: thecostaricanews.com


How it works:

This is a scam also found in Ecuador.

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic drug which is not illegal in Peru but which is a rising cause of scams.

Shamans offering “spiritual cleansing” will perform rituals with tourists in remote jungle areas in Peru and will wait until you are unconscious or unaware of your surroundings.

Once you are no longer alert the shamans will steal your belongings.


What to do:

There is no way to know if you will be meeting with a reputable shaman or with a scammer if you choose to take ayahuasca.

As such it is best not to take this drug when you are in South America.


3. Street pickpockets

Street of Peru

Street of Peru. Source: dosmanosperu.com


How it works:

A non-exhaustive list of hotspots includes:

  • Tourist areas in Lima: Plaza de Armas (Government Square), Plaza San Martin, Acho Bullring, Pachacamac, downtown Lima.
  • Municipal markets, Gamarra textile district of La Victoria.
  • Peru’s interior: Cusco, Arequipa, Puno, Juliaca.

These thieves work in gangs, and will hang around to spot anyone carrying an expensive or neglected phone / jewelry / valuable / bag and where it is stored.

Once they mark a target, they will surround him or her and then work like this:

  • One keeps a lookout and blocks passer-bys from seeing the scene.
  • Another blocks, pushes or distracts you (e.g. ask you an innocent question / survey / drop something and ask you about it).
  • A third steals your valuable / slashes your bag and then passes it on.
  • The last hides the loot under a jacket / coat / newspaper and then escapes.


What to do:

Stay alert and watch out for suspicious characters, though that is easier said than done.

The best solution is still, to not make yourself look like a target. 

Make it impossible for thieves to steal from you with these methods:

  • Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the actual one.
  • Keep your wallet in the front pocket.
  • Conceal small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Store large valuables in a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag.
  • Leave most valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe, secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


4. The splatter scam

Plaza de Armes

Plaza de Armes


How it works:

This scam that can be found everywhere around the world (e.g. Spain, Thailand, USA).

It takes place when you are approached by a friendly local who wants to help you clean something off your clothes.

They will have deliberately put a stain on the back of your attire such as a blob of ketchup or a white substance designed to look like bird droppings.

Then, they distract you forcefully helping you clean it off and while doing so, pick your pocket without you realizing.


What to do:

Push anyone who tries to help you away. Get to a safe space quickly and at the same time, make sure your valuables are still intact.

To prevent thieves from ever having a chance of stealing from you, consider these measures:


5. Unlicensed tour operators

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca


How it works:

Out of the ~800+ tour operating agencies that are found in the Cusco region, a massive 600+ are unlicensed.

Additionally, the tour guides are not on salary but get compensated on a commission basis when they are able to upsell the customers.

Even if that is not a major concern to you, remember that operators without licences also have:

  • Poor safety measures
  • Use unsafe transportation
  • Equipment of sub-standard quality
  • May rush you through tours.


What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find online via:



  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

As for operators found offline, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?
  • Does the operator have the SABP logo, which is issued by the government of Peru for meeting the highest standards of fidelity and practice?


6. Fraudulent tour operators


Inca trail


How it works:

A very common scam is where an operator takes the money upfront, fulfil only part of their obligations and then disappear before the tour is over.


What to do:

Engage a licensed, reputable tour operator which you can find online via:



  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

As for operators found offline, ask these questions:

  • Is the operator licensed and is there a professional website, physical office, business email and working telephone number?
  • Are there online reviews? Do they sound legitimate?
  • Is the price too low to be true? What does it cover (vehicles, guides, safety, insurance, hidden fees, etc)?
  • Does the operator have the SABP logo, which is issued by the government of Peru for meeting the highest standards of fidelity and practice?

When paying:

  • Avoid paying in full upfront unless through a reputable platform / operator.
  • If using an online platform, do not make payment off the platform.


7. The host or hostess scam

Nightlife in Peru

Nightlife in Peru. Source: perutravelsblog.com


How it works:

This is another common scam in Europe and South America (e.g. Brazil, Croatia).

Take care not to fall victim to the host or hostess scam in tourist areas and popular nightlife spots in Lima such as Miraflores, Barranco, and Calle de las pizzas next to Parque Kennedy.

In this scenario a friendly local will approach you and engage you in conversation. Once they sense that you are comfortable with them they will invite you to a nearby bar to get a drink.

At the end of the night you will be presented with a large bill and be expected to pay the full amount.

This is a scam and the host or hostess is actually working for the bar in question.


What to do:

Do not head to a suggested bar together with a random stranger on the streets.

But if you do want to make new local friends, some questions to ponder:

  • Does the restaurant / bar seem legitimate? Are there customers?
  • Is the stranger reading from a script? Evasive about things?
  • Is he / she only bringing you to a particular restaurant or bar?

Some other tricks you can use:

  • Pretend that you have company by suggesting to go another place where you have a few friends at.
  • Ask for prices before ordering. Only drink what your waiter or you have poured.
  • Take a photo together.

If you fell into the trap:

  • Pay with a credit card but call the bank to dispute your charges immediately after leaving.

Alternatively, join locals and fellow tourists on a pub crawl!

  • GetYourGuide (leading day tour platform globally) has several such tours:



8. Drink spiking


Cocktail. Source: www.tastecocktails.com


How it works:

Drink spiking, or drugged food, is a rising problem in Peru.

Scammers will slip something into your drink or meal that will make you drowsy or cause you to lose consciousness completely.

They will then offer to help you back to your hotel or will take you to a secluded location and steal your valuables.


What to do:

Do not accept any drinks that you have not seen made in front of you.

Also, do not leave your drink unattended as this gives a scammer time to slip something into it.

Choosing canned or bottled drinks is a good choice as it is more difficult for someone to put a sedative inside.


9. Fake police officers

Historic center of Lima

Historic center of Lima


How it works:

There have been some reports of fake police officers operating in tourist areas in Lima.

Often they will search you and then find some reason to ask you to pay a fine.

They may also tell you that you need to come to the police station and will then drive you to a remote area and rob you.


What to do:

If you have not obviously broken the law, be very skeptical when a “police officer” approaches you.

Three steps you can use to shake them off:

  • Verify badges and identification. Threaten to call the police hotline (end of this article).
  • Never give your passport if asked. Show only a photocopy of it.
  • If they want to fine you or check your bags, insist to only do so at a police station (use your GPS to find it or check with a local) with a lawyer or someone from your embassy.

Next, you should have hidden your valuables in a money belt or hidden pouch and use a cheap spare wallet with not much cash inside.

This way, the scammers may simply let you go since you do not seem to have much cash.


10. Fake products


Alpaca. Source: Flickr – Bruno Girin


How it works:

In Peru, you will find lots of cheap fakes, one of which is baby alpaca products.

Many of these are cheap imitations made with blends of synthetic fibres and brushed acrylic available at very low prices.

“Real” Inca pottery, antiques or similar items are also likely to be fake and even if genuine, it’s not legal to take them with you out of Peru.

Most crafts in the market have been mass-produced with tourists targeted.


What to do:

For authentic products, go to shops such as Kuna (Alpaca 111) or others that are similar.

If you want to know whether the alpaca item is genuine:

  • When you touch it, alpaca wool feels cool while acrylic is warmer.
  • When you pick it up, the real stuff feels heavier than the
  • On the inside when, brushed acrylic is smooth and on the outside soft very similar to a Usually, the inside is rougher. Most of the high-quality items come without inner seams.
  • Any item in super-bright colors is likely synthetic as alpaca products are more muted.

As for authentic hand weavings, visit a fair trade store or weaving coop.


11. Credit card skimming


How it works:

Credit card fraud cases, especially electronic card skimming are rising. This can happen in several ways.

For instance, a restaurant owner or shop vendor can bring your card out of sight and swipe it through a card swiper first, before charging you.

Another instance could be that of an electronic pickpocket, where a thief carrying a RFID card reader can scan your card on the streets without you realizing.


What to do:

Always keep an eye on your credits cards during transactions and consider getting RFID protection.



1. Bogus taxis / tour operators

Jorge Chávez International Airport

Jorge Chávez International Airport. Source: YouTube – hors frontieres


How it works:

Bogus taxis are prevalent at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, and also common on the Huanchacho-Trujillo route in the north of Peru.

They will offer to drive you into town. Some will pretend to know you, or claim to have been sent by your hotel.

What will happen is that you may be driven to a secluded place and robbed.

They may also alert an accomplice who will snatch your belongings out of the car via the window when you stop at a red light.

This is particularly common on Avenida de la Marina and Avenida Elmer Faucett which are both close to the airport.


What to do:

Do not be swayed by tour operators or bogus taxi drivers offering you heavily discounted fares.

At the Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, you can find a number of licensed taxi counters inside where you can book a taxi to take you into town.

Other options you can consider include:

  • Pre-arrange vehicle pick up through your hotel / hostel or through day tour platforms like GetYourGuide (global leader) – 10+ options:


Outside the airport, use a reputable taxi company (ideally get a hotel / restaurant to call for you instead of hailing one off the streets):

  • Official taxi companies: Taxi Satelital, Alo Taxi, Taxi Real, Taxidatum
  • Taxi apps: Uber, Taxi Beat.


2. Bus theft

Buses in Peru

Buses in Peru. Source: anthronow.com


How it works:

In Peru, theft on night buses, provincial and inter-city buses are common.

Some routes targeted include the Lima, Ica, Nazca and Cusco routes.

Basically, they wait till you are asleep or unaware, and steal any luggage you have left unattended.

Or they will strike during scheduled stops when cargo area is open.


What to do:

Make it impossible for thieves to steal your bags:

  • Keep your bag on your lap / beside you instead of in the overhead compartment.
  • Should you wish to take a nap, use a TSA lock / cable lock / cable ties to lock your bag and to lock the bag to yourself / your seat.
  • Or simply get a lockable anti-theft bag that comes with a mechanism to lock to yourself / your seat.
  • Hide small valuables in a money belt / hidden pouch.
  • Finally, get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) to cover loss of bags / valuables within.


3. Car theft


How it works:

At traffic light junctions you may encounter thieves smashing car windows in attempts to grab your purses, jewelry, backpacks or any other items of value that are visible.

Some hotspots this may occur at include:

  • Anywhere in Lima’s downtown.
  • Main roads around Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima particularly along Via de Evitamiento.
  • Faucett Avenue.
  • De la Marina Avenue.


What to do:

While driving:

  • Always keep car doors are locked and windows are up.

When parking:

  • Park your car in a paid lot that has security cameras instead of in open car parks.
  • Back your car into the parking lot to make opening the trunk difficult.

Do not leave any valuables / items indicating that you are a tourist exposed in the car:


4. Overcharging taxis

Taxis in Peru

Taxis in Peru. Source: theonlyperuguide.com


How it works:

Peruvian taxis do not use meters.

Thus, a common scam therefore is for foreigners to get into a taxi and then head to their destination without agreeing on the fare first or agreeing on an inflated fare.

Once you arrive at your destination the driver will ask you for an extremely large amount of money and an argument will ensue if you refuse to pay.

Other tricks to watch out for are if they do not clarify in what currency and for how many people the stated fare is for.


What to do:

Always negotiate the fare, the currency, and if the fare applies to the whole group before getting into a taxi.

You can estimate the fair price of any route by checking:

  • With your hotel / hostel staff.
  • An online taxi fare estimator / online travel forums.
  • Taxi booking apps like Uber or Taxi Beat.

Take a photo of the car plate and also of the driver’s license in case anything goes wrong.


5. Boat theft


How it works:

There have been reports of foreigners being robbed on boat cruises along the Amazon River in Peru, where armed gangs hold up boats and steal from tourists.


What to do:

Always travel with a reputable cruise company and ask what kind of security they provide before you sign up for an Amazon Cruise.

As mentioned earlier, you can find one via these channels:

  • GetYourGuide: leading day tours platform globally – excellent curation of tours, tickets and transport – most popular cruises / water tours:


  • Your hotel / hostel affiliated tour operators: reliable but generally not the best or cheapest.

To protect against robbery:


6. Fake checkpoints


How it works:

In rural areas outside major cities in Peru there have been cases of road blocks or fake checkpoints being set up.

Thieves will flag you down claiming you are at an official check point and will then take the opportunity to rob you.


What to do:

It is best not to travel in rural areas at night especially if you are alone.

If you do need to travel then use a licensed tour operator and ask what kind of security they provide.

It will also help if you have a cheap spare wallet with some cash inside to give up, while you hide the rest of your valuables in your money belt or hidden pouch.


7. Peru – Chile border crossing scam

Peru - Chile border crossing

Peru – Chile border crossing. Source: heyivegotanidea.wordpress.com


How it works:

Take care when crossing the border from Peru to Chile.

Touts and scammers operate here and will tell you that you need a ‘tourist card’ in order to cross.

They will offer to sell this to you although in reality no such card exists and you do not need to purchase one to cross the border.


What to do:

If you are approached to buy one then refuse and consult with official border guards only regarding the correct documentation you need to cross the border.


8. Corrupt border guards


How it works:

Some border guards on the Peru – Chile border also work as scammers.

As you cross over they will check your belongings and if they find cash they may tell you that this is counterfeit and needs to be confiscated.

Most of the time this is a scam as the money is genuine and the guard will simply keep it for themselves.


What to do:

Use a cheap spare wallet with little cash inside to give up, while the rest of your valuables are hidden securely in your money belt or hidden pouch.


9. Carjacking


How it works:

If someone tries to wave you down at the side of the road, beware.

There are a couple of tricks they use. For instance, they may try to signal that there are some problems with your car, such as a flat tire.

Should you stop and get out of car, the accomplices will steal whatever they can find in your car, while you are distracted by the scammer.

In another variation, the scammer may be waving in distress, hoping you can help him. Once you stop your car and roll down your windows, he may just grab your car keys.


What to do:

Avoid stopping. If you do want to stop just to check if there is any damage to your car, stop a distance away.

If you see someone in distress, you can stop elsewhere and notify the police. Only step out in full view of traffic and others.

Do not leave any valuables exposed in the car:



1. Rental apartment deposit scam


How it works:

Unfortunately, landlords in Lima are infamous for “squeezing” foreign tenants.

Like in Argentina, one trick they use is to ask an excessive amount of deposit, with no intention of returning it back.

For instance, when you hand your key back, they will claim to have forgotten to bring the deposit to return you.

Promises will be made, but you will never hear from them again.

Most tourists let it go as they do not have time on their side – when it’s time to return the key, it means they are most likely headed somewhere else for transport in a few hours.


What to do:

First, only book apartments with positive user reviews through legitimate platforms such as:

  • Booking.com: Frommer’s tests have found the site to offer the best selection and rates amongst competing sites most of the time.
  • Homestay: if you are up for gaining genuine insights of Peru by staying with a local host!

Next, when it’s time to return the key, insist not to return until you get your deposit back.


2. Snatch theft




How it works:

Generally, there are two versions of snatch thefts – strike and run, or distract and grab, in many possible contexts:

  • Bikes / mopeds riding past, with a pillion rider doing the snatch.
  • Snatching from behind you, then running into a getaway car to escape.
  • At restaurants, stealing unattended bags / valuables on the chair or table.
  • Hotels airports, where distracted / tired tourists carry all their valuables out.
  • The beach where tourists are relaxed, or when they head to the water.
  • Nightclubs, where “prostitutes” pretend to proposition tourists by grabbing them but are really trying to steal your valuables.
  • Seats beside a train’s doors where a thief gets out just before the doors close.
  • Stealing of bags on overnight trains / buses.
  • Valuables snatched through a car / bus window.
  • Thefts around ATMs.

Hospots to watch out for include:

  • Major cities: Lima, Cusco, Arequipa.
  • Tourist areas: Miraflores, Barranco.


What to do:

When seated / not moving:

While out walking / on transport:

  • Use a cross body anti-theft bag facing away from the road / windows of your vehicle.
  • Avoid carrying valuables in your hands when walking by the road or when beside a vehicle window / train door.

Other measures:

  • Leave valuables in your hotel / hostel / apartment safe secured with hotel safety tools.
  • Get a good travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet and National Geographic – our review) which covers loss of valuables.


3. The short changing scam

Peruvian Sol

Peruvian Sol


How it works:

Short changing visitors is quite common in Peru as scammers rely on the fact that you are not familiar with the local currency.

As such, when you pay for something in Peruvian Sol they will often try to pretend that you gave them a lower denomination and use this to hand you back the incorrect change.

It can happen anywhere, such as at the booking office of a bus station or at a restaurant.


What to do:

Peruvian sol banknotes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles.

When you arrive in Peru make sure to familiarize yourself with the currency first and take care when you receive any change from a local taxi driver or business.

Make sure you count the change slowly before moving on to ensure it is correct.


4. Fake currency


How it works:

Fake currency is a big problem all over Peru, both in Sol and USD. In fact, it is the world leader in producing counterfeit USD notes.

Scammers target visitors in tourist areas and will ask if you can help them by changing a 100 Sol note into two 50 Sol notes.

What you won’t realize is that the 100 Sol bill that they gave you is counterfeit and therefore worthless.


What to do:

If someone asks you to help them change money on the street then this is often a scam.

To differentiate between real and fake Peruvian Sol, here are some tips:

  • Touching the currency: the Sol is made using 100% cotton paper and it comes with a strength and distinctive texture. Genuine ones are made using relief printing, so don’t feel completely smooth. Rather you will find it slightly raised when running your finger along the print “Banco Central de Reserva del Peru”.
  • Looking / checking: an easy feature to verify by looking is the watermark which can be seen in the part of the note that appears blank. If you hold up that part of the note against the sun, a quality 3D image is visible. The watermark, usually the face of iconic figure may also be on a fake note, but will lack the definition you see on a genuine currency note.
  • Turning the note: When the note is raised to eye level and turned on its axis, you will note the shift in the color of the ink that appears in the central number. This ought to alternate between purple and green as you turn the note in the light.


5. Street money exchange




How it works:

You might get approached by money changers on the streets who will try to change fake notes with you.

After changing, they may also point you out to pickpockets whom they could be working with.


What to do:

Do not exchange money on the streets.

In Cusco, only use the money offices at Avenida el Sol and in Lima, and official money changers such as FINSERVA.


6. Fake kidnappings


How it works:

A similar scam to the one in Mexico, this can happen when you are befriended by a friendly local and tell them that you are going on a multi-day hike or tour.

They will ask you for the contact details of your family members in case of emergency and will use these to scam you.

When you go on the trek and are out of contact with your family, they will use your details to call one of your relatives and tell them that you have been kidnapped.

They will then ask your family member to transfer money to them for your release.


What to do:

Do not give out any of your contact details to anyone you meet on a trip to Peru, especially if you do not know them very well.

Be vigilant if someone asks for your details after you have told them that you are going on a trek or tour.


7. Express kidnappings




How it works:

This happens in Arequipa City where against their will, victims are held and forced to accompany the thugs around the ATMs in the city.

Once your account withdrawal limit is reached, the victim is quickly released.

However, some have continued to be held captive for a number of days until they are able to truly empty the account.


What to do:

One solution is to maintain another special account for purposes of travelling needs.

This means you can easily top-up your account whenever you need to without being left penniless in case such a kidnapping occurs.

Further, get travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads, trusted by Lonely Planet) for two key purposes:

  • Monetary compensation for any loss of valuables.
  • Medical coverage in case you are assaulted.


8. The lottery ticket scam


How it works:

Scammers sometimes approach visitors saying that they have a winning lottery ticket.

For some reason however they can’t claim the prize and they will ‘prove’ that they have the same lottery numbers as the ones printed in a local newspaper.

They will then tell you that they will sell you the ticket for a small fee and you can then claim the larger prize yourself.


What to do:

This is clearly a scam and the best way to avoid it is to simply refuse anyone who offers you a ‘winning’ lottery ticket.


9. Shoe shine scam


How it works:

Like in China, Turkey and Vietnam, this scam is also prevalent in Cusco and other major cities across Peru.

A scammer will come up you and offer to clean your shoes.

Once you agree on a price the scammer will get to work and then start to do other things such as spray a waterproof substance on your shoes to keep them clean.

This however costs extra and will not be included in the original price you agreed with the scammer up front.

It will also usually be much higher than the cost to clean the shoes.


What to do:

Shoe shine services are well known in Peru as they often try to scam foreigners.

As such it is best to clean your shoes yourself or be extremely clear about the service you want.

Make sure to refuse any offers of extra services like waterproof spray if you don’t want to pay extra for these.


10. Rigged ATMs


How it works:

ATM scams are common in big cities in Peru. Generally, ATMs can be rigged in two ways.

First, the card skimmer and pinhole camera set up:

  • A card skimmer is installed over the card slot to capture your card details.
  • As for the pinhole camera, it is used to capture your PIN.

Second, the card trap:

  • Scammers can use cheap tools to rig the card slot to trap your card.
  • When you find your card stuck, they will come over and act as a helpful soul, and ask you to retype your PIN to make the card come out.
  • Obviously, your card will still be trapped, but the scammer will have now seen your PIN.
  • Should you head into the bank or somewhere else to seek help, the scammer will unblock your card and escape.


What to do:

Avoid using ATMs at dark, secluded areas. Use only those in controlled environments such as in banks. Avoid shopping malls as security guards are sometimes part of the scam.

Scan the area as well for any suspicious looking characters, and cover your PIN when typing it in.

Also, although not directly relevant, consider using a RFID blocking wallet.

That will prevent your cards’ details from being skimmed by thieves with a mobile RFID reader / scanner.


11. Muggings

Inca trail

Inca trail. Source: daspetravel.com


How it works:

When around Sacsayhuaman ruins located outside Cusco, you should be very careful and not travel alone as there are roving gangs.

Some of the groups around Choquequirao ruins and Inca trail reportedly also have terrorist links and politically motivated.

“Strangle muggings” have also been reported in Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa.

This happens when someone grabs you from the back in a choking hold in the process relieving you of your possessions.


What to do:

Avoid quiet, dark areas, travel in numbers and after sundown, take a taxi for your safety.


12. Sob story scam


How it works:

If any person approaches with a sad story of how he has been robbed and need your help, don’t fall for the trick.

They usually have well-crafted and convincing tales with even police documents of how they have reported their losses to the police.

All they want is your money.


What to do:

There is a particularly infamous German man called Sven Stueber. Ignore.



This is not meant to be a fear mongering exercise, as most visits are trouble free as long as you exercise some common sense.

However, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Information below has been compiled from:


1. Violent crime, hazards, hotspots, terrorism, civil unrest

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Peru

Map of safe and unsafe regions in Peru. Source: smartraveller.gov.au


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Violent crime: significant levels in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa.
  • Hazards: landmines around the Peru – Ecuador border.
  • Hotspots: the VRAEM (Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers), a remote area in the Andes is a safe haven for drug traffickers and terrorists. Other remote areas in the Andes and Amazon basin and border area with Colombia are also dangerous.
  • Terrorism: there are remnants of the Shining Path terrorist group.
  • Civil unrest: local protests are common. Strikes can also occur.


What to do:

Stay alert, avoid secluded areas, travelling alone at night, and don’t look like an easy victim (e.g. looking like a tourist / flaunting valuables).

Monitor local media in case of any terrorist threats, and avoid participating in demonstrations.

Definitely avoid these areas:

  • Colombia – Peru border in Loreto Region (including Putumayo River)
  • Ecuador – Peru border in regions of Loreto, Amazonas (Cordillera del Condor) and Cajamarca
  • Central Peru: Valley of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro (VRAEM)
  • Isolated areas in the Southern Highlands, including San Martin, Huanuco, Pasco, Junin, Ucayali, Huancavelica, Ayacucho and Apurimac

Reconsider travel to these areas:

  • Districts of Kimbiri, Pichari and Vilcabamba in La Convención province in the department of Cuzco (city of Cuzco and Machu Picchu not affected)
  • Huallaga and Tocache provinces in department of San Martín
  • Upper Huallaga and Ene river valleys in departments of Huánuco and San Martín
  • Padre Abad province in department of Ucayali
  • Huacaybamba, Humalíes, Leoncio Prado and Marañón provinces in department of Huánuco
  • Concepción and Satipo provinces in department of Junín
  • Tayacaja province in department of Huancavelica
  • Districts of Abancay, Andahuaylas and Chincheros in department of Apurímac
  • Huanta and La Mar provinces, in department of Ayacucho


2. Health

Clinca Internacional

Clinca Internacional. Source: medellinguru.com


How it works:

Medical care is generally good in Lima and adequate in other major cities but inadequate elsewhere.

Diseases to vaccinate against / watch out for include:

  • Insect borne diseases: yellow fever, zika, malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis.
  • Food and water borne diseases: travellers’ diarrhoea, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis.
  • Animal borne diseases: rabies.
  • Altitude related sickness: Cusco / Machu Picchu, Arequipa / Colca Canyon, Kuelap / Chachapoyas, Puno / Lake Titicaca.


What to do:

If you can’t afford travel insurance (e.g. World Nomads – our review), you can’t afford to travel, as:

  • Emergency health services can cost a bomb.
  • Insurance providers can make complex logistical arrangements to get you the best medical treatment fast.

Vaccinations to consider:                                                

  • All travellers: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, flu shot.
  • Most travellers: hepatitis A, typhoid.
  • Some travellers: Hepatitis B, malaria, rabies, yellow fever.

Prevent insect bites:

  • Protective clothing.
  • Insect repellents.
  • Insecticide treated bed / cot nets.
  • Plug-in insecticides.
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass.

Food safety:

  • Practise safe hygiene such as washing hands with soap.
  • Only drink bottled water or water that has been boiled.
  • Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, ice cubes, uncooked and undercooked food.


3. Natural disasters


How it works:

A brief summary:

  • Earthquakes: active seismic region, with the last major earthquake (8.2 on Richter scale) in 2014 striking the north of the country.
  • Volcanoes: several active ones in the south (Ubinas, Sabancaya) which have erupted multiple times in 2016.
  • Rainy season: November to April
    • Areas susceptible to flooding and landslides: Andes, Tumbes, Trujillo, Piura, surrounding areas in the north.
    • Reconsider travel to the Machu Picchu / Inca Trail / Aguas Calientes areas.


What to do:

Effective preparation and prevention involves staying at the “right” place, travelling at the “right” time and getting travel insurance (e.g. World Nomadsour review) that covers natural disasters.

Check the latest media reportsweather forecasts and sources such as:

Reacting to one:

  • Earthquakes: drop (to hands and knees), cover (head and neck with arms), hold on (to sturdy furniture); expect aftershocks.
  • Volcanic eruption: avoid areas downwind and river valleys downstream of the volcano, do not drive in heavy ash fall, seek shelter (if no need to evacuate) or high ground if no shelter (crouch down away from volcano, cover head with arms).


4. Road safety


How it works:

It can be dangerous driving in Peru, due to:

  • Poorly maintained roads which lack crash barriers, streetlights, etc.
  • Fog on coastal and mountain highways reduces visibility.
  • Narrow winding roads without a shoulder and steep drop offs.
  • Poor driving standards such as sudden stopping in the middle of the road and ignoring road rules.
  • Poorly maintained intercity buses which travel at an excessive speed combined with driver fatigue.


What to do:

Before going out, check the latest media reports and weather forecast.

When on the road, stay alert, wear seatbelts, keep doors locked and windows up.



1. Emergency numbers to call

Police in Peru

Police in Peru. Source: perureports.com


  • Police emergency hotline: 105
  • Tourist police: 08 0022221
  • Ambulance service: 117
  • Fire brigade: 116

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1 Comment

  1. Lesley Clarke

    There is a variation on the friendly local In Peru. Someone has seen you looking for a way to go or checking a map. They approach stating that they are a tourist as well, so why not go together. While you are checking the map/ directions their accomplice is picking your pockets. Fortunately my friends had been briefed!


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