Last Updated: 2/2/2020 | February 2nd, 2020
Peru is receiving record numbers of tourists these days, with over four million a year going to experience the third-largest country in South America.
Whether to visit Machu Picchu, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, or the vibrant capital city of Lima and its blossoming food scene, people are flocking to Peru in droves.
However, I also often hear and read about tourists getting mugged or hear being stolen. I get worried emails from travelers wondering if Peru is safe to visit.
Today, I want to answer their questions:
Is safe to visit Peru? What do you need to look out for? What precautions do you need to take?
9 Safety Tips for Peru
In general, Peru is a pretty safe place to visit. You’re not going to get kidnapped or murdered there, but Peru does require you to be a bit more vigilant than other places. There is a lot of petty crime against tourists, especially those who are careless and leave valuables around.
Here are nine tips that should help you understand what the risks are and make sure your trip to Peru is even safer:
1. Avoid displaying any expensive belongings – Keep your best jewelry out of sight (or even leave it at home). Don’t flaunt valuables like your mobile phone or tablet, and always keep an eye on your stuff. Don’t even wear airpods on the street. Minimizing the target on your back that says, “I’m carrying a lot of valuable stuff” is very important.
2. Be aware of thieves or muggers working in pairs or small groups – The trick of distracting you (for example, someone “accidentally” bumping into you, or a group of kids playing or fighting near you) is often used so that an accomplice can rob you while you’re not paying attention to your belongings.
3. Watch out for pickpockets – In crowded places or on public transit, be aware that thieves could be looking to literally pick your pocket, or slash your bag, to steal from you. Keep some small bills in a separate pocket, so that when you’re paying for things, you don’t need to put your whole wallet or purse on display.
4. Avoid traveling alone at night – There have been incidents of people being mugged as they leave a taxi at night in the cities, and repeated reports of bandit activity after dark in some areas, such as Tingo María, northwest of Lima, at the entrance to the Tingo María National Park. Having at least one friend with you will help if these worst-case scenarios happen, but it is also simply useful as an extra pair of eyes and ears to keep vigilant.
5. Choose a reputable bus operator – Sometimes the cheapest option isn’t the best one. Some of the cheap bus companies have the most reckless drivers and lots of breakdowns, and since Peru has some of the world’s worst traffic accident rates, you’re usually safer using a slightly pricier bus company. Some of the most reputable bus operators include Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, Civa, and Movil Tours.
6. Don’t use drugs – This is always a good idea. But since Peru produces a lot of cocaine, tourists (especially young backpackers) tend to do a lot of it here. It’s not worth the risk, however, since if authorities even suspect you of using drugs, you can be detained for up to 15 days. Buying drugs here supports organized crime, so be smart and skip the drugs.
7. Learn some Spanish – Being able to speak some basic Spanish will help you in many situations, but if you get in trouble and need help, then you’ll really appreciate it. Start with an app like Duolingo or Memrise to master some basic vocabulary, or take a more comprehensive course like those offered by Rosetta Stone. And don’t forget to make friends with your Google Translate app.
8. Be careful in the coca-growing areas – In the Huallaga Valley north of Tingo María, cocaine is still being produced, and in the same area in recent years, the Shining Path group (a communist revolutionary organization) has been part of some violent incidents. Although tourists are not generally targeted by drug traffickers or Shining Path members, you still need to be extra vigilant in these areas.
9. Buy travel insurance – In the case that something does go wrong, it’ll be a lot less stressful if you have travel insurance. You should have it whenever you travel, but in a country where petty theft is, unfortunately, a little more common, it’s even more important. And of course, it’s also important for covering any medical or other emergency situation you might encounter.
For more information on tarvel insurance, check out these posts:
- What Does Travel Insurance ACTUALLY Cover?
- The 7 Best Travel Companies in 2019
- How to Buy the Best Travel Insurance
FAQ about Safety in Peru
With these travel tips, you’ll be able to stay safe while you visit or backpack around Peru! Furthermore, here are answers to some frequently asked questions we get:
Is Machu Picchu safe?
Machu Picchu is such a common tourist destination that you’ll most likely be safer here than any other part of Peru. Chances are you’ll be hiking with a group or in a crowd, so pickpockets and other petty thieves are unlikely to be around. It’s much more important to be vigilant in cities like Lima or Cusco.
The more important safety issue if you are hiking to Machu Picchu is to take care of your health. Make sure you have plenty of water, and use sunscreen and hats to deal with the heat. If you’re not acclimatized to the altitude, then altitude sickness can be a problem; you need to take it seriously if you start to feel sick. Avoid this by staying in Cusco for at least a couple of days before visiting Machu Picchu.
Finally, if you use a guide, which is recommended when hiking, make sure they are a licensed operator, as you sometimes hear of unlicensed guides taking you the wrong route and keeping your hiking permit payment for themselves.
Is Peru safe to travel alone?
Solo travel is pretty common in Peru, and you’ll often find plenty of other solo backpackers to spend time with, so it’s unlikely you’ll be alone that much.
Bus travel and being out after dark anywhere is safer in a group, but in general, solo travel in Peru is no more dangerous than traveling with friends or a partner.
Remember, too, to avoid really standing out and looking like a tourist. Don’t dress in fancy clothes, don’t wave your expensive gadgets around, and if you get lost, don’t stand there staring at a map. Basically, avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, and you’ll immediately reduce the chance of a petty thief deciding you’re their next victim.
Is it safe to travel to Peru with kids?
On the whole, it’s not especially unsafe to take your kids to Peru. Family and children are very important in the Peruvian culture, so you and your kids will be made to feel very welcome.
Be careful with particularly small children, though, because they’re more susceptible to getting sick from unfiltered water, for example. It’s also not recommended to take kids under three to high altitudes such as Machu Picchu.
Is Peru safe for female travelers?
It’s not particularly more unsafe to be a female traveler in Peru, though you might be the victim of some unwanted attention, mostly in the form of catcalling — but just ignore it and move on. Local women in Peru rarely go out to bars without men, so if you are a women-only group in a bar, you might get some extra attention.
Avoid being alone if you can, especially after dark, because petty thieves will see you as an easy target. Having said that, if you are a solo female traveler and need help, most locals will be very understanding and do their best to assist you.
Can you drink the water in Peru?
While tap water is plentiful in the country and indoor plumbing is common, it’s advised that you boil all your drinking water while in Peru. Make sure to boil your water for at least 1 minute to remove any contaminants. If you have a Lifestraw or SteriPen you can use either of those to ensure your water is always safe to drink. Additionally, bring a reusable water bottle to avoid single-use plastic.
Are taxis safe in Peru?
Taxis are relatively safe, but you’ll want to make sure that you only use authorized taxis and that you know the rate in advance. If you need a taxi, have your hostel or hotel call one for you and find out what the rate is in advance. Make sure you agree on the fare with the driver in advance, as taxis don’t use meters so it’s easy to get overcharged if you’re not paying attention.
Try to avoid riding alone at night, especially if you’re a solo female traveler.
Peru is an amazing destination no matter what your interests, with a fascinating culture, welcoming people, and amazing landscapes and historical sights. I think everyone should check these out for themselves!
You do need to be cautious about your personal safety, however. The most common issues travelers face there are petty theft and pickpocketing, but by exercising a bit of extra vigilance and common sense, you can protect yourself against much of this. If you also make sure you’re not carrying valuables in an obvious way and don’t have large sums of cash in one place, the risks of having significant losses are really low.
Peru is a relatively safe country to visit, and the amazing attractions will definitely make your trip worthwhile!
Book Your Trip to Peru: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Peru?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Peru for even more planning tips!