You can travel large in Peru on a budget. I spent three months (90 days) traveling Peru wide and far but I spent less than $1050 on lodging and less than $300 on ground travel. Learn how you can do the same. Live a rich life without having to be rich. I may not have a lot of money but I live a rich live and so can you. I did this three month trip for less than a one week all inclusive tour would have cost!
I prefer to travel overland and actually see the country. You miss a lot if you hope flights from place to place. I like to see the country up close and see how the people really live. It is also nice to see the landscape up close and the terrain changes from desert to mountains and even jungles.
Spreadsheets tools and travel budgets. Provided in the free version of OpenOffice
You don't need as much as you think you do to travel. Make the time to travel now. If I can do this on the tight budget of a river guide an average American worker certainly can. If you have questions please comment on my YouTube videos and I will seek answers for you.
How you packs in many ways determines how you travel. Remember you are traveling to see rather than be seen. Packing less allows for more adventure. Safety tip leave all your gold and bling at home; it only makes you a target.
How to pack carry on or even personal item sized with a 10.5 liter Watershed Ocoee Drybag. Some people ask why. First it makes clearing customs and getting out of the airport much faster without checked luggage. The reason to pack light is to save money and make travel easier especially when carrying all your stuff through airports, bus stations, train stations, and walking to hostels. Many airlines now only allow one carry-on sized backpack or suitcase and one personal item. The personal item must fit under the seat in front of you. So with this tip you have an entire carry-on dedicated to your gear
My packing list consists of the following: 3 underwear briefs, 1 pair poly socks, 2 pair wool socks, 3 washable face coverings, 1 towel quick dry, 1 long sleeve shirt quick dry, 2 short sleeve shirts quick dry, 1 pair of guide pants quick dry, 1 pair of shorts quick dry, 1 pair of convertible pants quick dry, 1 fleece top, 1 poly thermal base layer, and 1 pair poly bottoms base layer. Additionally my toiletries, first aid kit, and medications fit in the drybag.
Even in the nastiest of places my cloths and other content stay clean and dry in the drybag.
Things to do and places to visit in Peru. You too can visit and see Peru without needing a fortune. Travel and lodging costs are both quite reasonable. I spent less than $1050 on lodging during my 90 day visit to Peru. My transportation costs within the country totaled less than $275. Most excursions were also reasonably affordable. Especially if you avoid the torts selling over priced tours near bus stations and town squares. I am providing resource links in the description. Please add your own suggestions and questions in the comments. If you enjoy this video please give it a like and share.
Most people fly into Lima's international airport to begin their visits to Peru. Barranco is one of the nicer parts of Lima with middle and high income residents, nice parks, street art, restaurants, cafes, and bars. Additionally there are two really nice micro breweries to visit; one near the town center called Barranco Beer Company and another a few blocks away called Red Cervecera. There are lots of hostels serving budget minded travelers in Barranco as well. The Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros) is very popular and crosses above the Bajada de Baños, a stone walkway that runs down to the Pacific through Lima's bohemian district.
I found Barranco and Miraflores both very safe and walk-able. I managed to walk more than ten miles a day at times. A memorable day trip was to Huaca Pucllana; a large adobe and clay pyramid located in the Miraflores district of central Lima. Mummies have been found and human sacrifice was practiced. However only women were sacrificed at this site.
Another great walk was from the main square of Barranco to the far end of Malecon a two-mile strip of parks, gardens and green space on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Miraflores. The park furthest from Barranco is called Parque Maria Reiche and features gardens planted to resemble the Nazca Lines.
Miraflores adjoins Barranco near The Museum of Contemporary Art, Lima, abbreviated as MAC Lima. The museum features a large open park that is a great place to relax or eat lunch. Parque del Amor, the love park has a great view of the Pacific and the many surfers enjoying the waves below. Nearby is Parque John F. Kennedy with many friendly cats roaming at will and a nice gathering of food carts in the evenings. There are many nice coffee shops and restaurants in Miraflores. This part of Lima feels upscale!
South of Lima on the coast is Paracas and the Ballestas islands. Wildlife is a big draw for the Ballestas Islands National Park with its sea-lions, penguins, and many sea birds. Guano is still collected from a couple of islands. Access to the islands is greatly restricted but boat tours are available. The town of Paracas is small and walk-able but has a lively waterfront with restaurants and bars to server tourists. The seafood is very fresh and prices are fair for what you get.
Ica is the closest city to the oasis Huacahina just 5 km away. This former private resort features a beautiful oasis surrounded by tropical trees in the mist of a desert and giant sand dunes. For a small fee you can enter the Area de Conservacion Regional de Huacachina. As I recall the fee was close to $1. Better deals can be had in Ica than Huacahina for both food and lodging. Ica even has a nice mall.
Nazca is a small town with no night life. It is possible to see almost everything there in one day. The highlight of this stop are the Nazca Lines. Pro tip for the best deal go directly to the airport to buy your flight over the Nazca Lines. It is best to book morning flights for the best views and least turbulent flight. Price at airport is $50 to fly over the lines but the same exact trip is sold for $100 in town. Taxi to airport costs five or six soles (less than $2). Other sights to see near Nazca are Cahuachi Pyramids and Acueductos de Cantalloc. The Cahuachi Pyramids were an important pilgrimage site between 1 AD and 500 AD. The subterranean Acueductos de Cantalloc are best visited in person to appreciate. You can also see them from the plane as you view the Nazca Lines.
Arequipa the white city has a nice climate and is well located for taking excursions. There is a rather large expat community and likely as a result the city features quite the craft beer scene. Plaza de Armas has nice restaurants and a rooftop bar to enjoy sunsets. Mirador de Yanahuara Is a nice walk from Plaza de Armas and has rewarding views. Plaza Campo Redondo is the center of the craft beer scene in Arequipa. Nowhere Cerveza Artesanal and Cerveceria Barbarian both feature impressive craft beer selections on tap in one of the oldest neighborhoods of Arequipa. There are other craft beers to sample nearby as well as nice restaurants.
Puno is located at the shores of Lake Titicaca near the Bolivian border. Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. The altitude is high and the weather is cold. The floating islands of Uros are rather cold and damp. Average life expectancy of the people is 60 and rheumatoid arthritis is common due to the harsh conditions. The climate on Taquile island was warmer and more pleasant. The island has many ancient terraces. Sillustani is an archaeological site containing funeral towers overlooking a volcanic basin filled by a lake.
Cusco is a safe and walk-able city. Plaza de Armas features a full court press of high pressure sales by vendors, artists and torts. You can literally buy anything in the Plaza de Armas despite the heavy police presence. However it is possible to get better deals on tours elsewhere. Nearby Plaza de Armas is the Museo Inka with interesting artifacts and information; be sure to accept the services of at guide to improve your visit. Nearby you may find the Twelve Angled Stone. Also close to Plaza de Armas you can find some local craft beer and the Museo de Pisco. Paddy's Irish Pub is frequented by expats.
When you have had time enjoyed the colonial architecture and had enough of the constant sales pressure in Plaza de Armas take a walk to the San Pedro Mercado. The Mercado has food booths, fresh fruits and vegetables, and many artisanal crafts. You are also likely to find better deals at San Pedro Mercado than at Plaza de Armas. Also note the train station across the street from the Mercado should you desire to take the train to Machu Picchu. Also nearby San Pedro is the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís that features interesting catacombs.
Qorikancha is the remains of the Inca's sun temple the conquistadors partially razed before building upon it church. The original stone work of Qorikancha is impressive.
The neighborhood of San Blas is certainly worth the effort to visit as the views are stunning and there are several nice restaurants. See the review I made about my stay at Casa de Mirador in San Blas.
Overlooking Cusco you will find the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. Many of the stones were too large for the conquistadors to raze or carry away so quite a bit of this important cultural site remains. The stone work is seriously impressive. You have a couple of choices when buying your ticket for entry. If you plan to see other sights the more expensive ticket might be the best buy at s/ 130 the equivalence of $32.50 at the time of my visit. If you are pressed for time and don't plan to visit other places there is a cheaper s/ 70 ticket. Do consider hiring one of the official guides present at the site; they will add a lot of information and context to the experience. Don't forget to tip your guide! Take some more time after your tour to enjoy the site. Walk about the nearby overlooks or miradores before you return to town.
Urubamba hosts the best craft beer brewery I have found in Peru. Cervecería Willkamayu has modern equipment and the best IPAs I have found in South America. The other styles are impressive as well. The private beer garden space is very chill and inviting. The beer is kindly priced at s/ 12 each about $3. I highly recommend this frugal and rewarding stop to experience quality craft beer. You will meet more locals than gringo tourists at this cerveceria.
Urubamba is pleasant town located in the Sacred Valley. It is easy to visit many archaeological sites including Ollantaybambo and Chinchero that can be simply access by bus from Urubamba's bus station for less than $2. You can easily find official guides at both locations near the gate. The same ticket you already bought for Sacsayhuaman will provide free entry for up to ten days of purchase. I found the terraces of Chinchero to be particularly impressive even compared to Machu Picchu. Ollantaybambo is sometimes referred to as the oldest living Inca town. Ancient terraces and grain storage buildings dot the landscape. Many of the structures are still used throughout the valley for food production.
While you are visiting Ollantaybambo be sure to spend sometime at the Plaza de Armas and enjoy the mountain views and quaint restaurants. The Sacred Valley has no lack of quality craft beer. The great water quality leads to superior beer. Many local crafts are sold in markets and on the streets here. However the crush of vendors is not as bad as Cusco's Plaza de Armas. You can enjoy eating along the streets in Ollantaybambo with fewer disturbances.
The town of Maras is a quick and affordable bus ride from Urubamba. However you will need to negotiate with a taxi for rides to the sights of Morary and the salt mines or join a tour. Morary is place the Inca experimented with crops. The descending terraces form amphitheater like structures with up to 15 degrees Celsius difference between the upper and lower levels. Soil was brought to Morary form many diferent parts of the empire. The different terraces to mimic the climate of other regions. Morary deserves a visit. The ancient salt pools that make up the salt mine are impressive. There are overlooks along the road that approaches the salt mine much worth a pause for a few photos. It is possible to trek back to Urubamba after viewing the salt complex.
From the Plaza de Armas of Urubamb it is a reasonable hike to the overlook at Tantamarka. The scenery and fresh air can't be overstated. Along the route you see ancient irrigation works still in use to this day. During future trips to Peru I will spend more time in Urubamba and less in Cusco. I found Urubamba more affordable and livable than Cusco.
Finally the place most people think of first in Peru, Machu Picchu. You can choose between treking and even scenic train rides to Aguas Calientes the pueblo of Machu Picchu. You can catch the train easily in Cusco at the San Perdo train station or take an inexpensive bus to Ollantaybambo to catch the train there. My trip occurred during the beginning of the rainy season and the river was raging. Agua Calientes has many hotels, hostels, and restaurants to server tourists. Tickets to enter Machu Picchu should be purchased in advance. Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to the gate of Machu Picchu are bought in town generally one day in advance. It is easy to find official guides milling about near the office selling bus tickets. Hiring the right guide can greatly improve your visit to Machu Picchu.
These frugal stays were overall very nice. All of my stays were in private rooms with private bathrooms. Some stay even included breakfast. Video lodging reviews of all my stays during Peru Trip 2021-2022. It would be possible to stay in hostel dormitories for even less. However due to covid concerns and basic security I spent a little more. I still managed to spend less than a total of $1050 on lodging during my 90 day visit to southern Peru. I even visited Machu Picchu during this adventure. I think lodging for less than $350/month is not a bad deal especially while travelling to new places and moving about with a relatively open itinerary.
My total transportation costs in Peru during a 90 day trip were less than $275. I did take a few taxis but mostly walked locally. Urubamba was a great base for visiting the Sacred Valley. Transportation was easy and very cheap to all the sights. In the future I may spend less time in Cusco and more time in Urubamba. I prefer riding buses during the day to see the local scenery.
This map lists nine cities worth a stay as you travel the southern Peru classic tourist's circuit. Links to all but one of my stay in a Hotel at the Pueblo of Machu Picchu. It was omitted due to being substandard. Additionally may of the tourist attractions and historic sites are linked as well.
My average lodging cost was less than $12/day; see lodging spreadsheet for details or map for actual locations. All rooms were private with private bathrooms. It would be possible to stay even cheaper in dormitories at hostels. You could eat out for as little at $10/day. If you eat like a local breakfast of luch will cost about $2.50 each and supper will cost about $5. The local mercado is a good choice to eat frugal yet fresh food. If you have access to a kicthen and cook your own meals costs could be much lower. So room and board costs could be covered for $22/day. Transportation costs were low but depend upon where you want to go and how. I traveled overland from Lima to Macchu Picchu and back for less than $275 as detailed in my transportation spreadsheet.