A Nomad’s Guide to Accommodation & Getting Around Peru

Peru’s diverse landscapes offer an equally varied range of transportation and accommodation options. Our insider Charlotte offers her tips.

Where to Stay in Peru

Peru offers a wide range of accommodation from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Most travelers have to spend at least one night in Lima after arriving at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Callao. The majority of hotels are in the districts of Miraflores, San Isidro, and Barranco. Outside of Lima, you can experience everything from mountain huts to jungle lodges.

A good rule of thumb when booking accommodation in Peru is not to make any assumptions. Double check whether you can pay with credit card, and make sure to ask about wifi.

Outside of the bigger cities, accommodation tends to be more informal, and you might not be able to find a website to make a reservation. In rural areas, hot water is a not a given, so look for signs advertising agua caliente.

Be aware that many places don't speak English (especially outside of Lima and Cusco), so you need to either find a place that has reviews attesting to the owners speaking English, be ready to fumble through an interaction, or know at least a moderate amount of Spanish.

Hostels

Peru offers a variety of hostels that cater to different types of guests. They can be a great way to meet other travelers and can help you set up tours and activities. In Lima, a bed in a shared dorm room starts at S./ 39-47 (US $12-15) and private rooms are around S/. 114 (US $35). If you aren’t a solo traveler, sometimes a private room in a hostel is just as economical as a shared dorm.

Prices in Cusco are around S/. 26-32 (US $8-10) for a shared dorm and S./ 91 (US $28) for a private room with a shared bathroom. You’ll also find specialty hostels such as mountain huts when you are trekking in areas like Huaraz and the Sacred Valley.

Hotels

You can find budget hotels from S/. 81 (US $25) and up. These might be better deals than hostels if you’re traveling in a group. Many hotels will also offer an airport shuttle if you ask ahead of time. If you have a little bit more money to spend, you can often find good deals on nicer accommodation, especially outside of Lima.

Homestays

Homestays are most common in rural areas. If you’re interested in staying with a local family, there are several homestay options on the islands on Lake Titicaca and in the Sacred Valley, but make sure you find a travel agency or operator that has you pay the families directly to ensure they are being fairly compensated.

Farm in Sacred Valley. Photo credit: iStock

Jungle Lodges

One of the highlights of Peru are the Amazon jungle lodges in destinations like Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado. These range from high-end luxury establishments to very rustic accommodation.

As most of the lodges are fairly remote, most bookings will include all meals. You’ll typically pay more if you book ahead of time – it’s possible to get better deals if you book last minute. However, it can be hard to discern exactly what you’re getting. Make sure you ask a lot of questions, such as which activities are included and whether or not the guides are English-speaking.

Expect to pay around S/. 650-810 (US $200-250) per person for a basic two-to-three-night package. (S/. 3,890 or US $1,200 wouldn’t be unheard of for some of the five-star lodges).

Cabana in jungle lodge. Photo credit: iStock

Arriving at the Airports in Lima and Cusco

When you land in Lima, the cheapest and safest option if you are staying in Miraflores is to take the new airport bus, which costs S/. 26 (US $8) one way. For more than one person, it might be worth taking an official taxi for around S/.50 (US $16), which should take between 50 minutes and 1.5 hours depending on the time of day and traffic. The 10-minute taxi ride from the airport in Cusco to the city center should cost around S./ 30 (US $9.25).

Rental Cars

Renting a car in Peru is only for the very brave who are prepared to face bumper-to-bumper traffic with unspoken rules of the road that are only known to locals. Stop signs, crosswalks, and speed limits seem to be mere suggestions. Outside of Lima, be prepared for less-than-well maintained roads, especially when you get off the major highways. You also want to avoid driving on rural roads after dark due to lack of lighting and hidden potholes.

Taxis

Taxis are by far the easiest and most comfortable way to get around cities. The safest option is to ask your hotel or restaurant to call a cab for you, or use an app like Uber, EasyTaxi, or TaxiBeat.

If you want to take a taxi on the street, ask a local how much it should cost to go to your destination. Negotiate the fare before you get in, as taxis are not metered. If a driver inflates the price, wave him on and there will be another one behind him waiting for your fare. There is no expectation to tip.

Public Transportation in Lima

Lima has a well-maintained rapid transit bus system, the Metropolitano, which runs north and south between the city’s main districts. You first need to buy a travel card for S/. 4.5 (US $1.40), which you can then top up at all Metropolitano bus stations. A single ride should cost S/. 2.50 (US $.75).

There are regular and express buses, so make sure your bus stops at the station you need. Note that the red seats are reserved for the elderly, disabled, and pregnant. As most of Lima’s 10 million residents use public transportation, avoid traveling at rush hour.

There is also a confusing system of vans and microbuses, called combis, that feature a guy leaning out the door, shouting various destinations. Those always entail an adventure, and might be best left to the locals.

Public transport in Lima. Photo credit: iStock

Long-haul Buses

For intercity travel, Peru’s long-haul buses are quite comfortable and inexpensive (it’s usually worth paying an extra S/. 65 (US $20) for a “bus-cama” VIP seat, i.e. a “bus bed” that reclines flat), but the windy, slow-going roads through the mountains can mean very long travel times despite relatively short distances.

The bus ride from Lima to Cusco, for example, is upwards of 20 hours while a flight takes less than two hours. The trip costs approximately S/. 227 (US $70). Lima to Arequipa takes 17 hours and costs S/. 130-195 (US $40-60).

Internal Flights in Peru

For those short on time, it’s usually worth it to splurge a bit for internal flights. LATAM is the main national airline, but travelers should beware that it often advertises cut-rate prices for Peruvian residents. As a foreigner without a residence permit, you’d need to pay an extra S/. 243 (US $75) each way if you accidently book a resident fare.

There are several budget carriers, such as Peruvian Airlines, LC Peru, and Star Peru, that offer reasonable domestic flights for less than S/. 324 (US $100).

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