Quick Guide to Peru: Visa-free travel for South Africans

2018-09-05 20:00 - Kavitha Pillay
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Peru's "Rainbow Mountains" (Photo: iStock)

The mention of Machu Pichu, Inca tribes, llamas and Spanish gets one thinking of Peru. But there’s so much more to explore in this South American country.

From art collections of a pre-Colombian era and adventures in the bustling capital Lima, to rainbow mountains and massive lakes, Peru is a travel bucket-list goal for those seeking to explore South America.

But before you jet off to this ancient land, here’s what you need to take note of to ensure a smooth trip:

Visa requirements: No. South Africans with a valid passport qualify for a 90-day on arrival.

Medical requirements: Vaccines for Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies and routine vaccines are recommended. 

National Carrier: LATAM Perú.

Airport Hub: Jorge Chávez International Airport.

Flight Route: Fly direct from Johannesburg to Lima.

SEE: En route to Machu Picchu via homestays in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Currency: Peruvian Sol - about R4/Sol

Travel adapter: Type A and C.

Time Zone: 7 hours behind South Africa (GMT -5).

Public Transport: For long distance travel by bus, make use of taxis, moto-taxis or mini-bubses, take an adventurous and scenic boat ride or use the train to get around Peru. You can also make use of Uber in Lima.

Climate: Along Peru’s coast, the climate is dry to semi-dry with high temperatures and little rainfall. The Andes mountains region expects cool-to-cold climate, rainy summers and dry winter, while eastern lowlands has an equatorial climate - hot weather and rain all year long.

Best time to visit: May to September is the driest season (winter) and the best time of year to travel.

Languages: Spanish, Quechua, Aymara.

Useful Phrases: Since English is not an official nor a common language, here are some useful phrases in Spanish to ease communication on your travels:

Useful app to downloadDuolingo makes learning a new language easy and fun.  

  • Yes - Sí
  • No - No
  • Thank you - Gracias
  • You’re welcome - De nada
  • Okay - Está bien
  • Please - Por favor
  • Excuse me (to get attention) - ¡Perdón! ¡Por favor!
  • Excuse me (to get through a crowd) - ¡Permiso!
  • Excuse me (sorry) - Perdóneme
  • Can you help me? - ¿Me puede ayudar?
  • Do you speak English? (formal) ¿Habla inglés?
  • Hello - ¡Hola!
  • Good morning - Buenos días
  • Good afternoon - Buenas tardes
  • Welcome - Bienvenido
  • How are you? (formal/informal) - ¿Cómo está?/¿Qué tal?
  • Very well - Muy bien
  • Goodbye - Adiós

SEE: PICS: Would you ever be brave enough to spend the night in this see-through cliff-hanging capsule in Peru?

Must-visit places

Tour Lima: The city’s historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with colonial architecture and museums. The unique combination of beaches, cuisine and ancient Inca ruins are experiences not to be missed in Lima. 

Machu Pichu, Inca ruins and ancient sites: Explore 15th century Machu Picchu - an Incan citadel in the Andes Mountains that remains a mystery, see Nazca Lines in southern Peru which are a group of pre-Columbian geoglyphs etched into the earth, and learn more about the Inca tribes and sites across the country.

‘Rainbow Mountains’: Take in the sheer beauty and awe of the stripes of turquoise, lavender and gold hues of "Rainbow Mountain", a ridge of multi-coloured sediments laid down millions of years ago and pushed up as tectonic plates clashed.

Colca Canyon: This river canyon in southern Peru is one of the world's deepest. The landscape boasts green valleys and is home to remote traditional villages “with terraced agriculture that predates the Incas” according to Auto Colca. The Colca River is popular for rafting.

READ MORE: PICS: Why thousands of tourists flock to Peru's newfound 'Rainbow Mountain' 

Food to try: Apart from all the ancient ruins to visit, if there’s one thing you have to do in Peru, it’s taste the flavourful cuisine of this country.

  • Ceviche: Considered Peru's national dish, it started with only five ingredients: sea bass marinated in lime juice, onion, salt and hot chillies – almost like Cape Town’s version of pickled fish! Add sides of starchy boiled corn, creamy sweet potato or dry-roasted corn kernels to add some crunch.

  • Cuy (Guinea Pig): Stuffed with local herbs, roasted over an open wood fire and serve it with potatoes.
  • Aji de Gallina (Creamy Chicken): This dish reflects Peru's love of sauces thickened with chilies, cheese, cream or bread, and contains shredded chicken in a thick sauce made with cream, ground walnuts, cheese, and aji amarillo.
  • Lomo Saltado (Stir Fried Beef): Soy-marinated beef (or alpaca), onions, tomatoes, aji chilies, and other spices are stir-fried. Served with rice and french fries.
  • Papas a la Huancaina (Potatoes in Spicy Cheese Sauce): Usually served as a side dish to a meal, this dish is made with sliced yellow potatoes drenched in a purée of queso fresco, aji amarillo, garlic, evaporated milk, lime juice and saltine crackers.

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Travel tips

What to pack:

  • Your passport, arrival and return tickets, adequate money.
  • A camera, notebook/ tablet or smartphone, power-bank to stay charged on the go.
  • Comfortable, lightweight, and casual clothes.
  • Comfortable sandals, sneakers and strong shoes if you decide to go on hikes.
  • A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
  • Hand sanitiser, tissues, wet wipes, insect repellent, prescription medication.
  • Binoculars for safaris/sightseeing, waterproof bag to store personal belongings when on boat cruises/ water activities.
  • Carry small change/ cash.

Tips while exploring:

  • Learn the common phrases of the local language and about local culture, and respect cultural norms.
  • Don't drink the water. The water in Peru is also not recommended for washing your food or brushing your teeth with. Rather use purified bottled water which is easily available. High end hotels have water purification systems.
  • Try the coca tea, but don’t try it too close to bedtime because it might keep you awake. Also, don't bring some back from your travels – it’s illegal in the US and may be in other countries too.
  • Ask before photographing people.
  • Stay overnight near Machu Picchu for an early start to the citadel, and at least an hour or two of exploring before it gets an influx of tourists.
  • Book your train and Machu Picchu tickets early as there are limited trains running, which sell out fast in high season (July - September).
  • Take note of bathroom etiquette, as in some places the toilet paper goes in the trash and not the toilet.


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