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Arequipa, Peru | © Christian Vinces / Shutterstock
Arequipa, Peru | © Christian Vinces / Shutterstock
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15 Things Tourists Should Never Do in Peru, Ever

Picture of Brandon Dupre
Updated: 19 December 2017
Peru has quickly become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The diverse country boats ancient ruins, beautiful colonial architecture, stunning landscapes and, of course, Machu Picchu. If you’re one of the million of tourists coming to Peru each year, there are some things you should know before you arrive in order to ensure you have a safe, happy, and successful trip. Here are 15 of them.

Don’t be afraid to share beer

In Peru, they mostly – almost exclusively – serve beer in large bottles that are meant to be shared with other people. While you can certainly consume one of those all by yourself, it’s always nice to drink a beer with a friend. You can find single small beers at expensive restaurants or big supermarkets, but they’re often more expensive than the larger bottles. Best to buy a big bottle and make some friends!

Don’t be timid

If you’re at, say, a little corner store and want service, you have to demand it. The same goes if you’re at a restaurant; you’ll most likely have to get the waiter’s attention, otherwise you’ll be waiting all night. Don’t be shy; just tell them what you want.

Don’t expect lines

Lines are almost non-existent unless you’re in a bank. Don’t be surprised if you’re in what you think is a line, and a Peruvian walks right past you to the front. It can be frustrating, but just remember, you can do it too!

Don’t expect punctuality

Never think a Peruvian will be on time, because if you do, you’ll be let down. Peruvians view time differently, so that date you had planned for 7 p.m. may not show up until 8 or 9 p.m., but don’t worry, it’s nothing personal, it’s just the way they do things here.

Don’t expect everything to be spicy

Peru is known for its spicy ceviche and rocto relleno (stuffed peppers), but don’t expect everything else to be like that. Even in the case of the ceviche, if you don’t ask for it to be spicy, it won’t be. Most of the time they’ll err on the side of bland when serving a foreign visitor, so if you like spicy food, make sure to let them know that’s how you’d like it.

Don’t be afraid to use “ya”

Peruvians use the word “ya” for just about every conceivable thing. The word is also used in the same way as “yeah” is used in English. Don’t be afraid to use it.

Don’t say Chile does it better

Peruvians don’t take talk about Chile lightly. The two countries that share a border are always in competition, and while you’re in Peru, remember, Peru does it better. If you want to make some friends, tell them that Peru does a better pisco sour than Chile.

Don’t be offended if you are asked your marital status

Peruvians will always ask if you are married or have children, even if they only just met you. Don’t be offended if you get in a taxi and the driver asks you whether or not you’re married; just go with it.

Don’t walk around with big bills

This isn’t because you might be robbed, but because having big bills on you, such as 100 soles, is just as good as having nothing. You’ll only be able to break them at a restaurant or a big grocery store; no one else will accept them.

Don’t lug around a load of souvenirs

A lot of people make the mistake of getting all their shopping done while in Cusco or the Sacred Valley, lugging their Andean prints around with them for the rest of their trip around Peru. If you don’t want to lug it all around, wait until you get back to Lima. You’ll find everything you want there, and you can buy it all just before your international flight.

Don’t assume coca is bad

Coca is widely used throughout the Andean region of Peru, and has been since the Incas. It was used during Inca ceremonies and is still used today to fight off altitude sickness and hunger. It also tastes pretty good in teas, and is a perfect remedy for the cold temperatures and high altitudes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

Don’t insult Inca Cola

This is the national drink of Cusco and is consumed everywhere by everyone. While the taste isn’t the best – it taste like bubble gum – don’t tell your Peruvian friend that. Those are fighting words.

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Inca Cola, Peru’s favorite drink | © erin / Flickr

Don’t expect everyone to speak English

While the main tourist locations in Peru will most likely have staff who speak English, don’t expect that to be the case everywhere. Learn some Spanish phrases before you come to Peru, because you’ll need them. Do at least try to fumble your way through with some Spanish, rather than demanding that everyone speak your language.

Don’t throw toilet paper in the toilet

You’ll find the signs in every bathroom reminding you not to throw toilet paper into the toilets. It clogs them up and the sewage systems can’t handle it.

Don’t get upset about Peruvians littering

You’ll be in a beautiful location, at some Inca ruins or in a national forrest, and you’ll see a Peruvian toss their empty water bottle or plastic wrapper on the ground without a second thought. It’s frustrating to see, but not worth getting into a fight over – you can’t change the country while you’re traveling here.

Need some rest and relaxation time? Check out the best healing centers in Peru.