You will not need any special immunizations for travel to Peru. However, each participant should be current on tetanus and hepatitis immunizations. Also you may want to consider getting a flu shot at least two weeks prior to departure.
You will be traveling at an altitude above 10,000 feet. This puts you at risk for altitude sickness, which in severe instances can be fatal. Persons with a history of altitude-related pulmonary or cerebral edema, chronic obstructive lung disease or asthma, hypertension, diabetes and/or kidney disease are cautioned against making this trip.
It is recommended that you get a complete physical exam prior to departure. Ask your primary care physician about the use of Acetazolamide (sold under the name Diamox), a prescription drug used to speed the acclimatization process. Diamox must be taken a few days prior to ascending to altitude. Common side effects of Diamox include but are not limited to headache, numbness and tingling of the hands, feet and lips, dizziness and blurred vision and altered taste sensation. Diamox is a diuretic. Proper hydration is important when using this drug.
Medicine and Toiletries
Your personal care items should include:
Anti-diarrhea medicine and Pepto Bismol
Aspirin or other OTC pain reliever
Laxative with stool softener
Eye lubricating drops
Antibacterial hand gel
High-SPF sunscreen and lip balm
Bottled water is readily available, so there is no need to pack a water filter. Plan to bring a non-breakable wide-mouth thermos for heating your own snacks. We recommend packing snacks such as instant soup, ramen noodles, freeze-dried mashed potato mix and powdered hot chocolate for snacking at lunchtime. Nuts, candy and protein bars are also recommended. You will be served meals that are safe to eat; however, take care not to eat salads or skin-on fruit, just to be on the safe side. We also council you against eating at local restaurants (unless specifically recommended by Quechua Benefit) where you may be at risk of contracting dysentery. Don’t be surprised to see alpaca and guinea pig (cuy) on the menu.
Pack comfortable clothing and plan to dress in layers, as morning and evening temps are cool. Bring a jacket and a sturdy pair of hiking boots or athletic shoes. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses and towels.
We typically bring thrift store clothing that we leave in Peru. There are plenty of needy people who’ll gladly accept your used clothing – and it’ll leave you with more room in your suitcase for packing alpaca sweaters and blankets on the return home.
Even though you’ll want to pack light, pick up some inexpensive gift items for the local children, such as stickers or temporary tattoos, balloons, pencils, ponytail holders, etc. Sugar-free gum is good, too. Your local dollar store will have everything you need…
Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in Lima, Arequipa and Cusco; American Express and Discover are not, except perhaps at the larger resorts. Traveler’s checks can only be cashed in the major cities such as Lima and Arequipa. Automate tellers are very expensive in Peru and may not work. Contact your credit card issuer in advance of your trip and alert them of your travel plans so that your cards don’t get “frozen.”
Money exchange can be done in Arequipa. Plan to bring newer currency, as worn or torn US Dollars will not be accepted at the bank or currency exchange booths. Go to your local bank ahead of time and ask for newer bills. You will need Peruvian currency during travel to outlying areas. For a currency converter “cheat sheet” visit www.oanda.com.
If you get carried away shopping for alpaca apparel while in Peru, you can ship items home using FedEx and DHL. Most of the larger resorts can assist with this. Knitted and woven alpaca apparel is duty-free.
Phone Calling and Internet Access
Internet access is available, as is direct-dial phone service. If you intend to bring your cell phone, contact your provider to determine if your phone is able to be used internationally; you’ll also need to arrange international service, which can be expensive. Your best bet is to make calls from the larger resorts or purchase a calling card. Plan to leave your laptop at home and use e-mail at internet cafés.
Standard US appliances run on 120-60 hz while Peru uses 110/220-50hz, so ditch the hair dryers and electric shavers unless you plan to purchase the necessary convertors/adaptors. Pack plenty of batteries for your digital cameras. Do plan to pack your iPod or MP3 player, as you’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy it. Solar iPod chargers are relatively inexpensive.
It’s a good idea to invest in a Peru guidebook. Lonely Planet also publishes a Quechua language guide. Plan to learn a few key phrases in Spanish and Quechua, as it’ll go a long way toward fostering good relations if you attempt to speak a few pleasantries in the native languages.
Luggage and Travel Tips
Make copies of your passport and credit card info and leave the copies with a trusted source at home. Clean out your wallet; carry only the cards you’ll need for the trip. Pack a copy of your itinerary and local contact information inside your luggage where it can be seen easily by airline personnel in the event your luggage tag gets removed from your luggage. Additionally, take a photo of your luggage that you can show to airline personnel in the unlikely event that your luggage gets misrouted. Having this photo stored on your digital camera is very helpful.
Contact your airline for information on baggage allowance and weight limitations. Follow the TSA 3-1-1 rule regarding liquid carry-on items. See http://www.tsa.gov/311/index.shtm for info. Use TSA-approved locks on your checked bags. For a list of approved locks, visit thtp://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/locks.shtm. Alternatively, secure luggage zippers with cable ties.
Pack in your carry-on bag the personal care items you’ll need in order to freshen up in Lima before boarding the flight to Arequipa. This will keep you from having to rummage in your large suitcase once you finally get to the Hotel at 1 am. When at the hotel, ask about how to turn on the hot water. (The Trick: turn the red handle…)
When returning home you will fill out a TSA form to re-enter the US. In the event that you state in writing or verbally that you have “visited a farm” you can expect to be detained for decontamination. By avoiding this statement – and making sure the bottoms of your shoes are relatively clean, you can avoid the decontamination process. If asked the reason for your trip by a TSA official, “for pleasure” or tourism are correct answers.