Back

Country Reports

Peru Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to the Andean nation of Peru (population 30.7 million) should be aware of certain security, social, health, and natural risks.

CRIME

Despite steady economic growth over the past decade - during which nine million Peruvians were lifted out of poverty - approximately 25 percent of the population remains below the poverty line and petty crime is still common.

Victims of crime are often drugged by their assailants (e.g. with scopolamine) before being robbed, kidnapped, or sexually assaulted. Never accept drinks, food, cigarettes, etc. from strangers and keep a close eye on drinks when in bars or restaurants.

Violent crime is a concern, particularly "express kidnappings." According to one study, Peru has the highest rate of per capita kidnappings of any Latin American country, with an average of 2.3 kidnappings per 100,000 inhabitants per year. Beware of "false taxis," in which express kidnappings (as well as theft and/or sexual assault) may be carried out by drivers operating as part of a criminal group. This phenomenon is particularly worrying in Arequipa, where such incidents have become so common that American Embassy personnel are prohibited from hailing cabs on the street. The exclusive use of well-known dispatch taxi services is advised throughout the country. Be wary of any taxi offering an unusually low fare. Similarly, individuals posing as tour guides who may offer tours to/in isolated tourist areas (hiking areas, archeological areas, etc.) before robbing their "customers"; use only official tour companies.

Annual murder rates - while still relatively low by Latin American standards at 6.7 murders per 100,000 inhabitants - have risen steadily in recent years, particularly in the port city of Callao (see below).

In Lima, the historic city center, as well as the beaches, vigilance should be exercised, and they should generally be avoided at night due to high crimes rates. The city's large shanty towns - home to one million people - should be avoided at all times of the day.

Additionally, provincial and intercity buses are sometimes attacked by highway bandits who rob the bus's passengers; the risk is higher at night. Use only well-known national bus companies for long distance travel or travel by air. Petty crime is also common on long-distance buses, particularly at night when passengers are sleeping.

The port city of Callao (where the international airport serving the capital Lima is located) was placed under a state of emergency on December 6, 2015, following a wave of murders attributed to turf wars between rival gangs. After being renewed half a dozen times, the state of emergency expired in mid-October 2016. However, violent crime rates in Callao have not significantly decreased, and the city has become a drug trafficking hub and transit point for other contraband. Be vigilant when leaving the airport and be sure to only use licensed taxis or a private car service.

The inability of police to deal with rampant crime has led to a rise in vigilante justice and related lynchings.

Finally, credit card fraud is common. It is advisable to keep close tabs on credit cards when making purchases and to monitor transactions for suspicious activity.

SECURITY

The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) remains Peru's largest terrorist group, although its level of activity has fallen sharply since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, its members are principally involved in drug trafficking, concentrated in the VRAEM (Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers) region.

The entire VRAEM region was under a permanent state of emergency for more than three decades until 2015, when the mandate was lifted following the arrests of several Shining Path leaders. The area had been largely ignored by the state until 2006, permitting crime groups to thrive (and allowing regional poverty rates to remain extremely high). According to the United Nations, one third of the cocaine produced worldwide (200 tons per year out of a total of 600 tons) comes from this area.

NB: The VRAEM region is not a political entity in itself but is made up of parts of the departments of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Cuzco, and Junín, e.g. the following districts: Ayahuanco, Llochegua, Sivia, Santillana, Huanta, Ayna, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Anco, Samugari, Chungui, Surcubamba, Huachocolpa, Tintay Puncu, Colcabamba, Kimbiri, Pichari, Vilcabamba, Mazamari, San Martin de Pangoa, Rio Tambo, Santo Domingo de Acobamba, and Pariahuanca. The entire VRAEM area, including the city of Abancay, is best avoided.

The Huánuco region and areas along the Colombian border should also be avoided due to the presence of other armed groups.

The Madre de Dios region (located along the borders with Brazil and Bolivia) has been marred by rising rates of violent crime, believed to be linked to an increase in illegal gold mining. The annual local homicide rate is - at 20.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants - is more than three times higher than the national average (6.7), making Madre de Dios the second most dangerous region after Tumbe (northwest).

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Protests and strikes are relatively common in the country. While most demonstrations are peaceful, violence can break out with little to no warning, particularly in rural zones and in mining areas.

In Lima demonstrations tend to take place in the downtown area (e.g. near the presidential palace and the congress building). Roadblocks along major routes, including the Pan-American Highway are also common.

Major protests can cause significant disruptions to daily life, including in areas popular with visitors. The rail service connecting Cusco with the major tourist attraction, Machu Picchu, was disrupted for several days in November 2016.

Protests can also result in the blocking and subsequent closure of border crossings (e.g. with Bolivia at Lake Titicaca). A strike in the Madre de Dios region (southeast) in November-December 2015 included roadblocks on the Inter-Oceanic Highway - the arterial road connecting Puerto Maldonado (the regional capital) with Brazil and the rest of Peru - and an attempted takeover of the region's main airport.

The frequency and intensity of protests, as well as other sociopolitical tensions, generally increases ahead of elections. The next presidential and legislative elections will be held in April 2021.

All protests should be avoided as a precaution.

NATURAL RISKS

Peru is prone to natural disasters, particularly due to its location within an active seismic zone. In August 2007, a violent earthquake (magnitude-8.0) hit the coastal areas to the south of Lima (affecting the towns of Pisco, Chincha Alta, Nazca, Ica, and San Vicente de Cañete), leaving more than 500 dead and causing substantial damage to roads and tourist facilities in its wake. The country is also home to a number of active volcanoes, including Mount Ubinas, located approximately 100 km (60 mi) from Arequipa, Peru's second-largest city.

The rainy season typically lasts from November through April (from January to May in the Cusco region). Torrential rains with the potential to cause deadly floods (e.g. along the Tumbes River) and landslides are common during this period.  The 2017 rainy season was particularly devastating. More than a million people across Peru were affected by torrential rains - which resulted in major flooding and landslides and more than 100 fatalities - from December 2016 to April 2017. The northwest of the country was particularly hard hit.

TRANSPORTATION

Travelers should be aware that roads are generally poorly maintained and roads in mountainous areas can be particularly dangerous; fatal car accidents are common. It is advisable to only drive during daylight hours in rural areas and along the Pan-American Highway.

Highway banditry is also an issue in rural areas.

For long distance travel, consider traveling by air. All major destinations are served by an airport. No Peruvian airlines appear on the European Union's "blacklist" of airlines that are banned from EU airspace due to substandard security practices.

For security reasons, never take an unlicensed taxi (see CRIME section).

LEGAL

When entering the country (particularly if arriving by land or sea) make sure your passport is stamped. Without this you may have to apply for official permission to leave the country, which can take a few days and result in a ban on future travel to the country. You will also receive a migration card (TAM) upon entry, which needs to be presented when exiting.  

Drug trafficking is severely punished in Peru. Pay close attention to all bags while at the airport as well as on route. 

The export of archeological items (as well as protected animal species) - even items bought in seemingly legitimate stores or markets ‒ is illegal and can result in long prison sentences. When buying replica items, make sure you are given a certificate stating the items are not originals.

HEALTH

While the quality of private medical care is high in Lima and other major cities, this may not be the case in more remote areas. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Water- and food-borne illnesses are common amongst travelers. Tap water should not be considered potable, particularly outside larger cities. Avoid undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.).

A number of mosquito-borne diseases are present.

  • Malaria is present in Amazonia as well as in hot and humid areas located below 2000 m (6550 ft) in elevation, particularly in the regions of Ayacucho, Cusco, Junin, and Loreto.
  • Yellow fever cases were reported in the country for the first time in eight years in April 2016 and more than 100 cases were reported in total in 2016. Generally speaking, the disease may be present in areas below 2300 m (7550 ft) in the following regions: Amazonas, Loreto, Madre de Dios, San Martin, Ucayali, Puno, Cusco, Junín, Pasco, and Huánuco; as well as certain regions of northern Apurimac, northern Huancavelica, northeastern Ancash, eastern La Libertad, northern and eastern Cajamarca, northern and northeastern Ayacucho, and eastern Piura. Yellow fever is not present in the cities of Cusco or Lima, at Machu Picchu, or along the Inca Trail.
  • Dengue fever outbreaks are common during the hot, rainy Peruvian summer (December to April), particularly in the north and west of the country. The recent flooding in the northwest led to a major dengue epidemic in the Piura region, where more than 35,600 cases (31 deaths) were reported in the first five months of 2017.
  • A spike in cases of chikungunya has also been reported in the northwest of the country (e.g. Piura) following major flooding; 650 cases were reported between January 1 and late April 2017. To compare, fewer than 200 cases were reported in all 2016.
  • Zika virus transmission is believed to be widespread. While the virus is usually relatively benign (and asymptomatic in 80 percent of cases), links between the Zika virus and severe birth defects as well as the potentially fatal neurological disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) have been established. There is no vaccine. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

Visitors to high-elevation cities (Puno, Cusco, Huaraz, Arequipa, Colca Canyon) may experience altitude sickness. Individuals who have cardiac issues and wish to visit these areas should see their doctor before leaving. Once in high-altitude cities, avoid strenuous physical activities and alcohol and stay well-hydrated and well-rested for the first few days. 

Rabies is present in the country. Seek immediate medical attention if bitten by any mammal (dog, bat, etc.) or if you discover a bat in your residence as bat bites can go unnoticed by a sleeping person.

Climate

Summers (December to February) along the coast are hot (26°C to 30°C) and winters are cool (10°C to 18°C) and foggy. In the Andes, the dry season lasts from May to September and the rainy season from October to April; temperatures there are high during the day (25°C) but nights are cool. The same seasonal conditions are also seen in forested zones (in the east); temperatures, however, tend to be higher (35°C in the summer).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 51 Police: 105 Fire Dept.: 116 Ambulance: 116

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

More