Every guide book has a responsibility to warn
you about the worst things that can happen to you whilst travelling in
Peru ….. thieves, drug pushers, corrupt police, prostitutes, terrorists
and worse. It's easy to become paranoid and decide it's best to stay
at home. But just how safe are you in your own town or city?
Peru recognizes that tourism plays an important
part in its developing economy and has taken great steps in the last few
years to change its poor security record. You'll find a lot more police,
especially plain clothed officers, in the towns and cities most frequently
visited by tourists.
Personal security is a very subjective thing
to talk about. If we say that Peru is totally safe, then travellers will
take fewer precautions; If we say that it's dangerous, then a huge number
of potential travellers will avoid Peru and miss out on one of the most
beautiful countries in the world. At
the end of the day you need to be careful and use your common-sense. Thankfully
the instances of assaults on tourists are very rare and, nine times out
of ten, rarer than in your own country.
The possibility of being assaulted can be
greatly reduced by taking a few simple precautions:
When taking taxis from an airport to your hotel,
travel in the more expensive airport taxis and ensure that the drivers
have official identification. Never take a taxi waiting outside the airport
When travelling from your hotel to the airport,
go with a taxi recommended by the hotel.
Try not to arrive in a new city or town late
Travel in a group if possible.
Learn the basics in Spanish before you arrive
in Peru. Don't expect that people will speak English.
Keep your valuables hidden.
Avoid going on your own to remote areas/ruins
where tourist would be expected to go. Seek local advice or take a guide.
Read the guide books and talk with other tourists
to find out which areas are best avoided.
When leaving discos late at night take a taxi
home no matter how close your hostel is. Outside most discos you'll find
a street vendor selling cigarettes. Usually these people know all the taxi
drivers and can recommend a safe one.
When arriving in a new town, keep to your original
plan and stay in the hostel that you have decided on. Don't let the taxi
driver persuade you that your hostel is fully booked and that he knows
a cheaper and better one. He'll be working on commission and the hostel
probably won't be in a safe part of town.
Even better, when arriving by plane/train in
a new city, try to reserve your hotel in advance, preferably with a hotel
that has an airport/station collection service.
Although assaults are rare, theft can be prevalent.
However, your common thief won't threaten you with a knife and demand money
– this again is rare and the precautions above should be followed. If this
does happen to you the only sensible advice is to give the thief exactly
what he wants. Don't put up a fight.
What Peruvian thieves are expert at, however,
is making the most of a good opportunity – a moments lapse in a tourist's
concentration is their business. Long bus trips, crowded streets and packed
trains are all their territory. We don't recommend that you avoid these
places because you can't, but again common-sense precautions should be
The above precautions are not overly complicated
and will soon become second nature. They are basic precautions to avoid
being robbed, not just in Peru, but anywhere in the world ... even in your
own home town.
Don't wear expensive looking jewellery.
On public transport have your day pack close
to you at all times, preferably with the straps around your legs or padlocked
to the luggage rack. On buses your backpack
will normally go outside, either on top of the roof or in the external
luggage compartments. On long distance buses ask for a receipt for your
bags. On short rides just keep a careful eye out each time the bus stops
to off-load bags. In the event of having your bags stolen, stay with the
bus – you will probably require a declaration from the bus company accepting
responsibility for the loss in order to claim any money from your insurance
Leave your valuables in your hotel safe when
making day trips or longer tours. Obtain a receipt not just for your money
belt/wallet etc. but for its contents, with each item listed. If you have
to leave your passport and credits cards together place the credit card
in a sealed envelope and sign your name across the flap. At least when
you return you know for sure no-one else has been using it.
If planning on going to market areas, crowded
streets, fiestas etc. don't go with all your valuables. Leave them in the
hotel. If your planning on buying something expensive keep your money safely
in a money belt. Try to be discreet when opening it! To
protect small change in your pockets you can stuff a handkerchief in after.
If the pavements are really crowded, especially
in market areas, walk in the road.
If you suspect someone is following you, stop
and stare them in the eye until they go. If you really get a bad feeling
about a place, go with your first instincts and leave.
Bag slashing is rare nowadays but for added
safety you can wear your day pack on your chest. If it's on your back try
to walk without stopping. If you need to stop, sway your pack gently from
side to side so that you can feel if anyone is tampering with it.
When putting your bag down on the floor, to
take a photo or just to sit in a café, remember to put your foot
through the strap. Not only will it be impossible to snatch, you also won't
forget it! This is the most common type of theft in Peru – tourists forgetting
bags in cafes and on returning to ask if anyone has seen it, you've guessed
it, it's gone.
If, at the end of the day, you are unfortunate enough to be robbed … just
accept it as a travel experience. Make sure that you have good insurance and
that you've read the small print before arriving in Peru so you know what is
required to make a successful claim. Excluding precious photos, most things can
be replaced in Peru. Finally don't let it spoil your holiday and don't suddenly
believe that every Peruvian is a thief. The overwhelming majority are kind,
honest, hardworking people
who detest the thieves probably more than you do – when they get robbed
they usually don't have insurance!
Andean Travel Web Guide to Peru. Office
Address: La Casa Cultural, Avenida Pardo 540, Cusco, Peru (just 2
minutes walk from the Koricancha Inca Temple of the Sun). If you are coming to Cusco please
bring a couple of second hand clothes, toys, school equipment and drop them off
in our office. We will help distribute the items to people who really need them
in small village schools and communities in the Andes. For more details visit
our web page
www.andeantravelweb.com/peru/projects A map of our office can be found
by clicking here.
Copyright Andean Travel Web Guide to Peru 2000-2008. All material used within
this web site is original work and is subject to international copyright law.
Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited without prior permission from
the editor. This web page was last updated in April 2008.
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