Peru is such a wonderful country to travel in.
Cusco embodies European classiness while Lima is bustling and vibrant. Machu Picchu is full of enchantment while Huacachina mysterious and rare. Colca Canyon is stunningly vast while Arequipa is surrounded by volcanoes. But there is one characteristic each Peruvian destination has in common: heart. The Peruvian heart beats loudly and proudly, and I dare you not to fall in love with it, too.
In Peru, there’s something for everyone, no matter the type of adventure you might be craving.
The most recognizable Peruvian destination is Machu Picchu and let me just start by saying, yes, it’s worth it. But there is so much to see in this bountiful country, so it would be worth your time and money to explore more than just one corner. I found getting around the country easy and cheap to do.
Peru is on the modest side in the way of costs. Which is exciting because that means you can fit more in for less.
I mainly stayed in guesthouses, and utilized the public transportation system, including flights, buses, trains, and taxis. Lima was the most expensive stop, with its pricier restaurants, hotels and nightlife, but outside of the capital I found costs to be more than reasonable.
January, May and June are the busiest months of the year to visit Cusco. Aim to travel outside of these times so your money goes further. But if you find yourself in Cusco during the busy time, go anyway!
La Ciudad Imperial, or the Imperial City, is a shining star in Peru. Situated in the Inca Region, and adjacent to the Urubamba Valley, this city is the main base for those looking for a Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley adventures. Yet, Cusco is an adventure all its own. The main square is dazzling with standout architecture framing dozens of restaurants, bars and coffee shops overlooking visitors snapping photos and milling about. It’s easy to waste time exploring the cobblestoned streets of Cusco (I sure did!) but eventually you will want to make your way up to the famous mountain.
The last stop on my trip was Huacachina. It’s an oasis in the middle of nowhere resembling a dollop of life where there appears to be none. It’s stunning because it’s peculiar. A small town consisting mainly of hotels, restaurant and bars surrounding a shallow oasis in the middle of sand dunes – It’s a sight to see.
If you’re not pressed for time, the Gringo Trail hits all the right places across the country. Expect the journey to take two or more weeks (if you aim to hit all the spots). The famed path starts in Lima and follows the curve, stopping in Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno and Cusco.
Today, I’m going to be sharing how much you can expect to spend on a trip to Peru.
THE BEST HOSTELS AND GUESTHOUSES IN PERU
I started my journey in Lima, made my way to Cusco, Machu Picchu and Huacachina and ended back in the capital. Following this itinerary with just eight days in the country felt a bit rushed. But it was still doable, although jam packed with all sorts of adventure.
Lima – Selina Miraflores – ($23 a night for a private room): If you’re looking for an arty and inspiring hostel, this is the place to be. Resting in the energy infused Miraflores District, Selina Miraflores is a gem that sparkles brighter, and higher, than the rest. Views of the city from the private suites and apartments are stellar and the décor is a mix of funky retro and traditional Peruvian. The onsite restaurant, cocktail bar, morning yoga and bordering music venues serve as a playground for happy travelers. And so does the actual playground on the property. Yes, playground! It’s clear at Selina Miraflores, you don’ have to be a kid to play.
Lima – Kokopelli Hostel Barranco – ($36 a night for a private room/ $11 a night for a 6-bedroom dorm): Wow. Just wow. This hostel is as unique as it is revered. The 1917 architectural masterpiece found in the art district of Barranco was modernized to blend with the times while keeping its colonial seduction. Some of their coolest features include a free walking tour, free breakfast and private and stacked pods with power plugs and lighting fixtures. The rectangular shaped bar is sleek and modern and (self-proclaimed as) the best bar in town. Unable to stay here on your trip to Peru? No worries, Kokopelli Hostels are a small chain that has two equally awesome options in Cusco and Paracas.
Cusco – Mama Simona– ($30 a night for a private room): Mama Simona is the perfect accommodation for couples or solo travelers looking for a clean, safe, comfortable and perfectly situated hostel. It’s just a short stroll from the square, mostly on cobblestoned streets lined with charming Peruvian flats and unassuming restaurants. The concierge was helpful and welcoming, and the square-shaped outdoor courtyard was both comfy and colorfully eclectic décor. I spent most of my free time planning my Machu Picchu adventure in this space.
Machu Picchu- Eco Quechua Lodge – ($64 for a private cabin): Get the full Machu Picchu experience with this (somewhat) secret rustic lodge. Perched at eye level with the surrounding blanketed trees, you can eat breakfast with the jungle. Just an hour from Machu Picchu, the Eco Quechua Lodge is a secluded treat if you are hoping to skip the crowds for a night or two. The downfall? It takes effort to get there. But all great things are worth the effort, right? It’s a 6-hour trip from Cusco which includes buses, trains and an option hike to the lodge. But once you are there you can relax in pure Peruvian nature with easier access to the Big Mountain during your stay.
Huacachina – Dm Massone Ica ($55 a night): Huacachina is a mecca for budget travelers but for those who want to splurge just a bit, Dm Massone Ica will do the trick. With a front row seat to the obscure Huacachina Oasis, the hotel adds to the it’s already alluring location with a classy and clean vibe. The pool, terrace and the garden are the most frequented amenities for obvious reasons but don’t let that keep you on the property all day. The sand dunes await. Four wheeling sunset adventures and sand surfing are top to-do’s in this region. Although the rooms are a bit aged, the beds are comfy and the common areas and the location make it easy to remember the best parts.
Arequipa- Airbnb Apartment/Private Terrace ($27 a night): This private Airbnb is a little slice of sunshine, and the warm friendly terrace is a big slice of sunshine. You’ll need your walking shoes if you stay here. This beautiful and accessible accommodation is walking distance to most of Arequipa’s lively attractions yet gifts guests with a laidback neighborhood. Yanahuara’s Square-Mirador, Av. Ejercito and the historic center are all just a stone’s throw away. It can sleep up to four people so the cost can be sliced and diced if you come with your crew.
THE AVERAGE COST OF ACCOMODATION IS $37 PER DAY
The Cost of Transportation in Peru
Travelling across Peru is super-easy, and there are tons of options to help you do so. While I was in the country, I used planes, buses, trains, colectivos, and taxis, and loved getting to experience a diverse range of transportation.
If you’re short on time, it’s worth taking a look at the offerings from domestic airlines, like LATAM, as sometimes flights within Peru cost the same as the buses. As an example, I paid just $38 for a flight from Lima to Cusco, skipping the 22 hour[!] bus trip and paying just an extra $14 to do so.
If you’re not in a rush and really want to see as much of Peru as possible, you’ll be impressed with the country’s extensive bus network. I recommend Tepsa and Cruz Del Sur as the best bus companies for visitors to Peru, (Tepsa is a bit cheaper), as both are safe and reliable options. I found both of these companies to be cheaper than the alternatives, like Oltursa, and they were so much easier to navigate during the booking process.
So much can you expect to pay when bussing your way around the country? In 2021, you’ll be looking at the following:
- Bus from Lima to Cusco with Tepsa: $16
- Bus from Lima to Arequipa with Tepsa: $15
- Bus from Lima to Cusco with Cruz Del Sur: $24
- Bus from Cusco to Ica with Cruz Del Sur: $23
- Bus from Lima to Ica with Cruz Del Sur: $5
Not bad, right?
When you’re not travelling from city to city, you’ll most likely utilise the country’s taxis, and yes — Uber is available in Peru.
When hailing a taxi on the street, make sure you agree on a price point before getting in the cab, or make sure the meter is on. And prepare to have an argument over that, as you do in basically every country around the world.
Colectivos (shared taxis) are another option for saving money, and one we utilized often. These colectivos can be a car, bus or minibus, and you can hail them pretty much anywhere in the country. They charge a set fare and are often waiting at popular destinations until they have a certain number of passengers.
The Tren Eléctrico, or the Electric Train, in Lima is a terrific choice for travel within the city’s limits, with multiple lines linking various sites and districts. You can expect to pay $1.80 for a card that you can use between stations (costs between stations vary) and then reload when needed.
When it’s time to venture outside of Lima, you have plenty of options.
If you’re not pressed for time, the Gringo Trail hits all the best spots across the country, and most travellers opt to follow its route. This famed path starts in Lima and offers up stops in Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco. Expect the journey to take two or more weeks (if you aim to hit all the spots) but if you opt for a quicker expedition, you can see the main destinations within a week.
So, what’s the easiest way to traverse the Gringo Trail?
Peru Hop is an awesome company (and concept!) for all of my backpackers out there! They offer the flexibility, convenience, and safety of an upscale tour company but with a decent price tag. A three-day trip across the Gringo Trail starts at $159 and includes a six-stop hop-on hop-off pass, pick up and drop off at hostels, an on-board Peruvian guide, free access to various sites along the route, and more. Seriously, you get so much for your money with Peru Hop, especially as they squeeze in many attractions most tour companies brush past.
Getting to Machu Picchu from Cusco was an adventure! This was the only time I used a train during my Peruvian travels, and it happened to be one of my best ever experiences. The ride is like a dream, surrounded by endless greenery, raging waters, and sharp cliff-sides.
PeruRail runs from Cusco/Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu for $38. Keep in mind there are bundled options, some guided and some self-guided, that get you to Machu Picchu for a flat price. If you’re not a hiker, taking the train to Machu Piccho is an experience that can’t be missed.
The average cost of transportation is: $17 per day
The Cost of Food in Peru
Peruvians are food geniuses, with a heritage influenced by Spanish, Asian, Italian, and African regions, all blended together in order to create a unique culinary identity. They have perfected the art of contrast within a plate, often mixing hot with cold and sweet with savory.
Eating out in Peru is an inexpensive way to sample the local delights, so there’s little reason to cook meals yourself. A typical breakfast includes bread and butter with ham or jam, as well as seasonal soups and coffee or tea, and averages just $3.
Lunch is kind of a big deal here, so much so that its time dictates business hours. Plan your midday meal to take place between 1 and 3 p.m., and prepare to work your way through a starter, main course, drink, dessert, and a siesta. Did I mention I love this country? Lunch will set you back $6, and dinners are similar in cost, depending on your splurge level, but you can expect to between $5 and $10.
Ceviche, or Peruvian sushi, is the most iconic dish in the country and typically includes sea bass, lime, and various spices. Think of ceviche as Peru’s food mascot, but it’s not the only dish on the menu. Lomo saltado (stir-fried beef), papa a la huancaina (creamy, cheesy and spicy potatoes) and pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) are all staples you should sample while you’re in the country.
Having said that, I practically ate ceviche for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with zero complaints.
In the bigger cities like Lima, Arequipa and Cusco you’ll find an increase in prices for these dishes. For example, ceviche prices throughout the country range from $3 to $15 while lomo saltado goes from $2 to $11. Pollo a la brasa ranges from $2 to $5.
Street grills are common in Peru, but you’ll find they’re more abundant in smaller towns and villages. You can get chorizo, marinated chicken breast, or a hunk of cecina for a mere $1.50, so if you’re backpacking around the country, this is an affordable way to stay full.
Pisco sours are a way of life when it comes to alcoholic beverages in Peru. Delicious, but tart, the drink flows in all regions in many different forms. If you’re not into sour drinks, order a pisco on the rocks, it’s most similar to tequila in taste. Pisco cocktails go for about $6.
Vino in Peru is not revered as top notch, however Vista Alegre offers a respectable selection for the – practically free – price of $1 per bottle. while Tacama’s wines are around $7 a bottle. If you fancy yourself a wine buff, check out an international blend from Argentina or Chile instead. Beer is cheap in Peru. A large bottle will put you back $1.30. Look out for popular Peruvian brews, Pilsen Calloa and Cristal.
The average cost of food in Peru is: $18 per day
The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Peru
Whether you love the beach, the mountains, or the rainforest, Peru has something for you.
Machu Picchu is, of course, the country’s national treasure, and world-famous for a reason. No matter how you choose to get there (hike, bus, train) you’ll need to devote at least a day to the excursion. I left at 4 am from Cusco and arrived back around 9 pm that same night, paying $38 for the train. It’s a long day but worth every step of the trek.
Sandboarding in Huacachina was a tumbling adventure. The rolling dunes are photogenic, inviting, and surprisingly soft — just in case you take an unexpected dive. For $15, our tour took us out for a half-day trip in the desert, which included transportation in a buggy and hours of shredding the sand.
What if you don’t have much cash to splash?
Hiking is the perfect way to see more of the Peruvian landscape, and you don’t have to spend a penny to do so. Colca Canyon is often overshadowed by Machu Picchu, but it’s ample in trails and thick with stunning terrain and steep canyons. If you’re up for the challenge, try the descent into Colca Canyon from the Cruz del Cóndor lookout — trust me, it’s unbelievable.
Viator is one of my favourite travel websites — it helps you filter through all of local tour companies to find the cheapest and highest-rated experiences, without having to spend hours trawling through TripAdvisor and forums. I book all of my tours through them these days, and can’t recommend them enough.
The average cost of activities in Peru comes to $36 per day.
How Much Does it Cost to Travel in Peru?
With all of that being said, it’s time to tally up all of my travel expenses in Peru, in order to give you an idea of how much you can expect to spend while travelling in this wonderful country:
Accommodation: $37 per day
Transportation: $17 per day
Food: $18 per day
Activities: $36 per day
Total amount spent per day: $108