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Travel money guide: Peru

Traveling to Peru? Read our travel money guide to get the most out of the land of the Incas.

If you’re traveling to Peru, you might visit Machu Picchu and navigate the Inca trail — but doing so means that you need to plan ahead for the money you’ll be using. Your USD will go far in Peru with 1 USD = 3.85 Peruvian Sol (PEN), the national currency. In Peru, cash is king, so be sure to exchange your dollar for sols at the airport in Lima. Though you’ll find places where you can use your Visa or Mastercard, don’t rely on using plastic outside of luxury shops, hotels and restaurants.

Your best bet is to carry both cash and a credit card on hand so that you’re ready for any payment, and you’ll want a card that reimburses or waives foreign transaction fees like the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. While you can use US dollars in some stores, do so only in a pinch since retailers may charge slightly more for products and services in US currency.

Fake money in Peru

Counterfeit sols and dollars are a problem in Peru, mostly in the major cities. And spotting a counterfeit note can be hard, so become familiar with the local currency before you arrive. Scams are also common — short-changing and pickpockets — so always be on alert.

Our picks for traveling to Peru

Travel rewards with no annual fee

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.25 x miles

Annual fee

$0

All-around travel value

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 5 x miles

Annual fee

$95

Cash back with no foreign fees

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

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on Capital One's secure site

Rewards

Up to 1.5 % cash back

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Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Plan to use your debit card to cover most of your day-to-day expenses while traveling in Peru. Visa and Mastercard are accepted by merchants that are set up to handle card payments, though fewer accept American Express. You’ll see those more at luxury hotels and restaurants.

You’ll find ATMs in most cities. Banco de Credito del Peru (BCP) has ATMs throughout the country, while Citi has a small presence in the larger cities of Lima and Cusco. Beware that in Ollantaytambo, home of the great Inca fortress, the ATMs can be unreliable, and there are no ATMs near Macho Picchu — so get cash before you leave.

Wait until you arrive in Peru to exchange your USD. Exchange companies in the US charge high commission, taking a cut of what could go a long way in Peru. You’ll find exchanges at the airport and in the cities or in banks — all offering about the same rate.

There are no travel cards that support Peruvian sols. If you can load another currency, find another card that waives the currency conversion fee so you can use it in Peru.

You will be using cash in Peru. Take a travel card, debit card or credit card that lets you withdraw your money for less from an ATM. Spread your travel budget across a couple of cards, so you have access to money in the event of the unexpected.

These are your options for spending money in Peru

Using a credit card

Besides providing emergency access to a line of credit, use a credit card for deposits and online reservations. Credit cards have handy travel features such as complimentary travel insurance and airport lounge access.

But be careful. Many credit cards charge a fee of about 3% of the transaction value for currency conversion. Keep more money in your wallet by using a card without foreign transaction fees, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Our comparison of travel rewards credit cards includes a handful of cards suited for an overseas trip.

Pros
  • Rewards program and travel insurance
  • Waived international ATM and conversion fees
  • Interest-free days on purchases
Cons
  • Up to 3% currency conversion fee may apply
  • Cash advance fee

Compare travel credit cards

Narrow down top travel credit cards by welcome offers, rewards and annual fees to find the best for your budget and financial goals. Select Compare for up to four products to see their benefits side by side.

1 - 3 of 43
Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
Up to 1.25x miles
$0
Earn 20,000 bonus miles once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 on eligible purchases in the first 6 months
Up to 4x points
$250

Rose Gold is here to stay. Card Members can choose between a Gold or Rose Gold Card.

Earn up to 4x points on select purchases and enjoy a bevy of travel perks with this upper-mid tier travel card. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Up to 5x miles
$95
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
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Using a debit card

ATMs are the best ways to get cash in Peru. You’ll find them in most towns and cities, though not on every street corner. You can withdraw both sols and US dollars.

A Visa or Mastercard debit card can be used at all ATMs and some merchants throughout Peru. You’ll find that there are fewer places where you can use your card for over-the-counter purchases. Consider debit cards that charge less or even nothing for international ATM withdrawals, such as the Betterment Checking which reimburses currency conversion fees.

It’s good to note that most third-party banks will charge a fee to use their ATMs.

Pros
  • Can be used at all ATM and merchants in Peru
  • Charge less or $0 fee for ATM withdrawals
  • No currency conversion fee
Cons
  • ATM operator fees
  • No access to cash advance

Using a prepaid travel card

No travel cards support Peruvian sols, so look for a card that waives the currency conversion fee, such as Travelex, if you’re set on taking a travel card when you visit Peru. These products won’t apply the additional charge for currency conversion when you spend in sols, which can be higher than what you’d pay if you use your regular debit or credit card. The compromise is these cards will charge you to use an international ATM withdrawal in Peru, which is a couple of dollars for each withdrawal. You can load these cards with another currency to use at some merchants— but don’t count on it. And you won’t get the best exchange rate.

  • Tip: When you get a travel card, you’ll get two for the same account. This can come in handy if your first card is lost or stolen, so make sure to keep the second card in a safe place.
Pros
  • Protected by PIN & chip
  • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
  • Reloadable online
Cons
  • Cannot load sols
  • Comes with lots of fees for loading and reloading, inactivity and ATM withdrawals
  • Exchange rates are lower than credit cards and debit cards

Paying with cash in Peru

Cash is king in Peru. Make ATM withdrawals at the many machines in the cities and some in the smaller towns and villages. In general, Peruvians like small denominations — equal to $20 USD or less so they can make change. If you do pay with larger bills, be sure that you count your change to be sure you’re getting the correct amount.

When you pay by cash, especially in US dollars, be ready for the merchant to scrutinize the condition of your bills. Many merchants will reject torn or overly worn bills.

Pros
  • Accepted anywhere
  • Convenient
Cons
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • High risk of theft

Using traveler’s checks

Once upon a time, traveler’s checks were a popular way to take foreign currency overseas. Today, this type of travel money has been replaced by plastic. travel cards, debit cards and credit cards offer the same security features and are more convenient. In Peru, traveler’s checks can be cashed at most banks, but be aware that you may wait in long lines and pay a commission.

Pros
  • Accepted at most banks
  • Security
Cons
  • A commission fee applies
  • It can take a couple of hours to cash them at banks

Exchange rate history

As one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, Peru has seen a sharp decline in poverty in recent years. It has one of the most stable currencies and has held steady against the USD for the past 10 years.

Live Rate

= S 3.8352

Refreshing in: 60s | Fri, Jan 27, 01:26PM GMT

Buying currency in the US

Sols are an exotic currency, and you may find it difficult to find a bank or exchange office that can sell you PEN. You will get a far better deal if you wait till you arrive in Peru to purchase sols.

Peruvian currency

Sols are an exotic currency, and you may find it difficult to find a bank or exchange office that can sell you PEN. You will get a far better deal if you wait till you arrive in Peru to purchase sols.

10 Peruvian Sols20 Peruvian Sols50 Peruvian Sols
100 Peruvian Sols200 Peruvian Sols

The main banks in Peru are:

  • Banco de Crédito del Perú
  • Interbank
  • BBVA Perú
  • Banco Pichincha
  • Citibank del Peru SA
  • Scotiabank Perú
  • Banco de Comercio
  • Banco Interamericano de Finanzas
  • Banco de la Nacion
  • Banco Santander Peru
  • Scotiabank

ATMs in Peru

You’ll find ATMs in major cities and inside banks in Peru, where you can withdraw cash and speak English if you don’t know Peru’s native tongue. The best place to look for an ATM is either inside a bank or by going to the city center in the Plaza de Armas. Nearly all ATMs use Visa debit cards, but you can find some that accept Mastercard as well. A Betterment Checking Visa debit card would suit you well in this country since it reimburses Visa’s normal foreign transaction fee as well as ATM operator fees.

How much should I budget to travel in Peru?

As a major tourist attraction throughout the world, there are plenty of opportunities for you to spend a lot in Peru. But the good news is there are less expensive options for budget travelers who can budget as little as $15 dollars a day staying in hospedajes — cheap family-owned hotels. Midrange travelers can budget for $50 a day, and a traveler that wants to live it up can plan for $150 a day. All prices are in US dollars.

LimaBudgetMidrangeExpensive
AccommodationHostel dorm bed

$8 per night

2-star hotel

$20 per night

5-star hotel

$100 per night

MealsCeviche

$1.50

Plate of the day

$4

Main dish at world-class restaurant

$30

ActivitiesWatch the changing of the guards at the Palacio de Gobierno

Free

Lima bar crawl (plus drinks)

$35 per person

8-day tour of the Amazon and Machu Picchu from Lima

$1,600 per person

Prices are approximate and subject to change

Case study: Amy's experience

Amy profile photo
Amy

Amy shopped like a local in Peru

Amy spent six months in South America. She started her trip in Colombia and finished in Peru after seeing Machu Picchu and walking the Inca trail. In Peru, she visited Chimbote, Lima, Cusco and Agua Calientes. We interviewed Amy about her experiences with travel money in Peru.

Do you have any travel money tips?

Always try and get lower denominations from ATMs as it can be hard to break large notes. Also, in Agua Calientes, make sure you have enough cash for your trip to Machu Picchu because banks and ATMs are hard to find.

She also said not to be afraid to haggle over prices, especially in traditional markets. Prices start high, with the expectation that you’ll settle on a price that’s acceptable for both of you. It doesn’t hurt to try negotiating prices for hotel and hostel rooms, especially if you plan on staying there for four or five days.

When it comes to cab rides or another kind of service where the price isn’t plainly displayed, be sure you agree on a price before accepting the service. Taxis don’t have meters to measure the mile per dollar, so negotiating a fair price before your ride will save you money in the end. If you think the fare is too high, find another taxi — it’s easier than arguing a high price at the end of your trip.

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