Ultimate travel money guide to Peru — compare cards | finder.com.au

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’ll likely visit Machu Picchu and navigate the Inca trail, but there’s so much more to Peru to see. From the superb surfing and the bustling city of Lima, Peru is a must-see destination for anyone seeking adventure.

Cheaper than it’s neighbors, Ecuador and Colombia, your USD will go far in Peru with 1USD = 3.25PEN. And like its neighbors, 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 major shops and hotels. Most restaurants, hostels, ticket offices and tourist attractions are cash only, and you definitely can’t use your card in Machu Picchu.

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.

Which option is right for your next trip?

Compare travel cards for Peru

Rates last updated February 23rd, 2018
Name Product Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Overseas ATM Withdrawal Fee Overseas Cash Advance Fee Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
0% of transaction value
$0
$10 or 5% of the transaction, whichever is greater
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
2%
of transaction value
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
0% of transaction value
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants.
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® Credit Card
0% of transaction value
$0
Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.

Compare up to 4 providers

Promoted
Travelex Money Card

Why we like: Travelex Money Card

Load GBP, EUR, CAD, AUD, JPY or MXN onto this prepaid travel money card and use it at millions of locations worldwide.

  • Not linked to your bank account for safety.
  • Convert currency with a 5.50% Foreign Exchange Fee
  • Contactless payments
  • Reload, withdraw, or replace your card for free.

    How many sols do I need to bring?

    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.

    Lima Budget Midrange Expensive
    to-sleepHostel dorm bed

    $8 per night

    2 star hotel

    $20 per night

    5 star hotel

    $100 per night

    to-eatCeviche

    $1.50

    Plate of the day

    $4

    Main dish at world class restaurant

    $30

    guardWatch 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

    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 agains the USD for the past 10 years.

    US dollar to the sol for the last 10 years

    Feb 2008 Feb 2009 Feb 2010 Feb 2011 Feb 2012 Feb 2013 Feb 2014 Feb 2015 Feb 2016 Feb 2017
    1 USD = 3.0046 Inverse: 0.3328 3.0046 Inverse: 0.3328 3.0046 Inverse: 0.3328 2.7883 Inverse: 0.3586 2.6809 Inverse: 0.3730 2.5880 Inverse: 0.3864 2.8064 Inverse: 0.3563 3.0843 Inverse: 0.3242 3.5141 Inverse: 0.2846 3.2438 Inverse: 0.3083

    US dollar to the sol for the last 10 months

    Apr 2017 May 2017 Jun 2017 Jul 2017 Aug 2017 Sep 2017 Oct 2017 Nov 2017 Dec 2017 Jan 2018
    1 USD = 3.2503 Inverse: 0.3077 3.2808 Inverse: 0.3048 3.2525 Inverse: 0.3075 3.2455 Inverse: 0.3081 3.2375 Inverse: 0.3089 3.2470 Inverse: 0.3080 3.2392 Inverse: 0.3087 3.2395 Inverse: 0.3087 3.2345 Inverse: 0.3092 3.2245 Inverse: 0.3101

    How to send money to Peru

    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 you 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.

    Travel money options for Peru at a glance

    Travel money optionsProsConsiderations
    Prepaid travel cards
    • Protected by PIN & chip
    • Emergency card replacement and backup cards
    • Reloadable online
    • 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
    Debit cards
    • Can be used at all ATM and merchants in Peru
    • Charge less or $0 fee for ATM withdrawals
    • No currency conversion fee
    • ATM operator fees
    • No access to cash advance
    Credit cards
    • Rewards program and travel insurance
    • Waived international ATM and conversion fees
    • Interest-free days on purchases
    • Up to 3% currency conversion fee may apply
    • Cash advance fee
    Travelers checks 

    • Accepted at most banks
    • Security
    • A commission fee applies
    • It can take a couple of hours to cash them at banks
    Cash
    • Accepted anywhere
    • Convenient
    • More difficult to manage expenses
    • High risk of theft

    How each travel money option works

    Prepaid travel cards

    No travel cards support Peruvian sols, so look for a card which 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.

    Debit cards

    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 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 and try to avoid cards with currency conversion fees.

    Charles Schwab bank card doesn’t charge for currency conversion, waives the fee for international ATM withdrawals and has no annual fee. It’s good to note that most third-party banks will charge a fee to use their ATMs.

    Credit cards

    Credit cards are a must for any travel overseas. Besides providing emergency access to a line of credit, use a credit card for deposits and online reservations. Credit cards even have some handy travel features such as complimentary insurance and airport lounge access. But be careful, many credit cards charge a fee of about 3% of the transaction value for currency conversion.

    Our comparison of credit cards includes a handful of cards suited for an overseas trip. Among these products are theBarclaycard Arrival Plus and the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Both cards provide travel insurance, rewards for travel purchases and waive all foreign transaction fees.

    Travelers checks

    Once upon a time travelers 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.

    Cash

    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.

    Exchanging money

    You have four ways to exchange your money in Peru — banks, street moneychangers, casas de cambio (change houses) and hotels. Banks often have incredibly long lines, but you’ll find street changers in colored smocks with the $ symbol. They offer legitimate money exchange, a fair rate and don’t charge a commission on currency exchange. But changing money in the street comes with its own problems. Be on guard for any shady deals after the exchange and counterfeit bills. Your best bet are the casas de cambio with good exchange rates, short lines and a secure environment. And like with merchants, be sure you have good, clean US dollar bills for all exchanges — licensed money changers won’t take torn or damaged notes.

    • Tip: ATMs dispense $100 notes and it can be hard to find a place to make change. Pay for your big ticket purchases using your $100 notes.

    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.

    What cards did you take with you to Peru?

    Amy took her Charles Schwab bank card and Barclaycard Arrival Plus. She says she took the Citibank Plus card because it doesn’t charge an international transaction fee and has no monthly account fee. Most importantly, there’s no international ATM charge from Citi when she made ATM withdrawals. She bought her plane tickets and tour tickets with her Barclaycard Arrival Plus because of the bonus miles for spending on travel, along with the interest-free days when she paid her balance in full.

    Where were you able to use your cards?

    Amy didn’t use her cards for over the counter purchases at all; she used cash the entire time she was in Peru, and almost the entire time she was in South America. She found that high-end retailers, expensive restaurants and hotels were the only places where she could use her cards.

    What about ATM withdrawals?

    Amy made withdrawals every 10 days or so. She was able to get 700 sols from the machine at a time and she paid seven sols for each withdrawal. The Charles Schwab card doesn’t charge for international ATM withdrawals so the local ATM operator fee was the only charge.

    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 straying 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.

    Buying sols 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.

    peru-nuevos-soles-banknote

    Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

    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.

    Find cheap travel insurance options for your next trip to Peru

    Details Features
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Seven Corners Trip Protection Insurance
    Travel with a smile - protect your trip cost, your medical expenses, & your belongings.
    • Emergency Accident & Sickness Medical Expenses up to $250,000
    • Trip Cancellation – 100% of Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption – up to 150% of Trip Cost
    • Political Evacuation - $20,000
    • Lost, Stolen or Damaged Baggage – up to $2,500
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation – up to $1 million
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Travel Max
    Travelex Travel Max
    TravelEx's most comprehensive protection plan for the comprehensive traveler. Offers optional Cancel For Any Reason upgrade.
    • Trip Cancellation - 100% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Interruption - 150% of Insured Trip Cost
    • Trip Delay - $1000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $100,000
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Essential
    RoamRight’s Essential travel insurance package can be broken down into three critical parts: Trip Cancellation insurance, tourist health insurance, and baggage insurance.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Medical Expenses - $15,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $150,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects Cover - $750
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Standard International
    STA Travel Standard International
    Get affordable cover for the essentials of options with STA's mid-level cover policy. This option will still provide up to $1500 in luggage cover and up to $100,000 in medical cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - 100% of trip cost insured up to $10,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $1,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $500
    Go to site More info
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    RoamRight Travel Insurance Preferred
    As the name implies, the Preferred package provides coverage for most trips and vacations.
    • Cancellation Cover - 100% Cost of Trip
    • Emergency Accident & Medical Expenses - $50,000
    • Emergency Evacuation and Repatriation - $500,000
    • Accidental Death and Dismemberment - $10,000
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Travelex Cancel for Any Reason
    Cancel For Any reason upgrade available with the Travel Max plan. Cancel for any reason - no questions asked.
    • Reimburses up to 75% of the insured trip cost
    • 100% cover if delayed to departure and loose at least 30%
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Travel
    Atlas Travel
    Provides customizable coverage for specific losses. Cover can be tailored to provide a balance between the basic essentials and premium cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $1 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $500
    • Travel Delay - $100/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Atlas Premium
    Atlas Premium
    Provides quality cover for a range of benefits with higher cover limits. Premium plan is perfect for travellers with health concerns looking for total protective cover.
    • Illness and Injury Cover - Up to $2 million
    • Emergency Medical Evacuation - Up to $1 million
    • Lost Checked Luggage - Up to $1,000
    • Travel Delay - $200/day up to 2 days
    Go to site More info
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Travelex Flight Insure Plus
    Provides option to choose between different levels of flight insurance protection.
    • Flight Accident AD&D - Up to $1 Million
    • Baggage - $2,000
    • Medical Expense Benefits - $2,500
    • Medical Evacuation / Repatriation - $25,000
    Go to site More info
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    STA Travel Explorer Plus
    Get premiere cover for a whole range of options with STA's premium policy. This option will still provide up to $100,000 in medical expense cover and up to $3,000 in cancellation cover.
    • Trip Cancellation Cover - $3,000
    • Emergency Medical Expenses Cover - Up to $100,000
    • Baggage and Personal Effects - Up to $2,500
    • Trip Delay - Up to $1,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance
    Allianz Domestic Travel Insurance makes sure you are covered incase your planned trip unexpectedly goes awry.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $500,000
    Go to site More info
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    Allianz International Travel Insurance
    If you frequently travel abroad and want extra coverage in case you get sick, injured, or need to cancel your trip, Allianz International Travel Insurance is the perfect solution.
    • Trip coverage - Depends on plan
    • Baggage coverage - Up to $1,000
    • 24-hour hotline assistance
    • Existing medical coverage - Up to $1,000,000
    Go to site More info
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