BEFORE YOUR TRIP
If sensible precautions are taken by the visitor to Peru, there is no reason why you shouldn't remain as healthy as at home.
1. Before you travel make sure that you take out good medical insurance. If you plan to undertake 'adventurous activities' such as rafting, horse riding or paragliding, make sure that your policy covers you. You may have to pay a small surcharge for this.
2. For advice on what immunizations / inoculations that you require we recommend that you try ringing a specialist travel clinic (at least 6 weeks prior to travel). Your own doctor is probably unfamiliar with health in Latin America.
No inoculations are currently required for Peru. However you should consider immunization against the following:
- Hepatitis A
If you plan on going into the Peruvian jungle (Iquitos, Manu, Tambopata) then a yellow fever vaccination is recommended. There are still the occasional outbreaks and it is frequently obligatory to show a vaccination certificate when entering the jungle regions. If you don't have a certificate then you will be inoculated on the spot as you get off the plane!
Malaria tablets are also recommended for the jungle, although nearly all of the jungle lodges in the Madre de Dios/Tambopata areas and Manu National Park state that there have been no reported cases of malaria, and that taking anti-malaria tablets are optional but recommended.
DURING YOUR TRIP
The most common problem encountered by the traveler in Peru is diarrhea (between 30% and 40% of travelers in a 2 week stay experience this to some extent) but the majority of these upsets will be relatively minor. Don't become paranoid; trying the local food is part of the experience of travel.
Tap water in Peru is unsafe to drink. Always purify the water first by boiling it or adding purification tablets such as Micropure, which can be easily bought in most pharmacies throughout Peru (make sure that you read the instructions before using them). Bottled mineral water is readily available everywhere. In most good restaurants, purified water is used to wash fruit, vegetables and salads. If in doubt ask. If you want to be extra careful stick to salads made from boiled veggies (carrots, beans, beetroot, boiled eggs etc) and avoid the lettuce leaves which are often washed at source in contaminated river water.
Fruit in Peru is plentiful and delicious, but ensure that you wash it or peel it yourself. Avoid undercooked and reheated foods. Shellfish are a particularly high risk and so is ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice). They are all-delicious, however, and should be safe in well-run hygienic establishments. There are good doctors and reasonable hospitals in the major cities, but little in the way of good facilities away from the major centers.
Altitude Sickness (Cusco & Lake Titicaca) On reaching heights above 3000m, heart pounding and shortness of breath are a normal response to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors these symptoms can deteriorate into a conditions known as Soroche (or acute mountain sickness) when you can start to experience headaches, loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, sleeplessness and often nausea. Symptoms usually develop within the first day or two at altitude, but may be delayed by up to 2 weeks.
To prevent Soroche, try to take things easy as soon as you arrive. Once settled in your hotel room has a lie down for a while and drink plenty of fluids. Don't plan any strenuous treks until you've acclimatized for a few days. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy food. Drinking mate de coca (an infusion of coca leaves - and perfectly legal in Peru) may help. If symptoms become more severe and prolonged it is best to quickly seek medical attention and make arrangements to descend to a lower altitude. On recovery one can re-ascend slowly or in stages.
Many visitors to speed the acclimatization process and counter the symptoms of Soroche often use the drug Diamox. It can now be purchased in most pharmacies in Cusco.
AFTER YOUR TRIP
Report any symptoms to your doctor and say exactly where you've been. If taking anti-malarial tablets, remember to keep taking them for 6 weeks after leaving the malarial areas.
TRAVEL HEALTH RELATED WEBSITES
- Travel Health Online www.tripprep.com - Provides a comprehensive database of required vaccinations for most countries as well as other useful trip preparation advice.
- Centers for Disease Control (USA) www.cdc.gov - Suggested vaccinations, outbreak warnings
- Canadian Society for International Health (Canada) www.csih.org - Extensive list of travel centers in Canada.
- International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (USA) www.iamat.org - Non-profit organization that can provide a list of English-speaking doctors throughout Peru as well as information about diseases and inoculations.
- British Airways Travel Clinics (UK) www.britishairways.com - Two travel clinics in London, vaccinations and tailored advice.
- National Health Service (UK) www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk - Website containing info about travel-related diseases and how to avoid them.
Credit cards and debit cards are very useful for cash advances. Visa cards are the most widely accepted cards. While ATMs are widely available, there are no guarantees that your credit cards or debit cards will actually work in Latin America. Check with your bank. You should be aware that to purchase products or services on a credit card a fee of 5%-10% usually applies. Do not rely on credit or debit cards as your only source of money. A combination of US dollar cash, travelers’ checks and cards is best, although you will usually be charged a commission or given a less-favorable exchange rate for travelers’ checks. Always take more rather than less, as you don't want to spoil the trip by constantly feeling short of funds.
Please be advised that slightly torn notes, notes that have been heavily marked or are faded may be difficult to exchange. It is best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than 100USD (or equivalent).
A combination of taxes and service charges are added to bills in the best hotels and restaurants and can total as much as 28%. Those towards the budget and mid-range end of the spectrum don't add taxes. Tipping is not expected in cheaper restaurants. A tip of 10% is fine in upmarket restaurants if a service charge has not already been added to the bill. Taxi drivers are not tipped - bargain hard beforehand and stick to your price. Local guides and porters should be tipped. Bargaining is a way of life in markets.
Local arts and crafts, particularly weavings, ceramics, woollen clothing and jewellery.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while traveling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travelers’ checks, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while traveling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When traveling on a group trip, please note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time.