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How much does it cost to travel in Peru?

by Jessie Kwak | 17 March 2010 10 Comments

A common question on travel forums is always “how much will I spend?” When Rob and I spent six months in Peru, we vastly underestimated how much money we’d need, but I kept obsessive notes about our expenditures in order to both provide a guide for next trip, and to help out other people.

Peruvian Money is Cool!

As a couple, we spent just under $50 a day, or $25 a person. That’s our average for the full six months, but I’m splitting my analysis into three periods of distinct travel: 1) Rob-‘n-Jessie mellow backpacking, 2) sedentary lifestyle, and 3) frantic tourist circuit of the Gringo Trail.

Our daily averages (for two people):

  • Overall: 47.45 a day
  • Backpacking: 52.76
  • Sedentary: 30.89
  • Gringo trail: 81.40. for real.

What do those numbers mean??

Backpacking

This made up about 3 and a half months worth of our trip. The major categories of lodging, food, transportation, and tourism are what I’ll talk about here, since other expenditures on sundries are pretty relative to each type of traveler.

Lodging: We moved every few days, stayed in hotels except for a few nights couchsurfing. Almost every time were staying for more than a couple of nights in one place, we were able to bargain for a discount.

Tourism: We hit up a good amount of tourist activities, and we always tried to shop around for the best deal. What we saved by using public transportation to get to one site we often spent by hiring private guides for another site.

Transportation: We rode decent buses, sometimes splurging for the lower-level “full cama” (fully-reclining) seats, but mostly sleeping just fine in the upper level “semi-cama” seats. We could have saved money here by taking cheaper buses, but our motto was that we’d rather spend 9 hours in a comfy bus than 13 crowded into a chicken bus just to save a couple of dollars.

Food: We ate out most nights, partly because of lack of kitchen access, and partly because Peru is really ridiculously cheap to eat in. Sometimes we ate at cheap menu places, sometimes we ate well in good restaurants. This was our biggest expenditure. We spent about $15 a day between the two of us which we could have cut down by doing more of our own cooking, eating in more economical places (Peru is rife with restaurants that serve a decent complete menu for $1-2).

Sedentary life

We spent about 6 weeks living in Huanchaco, near Trujillo in northern Peru. We rented an apartment, which cost us S/.100 ($35) a week, taking our housing cost to about $4.15 a day for two people. Food was still our biggest expenditure (we like our food). We ate in a lot more, but Huanchaco has some fantastic seafood that we didn’t pass up as much as we should have to stay on budget. Obviously transportation and tourism costs were way down, since we weren’t going too many places.

Gringo Trail

Woah. We spent two weeks hitting all the tourist hotspots of southern Peru with my parents near the end of December. This is the typical route that most tourists take when visiting Peru: the Nazca lines, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Titicaca, Cusco and Machu Picchu. Our daily costs went up $30 from our normal backpacking costs, and $50 from our stay in Huanchaco.

Lonely Planet Peru
by Lonely Planet
Powells.com

Why did we end up spending so much more money? A) Things are a lot more expensive in southern Peru. B) We went on a lot more tours, which begin to add up. C) We were constantly moving from city to city, which meant a lot more in travel expenses—in fact, our daily average for transportation in that two weeks more than doubled from our normal backpacking costs.

How could we have saved? Well, honestly I don’t know. Because we were on a strict schedule, we were often booking hotels in advance rather than our usual method of showing up and checking out a few places to get a feel for the pricing. Restaurants and tours are just more expensive in Southern Peru, and when you’re changing cities every other day, transportation costs can skyrocket.

In Conclusion

Overall, we could have spent less on the stuff that Rob calls “quality of life” items. Did we need to go out for a beer after a long day? No. Did we need to spend money on souvenirs? No. Do we wish that we’d avoided those things in order to save a couple of bucks? Absolutely no.

If we’d had more time we would have gone slower through the Gringo Trail, hunting down good deals and savoring each place more.

Obviously, this is meant to be a rough guideline and a partial answer to everyone who’s looking for help budgeting. If anyone else has advice, please post in the comments!

Written by Jessie Kwak

I am a farm girl who moved to the big city, and then just kept right on moving. I love camping, hoppy beer, and good conversations. See all posts by

10 Comments »

  • Cornelius Aesop said:

    I lucked out and had a place to stay for my two weeks there and was with a friend who was visiting family and took care of us for most of the time so I couldn’t assess how much we spent. The only time we had to fend for ourselves was in Paracas and we got a nicer place to stay and ate well. Luckily the food in Paracas is inexpensive and delicious and I was able to bargain down at store for our liters of water. Did you make it to Lima? I never used the bus in Lima only taxis which I found to be more than I wanted to spend.

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Taxis in Lima can indeed be pricey. We ended up taking the bus a lot, which was super fun–check back on Friday when we’ll have the first part of our Lima bus guide up on Unpaved.

  • dinda said:

    Still a long way to go, but I hope I have the chance to visit Peru someday soon.

  • Polly said:

    I can’t tell you how helpful your website has been for planning our family trip to Peru! We are traveling with our kids, age 7 and 10, for 3.5 weeks in June/July to Cajamarca, Leymebamba, Chachapoyas, and Chiclayo. Your site and others have inspired us to enjoy the sights and lack of tourist crowds (and prices!) in Northern Peru.

    Thank you so much!

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Thanks Polly! We’re thrilled to hear that you’re going to be spending so much time in northern Peru–it has so much to offer!

    And thanks for the encouraging words–it’s our goal to be helpful. :)

    Have a great time in Peru, and don’t forget to check back in and let us know how everything went. Maybe you’ll have your own story to add here.

    Cheers!

  • Chris Dale said:

    I’ve googled and googled Peru expenses, tours, living, traveling…list goes on and on and to be honest this was the most honest and informative article I’ve found. Shorter than a lot but the quality of info was great. Me and my mother are planning a getaway together to reconnect a bit so am super excited. Was planning on going for 10 days and doing a bit of rushing. Wanted to see machu pichu, the rainforest, a bit of lima, and go into bulivia. After reading up though I’m thinking we are trying to fit too much in. My idea is to fly into Lima without booking lodging. Pack light and hit the streets, find a cheaper place to stay then go swimming with the sea lions the next morning. After that just hit the road. Explore Lima a bit on our own and then pack to leave for the rainforest the next morning. Any opinions as to where the best place to go after Lima would be if we wanted a deep look at the rainforest. I prefer the nontouristy, more local feel. Don’t care about luxury but don’t want to find myself somewhere I don’t belong if you know what I mean.

  • Jessie Kwak (author) said:

    Thanks Chris, I’m really glad that you found this helpful. You’re right in that trying to fit too much into 10 days can be overwhelming. If you fly into Lima without booking lodging, take one of the Green taxis from the airport to Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. The Green Taxis are safe, with a set rate (should be S/.40 [$14ish] to Miraflores, if I remember correctly). Most of the hostels are clustered around that area. If you’re looking for a bit more stability, I love to recommend Tambopacaya Backpackers in Magdalena del Mar (which we profiled here). Scott was one of the best people we met in Peru. It’s a bit less the backpacker scene than you’ll find in Miraflores, though, so take your pick.

    Honestly, if you’ve only got 10 days it’d be worth your time to fly from Lima to Cusco (if you’re still into Machu Picchu). From Cusco you can either bus (18 hours-ish) or fly (30 minutes-ish) to Puerto Maldonado, which is the gateway to Peru’s southern jungle. I haven’t been, so I can’t give you any firsthand advice about that, but it looks interesting.

    Alternately, if you don’t care about M.P., you could skip Cusco and fly to Iquitos. It sounds like this might by more your style–the north of Peru is much less touristy than the south, and so the people tend to be friendlier. Again, we didn’t go to Iquitos, either, but I’ve met people who loved it.

    Hope that helps–please let us know what your experience is! I’m really curious about Peru’s jungle.

    Cheers,
    Jessie

  • Tiago Schaffrath said:

    Hello,
    I really like your website and would like suggestion on logistics for a month trip with my girlfriend. We will arrive from Brasil (Sao Paulo) to Lima. Arriving on the 23 of January, and coming back to Brazil on the 26 of February from Quito (Equador).
    So the question really is; is it better to start south and then start going up to reach Equador and travel there for a week to 10 days? Orthere is not enough time to go south and go up north againg and have a pleasant slow paced trip?
    Total we have 34 days. It is not much. What would you suggest to do in the south, since Machu Pichu is closed in February.
    – On the North, is Iquitos a place to visit?
    – What major activities would you suggest in the north?

    Thanks,

    Tiago

  • Grace said:

    Hi Jessie,

    I’m travelling to Peru in August this year and am staying in Cuzco for about 3 months. I’ve heard from a few people that have recently been over that it’s much better value to wait and book tours such as Macchu Pichu when you’re in Cuzco rather than from home. I was just wondering whether you had any information about this because lots of travel agencies go on about how the tour books out months in advance.

    Thanks a lot for the article,
    Grace

  • Unpaved South America « Jessie Kwak said:

    […] How much does it cost to travel in Peru? This is Huanchaco, Part 1 Trujillo’s Casonas Antiguas (Antique Homes) A closer look at Lima: Magdalena del Mar […]