Is Peru Safe for Tourists?

Peru is wildly diverse, abundant in natural resources, and yet one of the poorest countries in the world.

This South American treasure trove is covered by the Amazon rainforest and cut through by the world’s highest mountain range, the Andes. Its biodiversity is so extensive that Peru has been christened ‘megadiverse’. If you peek into its’ thick jungles, you’ll be met with thousands of colorful flora, fauna, and birds.

And it’s not just Perus’ nature that’s varied: the people are a real mix too. Asians, Spaniards, Indians, Europeans, and Africans mingle in the cities where over 70% of the population live.

In these cities, you’ll find remnants of Spanish colonial rule in the architecture, religion, and of course, language. With over 15,000 years of inhabitants, Peru is one of our oldest countries and an integral part of global history. All the more reason to visit.

Mountain-in-PeruWhy Visit Peru

Anyone who’s ever had the ambrosia that is a butifarra sandwich will tell you Peru is a vacation you shouldn’t think twice about booking.

A feast for the senses, this South American nation is beloved by travelers. And we can see why! You can visit famous landmarks (Machu Picchu ring a bell?), sample the world-renowned cuisine, venture through lush jungles and roam charmingly chaotic cities.

If the jungle isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps the beautiful beaches, incredible hiking trails, and variety of extreme sports will pique your fancy instead. There’s truly something for everyone in Peru.

So now for the big question: is it safe?


machu-picchu-peruIs Peru Dangerous?

Yes and no. Many people travel to Peru without problems, but there are several areas you should avoid and key safety issues to be aware of before visiting.

For starters, demonstrations are a regular occurrence in Peru. Protests happen for political and economic reasons and can get violent. At the very least, they’re inconvenient and can cause local roads, trains, and major highways to get shut down. As this often happens with no warning nor an indicator of when they’ll open again, travel during protests can be impossible.

In general, Peruvian cities can be pretty chaotic, so you should keep your wits about you when visiting. Cities are hotbeds of high crime rates, crazy traffic, and a sprinkling of organized crime.

If you stick to tourist areas, you can avoid most of these issues — except maybe the traffic.



Dangerous Areas in Peru

(VRAEM) Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers and the Departments of Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica, and Junin

The main area of cocoa production in Peru has a dark side. Remember the Shining Path terrorist group? They were first active in the 80s, and their goal was to use armed resistance to impose a Marxist-Maoist regime in Peru.

Although they’ve been on the decline since the arrest of their leader in 1992, some of them are still up to no good in the VRAEM region. Although their intended targets would be members of the Peruvian government, they’re probably not too picky about going for tourists too. Don’t risk it.

The Border Area Between Peru and Columbia

We really don’t recommend going here. The poor infrastructure by the border, as well as the prevalence of drug trafficking in this area, make it a dangerous choice for a visit. And if you do get in trouble, you’ll have a hard time getting out of it. The Peruvian police force isn’t very active in this area, and the U.S. government personnel are restricted from entering too.


Is it Safe to Live in Peru?

At this point, you may be thinking, damn, going to Peru sounds like the geographical equivalent of diving into the jaws of a shark. Why on earth would anyone travel there?

But Peru can be an amazing country to visit. Gated communities offer a good level of safety, and some neighborhoods are safer to live in than others. For example, if you plan to venture to Lima, the Miraflores, San Isidro, and the Barranco neighborhoods are your best options.

If you do move to Peru, keep quiet about your personal details. If you’re asked by strangers about your income, living situation, or anything else that seems a little too invasive for small talk, downplay how you live.

Being the new face in town might make you an interesting target, so don’t give potential criminals any info to cement that idea.


Safe Areas/Cities in Peru

Miraflores, Lima

Chic and cosmopolitan, Miraflores is one of Limas’ more touristy areas alongside Barranco. On the whole, both are very safe to stay in, as they are quite developed and have a strong police presence.

Head down to the beach to surf the waves at Miraflores beach before hitting up Parque Kennedy and the Inca markets in the afternoon. When evening falls, seek out the local salsa scene to dance the night away. When you’re making the most of Miraflores, be careful when crossing the road. Lima is a busy city, and cars aren’t very mindful of pedestrians.


Fancy surfing during the day and partying at night? Then Máncora is the place for you. Full of hostels, surfer bars, and Peruvian and international restaurants, you’ll never be bored in this Magaluf-style town.

Stay along Playa Máncora to mingle with the backpackers and dance to the latest hits til the early hours. It’s pretty safe too, if you stick to the tourist areas. As with everywhere, keep an eye on your belongings and don’t wander the streets alone at night.


A lovely town just four hours from Lima, Paracas is an easy stop on your route down south. The seaside town is a popular destination with both Peruvian and international tourists, thanks to its sunny weather and pretty beaches.

Paracas Pueblo is the residential side of town, but you can give it a miss since there’s not much for tourists there. There’s tons to do in Paracas itself though, and you can take your pick from watersports, visiting the Paracas National Reserve, or even checking out the nearby Ballestas Islands by boat.


Warnings & Dangers in Peru

There are some negative stereotypes about South American countries. You might hear warnings of terrorism, robberies, kidnapping, drug trafficking, extortion, and raids.

Phew, what a list.

Unfortunately, these stereotypes have a grain of truth to them. On the positive side, they are mostly found in certain areas, like Paracas, Ayacucho and Arequipa, which you can avoid. Stick to the affluent, more tourist-friendly areas of Peru to ensure a safe trip.

Also, criminals in Peru come in all shapes and sizes. They won’t be wearing balaclavas and striped T-shirts. In fact, some even dress as police officers, so trust your intuition in every interaction.

Overall Travel Risk (5 out of 10)

For the most part, the safety issues found when traveling to Peru are completely manageable.

Avoiding certain areas, sticking in groups, and not getting caught alone in a dark alleyway at night? Easy.

As always, follow the usual safety protocols you would when traveling anywhere. Keep your belongings safely stowed, don’t carry large amounts of cash, and leave fancy jewelry at home. Only book legit taxis and tours too.

Oh, and if you’re flying into Lima, be aware that its airport is actually in the city of Callao. Callao is one of Limas’ more dangerous areas, so don’t loiter. Prebook a taxi or hop on the Airport Express Bus instead.

Taxi Scams

Surprise, surprise, yet another country with overly enthusiastic taxi drivers. Negotiate the fare beforehand, in sol! Watch out for airport taxi drivers, in particular; they can be extremely pushy.

Stand your ground, and consider using the Uber app to get an estimate of how much your trip should cost. Also, tipping isn’t custom in Peru — so unless you loved the journey, you shouldn’t feel pressured into tipping your driver. Use transport apps to avoid the hassle when traveling by taxi.

Ayahuasca Ceremonies

We get it. You’re on your travels; all riled up to ‘find yourself’. ( Taking part in an Ayahuasca or Kambo ceremony seems like a necessary step toward the new you.

But many travelers have reported being robbed, assaulted, and even raped while tripping. In extreme cases, Ayahuasca ceremonies have led to serious health issues among tourists and, in a few cases, death.

By all means, find yourself, but be sure to do some proper research beforehand.

Counterfeit Cash

Peru is the world’s leading counterfeit producer. Are congratulations in order? All jokes aside, always use ATMs over currency exchanges, and if anyone asks you for change, say no. Some tourists have reported being asked for their larger bill in exchange for two small ones.

No, it doesn’t make sense, but some well-intended foreigners fall for it. Also, you might come across more than just counterfeit sol: millions of fake dollars are floating around Peru too.

Baby Alpaca Scam

Many countries have their own equivalent of this scam. A traditionally dressed local will offer you a cute animal to pose for a photo with (In Asia and Africa, usually it’s a monkey, but in Peru, it’s a baby Alpaca).

After you get your snaps, you’ll be slapped with an extortionate fee. Even if you don’t want to hold the Alpaca, you might have one thrust upon you. Cute, yes, but pricey as hell. Do your wallet a favor and steer clear of petting the Alpacas.

Alpacas-in-PeruTips for Staying Safe in Peru

Peru is a poor country, so you don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb in your Gucci sunnies.

Follow these tips to stay safe on your trip.

  • Dress to blend in. Looking rich makes you seem like an easy target — for robbery or worse. Don’t wear expensive clothes, jewelry or shuffle through copious amounts of cash like a clueless tourist. Which after finishing this article, you won’t be.
  • Dress modestly, wherever you go. This shows respect and can keep you safe from unwanted attention.
  • Stick to tourist areas and avoid going exploring at night.
  • Keep your valuables safe by shutting the zippers of your bag with a small lock. Phones and cameras can be made snatch-proof by buying cases with cords on.
  • Don’t buy or use drugs. You risk getting in hot water with the police, which means either paying a bribe or being arrested. Neither sounds fun.


Is Peru Safe | Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Drugs in Peru?

Yes, South American countries are famed drug hubs. No, that doesn’t mean you should be taking said drugs. The law states that you can carry very small amounts of cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and the like, but as soon as you have more than one on you, you’ve broken the law.

Plus, the police can be pretty corrupt and threaten you with jail or a heavy bribe for possession anyway. Avoid getting in a sticky situation and stay away from drugs.

Is It Safe To Travel Alone as a Woman in Peru?

For female solo travelers, Peru is fairly safe. Still, it’s best to dress conservatively to avoid unwanted interest.

Unfortunately, macho culture is widespread, from catcalling and wolf whistles to opportunistic groping in public. Practice your resting stony face for when you’re out and about, and seek help from those around you if you feel threatened. Don’t hitchhike or hail taxis, and use Uber or Cabify instead.

Be careful meeting people online or even on a night out. ‘Bricheros’ are Peruvian men who seek out foreign women to date for money, a fancy lifestyle, and even a visa. Take any over-the-top male interest with a pinch of salt.


What Should I Do if There’s an Earthquake?

Earthquakes are a regular occurrence in Peru. They’re not on everyone’s radar as a safety issue since, for the most part, they’re not. Most are unnoticeable, and the larger ones with a 5 or 6 on the Richter scale only cause minimal damage.

Deaths from earthquakes are rare in Peru, and the real big boys (earthquakes with a 7 or 8 on the Richter scale) only happen once or twice every hundred years. So, by all means, read up on how to respond to an earthquake, but don’t worry too much about being caught in one.

How Do I Safely Take Out Money in Peru?

Use guarded ATMS, ideally indoors. A bank is a safe bet, but inside a building like a shopping mall works too. Also, if anyone offers to help you use the ATM, say no. You can change the language from Spanish to English yourself.

If you do need to use an exchange office, know that they aren’t all the same! Try to only use official exchange offices, since those at the airport, on the street, and at banks will give you a rubbish rate. No one likes being ripped off. 

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