Located in western South America, Peru is the home of Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley. Where a centuries-old stone city can be found nestled up in the Andes mountains and a colonial capital sits on its arid Pacific Coast, there’s no question that it is a unique, colorful, and multicultural country, but is Peru expensive?
One of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, Peru has 90 different microclimates across its 1.2 million square kilometers. Inca trails, dune hiking, the Amazon jungle, and Colca Canyon, there’s so much to see in bountiful Peru, and better yet, it is one of the cheapest places to visit in South America.
It depends on who you ask and how you do it, but Peru is most definitely a place for budget travel and we’re here to show you how it can be done. From getting there to getting around and every guesthouse in between, find out how much it really costs to visit Peru in 2022, let’s get into it.
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The average cost of a holiday in Peru
There’s something for everyone in Peru from the bustling atmosphere of Lima to the European flair of Cusco and the mystery of Machu Picchu. While South America is a popular destination for backpackers and budget trips, not everywhere is dirt cheap, but Peru is one country that doesn’t need to break the bank.
Somewhere in between the bargains of Bolivia and beach clubs of Baja California, Peru can be as expensive as you make it and not everything is budget-friendly. We’re here to show you how to avoid spending more than you need to with this guide.
Firstly, Peru remains a thriving place for tourists, mainly because of the world-class attractions that can be found on Peruvian soil, and these places are, unsurprisingly, the most expensive. Lima’s nightlife and restaurant scene as well as Inca hikes and Machu Picchu tours might require a little more flexibility, budget-wise, but it will be worth it, and overall, Peru’s costs are modest.
Spending-savvy travelers can get by on around $25-40 USD a day, including budget accommodation. That’s around $500 total for a two-week trip. If you’re after high-end travel, you could spend the same amount per day in Peru, with plenty of luxury accommodation options, but the country is more than suited to low-cost visitors, too.
Before looking at how these costs break down, let’s run through some daily expenses you’re likely to encounter on your trip to Peru:
|Price (PEN)||Price (USD)|
|Inexpensive Meal (restaurant)||12.55 S/.||$3.35|
|Fast Food Combo Meal||20.00 S/.||$5.35|
|Takeaway Cappucino (restaurant)||10.00 S/.||$2.67|
|Coke Bottle (supermarket)||2.96 S/.||$0.79|
|Water Bottle (supermarket)||1.85 S/.||$0.50|
|Machu Pichu (entrance fee)||152.00 S/.||$47.00|
|Inca Trail Hike (two-day tour)||1,885.00 S/.||$500.00|
Is Peru expensive to visit? Getting There
Of a total of 234 airports in the country, Peru is home to five international and 22 domestic that are regularly frequented by the four million tourists that visit the country every year. Most travelers fly into Lima and then take other forms of transport like shuttles or domestic flights to other cities and regions of the country.
Jorge Chavez International Aiport (LIM) is Lima’s primary point of entry. You can fly here from London for as little as $500 return, although you’ll need to make stops on the way and the total travel time could take upwards of 15 hours. You can also fly nonstop from New York for around $600, but connecting flight options could see these prices halved. Flights from Toronto are much the same, between $500-700 with one-stop, while you can fly to Lima from Los Angeles in just eight hours, but direct flights will cost you around $700 return.
Because of its strategic location in western South America, you can enter Peru by land via bus or car from Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador, which all share borders with Peru. Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina are also all within easy reach by land, making Peru a great cost-efficient addition to a South American backpacking adventure. For some ideas on cost, you can get an 11-hour bus from La Paz in Bolivia to Cusco in Peru for just $25-50.
Peru is a vast country and internal travel can be timely, but the nation is relatively well-connected with developed tourist infrastructure in certain areas. You can get a last-minute flight from Lima to Cusco in under two hours for $50-80. However, the scenic PeruRail Titicaca train route, taking just over 10 hours, is worth the haul if you have the time. This might be one of the most expensive travel routes in Peru, but the $200 ticket price includes unmissable lake scenery and breathtaking panoramas.
From Cusco is also how most visitors reach Machu Pichu. You can choose a trekking tour from here through the Inca trail, or ride the train. For the rail route, you’ll need to take a bus to Poroy and get the Ollantaytambo train which takes around two hours and ends in Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu.
You have to book the Inca Trail through a tour group but you can take the rail route independently. The bus to Poroy costs $9-12 while the train ticket to Aguas Calientes costs $140. Macchu Pichu is likely to be the biggest budget-drainer of your trip with tourist premiums costing the same year-round.
Still, what makes Peru even more alluring as a budget destination is that visitors from the US, Canada, and Western Europe do not need a visa to enter. You can stay for up to 183 days for free, as long as you have proof of onward travel. Once you’re in the country, you can’t extend the free Visa so if you plan to stay longer or move permanently to Peru, you’ll need to arrange this before. Nevertheless, the free entry makes Peru perfect for a few weeks’ holiday.
Accommodation prices in Peru
There is all manner of accommodation options all over Peru from hostels to five-star hotels, but guest houses are one of the best choices for value stays. You can even bag a private double in a standard hostel for around $20 in the capital and around half of that for a dorm bed. Still, guest houses outside Lima range between $4 and $45 a night offering more freedom and privacy than hostels and often more personalized experiences than hotels.
Wherever you stay in Peru will make all the difference. Check out these stays for something for every budget:
1900 Hostel ($) – True budget accommodation in the center of the city, double rooms start at just $30 a night with breakfast included.
Pariwana Hostel ($) – One of the best hostels in Lima, dorms are just $11 a night, and doubles start at $39.
Ayenda La Paz Apart Hotel ($$) – Double rooms with included breakfast, save on eating out with kitchen access at this suburban Lima hotel.
Selina Miraflores Lima ($$) – Boutique, three-star accommodation with baloney rooms in the heart of Lima. Small doubles start from $50 a night.
Apartment Centric Inti 2 ($) – Located in the center of Cusco, these two-bedroom apartments are ideal for group trips on a budget.
Residencial Belle Maison ($) – Budget guest house accommodation with breakfast included just minutes from central Cusco.
Malula’s House en el Valley Sagrad ($$) – An entire one-bed holiday house in the Sacrey Inca Valley for $50 a night.
Habitación Vista Amanecer ($) – Three-star accommodation with lake views of Titicaca and breakfast included for just $28 a night.
Inka’s Rest Hostel ($) – Twin rooms with shared bathrooms start from less than $20 a night in this spacious and quiet hostel.
Uros Quecha’s Lodge Titicaca ($) – Rustic lake-front lodges with breakfast included start from just $35 four miles out of Puno.
Best Budget Options:
Nazca Travel One Hotel ($) – The helpful staff here are a great help when it comes to booking onward travel if you’re passing through Nazca. Doubles rooms come in at just $22 a night with a generous breakfast.
Banana’s Adventure Hostel ($) – This is Huacachina’s best-rated budget accommodation. With a huge swimming pool on-site, it’s easy to see why. Dorms start from $17 and doubles from $28.
Way Kap Hostel ($) – A true budget hostel in Arequipa with comfortable and modern dorms for just $6 a night.
Atenas Backpackers ($) – In a town where most hotels are poorly-rated, Atenas is Paracas’s best budget accommodation option with doubles for only $19.
Is Peru expensive for food and drink?
Tourist attractions can really add up, but like accommodation, food is something you can really save on in Peru. The average cost of eating out is around 48 S/. ($12.75) per day and there are tons of local options and backpacker-friendly restaurants to choose from. Breakfast isn’t a big deal in most cities and can be hard to find. Locals will opt for the lunch menu as early as 7 am, but if breakfast is available, you can expect bread, jams, eggs, and black coffee for as little as 10 S/., that’s less than $3.
The lunchtime “menu del dia” is more of something to get excited about in the cities and a great way to sample the food culture. These set-menu almuerzos, served at most local restaurants, consist of a starter of soup, a main of chicken or fish, a drink of juice or water, and even sometimes a desert. You can find these for just 8-15 S/. ($2-4), even in Lima, but western-oriented places and backpacker restaurants will typically price their almuerzos between 16-20 S/. ($4-5).
If you’re hoping to sample some global cuisine or more high-end restaurants options in Lima or Cusco, don’t let the price hold you back. Compared to local cantinas, mid-range restaurants come out a lot more but are still far from expensive compared to other capitals. A three-course meal shouldn’t cost more than 50.00 S/. ($13) per person while a glass of wine or beer in a restaurant comes in at around 10.00 S/. ($2.70).
When is the best time to visit Peru?
The dry season in Peru lasts from May to October with sunny days, blue skies and chilly nights experienced across the Andes. This makes for great hiking weather, but although Machu Picchu and the Inca Trails will always be pricy, you’ll also need to book far in advance during the peak season. Everything else like accommodation and food can cost a little more at this time too.
If you want fewer crowds and deals on accommodation, visiting just before or after the rainy months in March, April, May or September and October is a good idea. Peru is cheap all year round, but with fewer tourists, everything can be easier to navigate and you’ll have more variety when it comes to where you book.
Peru on a Budget: Our Top 7 Money-Saving Tips
- Stay in hostels and guesthouses – They’re not only cheap, but they’re perfect for meeting new people and bagging great city center locations for half the price of hotels. Be sure to make the most of hostel nightlife too as it will likely be the cheapest you’ll find.
- Take taxis – Within the cities, you can get a 15-minute taxi for just 10.00 S/. ($2.75). Public transport is worth the haul if you’re going a long way, but don’t underestimate private cabs, as long as they’re legit. Some cities even have Uber which can be a cheap and safe way to get around.
- Try the street food – Opting for authentic Peruvian cuisine from the lively street markets all over the country is not only a budget-friendly option but one that will give you a great taste of Peru.
- Carry cash – The further you venture from the cities, the less you’ll be able to swipe your card as you please. Having cash on you at all times will make your life a lot easier in Peru and make sure you get enough out in advance if you’re going somewhere remote.
- Take advantage of free activities – Macchu Picchu might be pricey but there’s plenty to do for free elsewhere from scenic hikes to beach trips, city museums, and wonderful street art.
- Visit in the low season – This is our best piece of advice for all foreign travel. You might be unlikely to find discounts on Inca tours at any time of year, but accommodation, especially in prime areas like Aguas Calientes, will be much more affordable from November to April.
- Cook at home – Whether this means renting an apartment or finding a hostel with a communal kitchen, eating out might be cheap in Peru, but groceries are even cheaper. You’ll be able to find enough pasta and sauce (a backpacker favorite) to feed a small group for around $1 in Peruvian supermarkets. Don’t feel like you have to visit a restaurant every night.
Is Peru Expensive? Our Verdict
Peru is one of the least expensive countries to live in and visit in South America. You can get by on less than $30 a day, and as long as you can afford the flights, it’s accessible to shoestring backpackers and every traveler in between. The Inca Trail and Machu Picchu might blow your budget, that’s if the lengthy train journeys haven’t already, but it’s still cheap and the country has a lot more to offer than its ancient Andean highlands. With great street food, a dynamic art scene, free museums, and underrated beaches, you can do it all on a budget and Peru need not break the bank.