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Backpacking Peru: Budget, route, short-term jobs a...

Backpacking Peru: Budget, route, short-term jobs and everything you need to know

Most of my time in Latin America was spent backpacking Peru and it was one of my favourite countries in South America. Despite its macho culture, the Peruvian people showed me nothing but love and hospitality. This is where I met friends from all over the world who eventually became my family.

Now let’s get started! The timeframe of backpacking Peru is definitely up to you. Each city is distinct and have different activities so you will really enjoy jumping from one lifestyle to another. One piece of advice I can give you is don’t give a time limit for backpacking Peru — take your time because you will be surprised how much you will get to love this country. If you insist, I would say 3-6 months is a good timeframe. With this, you will fully get to know Peru’s wonderful culture, odd Spanish language and their impressive gastronomic scene.

Here are some links that will help you in backpacking Peru:

THE ROUTE

This route is applicable to backpackers heading south – those who started in Colombia/Venezuela but can also be done in reverse. Crossing the border of Ecuador and Peru is relatively easy. Here is the best option:

Quito – Mancora, Peru (via: Sto Domingo – Guayaquil – Machala – Huaquillas – Tumbes)

Travel time: 10h 43 m

Ticket prices: From $60.00 to $190.00 USD

However, Guayaquil is a part of the backpacker’s route in Ecuador and it would be great if you can stop here for a few days. Guayaquil is also the bus hub for crossing the borders of Ecuador and Peru so worry not — buses are available 24/7. A direct bus from Guayaquil (Ecuador) to Mancora (Peru) will take 6-7 hours, including immigration.

Click here for full view of the map

A. Mancora

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Mancora is close to Piura and is considered to be the party hub of Peru. Surrounded by beach bars, loud hostels, surfing/kitesurfing activities, Mancora is the most favourite stop of backpackers. I was here for 6 weeks volunteering in a hostel and it was difficult for me to leave as much as it was for my co-volunteers. You will not find very wild nights in other cities of Peru so this can be your break — be young and free. You can be an idiot and a child here for as long as you like. Nobody will judge you.

Suggested length of stay: 2 weeks

Main activities: Nightlife (lots of it), surfing, windsurfing, beach

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Kitesurfing lessons

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Hostel (bar work), language exchange with a local family, eco-tourism volunteering. | Click here to see available volunteering opportunities in Mancora

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Loki del Mar – warning: really really wild party hostel. Even backpackers checked in other hostels go here to party.

Favourite Restaurant: Sirena Cafe Bar, a place with good ambiance and wifi connection where I used to sit down and catch up with blogging/online job.

General pricing situation: Expensive for backpackers. Since Mancora is a very touristic place, prices are way higher than usual.

B. Trujillo

From Mancora, head to Trujillo for a colonial city lifestyle. Travel time from Mancora to Trujillo is 9 hours. Make sure to take the night bus! Old mansions and colonial architecture tower the city with a dry climate or intense heat. Streets are Spanish-styled with surrounding greens.

Suggested length of stay: 1 week

Main activities: Cosmopolitan city, night life (not too much), walking tours

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Walking

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: English teaching volunteer programs | Click here to see available volunteering opportunities in Trujillo

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): El Mochilero – backpackers hub

Favourite Restaurant: Casona Deza Cafe – ambient and good for remote workers

General pricing situation: Medium to cheap.

 

Chiclayo, Iquitos and Huacancho are some of the cities that are on the way but not included in this guide. You might want to consider looking into it.

C. Huaraz

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From Trujillo, travel time to Huaraz is 8 hours and bus prices range from $10.00 – $20.00 USD. Take a break from the city and experience the natural wonders of Huaraz. Often overlooked by backpackers, Huaraz is the best place to unplug! Mountains, rivers and beautiful landscape surround the region of Ancash which is highly advisable to your toxic lifestyle in Mancora. Trek and stay for days in the mountains in a tent with no social media attached.

Suggested length of stay: 1-2 weeks

Main activities: Trekking, nature, adventure, outdoor

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Trekking

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Family stay with a native mountain family. | Click here to see available volunteering opportunities in Huaraz

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): La Casa de Zarela – chill vibe and relaxed environment for backpackers.

Favourite Restaurant: Chilli Heaven – just because I love anything spicy.

General pricing situation: Medium to cheap

D. Lima

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After some life-changing activities in Huaraz, head to Lima for an ultimate cosmopolitan vibe and city life. Travel time to Lima from Huaraz is 7-8 hours and bus prices range from $14.00 – $25.00 USD. Madrid was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the centre of Lima. Like most capitals, Lima is busy 24/7 but it’s not your typical bustling city. Most backpackers spend a day or 2 here as it is the flying hub or making a stop-over to see friends who are also leaving for their flights. What most people don’t know is that Lima offers the best gastronomic experiences in the whole of Latin America. 4 of the best restaurants in the world are located here!

Suggested length of stay: 3-5 days

Main activities: Food, nightlife, walking tours, city life

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Food

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Hostel work but I would recommend only one — bar work at Hostel Kokopelli Lima. Email [email protected] to apply. If they ever ask where you got it, tell them you found their info here! I worked there so if you need any recommendations, please feel free contact me.

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Hostel Kokopelli Lima

Favourite Restaurant: Central for high end dining and The Irish Pub (beside Hostel Kokopelli)

General pricing situation: Expensive to medium.

E. Paracas

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A very small city and the one that holds a special place in my heart, the best chapters of my life in Latin America happened in Paracas. I volunteered, worked and lived here and I just couldn’t leave. I also met my best friends here so it’s really an important place for me! Paracas is a small town filled with expats, beaches and a very peaceful surrounding. It is also home to the famous Isla Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. Travel time from Lima is 3-4 hours by bus and costs around $12.00 – $20.00 USD.

Suggested length of stay: 2 weeks – 1 month

Main activities: Nightlife, beach, kitesurfing

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Kitesurfing lessons. Paracas is popular as one of the best Kitesurfing spots in the world.

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Hostel work but I would recommend only one — bar work at Hostel Kokopelli Paracas. I was bar manager here for 5 months and without being bias, you will have the best life (and best friends) by volunteering here. Click here to find out more.

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Hostel Kokopelli Paracas

Favourite Restaurant: Nerly’s Parilla (Grill), Miski and Fruzion. These restaurants are owned by my good friends!

General pricing situation: Cheap

 

Nasca is a town in Ica that is on the way where you can see the famous Nasca Lines. Huacachina is another interesting town for sandboarding which you can do for 1 day. Both Nasca and Huacachina are only 1 hour away from Paracas.

F. Arequipa

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A city considered superior from the rest of Peru, Arequipa is one of the cities I fell inlove with because of its distinct culture. I stayed here for 3 weeks and enjoyed the combination of city and outdoor lifestyle. Arequipa has mountain ranges and at the same time, an amazingly beautiful city setting that is so far from the bustling Lima. Travel time from the Ica region (Paracas, Nasca & Huacachina) is 10-12 hours by bus and costs around $25.00 – $40.00 USD.

Suggested length of stay: 1-2 weeks

Main activities: Outdoor, nature, city life

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Trekking/outdoor

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Hostel work & eco tourism. Some of the big hostels in Peru have opened branches here because tourism is slowly becoming popular here. | Click here to see available volunteering opportunities in Arequipa

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Wild Rover – warning: wild party hostel

Favourite Restaurant: I really prefer those street restaurants which you can find all over the city. Very cheap, delicious and depicting the real culture of food in Arequipa.

General pricing situation: Medium to expensive

G. Cusco

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Famous for Machu Picchu, Cusco has a rather odd altitude so you have to be physically fit before heading here. Despite this flaw (and the very cold weather), I really loved my time in Cusco because I got to discover that the city is not just about Machu Picchu: it’s about the rich culture of the Inca Empire which I really found very interesting. Restaurants flock the city and the nightlife and undeniably imposing. Most of my I-don’t-remember-what-happened-last-night moments occurred here but I have no regrets. What happens in Cusco stays in Cusco — you can count on that. Travel time from Arequipa to Cusco is 10-12 hours by bus and costs around $25.00 – $40.00 USD.

Suggested length of stay: 2 weeks – 1 month

Main activities: Mountains, oudoor

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Machu Picchu. Please take note that you need at least 5-7 days to get used to the altitude before doing the Machu Picchu trek.

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Hostel work & eco tourism. | Click here to see available volunteering opportunities in Cusco

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Hostel Kokopelli Cusco

Favourite Restaurant: Jack’s Cafe and Papacho’s are my favourites not just in Cusco but in the world! If you are vegetarian/vegan, I highly recommend Viva! 😉

General pricing situation: Medium to expensive

H. Puno 

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After Cusco, you will feel low traveling to Puno with so many what-happened-in-Cusco questions. Upon boarding the bus to Puno, I felt like it’s time for another change of environment. Puno is close to the border of Peru and Ecuador and is considered a touristic stop for those who are on the last wave of their backpacking trip in Peru. On the other hand, I stayed with a local family in Uros Islands so I look at Puno in a different way.

Suggested length of stay: Good for day trips, or say 1-2 days

Main activities: Cultural immersion, outdoors

Top activity for backpackers/long-term travelers: Uros Islands & Lake Titicaca

Popular volunteering/work exchange gigs: Volunteering with local families. No job posting available but you can just walk around and try your luck!

Top hostels (for mid-20’s backpackers): Pacha Hostel

General pricing situation: Medium to cheap

THE BUDGET

Peru is one of the cheapest countries in South America. The currency in Peru is called Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) or what we always refer to as soles. $1.00 USD is equivalent 3.50 PEN. But how far can 3.50 PEN bring you? To better understand what your backpacking savings is up against, please refer to the basic long-term travel costs below, in US Dollars (U$D):

ITEMPRICE
Meal (Inexpensive Restaurant)$2.29 - $5.14
Meal (Fastfood)$3.71 - $5.72
Beer (Local)$1.00 - $2.29
Beer (Imported)$1.43 - $3.43
Coffee$1.43 - $2.86
Soda$0.57 - $0.86
Bottled Water$0.29 - $0.57
Markets (Vegetables, Fruits, etc)$0.29- $2.29
Markets (Meat)$4.86 - $12.00
Transportation (1-way local transpo ticket)$0.29 - $0.57
Taxi (per 1km)$0.89 - $1.71
Hostel (bed)$12.00 - $28.00

Of course, if you are treaveling as a tourist, prices might vary considering you’re on a vacation. Based on the table above, I can say that prices in Peru are OK (affordable) compared to other Latin American countries. These prices are ranges and can be different per city. For example, Lima and Cusco are touristic cities so they tend to have higher prices.

Disclaimer: Prices above are based on the experiences of the writer who travelled to South America for 2 years. Help improve the data of this post by leaving a comment below! 😉

VISAS/ENTRY & EXIT REGULATIONS

  • Travelers are required to have a passport valid for at least six months from departure date.
  • When arriving by air, an onward/return ticket is required.
  • When traveling by land (ex: from Ecuador to Peru), onward/return ticket is not required.
  • Upon arrival, immigration officials will give you 30 days minimum but you can ask for more, if needed. The maximum is 183 days. For example, you can say that you will be volunteering for 3 months so you need 90 days in your passport.
  • You cannot work with a tourist visa in Peru. However, you can easily apply for a work visa as long as you are sponsored by your employer.
  • Colonial artifacts is not allowed to take out of Peru. Products made from endangered species is also illegal.
  • Coca leaves (the famous altitude sickness remedy in Peru) is legal in Peru but take note that it is not legal in other countries. Travelers should be aware that even if they are just leaves, they can be traced in the urine.
  • One important thing that is often ignored by travelers in Peru is the immigration card given to you when you enter Peru. Please keep it because they will ask for it upon exiting the country. If you lose it, you will have to pay 30.00 PEN ($8.57 USD).
  • Although most countries are exempted in Peru, please double check with your home immigration about visa requirements.

What other tips can you add in backpacking Peru? Join the conversation and leave it on the comment box below!

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Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. Trisha also loves extremely spicy food, pineapples, plants and symmetry. In no particular order, her favourite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Tel Aviv. Follow her life adventures on Instagram - @psimonmyway

  1. Erica

    20 February

    Peru sounds like an all-around destination that would cater to any type of traveler. South America is next on my list to backpack. But I’d be lucky enough to have 3 months to backpack the entire continent!

  2. This is really an awesome itinerary! Love all your tips about Peru!

  3. Megan

    20 February

    A great round up. I love how you break down each destination and give a good idea of costs. Hope to head down there some day and will keep it as a resource.

  4. Lotte

    20 February

    What an excellent guide! Very comprehensive and you have convinced me to visit Peru:-) Bookmarked this for a future trip…

  5. Laura Lynch

    21 February

    I’ve never done the backpacker lifestyle or spent that much time traveling through a country, so it’s fun to see and read about your adventures in Peru. I was only there for a week, but really loved it and I agree that there is a lot to see and do so the more time spent there the better!

  6. Arzo Travels

    21 February

    For some reasons South America didn’t get much attention from me and none of the places you have mentioned were familiar to me (expect Lima of course) However, sounds like a lot of fun and probably I should focus on SA on my next trip 🙂

  7. Mia

    22 February

    I love how you break everything down in terms of price. I’m not a backpacker but it’s nice to see what the other costs might be when I go to Peru. One of my friends was there last month and did a lot of the things you mention so I’ll have to check them out!

  8. Mar Pages

    22 February

    I love love love how organised this is, thank you so much for the effort! Super useful, and encouraging! 🙂

  9. Joe Ankenbauer

    23 February

    Awesome post! I bookmarked this to use later. I’m planning a trip to South America next year and this will come in mighty handy! Thanks!!

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