Peru is a developing country with a growing economy and expanding tourism sector. A wide variety of tourist facilities and services is available, with quality varying according to price and location.
A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Peru. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a tourist stay of 90 days or less. Visitors for other purposes must obtain a visa in advance. Business visitors should ascertain the tax and exit regulations that apply to the specific visa they are granted. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Peru must obtain a new passport and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration office in the capital city of Lima to obtain permission to depart. An airport tax of $25 per person must be paid in U.S. currency when departing Peru. There is also a small airport fee for domestic flights. For further information regarding entry requirements, travelers should contact the Peruvian Embassy at 1625 massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 605, Washington, DC 20036; telephone (202) 462-1084 or 462-1085; Internet -- http://www.peruemb.org; or the Peruvian consulate in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Patterson (NJ), San Francisco, or San Juan.
The Peruvian Government has effectively contained the two active terrorist groups, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement). Both groups, however, are still capable of terrorist actions, and were designated by the Secretary of State in October 1997 as "Foreign Terrorist Organizations" under 1996 anti-terrorism legislation. Although both groups have targeted U.S. interests in the past, there have been no serious attacks against U.S. interests since a July 1995 attack in which an employee of a U.S. mining company was murdered by Sendero Luminoso terrorists. Sporadic, isolated incidents of Sendero violence occurred in 1999 in rural provinces of the Junin, Huanuco, San Martin and Ayacucho Departments. Incidents in 1999 included roadblocks, village raids, and armed confrontations between Sendero Luminoso columns and army or police patrols. None of these incidents occurred in areas normally visited by tourists. Mining prospectors, adventure travelers and others considering travel to remote areas of Peru are strongly advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Lima for current security information.
A peace treaty ending the Peru/Ecuador border conflict was signed on October 26, 1998. Because of mines and unexploded ordnance left over from the conflict, crossing or approaching the Peru-Ecuador border anywhere except at official checkpoints is extremely dangerous. Travelers planning overland travel to the border area are encouraged to check with the U.S. Embassy for updated information.
Political demonstrations occur sporadically in urban areas. Demonstrations can cause serious traffic disruptions, but are usually announced in advance. Visitors are encouraged to keep informed by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides. While these demonstrations are usually peaceful, as a general rule, it is best to avoid such crowds.
Peru is relatively safe outside the above-listed areas for the group tourist who takes appropriate precautions and does not stray from organized tour groups. In downtown Lima and suburban areas frequented by tourists, however, the risk of street crime is high.
Violent crime, including carjacking, assault, and armed robbery, is common in Lima. Short-term armed kidnappings, in which criminals seek to obtain funds from the victims' bank accounts via automatic teller machines, happen frequently. Passengers who hail taxis on the street are often assaulted. It is safer to use telephone-dispatched radio taxis. Travelers should guard against thefts of luggage and other belongings, particularly U.S. passports, at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport.
Street crime is also prevalent in tourist cities in Peru's interior, including Cusco, Arequipa, Puno and Juliaca, and pickpockets frequent the market areas. In Cusco, "choke and grab" muggings are common, particularly on streets leading off the main square and in the area around the train station. Travelers should use only registered taxis in Cusco and should not accept offers of transportation or guide services from individuals seeking clients on the streets. Resistance to violent crime often provokes greater violence, while those who do not resist usually do not suffer serious physical harm.
U.S. visitors to Peru should immediately report any criminal activity against them to the nearest police station or tourism police office, and to the U.S. Embassy in Lima or the Consular Agent in Cusco. Immediate action may result in the capture of the thieves and the recovery of stolen property.
The number for the tourist police in Lima is (51-1) 225-8698 or 225-8699, or fax 476-7708. There are also tourist police offices in 15 other cities, including all major tourist destinations such as Cusco, Arequipa, and Puno. Tourists may register complaints on a 24-hour hotline, provided by INDECOPI (National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property). In Lima, telephone 224-7888 or 224-8600. Outside Lima, callers should dial the prefix (01), then these numbers, or call the toll-free number 0-800-42579 from any private phone (the 800 number is not available from public phones). The INDECOPI hotline will assist in contacting police to report a crime, but is intended primarily to deal with non-emergency situations such as poor service from a travel agency or guide, lost property, or unfair charges.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. While in Peru, travelers are encouraged to leave their passports in a hotel safe or other secure location, and to carry a photocopy of the passport data and photo pages. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. This publication and others, such as "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America," are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs; or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
Medical care is generally good in Lima and usually adequate in other major cities, but less so elsewhere. Urban private health care facilities are often better staffed and equipped than public or rural ones. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals normally expect immediate cash payment for health services, although many private facilities in Lima accept major U.S. credit cards.
Visitors to high-altitude Andean destinations such as the Cusco (10,000 feet) and Lake Titicaca (13,000 feet) areas may need some time to adjust to the altitude, which can adversely affect blood pressure, digestion and energy level. Travelers are encouraged to consult with their personal health care providers before undertaking high-altitude travel. In particular, travelers with heart or lung problems and persons with sickle cell trait may develop serious health complications at high altitudes. In 1999, several U.S. citizens died in Peru from medical conditions exacerbated by the high altitude. In jungle areas east of the Andes, malaria is a serious problem. Cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis and other exotic and contagious diseases are also present.
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Peru is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: poor
Road travel at night is dangerous due to poor road markings and frequent unmarked road hazards. Drivers should not travel alone on rural roads, even in daylight. Convoy travel is preferable. Spare tires, parts and fuel are needed when traveling in remote areas, where distances between service areas are great. Fog is common on coastal and mountain highways, and the resulting poor visibility frequently causes accidents. Inter-city bus travel is dangerous. Bus accidents resulting in multiple deaths and injuries are common, and are frequently attributed to excessive speed, poor bus maintenance, and driver fatigue. Several foreigners were killed or seriously injured in bus accidents in 1999. For further information, travelers may wish to contact their nearest automobile club, or (for information in Spanish) the Associacion Automotriz del Peru, 299 Avenida Dos de Mayo, San Isidro, Lima, Peru, telephone (51-1) 440-0495.
Inca trail hikers are significantly safer if they are part of a guided group trail hike. Visitors should always register when entering national parks. Hikers should exercise extreme caution in steep or slippery areas, which are neither fenced nor marked. A number of people have died after falling while climbing Huayna Picchu, a peak near Machu Picchu. Travelers to all remote areas should check with local authorities about geographic, climatic and security conditions.
Adventure travelers should be aware that rescue capabilities are limited. In recent years, several hikers have died and others have had to be rescued after serious accidents in the Huaraz region of the Cordillera Blanca mountains, where Peru's highest peaks are located. Most rescues are carried out on foot because helicopters cannot fly to the high-altitude areas where hikers are stranded. There have been several drownings of rafters and other boaters, including an experienced U.S. kayaker who drowned in an unexplored river in 1998.
Travelers who participate in mountain climbing, river rafting or other travel in remote areas should leave detailed written plans and a timetable with a friend and with local authorities in the region, and should carry waterproof identification and emergency contact information.
On March 1, 2000, the Government of Peru eliminated all designated "emergency zones," in which certain constitutional rights had been suspended and security forces had broad powers to detain people. The U.S. Embassy, however, continues to restrict travel of U.S. Government employees in the following areas, where terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers resort to violence, usually against local security forces and civilians. Overland travel in or near these areas, particularly at night, is risky. This list is under continuous review. Travelers may contact the Embassy for updated information.
Ancash Department: Provinces of Pallasca, Corongo, and Sihuas only.
Apurimac Department: Province of Chinceros.
Ayacucho Department: Provinces of La Mar and Huanta (except Huanta City), and the highway that joins Huanta City to Ayacucho City. Overland travel from Ayacucho to San Francisco is prohibited.
Huancavelica Department: Provinces of Huancavelica, Castrovirreyna and Huaytara.
Huanuco Department: All areas except the city of Huanuco by highway from Cerro De Pasco. All highways leading into Tingo Maria from Huanuco (south), Monzon (west), Aguaytia (east) and Uchiza (north) are prohibited.
Junin Department: Provinces of Satipo and Chanchamayo, except the cities of La Merced and San Ramon by road from Lima.
La Libertad Department: Provinces of Bolivar, Sanchez Carrion, and Pataz.
Pasco Department: Province of Oxapampa, except Puerto Bermudez and Ciudad Constitucion by air.
Piura Department: Province of Huancabamba.
San Martin Department: Provinces of Huallaga, Mariscal Caceres, Bellavista and Tocache, except the cities of Juanjui, Bellavista and Saposoa by air.
Ucayali Department: Province of Padre Abad and the western section of Coronel Portillo (between Pucallpa City and the border with the Province of Padre Abad. The highway between Aguaytia and Tingo Maria is prohibited.
Minors (under 18) who are citizens or residents of Peru and who are traveling alone, with one parent or with a third party must present a copy of their birth certificate and written authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent or with a third party. When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization. If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Peruvian Embassy or a Peruvian consulate in the United States. If documents are prepared in Peru, only notarization by a Peruvian notary is required. This paragraph does not apply to children who enter Peru with U.S. passports as tourists, unless they hold dual U.S./Peruvian citizenship.
: U.S. citizens living in or visiting Peru are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Lima and obtain updated information on travel and security in Peru. The Consular Section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon weekdays, excluding U.S. and Peruvian holidays. The U.S. Embassy is located in Monterrico, a suburb of Lima, at Avenida Encalada, Block Seventeen; telephone (51-1) 434-3000 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), or (51-1) 434-3032 for after-hours emergencies; fax (51-1) 434-3065 or 434-3037; Internet website - http://www.rcp.net.pe/usa/. These websites provide information but do not yet have interactive capability to respond to specific inquiries. The U.S. Consular Agency in Cusco is located in the Binational Center (Instituto Cultural Peruana Norte Americano, ICPNA) at Avenida Tullumayo 125; telephone (51-8) 24-51-02; fax (51-8) 23-35-41; Internet address firstname.lastname@example.org. The Consular Agency can provide information and assistance to U.S. citizen travelers who are victims of crime or need other assistance, but cannot replace U.S. passports. U.S. passports are issued at the U.S. Embassy in Lima.
Peruvian law strictly prohibits the export of antiques and artifacts from pre-colonial civilizations. Travelers buying art should be aware that unscrupulous traders may try to sell them articles that cannot be exported from Peru. Such articles may be seized by Peruvian customs authorities and the traveler may be subject to criminal penalties. Travelers who purchase reproductions of colonial or pre-colonial art should buy only from reputable dealers and should insist upon documentation from Peru's National Institute of Culture (INC) showing that the object is a reproduction and may be exported. Peruvian customs authorities may retain articles lacking such documentation and forward them to INC for evaluation. If found to be reproductions, the objects eventually may be returned to the purchaser, but storage and shipping charges are the responsibility of the purchaser.
Vendors in jungle cities and airports sell live animals and birds, as well as handicrafts made from insects, feathers, or other natural products. Under Peruvian law protecting the country's biodiversity, it is illegal to remove certain flora and fauna items, such as these, from their place of origin to another part of Peru or to export them to a foreign country. Travelers have been detained and arrested by the Ecology Police in Lima for carrying such items.
Information on U.S. regulations for the importation of plant and animal products is available from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture via the Internet at www.aphis.usda.gov. Travelers bringing animals to the United States may also wish to consult with U.S. Customs or the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. Department of Interior.
Additional information about the protection of Peru's cultural heritage and its flora and fauna is available from the Embassy of Peru.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Peru's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 - in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Peru's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/iasa.pdf. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
Peruvian civil aviation authorities have no statutory oversight authority for the safety of military aviation. Military aircraft are occasionally leased for civilian use, usually in an emergency situation or for charter flights contracted by private companies for their employees and dependents. Two 1998 crashes of Peruvian Air Force (FAP) planes flying civilian passengers left a combined 101 civilians dead and more than 50 injured. The domestic airline TANS is owned and operated by the Peruvian military, but it is subject to civilian civil aviation authority safety standards.
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