Peru Travel Tips
Whilst not knowing the basic rules of etiquette in Peru might not get you kicked out of the country - understanding them and practicing them will ensure you have a more personal and enjoyable experience.
A hand shake and a warm smile are the general greeting in Peru. Men who know each other well will pat each other on the back and women will give each other a kiss on the cheek. Eye contact is not overly common, particularly with local Amerindians (indigenous peoples of the Americas). If you're called a "gringo" this means "foreigner" and is generally not said offensively.
Lower your tone
Being loud is considered obnoxious and arrogant to Peruvians. Lower your voice and avoid being loud or overly enthusiastic as this is considered rude.
Dress code is casual
Whilst the dress is usually informal - do not go shirtless. Avoid wearing shorts and thongs/flip-flops. When in doubt - observe what the locals are wearing and follow suit.
Stick to Peruvian time
People in Peru are not known for their punctuality. If invited to a home, the host won't be expected if you turn up to an hour late. If you are meeting a Peruvian do not expect them to turn up on the time, unless it's for business where people tend to be more punctual.
Bring your own toilet paper
It is a good idea to bring toilet paper with you to Peru, and don't be surprised if you have to pay to use restrooms. There is generally also a bin next to the toilet where toilet paper goes. Many toilets in Peru do not have a system that can flush toilet paper.
Learn some Spanish
Not only will this show your interest in their culture and help you communicate with the locals - but at the markets, when you're clearly a tourist with no Spanish speaking skills - the prices will be hiked up. Do not be afraid to haggle at the markets. If you are reasonable and haggle without being aggressive, the vendors will be happy to negotiate.
Negotiate cost of taxi before you get in the cab
Ensure that the cab is a licenced yellow taxi. Most do not have meters to calculate your fee automatically so ensure you agree to a price for your fare before your departure.
Ask for permission before taking photos with your camera
This common courtesy includes asking for permission to take pictures of people, their homes or any religious establishments. Military or government buildings should never be photographed.
Do not beckon someone over to you with a curled first finger
This is considered offensive in Peru. Rather use your whole hand face down if you wish to call someone over.
Drink bottled water
Also ask for your drinks at bars and restaurants without ice cubes. Nothing cramps your style like a bout of gastro!
If you have pet guinea pig - avoid this traditional dish
"Cuy" is a traditional dish in Peru and is actually fried guinea pig. Other traditional dishes are ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime) and anticuchos (beef heart kebabs).
Arrive at a nightclub together - leave together
If you are planning a night out with a group of people in Peru, they generally leave at the same time. Leaving early in considered anti-social and rude, and if you go out with the locals they generally all leave together as they arrived together.
Avoid things like flowers or gift wrapping that is purple or black as these colours are associated with death. Avoid giving expensive gifts as these may cause embarrassment and could even be misinterpreted as a bribe. Gifts are generally only given when you know someone well or if it is a birthday or you are invited to a home. Gifts from your home country are also welcomed as well as cakes, wine and fine chocolates.
Dinner time in a Peruvian home
Always bring a small gift if invited to meal at a home in Peru (see gift giving tips above). At the table avoid some of the following topics of conversation; religion, politics and money. It is polite to accept a second serving of food, however always leave a small amount on your plate to indicate that you are full and can't eat anything else. Dinners are served at any time between 8pm and 10pm.