How to stretch your dollar further
When you're booking a trip to Peru, you'll need to plan ahead to ensure you stay safe and make the most of your cash.
Peruvian currency fast facts
- The currency used in Peru is the sol (S/).
- The sol is subdivided into centimos, worth 1/100 of a sol.
- Bank notes come in the denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 soles. Coins come in denominations of five, 10, 20 and 50 centimos and one, two and five soles.
- Many of the larger hotels, shops and restaurants also accept US dollars. If you're using US dollars, you should be aware of the daily exchange rate, because you may get your change in soles.
- Check xe.com for the latest exchange rates.
ATMs, credit cards and traveller's cheques
- Cash is king in Peru. ATMs are widely available, particularly in cities, and many will allow you to withdraw either soles or US dollars. Always stay vigilant when you're using an ATM on the street; don't use ATMs at night and use only guarded ATMs, particularly those that are inside banks or buildings.
- If you can, try to take money out in small bills, also known as billetes pequeños, as getting change in Peru is tricky.
- Watch out for fake US and Peruvian sol banknotes, especially when receiving change from taxi drivers or changing money on the street. To avoid these, it is best to carry small change and withdraw cash from ATMs or convert your money in banks or major hotels.
- Credit cards, particularly Visa, Diners Club and MasterCard, are accepted in much of Peru, although you may be asked to show your passport to pay with one. You'll need to carry your passport or a notarised copy of the photograph page with you anyway.
- While traveller's cheques are also an option, you may not be able to cash them in many of the more rural or remote locations in Peru.
Getting your hands on Peruvian soles before you leave Australia is very difficult, if not impossible. None of the big four banks allow you to buy soles before you leave, and several of the more well-known travel exchange firms also don't hold the currency.
Once you arrive in Peru, you can change money at casas de cambio – currency exchanges – and at banks. You'll need to bring your ID. Banks are likely to charge higher fees, and rates can be better at the casas de cambio.
Finding somewhere to exchange your Australian dollars is likely to be challenging, and you're unlikely to get a good rate. Your best bet is to buy some US dollars before you leave Australia, and swap those into soles once you arrive.
Peru also has its fair share of money-changers, who operate on the street and can be identified by their colourful smocks or jackets with dollar signs on them. It is legal to exchange money this way, but it's not advised, as you may get stuck with counterfeit notes. If you do choose to use a money-changer, check the notes you receive to ensure you're not getting forgeries by holding them up to the light and checking for a watermark. Count the cash when you get it, and never accept ripped, very worn or written on bills, as these will often be rejected by vendors.
- You don't need to tip your taxi driver.
- Tip hotel or airport porters $US1.
- Restaurant bills will generally include a 10% service charge, but if you're eating in a fancier establishment it's customary to add a 5% tip on top of that.
Local vocabulary for money-related queries
- Billetes pequeños means small bills.
- Casas de cambio are currency exchange bureaus.
- Diñero is Spanish for money.
- Cuanto cuesta? means "How much is it?"
- Gostaria comprar esto, éste is "I would like to buy this one".
- Es demasiado caro! means "It's too expensive".
- Tell your bank about your travel before you leave to ensure it doesn't flag your card as stolen while you're using it in Peru.
- If you're with Westpac or St George, you can withdraw money from Scotiabank ATMs without paying the $5 ATM fee.
- Acquaint yourself with what Peruvian notes and coins look like before you go, so you can try to avoid fake bills.