Travel in Peru – our budget breakdown

Peru was the first country I visited in South America during the Big Trip. Well, actually, the first one of them all. Peru is the gateway of the Andes, with lots of possible hiking at high altitude, cultural adventures, wildlife and of course: Macchu Picchu! For close to 2.5 weeks, we crossed Central and Southern Peru, realising how beautiful this country is while being very budget friendly.

Surviving Salkantay day 1 at 4300m

Travel budget: important facts and figures

  • I traveled around Peru with Ms. Rice, all expenses mentioned are for the two of us (unless per person is specified).
  • We spent 16 days in Peru, entering the country by our first long distance flight from Brussels via Madrid to Lima, and leaving to Bolivia by bus at lake Titicaca.
  • I quote prices in Peruvian Soles (PEN) as this is the currency of Peru. I’ve also added prices in EUR and USD. At the time of traveling (October 2016), the exchange rate was 1 EUR = 3.75 PEN or 1 USD = 3.40 PEN. For more information on how to get your Soles, read this.
  • In total we spent 5,050 PEN / 1,348 EUR / 1,485 USD in 16 days, which comes down to an average of 315 PEN / 84 EUR / 93 USD a day as a couple. That may seem a little “higher” than expected, but it still was in line with what we budgeted, based on the number of activities we did 🙂 Our 5-day Salkantay hike + Macchu Picchu adventure already adheres to 1/3 of the overall budget.
  • All expenses are included, also the bus journey to cross the border from Peru to Boliva (60 PEN / 16 EUR / 18 USD) which technically is partially a cost in Bolivia. We excluded just one activity, being the Zip-lining (100PEN) Ms.Rice did during the Salkantay hike, as this was optional and not everybody would do this activity (it seemed fun though!).

Our five Expense categories

1. Accommodation: 19% of daily costs
2. Transportation: 34% of daily costs
3. Food & Drinks: 24% of daily costs
4. Activities: 21% of daily costs
5. Other: 2% of daily costs

Coming up, the details!.

1. Cost of accommodation

We had the full experience of accommodation types in Peru: Airbnb, hotels, hostels, mountain tents, home stay and… plenty of overnight buses (well, 3 🙂 ). All of this for a total of 943 PEN / 251 EUR / 277 USD (13 nights), an average price per night being 72 PEN / 19 EUR / 21 USD for 2 persons. We really enjoyed every place we stayed: from the laid-back Airbnb in Cusco (Dutch/Peruvian owned), to the hipster hostel in Arequipa, from small tents with a mountain view on 6200m Salkantay to an AWESOME homestay at Taquile Island in lake Titicaca. We also never really planned a lot upfront: the Airbnb were booked around 1 week before the start of our Big Trip, the rest just on the road as we continued our journey. More info about the places we stayed at in Peru will follow soon!

2. Transportation costs

When you travel in South America, you’re bound to spend a lot of time (and money) on long-distance buses. We’re quite active travellers, and we had a quest: to reach Ushuaia in about 7 weeks later, all the way overland. So first, Peru!

Total transportation costs were 1,742 PEN / 465 EUR / 510 USD, on average 108 PEN / 30 EUR / 32 USD a day. This includes long distance buses, small city buses, the occasional taxi ride (e.g. late night to bus station), boat rides (Lake Titicaca) and even one train ride (Machu Picchu back to Cusco, quite pricey though, at 300 PEN / 80 EUR / 83 USD per person 1 way!).  In the beginning, we mainly used Cruz del Sur. It’s top notch quality. To this day the best long distance we ever travelled with on this globe, price/quality wise: breakfast/snack/warm meal, wifi, very spacious cama seats (160 decline) and even great individual entertainment system.

Peruvian taxi anyone?

Bus tickets in Peru CAN be cheaper, but it all depends on your choice. You’re travelling overnight, so better have some comfort for a good night sleep. You already save on the hotel, so a small splurge for a bus should not be a big issue. The larger bus companies have websites where you can easily book and pay (creditcard). For our overnight bus to Puno (from Arequipa) and to cross to Bolivia, we just bought tickets at the bus station, every time we arrived from the previous place.

3. Cost of food & drinks

In total we spent 1,200 PEN / 320 EUR / 350 USD on food and drinks, on average 75 PEN / 20 EUR / 21 USD a day as a travel couple. Not bad at all! We did not cook ourselves that often in Peru. Why? There are plenty of local street food stalls / small restaurants available with a set menu for around 10 PEN (2,5 EUR / 3 USD). Secondly, during our 5-day Salkantay and 2-day Colca Canyon hike, food was included in the package. We tried to divide the total package along accommodation, transport, food and activity section. We actually spend quite some money on drinks (water/cola/occassional beer) during our Salkantay hike. As a treat, or because we needed it (i.e the water). Prices on a trail are always a bit higher (expect 2-3 EUR/USD for water/Coke and 4 EUR/USD for beer).

Trucha a la plancha (Fresh trout, with Rice and Fries 😉 )

We missed the ‘Haute Cuisine’ in Lima, because we were only 1 day there and did not bother to search for it. For the rest of Peru: expect a lot of chicken, rice, potatoes and sometimes thin slices of beef (lomo saltado) 🙂 . There’s also Chifa (everywhere): Chinese food with a huge Peruvian twist. Quite cheap, but there’s a lot of (greasy) fried food. For the seasoned travellers and eat-it-all: there’s Alpaca (very tasty steak) and THE dish: Cuy aka Peruvian guinea pig (we did not try, looked boney).

Tasty Chicharron

You did not indulge in the ‘true’ Peruvian culture if you did not try these drinks: Inka Cola – think yellow, sticky, bubble gum style limonade – and Pisco Sour, the famous cocktail.

And yes, Craft Beer

If you’re looking for craft beer in Peru :), you’re actually at the right place: there’s a craft beer movement since 5 years ago. Quality ranges from very good to still can use some quality upgrade, but the upcoming craft brewers try to be innovative with local products: quinoa, local fruits, … . Search for Barbarian, Sacred Valley Brewing or Sierra Andina, just to name a few. Expect to pay around 3-4 EUR/USD for a beer (which is pricey in Peru!) Nevertheless, a cold Cusquena may also do the trick 🙂 More on craft beer in Peru in another post!.

Barbarian craft brewery – worth a stop in Lima

4. Cost of activities

Total costs for activities came to 1,074 PEN / 287 EUR / 315 USD, a daily average of 67 PEN / 18 EUR / 20 USD.

Which activities did we do for 287 EUR / 315 USD?

Our first “huge” highlight of our Big Trip was destined to be an ancient Inca temple high in the Andes: Macchu Picchu. The complete Salkantay trail + MP visit did take quite a piece of our budget. Beyond hiking for a crazy amount of time, we also did some other very interesting activities in Peru. Here’s a full overview:

  1. Macchu Picchu: we skipped the idea of doing the Inca trail (beyond our budget), but we most surely did not regret our choice for the Salkantay trail.IT. WAS. AWESOME!

    We opted for a small scale guided group, as this was our first main hike, across rough terrain and high altitude. We did not wanted to burn ourselves in the very first week. Price tag : 245 EUR per person, of which the activities part: 90 EUR. I tried to divide some of these costs within the other sections above. What remains as Activity cost:
    – Macchu Picchu entrance ticket (including mountain ticket): a fixed cost of 40 EUR / 45 USD
    – Wage and tips for horseman, cook and guide for 4 days: 47 EUR / 53 USD
    – Entrance to local hot springs: 10 PEN / 3 EUR / 4 USD

    Milestone reached, Salkantay pass!

  2. Free walking tours in Lima, Cuszo and Arequipa: all have relatively small city centers but they do have lots of charm and beautiful architecture (especially Arequipa)
  3. Islas Ballestas: we visited the “poor man’s Galapagos Islands” close to Paracas, with a boat ride of approx. 3h showing lots of marine wildlife. Tour: 30 PEN / 8 EUR / 9 USD and Tourist fees: 13 PEN / 3.5 EUR / 4 USD 
  4. Sand boarding and buggy ride: Between Paracas and Cuzco, the Oasis town Huacachina and neighbouring desert are a must visit (one afternoon) for a great adventure: at 60km/h up and down the dunes in a buggy, trying (or failing) at sand boarding and topping it off with a nice desert sunset view. Cost: 40 PEN / 11 EUR / 12 USD.

    Hitting the Huacachina dunes

  5. Colca Canyon 2-day hike: around Arequipa, the Colca Canyon (2nd deepest in world) is one of the top adventures to choose in this area (besides maybe hiking up Volcano Misti). To enter the national park, you always need to pay a entrance fee of 70 PEN / 18 EUR / 20 USD. Beyond that, you may choose to do this DIY style. We opted for the small scale guided 2-day hike, as our calculations were pretty much the same (DIY or tour). The 2-day pack was 100 PEN / 26 EUR / 30 USD and included: guide, 2*breakfast, 2*lunch, 1*dinner, 1 night in canyon (basic huts) and all transport. Pretty nice price!
  6. Taquile Island Homestay: lake Titicaca is breathtaking! Yes, the Uros Islands can be a tad touristy folk, but we really fell in love with the beauty and solitude of Taquile Island. We did not choose to follow a tour group, but searched for a homestay family instead. A great place to just wonder around and see the ordinary lives of the Taquile inhabitants. Cost: ticket boat Puno-Uros-Taquile return 35 PEN / 9 EUR  10 USD pp. We added the homestay cost in our accommodation expenses (also included food, total 50 PEN / 13 EUR / 15 USD for 1 night and 2 persons)

Our host’s son, cute lovely Wilfred

5. Other costs

Other costs typically holds the stuff I can’t really categorise in any of the 4 mentioned above.  Some souvenirs, post cards, shower visits, …, you know, those kind of things. In total, these topped at 96 PEN / 25 EUR / 29 USD:

  • Sanitary facilities. Toilets are not always free in Peru, especially if you’re on the Salkantay hike. A warm shower during the hike (for Ms. Rice), was also one of those other costs. Total:
  • A hand made head band: nice souvenir from our homestay on Taquile island, made by the family. 4 EUR / 5 USD
  • Pharmacy visit: I fell once in Colca Canyon (downhill) and needed some extra cleansing material for the wound (no biggie). 5 EUR / 6 USD

So that’s pretty much it! We did not know what to expect from Peru, but everything worked out perfectly. I think budget wise we kept things quite well under control. If you do even more DIY (e.g. Salkantay), cut some activities or choose less “fancy” long distance buses,   then Peru is most certainly possible for less than 35 USD per day per person.

So go to Peru, indulge in the Inca culture, let Macchu Picchu inspire you for the rest of your journey, and hike to higher atmospheres!

Did you go to Peru? Which adventures did you like?  Share your stories with us!

the ultimate money shot 🙂