Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peru: Music and Dance

Peru is a culture that is rich in music and dance. Much of Peru's music is derived from Andean, Andalusian Spanish and African roots. The Pre-Hispanic Andean musicians mostly used wind instruments such as the quena, the pinkillo, the erke, the antara or siku (also called zampoña), the pututo or pototo, etc. They also used diverse membranophone instruments such as the tinya (hand drum), the wankar and instrument of big dimensions, the pomatinyas - made of puma's skin. With the Spanish conquest, new instruments arrived like harps, guitars, vihuelas, bandurrias, lutes, etc.

Dance in Peru now has a Latin influence with dances like Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata.  Parts of Peru still hold on to traditional dances such as the Marinera, Huayno, and my personal favorite the Scissors Dance.   The Scissors Dance is a beautiful display of art and physical dexterity where dancers showcase their skills and "cut" into the unknown all around them.

Don't try this one at home, folks!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Where To Stay in Peru: Finding Your Perfect Luxury Hotel in Lima

Exploring Peru is a must-do, but a stop-off in Lima is essential for getting the best sense of the country’s history mixed in with vibrant city life. By day you can choose to hit the beach, explore the pre-Inca ruin Huaca Pucllana or wander the historic city starting from central square Plaza de Armas.

Lima is also home to some of the best luxury hotels in Peru, with the upscale San Isidro and Miraflores neighborhoods scoring particularly highly. So where should you go if you pitch up in Lima, looking for luxury? Here’s our pick of two of the very best places to stay in the capital, whether you’re looking for sleek modern design or a cultural landmark...

Historic grandeur: Country Club Lima Hotel in San Isidro

This is by far one of the country’s most renowned luxury hotels, definitively put on the map by its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since opening in 1927 it’s been the venue of many a rip-roaring shindig for the well-to-do, and carries that stamp of class and sophistication today in antique-filled interiors, smooth green lawns and absolutely impeccable service. By which we mean, you’re treated with total friendliness and care in an unstuffy environment: there’s none of the hoity-toityness associated with some other high-end hotels.

Another big plus point for Country Club Lima, besides the sense of unique history, is the award-winning restaurant Perroquet, a beautiful setting to tuck in to Peruvian and international cuisine. If you really want to amp up the luxe factor, High Tea in Vitrales lobby bar’s stained glass cupola is the ultimate treat, and a taste of the hotel’s world-famous Pisco Sour cocktail is almost a guest requirement.

See rates & availability at Country Club Lima Hotel

Sleek modern luxury: Miraflores Park Plaza in Miraflores

Perched on the ocean’s edge, Miraflores Park Plaza offers high-ceilinged, cool spaces and sparkling sea and sunset views to the horizon: you could find a better bolthole to take a breath of fresh air. It’s lauded as Lima’s top business destination, and indeed business folk are well taken care of with myriad meeting rooms and dedicated business services staff. However , Miraflores Park Plaza is also a marvellously modern all-rounder. Couples and leisure travelers keep just as happy sipping cocktails in the atmospheric Jekyll & Hyde bar and indulging in a few expert treatments at the Zest Spa.

Miraflores itself is a buzzy and accessible location, known for its stretches of manicured parkland and commercial centres. Quite simply, you can eat out, do your shopping and have a business meeting all within a short stroll from your luxury hotel: now that’s a winner.

See rates & availability at Miraflores Park Plaza

Friday, February 19, 2010

Peru: How to Stay Connected

When dialing Peru from the US, dial US international access code (011) followed by the country code (51), followed by the regional code, followed by the phone number:
011 + 51 + area code + phone number

Most of Peru regional codes start with 0xx. When you dial your call, you don’t have to dial the initial 0.

See below for regional codes for the largest cities in Peru
01 Lima
084 Cusco
084 Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes)
054 Arequipa
051 Puno
043 Huaraz
065 Iquitos
056 Nasca

Example: You may see the number of a hotel in Cusco as 231424. From the US dial 011 51 84 231424.

Whenever you need to call your loved ones in USA, simply dial:
00 (Peru’s International access code) + 1 (US country code) + Area Code + Tel #.
For example: Your friend’s US phone number is (410) 123 4567. From Peru dial 00 1 410 1234567.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Peru: Top 10 New Food Experiences

Here is a list of 10 items that Peru offers that you have probably never tried before.

(1). Cuy (guinea pig)  
(2). Ceviche   
(3). Pachamanca   
(4). Pisco  
(5). Recotto Relleno & Papa Rellena  
(6). Mate de Coca  
(7). Aji de Gallina  
(8). Lomo Saltado  
(9). Juanes 
(10). Lechon

What are you most looking forward to trying?  Have you had any if these items before?  Share your thoughts, good and bad!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Peru: Extending Your Stay

Tourists are allowed to receive visa extensions totaling three months. After this time the traveler must leave the country (to get an extension). This simply entails crossing the border and returning again (ask for the full 90 when you return). There is conflicting information whether 48-hours must pass before re-admittance.

One-month visa extensions cost US$20 per month, plus a fee of approximately 25 soles for processing. Extensions of the tourist visa can be purchased for up to three months. Extensions can be purchased on a monthly basis, or can be purchased all at once on your visit to the immigration office—depending on how nice the immigration is feeling at that particular moment.

If you are in Lima, go to the immigration office and show your passport to enter the building. Pick up the Visa Extension form at the information desk on the first floor. Visa extensions are handled on the third floor. They will want a copy of your passport front page (w/signature), the page with your latest entry stamp, and the Andean Migration Card.(you can use google to translate to English)

Go to the window that says "Prorrogas Residencia" and present your passport and tourist visa card. The official will give you a receipt for $20. At this time, you will need to go down to the first floor, make a copy of your visa and passport. You can then pay for the extension at the Banco de la Nacion, located down the corridor from the copy machine. There may be long lines for the bank. Fill out the form and return to the same teller on the third floor. Give the official your stamped receipt and your filled-out form. After this you will be asked to wait for your passport and extended visa, which shouldn't take longer than 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peru: Getting There

The capital city of Lima has the Jorge Chavez International Airport with frequent flights all over the world.

Main airlines are
American Airlines
Lan Peru

The high season for air travel to and within Peru is late May to early September, as well as around major holidays. Lower fares may sometimes be offered outside peak periods.

When leaving the country on an international flight you have to pay a departure tax. The amount changes, but expect it to be $25-$30 (US dollars).This has to be paid in cash before entering the departure area. There is also an internal flight tax, around $6 (US Dollars), same conditions as the international one.

Arriving in Peru is typically a straightforward process, as long as your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your departure date. When arriving by air, US citizens must show a return ticket (don’t show up with just a one-way ticket to South America.)!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Peru: Currency

The Peruvian currency is the nuevo sol, and its symbol is S/. This is issued in 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 bills and in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents of nuevo sol.

Peru is certainly a much cheaper place to visit than Europe or the US, but how much so will depend on where you are and when. A low budget traveler should be able to get by on around $10-20 per person per day. If you plan on staying in mid-range hotels, eating in reasonable restaurants and taking the taxi, $40, while $60 a day will allow you to stay more comfortably and sample some of Peru's best cuisine.

There are banks and exchange booths in the airports where you can convert your money into nuevos soles. When you receive your change make sure the transaction was done correctly. The dollar is widely accepted in Peru as well, but be careful with the variations of the dollar value throughout the country. Be sure to check the exchange rate before you travel so you can plan your finances.  Note that certain banks and exchanges may have a fee or a slightly different conversion, so you may want to check out a few places before you exchange.

When you receive cash, dollars or soles, make sure the bills are in good condition, in their entirety, and without any writing or marks on them. Also watch out for counterfeit bills that could be circulating within Peru!

Traveler's checks
The use of traveler's checks is not very common in the country's commercial establishments. It may even be a hassle to change them for cash in some banks. Expect a 2% to 5% loss from the total when exchanging traveler's checks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Peru: Danger in the Andes!

So Let's talk about the elephant in the room.  Here we are blogging about all the awesome things to do in Peru and have mentioned the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu a few times already, but we did not talk about the dangerous mudslide conditions on the mountain happening RIGHT NOW!!

So let's talk about it. Five days of torrential rains in the Cuzco region have destroyed bridges, 250 houses and hundreds of acres (hectares) of crops, while blocking highways and the railway to Machu Picchu.

On 10 February in a press conference with the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism the minister Martin Perez stated the railway to Aguas Calientes will be open as from the beginning of April and access via road between Hidro-Electrica and Santa Maria would take at least 2 months to repair because of the need to construct two tunnels. This effectively means that there will be no way to get to and from Machu Picchu until the beginning of April. i.e. put in simple terms Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail will be closed during February and March 2010.  (The Inca Trail is closed every year in February anyway to allow cleaning of the campsites and other maintenance works to be undertaken.)

There have been at least 5 fatalities and about 2,000 tourists stranded due to the mudslides.  If you are planning your trip to Peru and had intended to visit Machu Picchu then you may need to reschedule.  Tour operators are still accepting booking for the Inca Trail starting in April, but be mindful of their deposit return policies in the event that the repairs take longer than expected.

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below from a Peruvian blogger.  He offers insight that is not shared as freely in the US and UK.

Thanks to the peruanista for your video.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peru: Documents Needed for Entry

Citizens of North America including Canada only require a valid passport to enter Peru. You need to ensure that your passport has at least 6 months left to run after the date that you enter the country.

On arrival you will be given a tourist card which you fill out in duplicate. At the immigration office you will normally get a 90 day stay in Peru; both your passport and the tourist card are stamped and you will be given one copy of the tourist card to keep. Do not lose it since you need to hand it back when leaving the country. Losing the card will incur plenty of hassle in replacing it.

Below are the more details on what you need to prepare before entering the country:

• U.S. Passport, must be valid six months beyond intended stay
• Tickets and Documents for return or onward travel
• No Visa required for stay up to 90 days
• Vaccinations - International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever required if arriving from an infected area

Business Travel
• U.S. Passport, must be valid six months beyond intended stay
• Tickets and Documents for return or onward travel
• Visa Required
• Vaccinations - International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever required if arriving from an infected area

Diplomatic/ Official Travel
• U.S. Passport, must be valid six months beyond intended stay
• Tickets and Documents for return or onward travel
• Visa Required
• Vaccinations - International Certificate of Vaccination for Yellow Fever required if arriving from an infected area

Employment or Study Travel
Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate as documents my differ depending upon occupation or area of study.

If you are traveling to Peru from a country other than the United States of America check with your country's embassy for entry requirements.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peru: Where to Stay

Since hotels in Peru are fairly cheap you could choose to stay primarily in cheap hostels for the bulk of your stay, and every once and a while upgrade to a more luxurious experience. (Depending on your budget of course.)

For example, El Albergue, in Ollantaytambo, is an American-owned hostel right next to the railroad tracks (but much quieter than imagined).This comfortable little place has just a few rooms and shared bathrooms. Beds are exceptional, and the ambiance, with serene gardens and Labrador retrievers running around, is great. There’s also a cool wood-fired Sauna, which in addition to the traditional, gives off an aromatic woodsy fragrance!
 Garden at El Albergue

 Room at El Albergue

If you are traveling for work, the MiraFlores Park Hotel is the top business traveler’s hotel located in Lima. The Park Hotel is the height of style with spacious rooms,huge bathrooms, and a chic restaurant and bar.There's also a small pool and a gym/sauna on the top floor.

Second Home Peru in Lima takes Bed and Breakfast’s to whole new level. This small inn occupies the home of one of Peru's best-known artists, Victor Delfín. The rooms are elegant and airy, and the entire house is a small museum of Delfín's work.

Room in Second Home Peru

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Peru: How to Get Around

Inside the cities, there is usually no problem getting around on city taxis or buses. Buses cost between 0.70 and 1.50 Soles (US$ 0.20 - 0.40), taxis between 7 and 8 soles (US$ 2.00 - 2.40) in Lima, normally less in other cities. "Taxi" does not necessarily mean a car; the term also refers to bicycles, motor rickshaws, and motor bikes for hire.

Several Peruvians get around the country by bus. However, wherever possible, visitors tend to use one of the country's trains - an experience in itself - despite being considerably slower than the equivalent bus journey. With the distances in Peru being so vast, many Peruvians and travelers are increasingly flying to their destinations, as all Peruvian cities are within a two-hour flight from Lima.

By Train: Even when going by train, it's best to buy the ticket in advance. Buy 1st class or buffet class (still higher), or you risk getting completely covered by luggage. People will put their luggage under your seat, in front of your feet, beside you and everywhere where some little place is left.

By Boat: There are no coastal boat services in Peru. However in many areas - Lake Titicaca and jungle regions - water is the obvious means of getting around. There are plenty of small boats that will take visitors to the various islands throughout the lake. In jungle areas, most of boat transportation is a motorized-canoe. These aren't expensive and the price can usually be negotiated down at the port.

By Bus: Buses start from fixed points, either the central bus terminal or appropriate bus stop terminal. It's a good idea to buy your ticket one day before so that you can be relatively sure of finding a seat. If you come directly before the bus leaves, you risk finding that there are no more seats available. In most bus terminals you need to pay a separate departure tax of 1 or 1.5 soles.

By Plane: Some places in the jungle can only be visited via plane; Tickets can be bought from travel agents or airline offices in all major towns. The most popular routes, Lima-Cusco cost about $60 and usually need to be booked at least a few days in advance (more during the run-up to and including major fiestas). Other less busy routes tend to be less expensive.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Peru: Language Barriers

The people of Peru speak three different languages: Spanish, Quechua (both of these are considered official languages) and Aymara, which although it is spoken widely in Peru, is not considered an official language yet.

Spanish is spoken in practically every city and town in the country, while Quechua is mainly spoken in a few places of the Andes.In the highland plains, called Altiplano, Aymara is also spoken.

A few important phrases to get you started!
Yes -
No - No
Hello - Hola
Goodbye - Adiós
Please - Por favor
Thank you - Gracias
My name is ... - Me llamo ...
How are you?(informal) - ¿Qué tal estás?
I'm very well - Estoy muy bien
I feel ill - Me encuentro mal
How much does it cost? - ¿Cuánto es?
Do you speak English? - ¿Hablas inglés?
I don't understand - No entiendo

Friday, February 5, 2010

Peru: Food!

Peru is famous throughout South America for its food. As a major fishing nation, fish is abundant, and prepared with imagination.

The primary ingredients found in nearly every Peruvian dish are rice, potatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish. Most of these meals include one of the different kinds of "aji", or Peruvian hot pepper, which mainly are: yellow aji pepper, red aji pepper, red rocoto pepper.
Chicken, pork and lamb were introduced to Peru 500 years ago, when Spaniards came to America. Other ingredients, like potatoes, were already being grow in the Peruvian Andes and were taken by the Spaniards back to Europe.

Today more than 200 varieties of potato can be found in the Lake Titicaca area. They range in color from purple to blue, from yellow to brown. Sizes and textures vary as well. Some are smalls as nuts; others can be as large as oranges.  They may soon be grown in space to feed astronauts!

Following are some of the dishes and foods that can be found in Peru:
Pescado y Mariscos (Fish and Seafood) – Anything with fish is a great bet. Ceviche is the most famous. Peruvians "cook" fine white cod in lemon juice, serve it chunky with onions and spices. In the mountains, you can find "trucha," the local fresh Andean trout, generally farm raised; Comida Criolla – This is the term for the traditional Peruvian dishes. Aji de gallina (spicy chicken stew), lomo saltado (stir-fry beef), chupe (fish stew) anticuchos (marinated beef heart). Vegetables play a major role in these dishes.

Aji de gallina

Chifa – This is the term for Chinese restaurants in Peru. From very elegant to simple, all seem to serve excellent food in and around Lima. Peruvians love to celebrate events at the Chifas;

Inca Kola – The color of this soft drink is bright yellow and it smells like bubble gum;

Adobo de cerdo: Pork sauce, served with white rice;

Arroz con Pollo: Boiled chicken seasoned with a green sauce. Served with rice (rice usually cooked with albahaca);

Anticuchos: marinated grilled beef heart;

Carapulca: It is made from dried and diced potatoes with pork, steak and rice;

CauCau: Consists of tripe and diced potatoes;

Ceviche: Fish or mixed shrimp with lemon. The seafood is cut into small pieces and then mixed with lemon juice and left to sit for 1hr. Next, it is mixed with onions, celery, cilantro, salt and black pepper. The dish is served cold.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peru: Etiquette

The official language of Peru is Spanish and the customs and traditions are influenced mainly by the European-descended cultures. Peruvian etiquette is similar to other Latin American countries, but a few traditions that are unique to Peruvian cultures have been preserved.

Tipping: Some say that Peruvians are not big tippers, however, it is unfair to put ALL Peruvians into one group. Tipping is a great way to show your appreciation to the people serving you and to have your money go straight into the pockets of the people that earned it. A 10 to 20% tip will be warmly accepted at any restaurant and will put a surprised smile on a person's face.
• Taxis do not expect tips.
• Hotel porters and bell boys expect a tip equivalent to $1 per bag.

Events: Peruvians are not known for their punctuality. If you are invited to a house, you will normally be expected to arrive at least 30 minutes after the invitation time.(Fashionably Late!)You should bring a bottle of wine or flowers for the host.
• Food will normally be served after 3 pm, for dinner after 10 pm.
• When wine or drinks are poured, everyone waits to be served and everyone says "salud" before you start drinking!

For the Business Traveler: January through March are vacation months for most Peruvians so avoid scheduling business meetings, if possible, during this time.
• Address others with professional title and last name. People with no title can be addressed as "Senor" for "Mr.", "Senora" for "Mrs.” or “Senorita for "Miss". Names can be somewhat confusing since most Hispanics have two surnames - one each from their father and mother
• Business attire for men or women is formal but conservative. It's acceptable for women to wear make up and jewelry.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Peru: Top Adventures

Admit it: You've been tempted by Peru more than once. In fact, it happens every time you see a picture of Machu Picchu at dawn, or a scarlet macaw skimming the Amazonian canopy.

Machu Picchu

Amazon River

Well now's the time to get packing: Outside of the country's obvious draws, Peru serves up tons of places to play. Whether you're vying for a view on an Andean peak, taking a float down the river, or searching for archaeological secrets in the dense jungle, even one journey won't be enough to get your fill.

Apurimac River Rafting – Andean Peak

Here are some of the top adventures locations in Peru you might want to try:
Machu Picchu; Cordillera Blanca; Amazon; Cuzco; Cordillera Huayhuash; Pisac; Colca Canyon; Ausangate; Ishinca; Andes; Huaraz; Northern Peru; Huascaran; Huacachina Boarding; Chachapoyas; Lake Titicaca; Vilcabamba.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Peru: What to pack

There's a very good saying that goes 'bring twice as much money and half as many clothes as you think you'll need'!

The key to packing for a trip to Peru is to pack for a variety of conditions while keeping the weight to a minimum. Easier said than done when you have to deal with the intense heat of the high altitude, the cold mountain nights spent camping on the Inca Trail and the heat and humidity of the Amazon Basin. The best way to deal with these extremes is to dress using several layers rather than one thick layer. If you forget something, don't despair since most things can be bought in most Peruvian cities frequently visited by tourists including excellent and cheap alpaca jackets.

Below you'll find a suggested packing list:
1. Backpack
2. Day pack(smaller, lighter, easier to carry than backpack.)
3. Comfortable walking boots with good ankle support.
4. Clothes
     2 pairs long trousers (lightweight); 2 T-shirts; 1 short-sleeved shirt; 1 long-sleeved shirt; 1 pair shorts; Underwear and socks (thermal underwear is highly recommended, being light, warm and makes good nightwear on cold nights).
5. Fleece jacket.
6. Hat or cap to protect from the sun.
7. Towel plus washing items (if your lodging does not provide them).
8. Sunscreen, chapstick, sun glasses.
9. Battery powered alarm clock, flashlight, pocket knife.
10. Basic first aid kit.
11. Insect repellent.
12. Money belt.
13. Camera, battery charger, spare battery and plenty of memory.

Optional extras include:
14. Sleeping bag (3 season), but can be rented in Cusco for the Inca Trail if you don't have one.
15. Plastic sandals - useful for in the shower.
16. reading material, pack of cards.
17. Binoculars
18. Water bottle
19. Water purification devices for trekking including the Inca Trail.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peru: a brief history

Peru is best known as the heart of the Inca Empire, it was home to many diverse indigenous cultures long before the Incas arrived. Although there is evidence of human habitation in Peru as long ago as the eighth millennium BC there is little evidence of organized village life until about 2500 BC.
Often referred to as "The Lost City of the Incas",is one of the most familiar symbols of the Inca Empire ,Machu Piccu.


As South America's third largest country, Peru can be divided into three distinct geographic regions. The best known of these is the central high sierra of the Andes. Also of great interest is Peru's narrow, lowland coastal region, a northern extension of the Atacama Desert. Peru's third great region is the dense forest that surrounds the Amazon beneath the eastern slopes of the Andes. Remember only the most adventurous and brave travelers should attempt to make a way into its mysterious depths and be sure to take a tour guide!