If you have been around the world a time or two then you are probably aware that there are slight cultural differences wherever you go. If you were to come to America for the first time, you would learn that dress codes are subjective, credit cards are preferred, and tipping is expected at both bars and restaurants.
But if you plan on venturing off to somewhere like Peru, it's important to do your due diligence and find out what proper etiquette is in this South American country. This will make your travels easier and it will ensure that you don't come across as rude or uninformed about their culture. So to prepare for your big trip, take these ten etiquette tips into consideration before going to Peru.
This is true for any country that you visit. When you are in your home country, you often expect travelers to try to learn your language and the same courtesy is expected when you travel abroad. Now, you don't have to be fluent by any means, but Peruvians will be delighted if you try to speak to them in their native tongue-- even if your accent isn't as authentic as you would like.
So try to learn a few key Spanish phrases and questions just in case. Chances are, you'll be able to find plenty of people who speak English, but it's just common curtsey to try to learn a little bit of Spanish.
It is simple subconscious maneuvers like this that most people don't think about before they travel. A tact or attitude that is considered commonplace in America or Europe can be drastically misconstrued elsewhere. For example, in Spain, it's common to greet strangers with a kiss on the cheek. And while some Peruvians do greet their friends and family this way, it is definitely not something they feel comfortable doing with strangers.
Moreover, beckoning with your hands is actually considered rude. Pointing at someone's colorful wardrobe may just come as a force of habit, but it may put a Peruvian off. If you need to get someone's attention or you feel the need to point something out, it's best practice to gently wave someone over with your palms down so you aren't sending off the wrong message.
Street vendors are around every corner in Peru. And like most tourist spots, the locals will try to sell you on their intricate beaded bracelets or hand-woven hats. If you do want to pick up a souvenir at one of these markets, just know that bargaining is wholly acceptable.
You don't usually get this too often in America, but in Peru, they are eager to get rid of their stock so they may be willing to compromise on the price.
Again, the local markets in Peru (as you will see) are piled to the ceiling with homemade mementos. It's not uncommon for sellers to come up to their guests to try to show off their product. Some of these people can be relentless, which may make you feel inclined to purchase every sweater that gets pushed in your face.
That's why it is important to learn to say no... or risk spending hundreds at these shops. All you have to say is, "No gracias" which means "No, thank you!"
If you're from America, then you are probably pretty accustomed to our loose dress code. There is rarely a place that enforces strict attire these days, even in school or in the workplace. Of course, this isn't true in other corners of the world, which is why it's advisable to dress modestly.
In Peru, you will notice that most residents dress in plain and modern attire, but they are still respectable in their choices. Peru isn't so much a strict or pious country, but they definitely have that air of class, so when in doubt, dress modestly.
You will see tons of colorful civilians walking around offering to take photos with you as a keepsake. Some of them will have props for you to hold or even llamas to pose with!
However, it is important to know that these photos are not free. Most Peruvians make a decent living off of the compensation they get from these photos, so be polite and make sure to tip. They won't come right out with a price, so you'll want to know how to ask them how much (a phrase you will find most helpful while in Peru).
"How much?" in Spanish translates to "Cuánto cuesta?"
Remember this above everything else. Do. Not. Drink. The. Water. Even locals know that it isn't safe to consume the tap water. There is a huge issue with water filtration in Peru so there is a strong likelihood that you will get a stomach bug if you consume the local water.
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Instead, buy a twenty-four pack of water down at the local market or try their infamous Inca Kola (a super-syrupy sweet soda that is a mix between Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew).
By tricky, we don't mean they don't have a handle or they flush the other way.
Let's just say that it wouldn't be a bad idea to carry around a roll of toilet paper with you in Peru. Not every bathroom will come equipped with this necessity, so be wary. This is because the plumping system in Peru is less than ideal and toilet paper tends to clog up the toilets. Because of this toilet paper is actually supposed to go in the trash so don't flush it down the toilet.
Some people are under the assumption that most countries outside of the U.S. do not accept tips. However, in Peru, tips are welcomed and encouraged. Some places may have an automatic 10% gratuity tacked onto the bill, but an extra 10% should be added for excellent service. Drivers, servers, bartenders, and porters should, at the very minimum, be tipped with one or two Soles.
Time moves slower in Peru, so make sure you keep that in mind while you are on a tour or waiting for your dinner at a restaurant. Although some cities like Lima are as lively as tourist cities in the U.S., the pace is still pretty neutral. It gives you the chance to relax and enjoy what's around you, so try to let go on that need for instant gratification while you're here.
This sort of lifestyle also means it's completely acceptable to be late. While you shouldn't show up to your guided tour an hour behind, being ten or fifteen minutes late is nothing to worry about. Being tardy is somewhat of a fashion in Peru.