Peru has the typical range of Latin American accommodation, from top-class international hotels at prices to compare with any Western capital down to basic rooms or shared dorms in hostels. The biggest development over the last ten years has been the rise of the mid-range option, reflecting the growth of both domestic and international tourism. Camping is frequently possible, sometimes free and perfectly acceptable in most rural parts of Peru, though there are very few formal campsites.
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Accommodation denominations of hotel, hostal, residencial, pensión or hospedaje are almost meaningless in terms of what you’ll find inside. Virtually all upmarket accommodation will call itself a hotel or, in the countryside regions, a posada. In the jungle, tambo lodges can be anything from somewhere quite luxurious to an open-sided, palm-thatched hut with space for slinging a hammock. Technically speaking, somewhere that calls itself a pensión or residencial ought to specialize in longer-term accommodation, and while they may well offer discounts for stays of a week or more, they are just as geared up for short stays. There’s no standard or widely used rating system, so, apart from the information given in this book, the only way to tell whether a place is suitable or not is to walk in and take a look around – the proprietors won’t mind this, and you’ll soon get used to spotting places with promise.
Many of the major hotels will request a credit card number to reserve rooms in advance; be careful, since if you fail to turn up they may consider this a “no-show” and charge you for the room anyhow. Always check beforehand whether the quoted price includes IGV tax (as a tourist, if you register your passport and tourist card with the hotel, they don’t usually charge you this tax, which is currently nineteen percent and any service extras). It’s not advisable to pay travel agents in one city for accommodation required in the next town; by all means ask agents to make reservations but do not ask them to send payments as it is always simpler and safer to do that yourself.
The prices quoted for accommodation throughout the Guide are for the cheapest double room in high season, except where noted.
Peru’s cheaper hotels are generally old – sometimes beautifully so, converted from colonial mansions with rooms grouped around a courtyard. They tend to be within a few blocks of a town’s central plaza, general market or bus or train station. For a night in a no-frills place, expect to pay S/60.
You can find a good, clean single or double room in a mid-range hotel (generally three-star), with a private bathroom, towels and hot water, for S/55–160 ($20–60). Quality hotels, not necessarily 5-star, but with good service, truly comfortable rooms and maybe a pool or some other additional facility, can be found in all the larger Peruvian resorts as well as some surprisingly offbeat ones. Out of season some are relatively inexpensive, at S/55–120.
There are quite a few five-star hotels in Peru (usually costing upwards of S/600/$225 for a double room), nearly all in Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Trujillo and Iquitos. Even four-star hotels (S/300–500/$112–225) offer excellent service, some fine restaurants and very comfortable rooms with well-stocked minibars.
A little haggling is often worth a try, and if you find one room too pricey, another, perhaps very similar, can often be found for less: the phrase “Tiene un cuarto más barato?” (“Do you have a cheaper room?”) is useful. Savings can invariably be made, too, by sharing rooms – many have two, three, even four or five beds. A double-bedded room (“con cama matrimonial”) is usually cheaper than a twin (“con dos camas”).
Called hostals in Peru, most of Peru’s hostels are unaffiliated to Hostelling International, though there are over forty that are (see hihostels.com and repaj.org), spread throughout Peru and located in Arequipa, Cusco, Huaraz, Ica, Iquitos, Lima, Máncora and Tarma. Most of the hostels that are linked to Hostelling International don’t bother to check that you are a member, but if you want to be on the safe side, you can join up at the Asociación Peruana de Albergues Turísticos Juveniles, Casimiro Ulloa 328, Miraflores, Lima (01 2423068, limahostell.com.pe).
While not the standardized institution found in Europe, Peru’s hostels are relatively cheap and reliable; expect to pay S/15–25 ($6–9) for a bed (the most expensive ones are in Lima). All hostels are theoretically open 24 hours a day and most have cheap cafeterias attached. They are always great places to meet up with other travellers and tend to have a party scene of their own.
Camping is possible almost everywhere in Peru, and it’s rarely difficult to find space for a tent; since there are only one or two organized campsites in the whole country (costing between S/10–15/person), it’s also largely free. Moreover, camping is the most satisfactory way of seeing Peru, as some of the country’s most fantastic destinations are well off the beaten track: with a tent – or a hammock – it’s possible to go all over without worrying if you’ll make it to a hostel.
It’s usually okay to set up camp in the fields or forest beyond the outskirts of settlements, but ask permission and advice from the nearest farm or house first. Apart from a few restricted areas, Peru’s enormous sandy coastline is open territory, the real problem not being so much where to camp as how to get there; some of the most stunning areas are very remote. The same can be said of both the mountains and the jungle – camp anywhere, but ask first, if you can find anyone to ask.
Reports of robberies, particularly along such popular routes as the Inca Trail, are not uncommon, so travelling with someone else or in groups is always a good idea. There are a few basic precautions that you can take: let someone know where you intend to go; be respectful, and try to communicate with any locals you may meet or who you are camping near (but be careful who you make friends with en route).
Camping equipment is easy to find in Peru, but good-quality gear is hard to obtain. Several places sell, rent or buy secondhand gear, mainly in Cusco, Arequipa and Huaraz, and there are some reasonably good, if quite expensive, shops in Lima. It’s also worth checking the notice boards in the popular travellers’ hotels and bars for equipment that is no longer needed or for people seeking trekking companions. Camping Gaz butane canisters are available from most of the above shops and from some ferreterías (hardware stores) in the major resorts. A couple of essential things you’ll need when camping in Peru are a mosquito net and repellent, and some sort of water treatment system.