Safety and security
Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Be vigilant in public places and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night.
There have been a number of recent thefts at gunpoint affecting foreign nationals, including British tourists and residents, in tourist areas of Miraflores and Barranco. These have taken place both during the day and at night. Don’t attempt to resist attackers or take any action that puts you at greater risk. If you’re the victim of an attack, report the incident to local police.
Passport theft is also common on inter-city buses and at bus stations. Keep your passport with you at all times during your bus journey and take particular care of valuables if you travel on a bus at night. Provincial and inter-city buses are sometimes held up and the passengers robbed.
Tourists have been targeted and robbed by bogus taxi drivers. Use a taxi registered at the bus terminal or book one from a reputable company. If you hail a taxi on the street, make a note of the registration number before getting in. Be wary of taxi drivers offering cheaper than normal fares, which is often a lure for a robbery. If you have luggage, don’t take a station wagon cab where your luggage can be seen. It attracts robbers who use mobile phones to advise accomplices to hold up the cab. Robberies have been reported in taxis from the airport when luggage/bags have been visible. Put bags in the boot and never leave your luggage in the taxi with the driver behind the wheel.
Be particularly careful when arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Bogus taxi drivers and thieves pretending to be tour operators sometimes approach arriving passengers. If you take a taxi, use one of the official companies located at desks directly outside the arrival halls. Further details are on the Lima Airport Partners website. When you travel back to the airport, book transport from a reputable company. Don’t use a street taxi.
There have been a number of cases of rape, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas. Be alert to the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. If you’re in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Unscrupulous tour agents have targeted lone young female travellers in the Cusco area.
If you’re a victim of crime, try to report it to the police as soon as possible so they can start investigations.
Local protests are common and can turn violent quickly. Sometimes they disrupt road, rail, river and air travel and affect tourist areas like Cusco, Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos. Protests in Puno can result in the closure of the border crossing with Bolivia, including Lake Titicaca. Protests in Machu Picchu can result in the suspension of train and bus services to the ruins.
Seek local advice before you set off.
The website of the Peruvian Ministry of Tourism has useful information for tourists and visitors in English, and its local tourist Information and Assistance service - telephone +51 1 574 8000 (24 hours a day) can handle enquiries in English. On the Ministry of Tourism website you will also find information about the government offices that help tourists around the country. The Tourist Protection Network has launched a new 24/7 free line to contact the Tourist Police on 0800 22221. They can handle enquiries in English.
Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked. There is a higher risk to your safety in regions where there is intensive coca cultivation and processing, including the Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia, Apurimac-Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM) river basins. Remnants of the Shining Path terrorist group continue to conduct occasional ambushes and attacks mainly targetting Police, military forces and local authorities. Seek local advice about dangerous areas.
A state of emergency for security reasons is in force in some districts of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Junin and Cusco regions (Cusco city and Machu Picchu are not affected) and in the Apurimac-Cusco-Arequipa transportation corridor. For further information you should contact Iperu. A state of emergency gives the armed forces responsibility for law and order alongside the police. Some civil rights are suspended. If you do decide to visit any area under a state of emergency you should follow instructions given to you by military, police or other officials.
Unregulated tour services
If you’re planning to undertake adventure activities like canopy/zipline, bungee jumping, paragliding, kayaking, rock climbing, etc, please note there is no detailed legal framework regulating these activities and safety standards can vary. For more information, contact the Ministry of Tourism, as they can provide you with updated information on tour services. You should also check with companies for their health and safety precautions.
Be especially alert to the local security situation in the border areas with Ecuador, Colombia and Brazil.
There are reports of increased drug trafficking and other organised crime in the area around the Putumayo river, near the border with Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. There are also threats of incursions from armed guerilla forces and FARC dissidents at the border with Colombia.
As a result, there is an increase of law enforcement activity
If you’re crossing the Peru-Ecuador border (by land) you should do so at official checkpoints only. Other parts of the border may still have unexploded landmines. You should exercise extra vigilance in these areas.
Migration from the North
There has been an increase of migration from the North entering Peru through the land border with Ecuador. A state of emergency has been declared in the Aguas Verdes and Zarumilla districts (Zarumilla province) and in Tumbes district (Tumbes province) in the Region of Tumbes due to pressure on health and sanitation services following the increased international migration from the North.
To protect the Inca trail, where only guided groups are allowed, there is a government fee and restrictions on numbers. During the high season (June–August) you should make reservations with a travel agency well in advance. Always register when entering national parks and be particularly careful in steep or slippery areas which are unfenced or unmarked. Several climbers have died or suffered serious injuries after falling while climbing Huayna Picchu, a peak near Machu Picchu. Only very basic medical assistance is available at Machu Picchu.
The alternative route to Machu Picchu, also known as ‘the Inca Jungle Trail’ can be difficult for vehicles due to poor road conditions.
Travel in groups when walking along the banks of Lake Titicaca. There have been incidents of armed robberies against travellers walking on their own. Take care at all times and contact the local tourist information centre for advice about known safe zones. Local authorities advise against travelling alone at night in the Desaguadero area on the Peru-Bolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.
If you’re planning to overfly the Nazca Lines, check the airline company is licensed and has a good safety record before you book. For more information, please contact Iperu.
Shamans and other individuals offer ‘spiritual cleansing’ to tourists in the Amazon area, Northern Peru and Cusco. This service is often referred to as Ayahuasca or San Pedro and typically involves the consumption of a brew containing dimethyltryptamine (DMT), an hallucinogenic drug. Consumption of this brew is not regulated and its interaction with existing medical conditions isn’t well understood. People have suffered serious illnesses and in some cases death after participating in these ceremonies.
Spiritual cleansing retreats are usually some distance from populated areas making it difficult to access medical attention for those who need it. Some retreats have basic medical services, including first aid, but others don’t. Some don’t even have an established plan for how clients can access medical facilities in case of an emergency.
Amazon Cruise ships
In July 2016 a cruise ship carrying foreign nationals was robbed while travelling along the River Amazon. Security arrangements vary between different cruise operators. For more information about safety and security on Amazon cruise ships, contact your cruise ship operator or iPeru (official tourist information and assistance).
Huaraz Region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains
Several hikers have died and others have had to be rescued after serious accidents in the Huaraz region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, where Peru’s highest peaks are located. Most rescues are carried out on foot because helicopters can’t fly to the areas where hikers are stranded. Contact iperu offices in Huaraz (telephone: +51 (43) 428812) before you set off.
River rafting and boating
Check that the company you use is well established and make sure your insurance covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. The weather can impact on white-water rafting and boating conditions.
There have been deaths and injuries involving recreational sand buggies, particularly in the sand dunes around Ica and Lake Huacachina. These buggies are unregulated and the drivers and agencies take no responsibility for the welfare of passengers.
You can drive for up to 6 months using a UK driving licence and up to 1 year with an International Driving Permit. Carry your passport with you at all times when driving.
Take particular care if you are driving close to places where protests are taking place. Don’t attempt to pass blockades.
Driving standards in Peru are poor. Stop signs and traffic lights are often ignored. Fatal crashes occur frequently. Drivers don’t always show concern for pedestrians.
Bus crashes are common, especially at night. Only use reputable transport companies, and where possible avoid overnight travel, especially in mountainous and remote regions. Cruz del Sur, Ormeno and Oltursa bus companies operate with two crews, but accidents still occur. Always wear a seat belt.
False accommodation websites
There have been reports that people searching for accommodation in Lima have been directed to false websites imitating genuine accommodation providers (eg, Airbnb). The false website link is sent to the customer by the fraudster, who then requests a rent payment transfer. If you’re booking through a website, make sure it’s genuine.