I adored Peru. I spent about three months exploring this beautiful country all by myself, mostly early on in my solo trip to South America. Peru is vast, and many visitors underestimate the distances required to travel between key cities in Peru. However, with this Peru solo travel guide, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy solo travel in Peru, including tips for solo travel to Machu Picchu and how to get around safely when you’re travelling to Peru alone.
Is Peru Safe for Solo Female Travellers?
Peru has one of the best tourist infrastructures in South America, due to its popularity among visitors who flock to Cusco and Machu Picchu. Getting around Peru is quite easy, although some issues still exist with the safety on night buses, and with fake taxis. Be aware of your surroundings, and follow the same safety advice you would at home and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Peru just like I did!
Where to Go in Peru Solo
Cusco, Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley
This is likely to be top of your Peru solo travel list, and deservedly so. Machu Picchu is one of the highlights of my South America trip, and although it is touristy, Machu Picchu is popular for a good reason! However, don’t just visit Machu Picchu. Spend enough time around Cusco to enjoy the city, and to explore the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo and Pisac are also worth a visit, and there is a multitude of day tours you can take from Cusco to visit more Inca ruins and unique locations like the Maras salt lakes.
The highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca is a beautiful expanse of water which borders Peru and Bolivia. On the Peruvian side, use the town of Puno as a base to visit the Uros Islands, manmade reed islands where you can spend the night with the locals on the lake or just visit during the day. If you choose to cross the border to Bolivia, Copacabana has a pretty bay overlooked by a viewpoint you can climb up. Tours to Isla del Solo are a chance to visit more of the lake, and you can continue to La Paz quite easily from there.
Arequipa and Southern Peru
Many visitors to Peru skip the regions between Lima and Cusco, which is a mistake. Arequipa is a lovely city, knowns as Peru’s White City as a lot of the buildings are made from a white stone called sillar. Arequipa is a good base to use for visiting Colca Canyon to see wild Andean Condors fly and to hike along the canyon, which is around twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
The mysterious lines in the dirt at Nazca have captivated scientists for centuries. No one really knows why or how the Nazca made the intricate shapes which can only be properly seen from the air. Take a flight over the Nazca lines and see for yourself the bizarre markings.
Lima and the Coast
Lima is a city not to be underestimated. Food lovers will find some of the best restaurants in the world here, and you can join food tours or take a cooking class in Lima to learn more about Peruvian cuisine. Museums, pre-Inca ruins and a magical fountain park are just some of the attractions in Lima, not to mention paragliding or surfing off the coast! South of Lima, Paracas Natural Reserve is close to the Ballestas Islands, both impressive natural parks which can be visited on a day trip from Lima, or on your way to Cusco. Further south, Huacachina is an oasis in the desert where you can party all night and go sand boarding during the day!
Huaraz is a hiker’s dream. This town on the edge of the Sierra Blanca mountain range is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers who come to explore the breath-taking mountains and lakes of Huascaran National Park and the mountains. Breath-taking is apt in all senses of the word, the altitude here can be tough if you’re not properly acclimatized!
Firmly off the tourist trail, Northern Peru is a sadly underappreciated region of Peru. Along the coast, visit pre-Inca ruins at Chan Chan and Trujillo, surf at Huanchaco and Mancora, and inland, explore Chachapoyas to visit waterfalls and beautiful ruins around 3 times older than Machu Picchu.
The Amazon Rainforest is not to be missed. Stretching across much of the continent, you could visit the Amazon from Puerto Maldonado in the south of Peru, or head to Iquitos in the north. Either way, you can arrange tours and stays in jungle lodges to spot wildlife and to experience the largest rainforest in the world.
How to Travel Peru Alone Safely
Flights in Peru
If you are short on time, flying is an efficient way to get from A to B. The vast majority of international flights arrive into Lima, and a lot of people visiting Machu Picchu take a connecting flight straight to Cusco. However, if you fly direct into Cusco you are more likely to suffer the effects of altitude sickness and will need more time to acclimatize to the elevation in the Andean region before attempting anything too strenuous like hiking the Inca Trail.
Trains in Peru
Unfortunately, there are very few trains in Peru, and there are no trains from Lima to Cusco. However, trains do run from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu mountain. If you are visiting Machu Picchu, at least one of your journeys to or from Machu Picchu will be by train. As this service is very popular, prices reflect that, and the tickets are not cheap. However, it is definitely worth it to visit Machu Picchu!
Buses in Peru
Some buses in Peru have a less than stellar reputation for safety, both in terms of driving safety and security on board. Cruz del Sur is the best bus company in Peru; they are clean, comfortable and require ID to board. If they aren’t available on the route you want to take, try Oltursa or Ceva.
Guided Buses in Peru
If this is your first solo travel adventure or if you would like a little more security, Peru Hop is a great way to travel between Lima, Cusco and Lake Titicaca, calling at Arequipa, Nazca, Huacachina and Paracas along the way. These buses have an English-speaking guide who can arrange your hostel bookings, group tours and activities, and they also arrange pick-ups from and to your hostel with a door to door service, so you don’t have to worry about getting to and from the bus stations by yourself. Peru Hop is quite a bit more expensive than normal buses in Peru, but during my first visit to Peru, it was worth the extra cost for the peace of mind.
Taxis in Peru
There are problems with fake taxis in Peru, in particular around Lima and Cusco, so if you plan to take taxis, I’d recommend asking your hotel or hostel to book one for you. When you arrive at the airport, make sure you take an official taxi, which you book at the booth at the airport and pay for before you get into the taxi.
Uber in Peru
I usually recommend taking Uber or a similar service while travelling as it offers some more security than taking a normal taxi. However, I have read very mixed reviews of Uber in Peru, especially when travelling from the airports in Lima and Cusco into town. There seems to be a relatively common scam where drivers say you didn’t turn up, so you get charged a cancellation fee for no reason, so it would probably be better to take an official taxi from the airport or arrange an airport pickup in advance.
Solo Travel Tours in Peru
If you prefer to have the comfort and security of an arranged tour, there are several companies which run overland tours to Peru, which are a great way to meet people. Of course, taking an arranged tour will be a completely different experience to travelling independently. I took an organised tour with Intrepid Travel from La Paz to Cusco, including Lake Titicaca and a hike to Machu Picchu, which seemed a lot easier than trying to arrange everything myself. After the tour, I stayed in Peru for another couple of months travelling around on my own.
Hiking the Inca Trail Solo
It isn’t possible to hike the Inca Trail completely alone, you need to have a guide. There are only 500 Inca Trail permits available each day (about 200 for travellers and 300 for porters and guides), and these can sell out up to six months in advance for peak times. However, the traditional Inca Trail isn’t the only way to get to Machu Picchu, and other Machu Picchu treks such as the Salkantay Trek or the Inka Jungle tour can be booked much later.
Machu Picchu Solo
The rules which came into effect in 2018 state that you can’t enter Machu Picchu without a guide. If you don’t go with a pre-arranged tour, you can arrange a guide at the entrance to Machu Picchu, but it would be cheaper if you join together with fellow travellers and share your guide instead of having a private tour on your own. That said, if you manage to get some time alone in at Machu Picchu, I highly advise finding somewhere quiet to sit and admire the citadel, and take some time to really appreciate where you are. In 2019 there are even more new rules which will come into effect, limiting the time you can stay in Machu Picchu. However, it seems that you can buy a second ticket to allow you to come back the following day or the same afternoon to enter by yourself. It remains to be seen how these rules will be enforced, but check on the most recent rules before your visit to make sure you are up to speed.
Accommodation in Peru
Hostels in Peru for Solo Travellers
As a solo traveller, I usually prefer to stay in hostels as you can meet fellow travellers and socialise whenever you like. Private rooms in hostels offer the best of both worlds so you can have your own room and privacy and still enjoy the social aspect of travelling. If you are backpacking in Peru alone, hostel dorm beds are the cheapest way to travel. Before booking a hostel, read the (recent) reviews on sites like Hostelworld, check out the photos and the location of the hostel to make sure you’re happy with it. I use Hostelworld for a lot of my hostel bookings and love how it rates all the hostels by price or rating so you know you’re getting a decent place. I usually choose hostels with a rating of at least 9, which are the best.
Hotels for Solo Travellers in Peru
When I travel alone I usually prefer to stay in hostels or Airbnb, however, I love finding small, family-run hotels which can be excellent value and a great way to meet local families who really help you settle in. As with hostels, read all the reviews carefully before you book.
Airbnb in Peru
I love Airbnb! When I’m travelling alone I usually prefer to book a private room in a house so I am not completely alone in a new place. Staying in someone’s home you can get to know them, get recommendations for places to go and I’ve met some wonderful people staying in Airbnb. Read reviews carefully, and if you prefer to only stay with female hosts you can click and read more about the hosts before you book. If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about how to use Airbnb for the first time or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Tips to Enjoy Your Solo Travel in Peru
Learn Some Spanish
Although most people involved with tourism will speak English, being able to speak some Spanish will transform your solo travel experience in Peru. Talking to local people gives you a perspective of Peru you never would be able to do without speaking Spanish, so take some lessons before you get to Peru, or consider taking some classes while you are there. If you plan to spend a long time in Peru or South America, then you won’t regret learning at least a few words!
Be Prepared for Attention
Female solo travel isn’t that common in Peru, for Peruvians at least. Although more foreigners are travelling to Peru alone, don’t be shocked if your mere presence is fascinating to Peruvians. They may stare or ask you questions about why you are in Peru alone, don’t take offence. As frustrating as it might be to be asked where your husband is or why you’re not married for the hundredth time, they don’t mean any harm!
Don’t Walk Alone at Night
This is an obvious one for most places, in particular, South America where walking around on your own at night is just not done – for men or women. Most places during the day are perfectly fine but double check with your hotel or hostel if you are unsure. Be wary in and around bus stations, airports and busy tourist areas as thieves and pickpockets prey on tired, disorientated tourists who have just arrived in town.
Volunteer in Peru
If you are planning to travel for several weeks in Peru, volunteering in Peru can be a great way to settle into life in the country. Work exchange programs like Worldpackers and Workaway list hundreds of volunteer placements where you can find work in hostels, with families, on farms – basically anything you can think of! You usually work for 5 or 6 days a week for a few hours a day in exchange for a bed and food.
I’ve teamed up with Worldpackers to offer all Travel Lovers a $20 discount, which means you only need to pay $29 USD for a full year’s verified membership. Once you are a verified member you can apply to and message all the hosts on Worldpackers and volunteer all over the world. What are you waiting for?! Read more about travelling the world for free, or get your discount here!
Get Travel Insurance
No matter where you travel, you should always get travel insurance to cover you in case something does happen. Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
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Have you been travelling to Peru alone? Do you have any other tips for solo female travellers in Peru? Please leave your comments below.
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