Location and Geography:

Peru is located in the western and central part of South America. Its territory borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south; covering an area of 496,224 square miles. Additionally, the Peruvian maritime domain covers as many as 200 nautical miles in the Pacific Ocean.

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Peru is an extremely diverse country, with 11 ecological regions and 84 of the world’s 117 different types of “life zone”. It has a huge variety of scenery thanks to its geography, which also provides it with a wide range of natural resources. The country has 3 main regions according to the traditional method of dividing the country by altitude: coast, mountains and jungle.

Coast:

Characterized by a narrow band of deserts and fertile valleys alongside the Pacific Ocean. The fertile valleys spring from the rivers that flow down from the Andes mountain range itself, as opposed to the lower-lying sierra, and into the sea. The coast has a warm-temperate climate, without extreme heat or cold but with high humidity and dense fog that makes it feel extremely cold in winter. In the summer there is very little fog and temperatures reach 30°C. In the north, the coast is hot almost all year round, with a short rainy period in November and December. The central and southern coast has two distinct seasons, winter (April to October) and summer (November to March).

Highlands:

This is the mountainous region of Peru, where the Andes mountain range dominates the landscape and contains various ecological regions and altitudes. The northern Andes are lower and more humid than the rest, while the central Andes are the tallest and steepest, and it is here where you find the country’s highest peak, Huascarán, at 6,768 meters above sea level. The southern Andes are wider, and are also known as the altiplano, or high Andean plateau. The sierra has two seasons: summer (April to October) with sunny days, cold nights and little rain – this is the perfect time to visit; and winter (November to March), when it rains heavily. During the day, temperatures can reach 24°C, and at night they can fall to -3°C.

Jungle:

Located in the east, this is a vast region of plains covered by vegetation in the Amazon River basin, which begins at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali rivers. It is Peru’s largest region, and consists of highland jungle, or ceja de montaña – the mountain’s eyebrows, (over 700 meters above sea level), which is characterized by its cloud forests, and lowland jungle (less than 700 meters above sea level). Like the sierra, the jungle has two distinct seasons. From November to March it rains frequently, while from April to October it is fairly dry, making this the ideal time to visit as the rivers subside and the roads are easily accessible. There is high humidity all year round. Occasionally, between May and August, there are "friajes" or "surazos", cold snaps caused by winds from the extreme south of the continent, during which the temperature can fall to between 8 and 12°C. Information about the weather of the country’s different regions can be found here.

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Peruvian Identity, Inca Roots:

The country of all races. Peru’s indigenous Andean origins—the Inca vision of the Cuatro Suyos (four corners)—clashed with the conquering and colonising spirit of the Spaniards. While the original outcome was submission to Western culture, the inevitable fusion of these civilisations forged a complex, new identity that is full of contradictions as a result of differing life principles and values. Circumstances added other elements to this mixture which made it even more complex: the spirit and values of the East, the joy and hardworking nature of Africa, as well as Italian, French, Japanese and German ways of life and customs. All these shaped Peruvian identity into what it is today: rich and diverse, with both Andean roots and a strong foreign influence.

Business Information:

At press time, US$1 equals S/2.8. Frommer's lists exact prices in the local currency. The currency conversions quoted above were correct at press time. However, rates fluctuate, so before departing consult a currency exchange website such as www.oanda.com/convert/classic to check up-to-the-minute rates.

On the whole, though prices have risen in the past couple of years and it is slightly more expensive than its Andean neighbors, Ecuador and Bolivia, Peru remains inexpensive by North American and European standards. To those with strong currencies -- European and British citizens -- Peru is likely to seem comparatively cheap. Peruvians tend to haggle over prices and accept and even expect that others will (politely) haggle, except of course in major stores and restaurants. In the bigger cities, prices for virtually everything -- but especially hotels and restaurants -- are higher, particularly in Lima. In addition, prices can rise in the high season, such as the Independence Day holidays (late July), Easter week (Mar or Apr), or Christmas, due to heavy demand, especially for hotel rooms and bus and plane tickets.

Currency

Peru's official currency is the nuevos sol (S/), divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and bank notes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles. At press time, the rate of exchange had dipped to just under 3 soles to the U.S. dollar (from a high of about 3.5). The U.S. dollar is the second currency; many hotels post their rates in dollars, and plenty of shops, taxi drivers, restaurants, and hotels across Peru accept U.S. dollars for payment. Note: Because many Peruvian hotels, tour operators, and transportation vendors charge prices solely in dollars, U.S. dollar rates are often listed in this guide.Peru's official currency is the nuevos sol (S/), divided into 100 centavos. Coins are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 centavos, and bank notes in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles. At press time, the rate of exchange had dipped to just under 3 soles to the U.S. dollar (from a high of about 3.5). The U.S. dollar is the second currency; many hotels post their rates in dollars, and plenty of shops, taxi drivers, restaurants, and hotels across Peru accept U.S. dollars for payment. Note: Because many Peruvian hotels, tour operators, and transportation vendors charge prices solely in dollars, U.S. dollar rates are often listed in this guide.

What do you need?

Passports

See www.frommers.com/planning for information on how to obtain a passport. For information, please contact the following agencies:

For Residents of Australia: Contact the Australian Passport Information Service at tel. 131-232, or visit the government website at www.passports.gov.au.

For Residents of Canada: Contact the central Passport Office, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ottawa, ON K1A 0G3 (tel. 800/567-6868; www.ppt.gc.ca).

For Residents of Ireland: Contact the Passport Office, Setanta Centre, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 (tel. 01/671-1633; www.irlgov.ie/iveagh).

For Residents of New Zealand: Contact the Passports Office at tel. 0800/225-050 in New Zealand, or 04/474-8100; or log on to www.passports.govt.nz.

For Residents of the United Kingdom: Visit your nearest passport office, major post office, or travel agency or contact the United Kingdom Identity & Passport Service at tel. 0870/521-0410 or search its website at www.ukpa.gov.uk.

For Residents of the United States: To find your regional passport office, either check the U.S. State Department website or call the National Passport Information Center toll-free number (tel. 877/487-2778) for automated information.

Visas

Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia do not require visas to enter Peru as tourists -- only valid passports. Citizens of any of these countries conducting business or enrolled in formal educational programs in Peru do require visas; contact the embassy or consulate in your home country for more information.


Tourist (or landing) cards, distributed on arriving international flights or at border crossings, are good for stays of up to 90 days. Keep a copy of the tourist card for presentation upon departure from Peru. (If you lose it, you'll have to pay a $4 fine.) A maximum of three extensions, at 30 days each for a total of 180 days, is allowed.

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