Money in Peru:
Many tourists traveling to Peru ask this familiar question: Which form of currency should I bring to use on my trip?
Properly planning on how to pay for items and services is important prior to traveling to any foreign country. Bringing the correct currency to use in Peru will insure your trip is enjoyable and trouble free.
Peru’s monetary unit is the Nuevo Sol, commonly referred to as Soles or Sol notes, issued as paper bills of S/10, S/20, S/50, S/100 and S/200 and in coins for 1 Centimo, 5 Centimos, 10 Centimos, 20 Centimos and 50 Centimos.
Nuevo Peruvian Sols and US Dollars are widely accepted money in Peru. However, there is a slight disadvantage in paying with USD, as the cost of a product or service is commonly slightly higher in USD. Inquire before you agree to the terms of payment and ask what the foreign exchange rate is.
Sols are best to use whenever possible, saving your USD or other currency for exchanging and emergencies. Make sure you have plenty of smaller bills in sols: 10s, 20s, and coins. These are more acceptable and easier to handle, especially for small businesses, cafes, taxis and when tipping.
Counterfeit bank notes and even coins are common, and merchants across Peru always check the authenticity of money before accepting payment. Tourists are wise to do the same when receiving change, to avoid problems with future payments. Do not accept bills that are taped or with tears.
With the Nuevo Sol having an unvarying fluctuation, be sure to check the up-to-date foreign exchange rates for money in Peru before departing. Typically the exchange rate for foreign currency is higher and more favorable for the traveler, once in Peru, rather than at your home country’s bank.
If you’re traveling to Peru from the USA, it is recommended to bring some USD in cash. However, if you are visiting from a country other than the USA, you will find it easy to exchange most foreign currency for Peruvian currency once you’re in Peru, and if you have money left at the end of your holiday, change it back prior to departing for home. Insure that the bank notes that you bring from home are in excellent condition; even the slightest rip or defaced note will make exchange almost impossible. Should your worn or damaged notes be rejected, visit a local bank, as they may be willing to exchange them for ones more presentable to the local vendors.
Foreign currency may be exchanged for Peruvian Sols at the following locations where the daily rates are conveniently posted:
• Banks: Rates are favorable, but arrive early, as long queue lines and reduced opening hours may be a deterrent.
• Casas de Cambio (Exchange Houses): Open extended hours into the night and are less crowded with exchange rates typically better than the local banks.
• Cambista (Street Changers): The exchange of currency is legal on the streets of Peru. These workers are regulated by the city and are easy to identify with their colored vests displaying a dollar ($) symbol. Typically Spanish-speaking only, they carry a calculator to show the rates of conversion.
Wherever you decide is best to exchange your currency, ask for the conversion rate and summary form and count your Sols carefully prior to handing over your currency in exchange.
If you uncomfortable carrying large amounts of money in Peru, alternatively you can use one of the widely available ATM cash machines to withdraw Peruvian Sols or USD currency whenever you need it. There will be a $5-$10 fee for each withdrawal, but the foreign exchange rates are generally quite competitive. The safest place to withdraw money from an ATM is inside one of the banks, with most banks containing at least one ATM. NOTE: most ATM’s will limit your withdrawal to $200USD or equivalent Sols per day per account.
Of the major credit cards, Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted in Peru. Many shops and restaurants in the larger cities and tourist destinations accept credit card payments, although most smaller cafes and local shops do not, so don’t rely on your credit card as your only form of payment while in Peru. Prior to using your credit card to pay shop, hotel and restaurant bills, you should ask first if there will be any additional fees added to the bill, as some charge between 5% and 10%. NOTE: Many bank credit and debit cards assess a 1% to 3% “foreign transaction fee” on all charges you incur, whether you’re using the Peruvian currency or your home currency.
Bank Debit Cards:
An easy way to withdraw money in Peru is from an ATM, by using a bank issued debit card. On withdrawal, the money is immediately deducted from your bank account if you have sufficient funds, with good exchange rates. NOTE: Prior to departing for your trip, check with your bank to determine if you have a daily limit on withdrawals.
Traveler’s checks are a safe alternative to cash however you should expect high fees and a bad exchange rate when using in Peru. These need to be exchanged at banks or exchange houses as local vendors, restaurants and many hotels will not accept them as a form of payment.
Understanding which currency to use in Peru and where and how to access money in Peru is important. Try to use cash whenever possible then utilize your credit or debit card as a back up. Be safe and aware of your surroundings and you will enjoy your trip of a lifetime in this wonderful region of South America.