Peru Money, Budgeting & Tips Info
The Peruvian currency is the Nuevo Sol (with the symbol S/. ), although the US Dollar is used as a parallel currency. US dollars and Euros are widely exchangeable, and you can get favorable exchange rates. There are ATMs in all major cities, including Cusco, but ATMs in the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes (near Machu Picchu) are few, so pull out cash (in Soles or Dollars) in advance. Credit cards are widely accepted, but you'll want cash for souvenirs and tips. Tell your bank in advance that you will be traveling to Peru. For US citizens with a Bank of America checking account, look for Scotiabank, which is a Global Alliance partner and will allow you to withdraw with no transaction fee.
Peru is moderately priced in the major and touristic cities, and relatively inexpensive elsewhere. Drinks and meals cost about half what they do in North America, but for high-quality food at sit-down restaurants, expect to pay the same amount as you would in the US or Canada. You can eat a very high-quality meal for US$ 20 per person. There is no sales tax.
As for tipping in restaurants, add about 10%. At small local restaurants, you can just leave a few extra soles. You do not need to tip taxi drivers. It is customary to tip your tour director about US$ to US$ 5 per person per day, and your coach driver about US$ 2 US$ 3. Beware of counterfeit US currency, and credit card fraud such as "skimming," where fraudsters write down or record your credit card number. Keep watch on your card at all times. Also, don't buy counterfeit or pirated goods.
Peru is known for its colorful textiles, especially alpaca wool, and handicrafts such as carved gourds and creches. You may want to purchase souvenirs such as sweaters, beanies, flutes, or silver and gold jewelry. Beware that very cheap alpaca wool is commonly not alpaca wool at all, but acrylic. In Peru, bargaining is common and expected in open-air markets. Ask for the price, and then offer a lower price of about 20-30% and negotiate from there.