Since ancient times the cultivation of coca leaves (the raw material required to make cocaine) has a cultural and social significance for the indigenous people of Peru. Until today the stimulant effects of the coca leaf are used for medical purposes and in traditional religious ceremonies.
For these purposes only the cultivation and usage of coca leaves are legal in Peru. Coca tea (mate de coca) is legal in Peru as well and sold in every supermarket. This tea made from coca leaves is often recommended to travelers in the Andes to prevent and relieve the symptoms of Altitude Sickness.
Legal and available in Peru also are coca flour, coca energy drinks, coca energy bars and coca sweats which all only use the leaves of the coca plant. However, please be aware that these in Peru legal products may violate the laws of other countries and be prohibited. Bringing them back with you to your home country might result in hefty fines or even imprisonment for drug possession / smuggling.
Coca leaves however aren’t cocaine! The production, sale, trafficking and the possession of coca paste (paco) and cocaine are illegal in Peru, so are numerous other drugs. Persons apprehended with cocaine or other illegal substances will face immediate arrest, long interrogations and imprisonment for up to 25 years often without the possibility of being extradited to your home country.
Peru's prisons don't meet international standards and mostly are extremely overcrowded. Hygienic conditions and food are on a very low level, supplies with other necessities are difficult and fellow prisoners aren't always well-disposed. A Peruvian prison surely isn’t the place anyone wants to be. Below a few recommendations on how avoid ending in such a situation:
- Keep your hands off any kind of drugs.
- Don't socialize with people consuming or selling drugs.
- Have a watchful eye on your luggage and bags, so nobody can hide drugs in them.
- Don't do any favors or try to make a quick buck by taking a package or something similar with you overseas. You might be used as a mule, knowingly or unknowingly.
- Watch out when socializing especially in bars and discotheques. There have been reports of travelers having a great time in a bar and upon leaving with a new buddy they just had so much fun with a police man suddenly stopped them and strangely enough found some drugs in their pockets. First they were threatened with arrest, but soon the cop got very cooperative and offered to let them go if they pay x amount. Out of fear most people in such a situation pay. But believe it or not the new buddy planted the drugs and tipped off his friend, the corrupt police man. If you are in such a situation you might be happy to pay and get back to your hotel as soon as possible, the other two instead will have a big laugh and share your money.