According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory, Peru has been assessed as level 1: exercise normal precautions. The following information is an extract of the current Travel Advisory for Peru issued by the U.S. Department of State. Additional information has been added by the U.S. Embassy in Lima and the author.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Armed robberies, assaults, burglaries, and petty theft are common in Lima and many parts of the country. Violence targeting foreign visitors is infrequent, and the rate of crime is level or decreasing in many areas.
Foreign visitors are vulnerable to crime; they may be perceived as carrying greater amounts of cash or other valuables, such as cameras, more than the average Peruvian. Residential burglaries are more common when houses are left vacant, but thieves will also attempt to enter occupied residences by using unsecured doors/windows, tricking domestic employees, or forcing access through residential perimeters.
Under Peruvian law, all persons must carry one form of valid photo identification. Travelers are cautioned to avoid carrying their original passports whenever possible. They should be locked in a hotel safe or another secure location, and travelers should carry a photocopy of the data/biographic page, the page containing the visa (if needed), and a copy of the Peruvian immigration form received at the port of entry.
Vehicular vandalism and theft occurs throughout Lima. Spare parts are stolen and sold on the black market. Drivers should park in well-lit areas, preferably in a paid parking lot. Armed robbers occasionally target tourists with suitcases loading or unloading taxis at smaller hotels; these are usually crimes of opportunity.
Counterfeit currency is a concern in Peru; money should only be changed in reputable banks and exchange locations that use currency machines which, in addition to counting the money, detects most counterfeit currency. Criminals also target some ATMs to get card information, which allows them to clone ATM cards and make unauthorized withdrawals. It is best to use ATMs in open banks during business hours.
Credit cards are widely used in Lima. The employee processing the transaction will normally ask the customer for ID and the card reader (and credit card) should be in the presence of the customer throughout the transaction.
There have been some instances of persons being drugged in bars and clubs so that they can be easily robbed. Pay careful attention to drinks as they are poured and do not leave them unattended.
Other Areas of Concern
Many areas of Peru are very remote. Medical assistance or search and rescue services are often unavailable. For example the U.S. Embassy in Lima maintains two restricted travel zones within Peru due to possible terrorist and/or significant criminal activity.
These are the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) and the area 20km south of the Colombia-Peru border, except for travel on the Amazon river itself. The VRAEM is defined below, but it should be noted that there are virtually no facilities or tourist sites in this area:
- Provinces of La Mar and Huanta. Road travel from Ayacucho City to San Francisco City.
- Daylight road travel from Ayacucho City to Huanta city. Staying within the city limits of Huanta.
- Daylight road travel from Pisco City (Department of Ica) to Ayacucho City.
- 20-kilometer swath of territory contiguous to the Apurimac River and Ayacucho Department (specifically: the districts of Kimbiri, Pichari, Vilcabamba, and Echarate in the Province of La Convencíon).
- Everywhere else including the Machu Picchu area and City of Cusco.
- Provinces of Churcampa, Acobamba, and Tayacaja.
- Train travel from Lima to Huancayo City (Department of Junin) and Huancavelica City.
- Daylight road travel from Lima to Huancayo City.
- Daylight road travel from Pisco City (Department of Ica) to Ayacucho City (Department of Ayacucho).
- Province of Satipo. In the Province of Concepcion, travel east of the cities of San Antonio de Ocopa and Santa Rosa (located northeast of Concepcion city). The Districts of Santo Domingo de Acobamba and Pariahuanca in the Province of Huancayo.
- Daylight travel from La Merced City to the Satipo provincial boundary.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Due to poor infrastructure and some criminal activity, traveling by road at night is especially hazardous. The U.S. Embassy travel policy stipulates that nighttime road travel outside of cities, except for the Panamerican highway north to Huacho and south to Paracas, is prohibited.
- Many roads, especially in the mountains, are unpaved and narrow with impressive drop-offs.
- Landslides occur frequently during the rainy season.
Public Transportation Conditions
The U.S.Embassy in Lima, Peru does allow personnel to take night buses along the entire Panamerican highway, to Huaraz, and on the route to Arequipa and from Arequipa to Cusco. Reliable bus companies have higher prices and are generally safer. In Lima, robberies are common along the routes from the airport to tourist hotels. The Embassy advises using a trusted driver or taxi services that have stands in the airport.
Before paying for a service, ask if the car has a "lamina de seguridad," or security film, which prevents windows from shattering when struck by thieves.
For taking taxis around Lima, the Embassy advises using app-based taxi services, such as Uber or Taxi Satelital. Arranging a taxi service known to or contracted by hotels is another good option.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Lima as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats
Terrorism in Peru is now uncommon; remnants of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorist group are only active in the VRAEM. In 2017, they targeted Peruvian police and military forces in this area. International terrorism is always a concern, but there is little evidence of continued significant activity by known international terrorist groups (ISIS, al-Qa’ida, Hezbollah).
There is little anti-American sentiment in Peru; however, certain sectors of Peruvian society, including illegal coca growers, resent U.S. counternarcotic policies. Others blame U.S. foreign and economic policies for their difficult economic situation. Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence. The U.S. Department of State has assessed Lima as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
Protests are common throughout Peru, and they are usually peaceful. Occasionally, police uses tear gas to maintain public order if protests get out of control, but they usually exercise restraint. Travelers are strongly cautioned to avoid protest activity.
Earthquakes are commonplace, and visitors should be prepared. There have been several devastating earthquakes in Peru’s history. Strong earthquakes in the recent past have caused numerous casualties and infrastructure damage. Floods and landslides occur frequently during the rainy season and may result in road closures for extended periods. In 2017, heavy rains near the coast resulted in 62 deaths and 12.000 destroyed homes.
Weather conditions, especially in mountainous areas, can change quickly. Travelers should be fully prepared for low temperatures and wet weather before venturing into the wilderness. Jungle travel can be extremely hazardous without an experienced guide.
Narcotics production and trafficking continues to be a problem; Peru is one of the top two producers of cocaine. The clear majority of the refined product is exported out of Peru, but the widespread production of cocaine in the VRAEM has contributed to a growing illegal drug presence in the cities.
Ayahuasca retreats, in which tourists use a traditional hallucinogen made from the Ayahuasca vine, are popular. Tourists have suffered severe medical problems, including brain damage, from Ayahuasca use. Unscrupulous purveyors of Ayahuasca may not be qualified in traditional preparation techniques, and some tourists have been abused while under its influence.
Peru’s national police force, the Policía Nacional del Perú (PNP), has nationwide jurisdiction. The PNP is modernizing, but officers often lack the training and resources to be fully effective. Tourism police in areas frequented by international travelers are responsible for providing assistance to visitors. In general, police may be slow to respond and do not conduct effective investigations after a crime has been committed, although filing a police report after a theft may be useful for insurance purposes. Motorists report that some police ask for bribes during traffic stops.
In Lima, many municipalities supplement PNP presence through an unarmed security force known as “Serenazgo.” Crime Victim Assistance
Foreign visitors who become victims of a crime should contact the Policia de Turismo (tourist police) whenever possible. The tourist police, who can be found in major tourist areas, are generally helpful, and are more likely to speak English. These officers receive training on how to interact with tourists. If tourism police are not available, ask for the nearest police station (comisaría).
Police Emergency Numbers
Lima Tourism Police
Command Post: 460-1060
Tourism: 423-3500 (North Downtown Police)
Police Stations in Lima
San Isidro: 441-0222
La Molina: 368-1871, 368-1789
Santa Felicia: 348-7213, 349-2370
Chacarilla: 372-6614, 372-6596
San Borja: 225-5188, 225-5181, 225-5184
Barranco: 247-1383, 247-1160
Región: (044) 222-034
Patrol Division: 221-908
Police Department: 044-232-811
Criminal Division: 044-231708
Región: (065) 232-509
Police Department: 065-231-852
Región: (084) 242-611
Comisaria de Cusco: (084) 249-654
Turismo: (084) 235-123
Police Department: 084231788
Región: (074) 235-740
Police Department: 074-235-740
Región: (043) 421-592, 427-814
Police Department: 043-427-814, 422-920
Región: (043) 321-651
Región: (064) 200-091
Región: (056) 218-456
Provincial: (053) 481-331
Provincial: (062) 513-262, 513-480
Región: (730) 305-455, 326-071
Police Department: (073)326-071
Police Department: 072-523-515, 523-888
Command Post: 054-252-688,
Regional Director: (054) 251-277
Police Department: 066-312-055, 311-907
Police Department: 051-353-988
There are several competent private security businesses operating in Peru, many of which offer a wide variety of services such as executive protection, private investigations, guard services for large events, armored car services, and physical security for both work and residential locations
Emergency medical service is generally reliable in Peru. In general it is recommended to use one of private ambulance services whenever possible. Telephone numbers for these services can be found in local telephone directories. The quality of medical facilities also varies from location to location, and international health insurance is almost never taken. For this reason, cash or credit card must be provided to receive treatment.
Embassy Guidance for U.S. citizens: Travelers should enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) prior to arriving in Peru. Members of STEP receive the latest safety and security information, as well information in the event of a natural disaster.