Peru can cater for a variety of budgets and tastes. Many of the tourists who visit Peru are young backpackers, travelling on a shoestring and looking for cheap eats, budget accommodation and low-cost transport options.
If you are looking to travel cheaply, it can be done. In 3 weeks travelling Peru, I spent around £750 (US$960), although I wasn’t spending much on accommodation, I wasn’t exactly skimping on eating out and didn’t feel too constrained by my budget.
Accommodation in Peru is very affordable
Hostels, hotels and Airbnb apartments are cheap across the country. The hostels I stayed in were around S/25 (US$7.50) a night and usually included a basic breakfast. They were usually shared between 5 and 8 other people, however, in the smaller towns and cities, I found that during off peak times there was sometimes only one other person in my room.
I found using Airbnb in Peru to be far more comfortable. For the same price per person, per night, I and my travelling companion could get a modern and light double bedroom with our own bathroom. Having a basic knowledge of Spanish is useful if you are using Airbnb in the country, as English is not widely spoken outside the capital, Lima, and our host in Cusco didn’t speak a word of English.
If there is a group of you, renting an apartment is the way to go. A group of 4 of us splashed out a little in Lima. For US$15 a night each, we were able to get a modern fully furnished apartment in an attractive apartment block in central Miraflores.
Street food options are economical and safe to eat.
The cheapest way to eat in Peru is to take full advantage of the street food options. For S/2 (US$0.61) you can get a skewer of meat and potatoes. In Cusco, you can get a tasty two-course meal for S/6 (US$1.80) at San Pedro market. Most of the restaurants for locals charge a similar price for the two-course set menu.
I enjoyed spending a little more at dinner time, as I found the Comida Peruana to be the highlight of my trip. However, even spending a little more to eat in nice restaurants only meant spending around S/40-50 (US$12.50-15) on a main.
The biggest expense will be your trip to Machu Picchu.
The largest outlay you will need to make will be your visit to Machu Picchu and the treks which take you there. Depending on the length of your trek or chosen method of transport this could vary a little, but most packages are around US$250, even the two-day packages without trekking.
Prices vary for the same trek depending on the tour operator, but in reality, they all use the same guides and transport services, so it really isn’t worth paying more than you need to for your trek or Machu Picchu visit. The only difference is, you might get a slightly nicer hostel or hotel in Aguas Calientes. We booked through Loki Travel in Cusco, who are one of the cheaper operators, and paid US$267 for a 5-day trek, finishing at Machu Picchu. Although, there were others on the same trek who had paid more and booked through different operators.
Transport between cities is cheap, but you need to ask for the cheapest packages.
Public transport is not expensive. The buses between the cities are very affordable, but it also helps if you can speak a little Spanish. If you don’t specifically ask for the ticket lo mas barato, they will often automatically sell you a VIP service which costs more.
Taxis anywhere in the city are cheap, so not many people attempt to tackle the hectic public transport system. I took one public city bus and it was less than US$1 to cross the city, but it was not a comfortable experience and I found myself crushed between a mechanic whose clothes were covered in thick black oil, and a small old lady carrying a bag of chicken feet.
For the adventurous souls, it is worth attempting, just for the feeling of relief and achievement when you arrive at your destination.