Peru is an incredibly popular gap year destination thanks largely to Machu Picchu, the Incan ruins that have become a rite of passage for backpackers.
Peru is safe to visit as an established tourist destination, but like anywhere there are health and safety concerns to be aware of, including necessary vaccinations, hygiene, tap water, and more.
Vaccinations and Medications for Peru
Required vaccinations for Peru will depend on where in the country you’ll be travelling. You should always speak to your GP at least 6-8 weeks before travelling, as some may require multiple doses.
The following vaccinations are recommended for all travellers to Peru: Hepatitis A, typhoid fever.
Whereas the following will depend on where you are going and what you’ll be doing in Peru:
Yellow fever – This is recommended for all travellers who are going to visit forested areas below 7,546ft. Travellers only visiting Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu do not need a yellow fever vaccine.
Hepatitis B – Required if you might have sex with any local people.
Rabies – This is recommended if you’re going to be in close contact with animals.
Measles, rubella, parotiditis – If you haven’t been vaccinated against these before, vaccinations are recommended.
Diphtheria – Re-vaccination for this is recommended every 10 years.
You might need malaria treatment if you’re visiting Peru, depending where in the country you’re planning to travel. Again, always get advice from your GP.
There are many different types of antimalarial medicines, which can come with different side effects, so you may need to find which is right for you. You will usually need to start taking the medicine quite far ahead of travelling, keep taking it while you’re in Peru, and for a period after your trip is over.
You should also take standard precautions against mosquito bites while in Peru, using a repellent containing DEET, making sure hostel rooms have mosquito nets on the windows and/or beds, etc.
At time of writing there has only been one reported case of the Zika Virus in Peru, which was contracted by somebody travelling outside the country. Peru is taking measures to prevent the virus spreading in the country, but the situation is changing all the time, so always seek professional advice before you travel.
What Health Kit You Should Pack for Peru
We recommend packing a small medical kit when you travel to Peru, including:
Basic medicines – antihistamine drugs, antacid, analgesic pills, NSAIDs.
Antibiotics against diarrhea, dysentery, etc.
Dehydrated solutions for oral hydration in case of severe diarrhea.
Antiseptics, bandages, sterile strips.
Lip balm, insect repellent, suntan lotion, water purifying tablets.
Basic Hygiene for Peru
We recommend that you do not drink tap water in Peru, and instead drink only bottled water. If tap water is not available it can be made safe by boiling it or using purification tablets.
In restaurants you can ask for a bottle of water to be opened at your table, and you shouldn’t have ice in your drinks. Try and use bottled water when brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth.
Follow basic common sense when it comes to food hygiene in Peru. Be careful what you eat, especially if visiting street food stalls or other smaller establishments. Avoid food that has been reheated or left exposed to flies.
You should also be wary of fruit and vegetables that may have been washed in unsafe water – fruits that need to be peeled are safest.
Accidents and injuries
Again, common sense is your friend to avoid getting injured in Peru – do not drink and drive, be careful where you go at night, etc. If you do sustain an injury, even a small one, seek medical help. Do not travel without insurance.
If you have not experienced altitudes higher than 12,000ft you may need to slowly acclimatise before doing some of the popular treks in Peru. It is not uncommon for people to collapse if not used to high altitudes.
If coming from sea level, stay at a medium height of around 10,000ft for around a week. After that, going up to 15,000ft should be fine, although you’ll still feel the effects and may experience altitude sickness.