Health Advice for Peru

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Health Advice for Peru

Vaccinations and Prophylaxis

Vaccine requirement

The quantity and type of vaccines necessary to travel to Peru depend on several factors, like medical antecedents and locations included in the trip. The most habitual vaccines needed to travel to Peru are against tétanos, diphtheria, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, yellow fever (it is obligatory to present the certificate of vaccination against yellow fever to enter in some countries of Africa), rabies and meningitis. Some of these vaccines require more than a dose or a major time to be effective. For that reason, there is recommendable to inquire on necessary vaccines with an advance of 6 to 8 weeks before your trip.

  • Hepatitis A - Recommended for all travelers.
  • Typhoid fever - Recommended for all travelers.
  • Yellow fever - The government of Peru recommends the vaccine for all travelers who are going to visit forest areas (Amazonia) below 2,300 m (7,546 ft). Travelers that only visit Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu do not need vaccine for yellow fever. Vaccine for yellow fever is also required for all travelers who arrive from other countries infected with yellow fever in Africa and America. In recent years, there has been reported yellow fever in Cusco (Concepcion 2007), San Martin, Loreto, Pasco, Amazonas, Ancash, Ayacucho, Huánuco, Junín, Madre de Dios, Puno and Ucayali.
  • Hepatitis B - For Travelers who could have sexual relations with local people, especially if the visit is by more than 6 months.
  • Rabies - For travelers who could have near contact with animals and have not get access to medical services.
  • Measles, Parotiditis, Rubella (SPR) - If they have not been vaccinated before, two doses for all travelers are recommended.
  • Tétanos - diphtheria - Recommended re-vaccination every 10 years.

What should I take in the suitcase?

It is recommendable to travel with a small medical kit (Traveler Kit) that includes some basic medicines like antacid, analgesic pills, NSAIDs and antihistamine drugs. Also it is necessary to take some dehydrated solutions for oral hydratation in case of severe diarrhea. Also, It must include first aid articles as sterile strips, antiseptics and bandages. Do not forget to put some antibiotic against severe diarrhea or dysentery and other infections, as well as sterilized needles (because they are difficult to find in some isolated zones). Finally, you must put into your luggage scissors, clamps, a thermometer, lip balm, a suntan lotion, purifying water tablets and cleanliness equipment. If you use contact lenses or glasses, take an extra pair. You must also carry a small flashlight and a Swiss Army knife. The Traveler Kit must be prepared by your physician according to your health and destination.


Malaria is a disease that can be fatal and is transmitted by mosquitoes. This mosquito specially pricks by night. If you are going to travel to Peru, it is very important to know what areas present a high prevalence of malaria.

The prevention of the disease is made through a medication against the malaria (prophylaxis) and the protection against the punctures of insects.

There are many antimalarial medicines. The optimal choice depends on the characteristics of the trip and the traveler. So, it is important to have some medical advice about the advantages and disadvantages of each medication. The more effective drugs are:

MEFLOQUINE (LARIAM): very extended use. Side effects include visions, and more serious neurological reactions. Those people with psychiatric and neurological problems must not take this medication.

DOXYCYCLINE: Side effects include cutaneous reactions by contact with the sun or the risk of fungal vaginitis in the women.

MALARONE: highly effective, few side effects, expensive and difficult to obtain in Peru, only in specialized Travel Medicine Center.

CHLOROQUINE: low risk of side effects and the most useful until years ago. Nowadays, they only have 50/60% of effectiveness for malaria in Peru (specially for the south zone where malaria falciparum has not been reported).

Whatever your choice you need to take antimalarial medicine if you are going to travel to a zone affected by the disease, and continue with the medication beyond your return. The risk of malaria, or any other disease in Peru, is much greater for a tourist than for local people. Do not suspend your medication before the indicated period.

In Peru there is no risk of malaria in the big cities. No risk in Lima and surrounding areas or in areas above the 1500 m (4,921 ft). There is a risk: On the coast north of the country (Tumbes, Piura, Lambayeque). In the Amazon region: Loreto department (Iquitos) with 97% of cases of falciparum country, San Martin, Ucayali, Just as Amazon (chachapoyas), Cajamarca (Jaen).It was also reported cases of vivax malaria (falciparum not) in Cuzco Department (Province of Concepción away from the tourist area of Machu Picchu) and Madre de Dios.

It is recommended that: The precautions to protect themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes are essential especially in the evening and night (especially when visiting rural or peripheral). Use a repellent (on exposed skin) containing DEET (N, N-diethylmetatoluamide to 30% -50% are effective for several hours) or Picaridina (7-15%).

Basic cares about hygiene and food

It is difficult to guarantee the security of food and drink, specially in developing countries. Nevertheless you may continue enjoying local meals, this is part of the pleasures of an international trip. Be selective. The diseases that you could get go from a small diarrhea or dysentery, to one more serious disease (eg. Parasitic infection) that could ruin your trip. Therefore you should take certain precautions: Try to eat only cooked foods Avoid buffet or any other food that has been reheated and exposed to the contact with flies Avoid seafood in unknown places Crude fruits and vegetables are very difficult to sterilize: do not eat them unless you have the security that they have been washed in drinkable water or if they are possible to peel without touching the pulp. In the tropic the safest fruits are bananas and papayas. Be careful, you could reject any food you consider not safe, if it is necessary, ask for cooked food specially for you. Do not eat any food that offers few guarantees to you.

Tap water

Drink water only when you are certain it is safe. Don't drink tap water. If you are using tap water to brush your teeth or rinse your mouth, spit as much out as possible. Tap water can be made drinkable by boiling it (bringing it to boiling point in a kettle should be sufficient) or by purification methods such as iodine tablets or UV light. Bottled water is cheap and tastes better than boiled water. Check the bottle to make sure that it has not been opened and refilled. In restaurants, (if you don't trust them) you could request the bottle to be opened in your presence and never take ice in your drinks (ice cubes are often made with tap water). Remember, alcohol does not make tap water drinkable!

Insect bites

Avoiding insect bites reduces the risk of contracting diseases transmitted by mosquitos such as yellow fever, dengue fever, leishmaniosis and malaria. Wearing long sleeves is a good idea. Use insect repellent that contains DEET. Directly apply it to your skin and clothes. Use a mosquito sleeping net impregnated with repellent, as well as other anti-mosquitos stuff in your room or tent (spirals or electrical mosquito repellents) at night.


In Peru there have been reported cases of rabies in animals even in small zoo parks, so you should avoid to touch or to play with any type of animal. Rabies is not only transmitted through biting, but also by scratches and licks. In case of wound, it is necessary to clean it with an antiseptic lotion. If the wound is deep it is recommendable to examine it by a doctor. Take some advice about antirabic vaccines before starting off, mainly if your trip is long.

Heat and sun

Do not expect to become quickly aclimated to the heat (specially in Amazonia). It will take at least 3 weeks to obtain it. During this period, avoid physical fatigue, use fresh clothes, mainly during the warmest hours of the day. Avoid direct exhibition to the sun.Use a solar cream and a hat.

Thirst is a very poor indicator of the amount of water that human needs. It is very important to take a sufficient amount from liquid (not alcohol, coffee or tea, because they are diuretics and causes a greater loss of water). The best probe that you are well hydrated is when your body produces clear abundant urine.

AIDS and other diseases

As in any another country, please take the necessary precautions to avoid HIV infection and other sexual diseases.

Accidents and injuries

Accidents and injuries produce more deaths of travellers than diseases. Please be in constant alert.

Do not drive in bad illuminated streets by night. Do not drive a bicycle or a motorcycle. Do not drive in a drunk condition and moderate your speed. If you take a taxi, ask the driver to go slowly. Use the security belt and, if you travel with children, use an adaptable chair Take a small medicinal kit: small wounds can become infected very easily. If the wound is deep it is recommendable to examine it by a doctor.

Back to home

If you have contracted malaria or another tropical disease, it is possible that the symptoms do not become evident until much after your return to home and you may not even associate them to your trip. Visit your physician and remember to tell him about your trip to Peru.


Common medicines, like antibiotics, can be bought in pharmacies (farmacias or boticas) quite cheaply and without restrictions. However, make sure the expiration date has not been reached. Pharmacists are mostly very helpful and can be consulted if needed. For less serious illnesses, they may replace a doctor.


Electrolytic drinks help guard against dehydration. You can get powders to dissolve in water in almost every pharmacy. If not, just dissolve sugar and salt in water. Bacterial diarrhea can be treated with antibiotics, if it doesn't vanish during a week. Usually, pharmacies are quite helpful.

Food and Drink

If you stay in good hotels you may be able to avoid catching diarrhea, otherwise you might not. Just don't worry too much about it. There are some rules that could avoid the worst:

  • Avoid unboiled tap water, if possible. This can be difficult; If you eat a salad or drink some fruit juice, it will probably be prepared with tap water. Avoid ice in drinks if you can.
  • If you must drink tap water, use some purification like mikropur.
  • Don't eat food prepared in the street (if you can resist it).
  • When going to cheap restaurants, first have a smell and listen to what your nose says.
  • In some areas, refrigerators are rare. Just go to the meat section of a typical market hall and take a smell, you will understand. If you would rather eat vegetarian food, it can be hard to find. Chicken is worth a try, since they are mostly fresh.
  • Don't eat unpasteurized milk products.


If you do not have experience with higher altitudes above 3,500m (12,000 ft), don't underestimate it! Collapses of unacclimatized tourists are not unusual. If coming from sea level, stay at medium height ca. 3,000 m (10,000 ft) for at least one week. Then, altitudes of around 4,500 m (15,000 ft) should not be a risk, although you still will strongly feel the height.


Since Peru is close to the equator, the sun can become dangerous for your skin and eyes. Especially in the Sierra, the strong UV radiation due to the height in combination with the rather cold air may burn your skin before you notice it. Sun-blockers are easy to get in drug stores (boticas). If your eyes are sensitive to light, better bring good sunglasses from home. Of course, you can buy sunglasses in Peru, too, but you should really be sure that they block the whole UV spectrum, otherwise, they might be worse than none.

Sanitary Facilities

Outside of obviously well-set up restaurants and hotels in cities and towns, toilets are often quite primitive and sometimes really dirty. It's a good idea to bring your own paper with you,as peruvian toilet paper maybe too rough as well as being one ply. It's usual. Toilet doors are marked with "baño", "S.H." or "SS.HH.". The latter two are abbreviations for servicio higienico, which is the rather formal expression. Expect to pay no more than 20 centimos at public restrooms for paper. You will find it handy to keep a roll of toilet paper and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your backpack.

In hostels or budget hotels, you cannot rely on having water all the time. In the Andean region, it also can easily happen that showers have more or less hot water only in the afternoon since the water is heated by solar energy only. Electrically heated showers are widely spread, but the electric installation is sometimes really dangerous, since the water heater is mostly situated at the shower head. Have a look on it before turning on the shower, especially if you are tall enough that you could touch the cables or other metal during showering which can electrocute you. Don't be too paranoid though, an electric shock is mostly painful.

As woman, if you use tampons during your period, you should bring them with you from home, because they are not very popular in Peru. In Lima, you'll be able to find them in supermarket chains like Santa Isabel or Wong or at drug stores / chemists, known as farmacias and boticas. When you find them, buy enough for the rest of the trip, they are virtually unknown in the rest of the country. Alternatively you could pack a menstrual cup because they are reuseable and compact.

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