Local Customs in Peru

Countries  »  Peru  »  Local Customs

Local Customs in Peru

Peruvian Etiquette

Don't use the word "indio", although it's Spanish. For locals, it's very much like the deeply offensive as it was used by Spanish conquerors. The politically correct way of speaking is "el indígena" or "la indígena". Another word to be careful with is chola/cholo or cholita, meaning indígena. This may be used affectionately among indigenous people (it's very common appellation for a child, for instance) but is offensive coming from an outsider.

Even if you have about 20 "No drugs" T-shirts at home, accept that especially people from the country side chew coca leaves. See it as a part of the culture with social and ritual components. And keep in mind: Coca leaves are not cocaine and they are legal. You can try them to experience the culture. If you don't like to chew them, try a mate de hojas de coca. Also quite effective against altitude sickness. However, the use of coca leaf tea may lead to testing positive on North American drug tests within the next few weeks.

Officially, most of the Peruvians are Roman Catholic, but especially in the countryside, the ancient pre-Hispanic religiosity is still alive. Respect that when visiting temple ruins or other ritual places and behave as if you were a church.


Bargaining is very common. If you are not used to it, respect some rules. If you intend to buy something, first ask the price, even if you already know what it actually should cost. Then check whether everything is all right. (Does the pullover fit you? Do you really want to buy it? Is the expiration date on the cheese exceeded? etc.) If the price is OK, pay it. If not, it's your turn to say a lower price, but stay realistic. First get an idea about how much you would expect to pay. Then say a price about 20-30% lower. It's always good if you can give some reason for that.

Once you have said a price, you cannot give a lower one later. This would be regarded as a very impolite behavior. If you feel that you can't get your price, just say "No, gracias." and begin to walk away. This is your last chance. If you are lucky, the seller will give you a last offer, if not, say "No, gracias." again and go on walking. Realize that most of the products in touristy markets (i.e. the market in Pisac) will be sold in nearly every other market throughout your travels in Peru and South America, so try not to worry about never again finding that particular alpaca scarf.

You have a way for bargaining without saying an exact price, and it's saying "¿Nada menos?", then you will be asking just if they can lower a bit the price.

Keep in mind: Never begin to bargain if you don't really want to buy.


The diversity of Peru's people and cultures is reflected in a rich tradition of festivals, dance and music. In the Andes, the plaintive wail of the flute and beat of the drum accompany songs depicting indigenous life while dancers masked as devils and spirits are a marriage of pagan and Christian beliefs. In the jungle, ceremonial music and dance are a window into tribal life. And along the coast, a blend of elegant Spanish sounds and vibrant African rhythms reflect the Conquest and later slave labor of the New World.

The content on this page is available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. It has been written by the users of WikiTravel and gapyear.com cannot not accept any responsibility for its accuracy. For any critical information you require, please be sure to check with the relevant embassy for the most up to date information before you travel.