What to Bring
Packing list and tips for a “standard” 2 week vacation trip to Peru between April and November that includes travel in the highlands and on the coast and allows you to do laundry only once (I’ve included some advice for the December-March traveler at the end). The general tip is to pack for layering.
A note on carrying valuables: I like to carry my valuables close to my body when I’m traveling, but I personally hate money belts. I tend to keep what I need in an interior/breast pocket of a blazer or jacket (which I keep zipped or bottoned up), and stash the rest – use your own favorite stash location – money belt or other type of device). So I choose clothes with zip-up interior pockets, or have a tailor make one in a favorite jacket. Small cameras that fit into coat pockets are great. Otherwise consider a fanny pack (always carry it with the pouch forward). Knapsacks are often fine but keep on you at all times and wear on your front when in the city.
Before you go, make 2 Xerox copies of your passport. Leave one at home with a trusted person you can call in a pinch; take one with you to keep on you if you want to go out without your passport.
Packing List for Adults
Undergarments (8 each) (note – I suggest including undershirts/camisoles for Lima and the highlands and long underwear if you’re doing the Inca Trail – at least for the nights)
Socks (8 pair – some should be good for hiking if that applies to you)
Travel weight pants (3-4) 1 or 2 should be respectable enough to wear to nicer restaurants, and one might be fleece if you’re doing the Inca Trail
Long sleeved shirts – cotton (or a high tech fabric that you know and like) recommended (8) (note: you may also want some short sleeves, and possibly even shorts or a skirt if you are going to the North Coast or the Nazca area)
Fleece jacket/shirt for layering (1or 2)
Gortex or similar parka-length shell or combination parka (choose one with interior breast pockets)
Sport coat or blazer (optional depending on the kind of trip/where you’ll be staying)
Hat with a good brim (in my opinion Tilley are some of the least dorky out there, although for women I like some of the new packable hats available from several sources)
Broken in walking shoes (1 or 2 pair). I like a pair of lightweight over-the-ankle hiking boots (for archaeological sites and hikes) and a decent looking pair of easy to clean rubber soled shoes or boots (for cities and museums)
1 pair of dress or semi-dressy shoes (optional depending on the kind of eating and going out you do)
1-2 outfits for going out (optional depending on your style & the kind of trip – anything from suits for fine dining to dancing duds for the disco)
Packable slippers or flip-flops
P.J.s or sleepclothes
Sunglasses and case
Camera and charger (must be compatible with 220 power- most are) or extra batteries, with extra film/cassettes or memory cards
Guidebook(s), Spanish/English Dictionary and reading material (I highly recommend reading The Conquest of the Incas or Cobo, History of the Inca Empire on the trip)
I also like gloves and hats for the highlands but I usually buy the inexpensive wool ones there
Fanny pack or small over the shoulder purse
Lightweight packable tote bag or lightweight backpack for long day trips/overnights (e.g. Machu Picchu), if applicable.
Toothbrush & toothpaste, soap, deodorant
Hairbrush, comb, hair ties
Sunscreen (enough to apply liberally twice a day in the highlands)
Moisturizing cream (for face and for body)
Shampoo & conditioner
Chapstick/lipstick with sun protection
Razors and shaving cream
Make-up other cosmetics
Medications with copies of perscriptions
Mini-First-Aid kit including bandaids, decongestant, analgesic, tweezers, first aid cream
Packing Tips for Peru Travel
1. Suitcase choice.
1. If I’m going to one place, or only traveling with lots of service (e.g. to fancy hotels or on a guided tour), I prefer a high quality rolling suitcase such as a top of the line Travel Pro
2. If I’m traveling a lot and staying in places without any service, I use a duffel. I like the Eagle Creek line, and I often take the large duffel bag because then there’s more room to bring things home. I sometimes even pack an extra one.
I know people who like the wheeled duffels or wheeled/backpack hybrids, but they are not my favorite. I feel you gain too much weight and loose to much space. If I’m going to take a backpack, I take an internal frame backpack. If I want a lightweight bag, I take a duffel, and if I want a rolling bag, I take a good one.
2. What to pack where:
1. Carry-on: My carry-on is always a knapsack that can fit under my seat in a pinch as I don’t like to rush onto the plane or fight for overhead space. In the carry-on, I take any electronic items, camera(s) and valuable items as well as one clean set of undergarments, socks and a t-shirt, toothbrush and paste, unscented babywipes, a few tasty snacks, a bottle of water, some moisturizer, chapstick or lipstick, reading material & glasses. I leave room for my purse or fanny pack (I have an old convertible Eagle Creek something ) to fit into the carryon bag.
2. Wallet/purse – take only items you’ll need. You’ll have your passport so leave your drivers license at home unless you plan to drive in Peru. Take a credit card (visa is the most widely accepted), an atm card, health insurance cards, and anything else you really might need. Leave the rest at home in a safe place. Take some cash, and if you must, some travelers checks. You should be able to get cash with your atm when you need it in the cities (although not all towns by any means).
3. Checked baggage: Everything else goes here.
4. Day-bag (packed into checked bag for flying) – I use my backpack for most things, but I sometimes also bring a packable black tote bag for city use and for big shopping trips.
3. Packing tips
1. Use cheap ziplock style freezer bags to contain and protect virtually everything. I put all liquids inside them, as well as extra clothes (if you plan ahead you can even put the clothes you plan to wear each day into one – this is great if you want to avoid a full unpack for a stop of one or two nights), toiletries, and other loose stuff. Take extras just in case.
2. Roll bulky and oddsize items (e.g. fleece jackets) so they can be stuffed into corners or under heavy items
3. Leave room (or pack an extra packable duffel) for things you buy in Peru. It’s a pretty great place to do your holiday shopping! If you buy anything large or expensive you can have it shipped, but it’s not worth doing that with all the wonderful sweaters you buy for your 5 nieces and nephews…
4. Adjust these lists depending on where you’ll be staying and the kind of travel you’ll be doing. It’s easy for those staying in hostels and eating at less expensive places to take less and to replace some of the bulkier items with lightweight items made of performance fabrics. Women should check out Contourwear for some fun ideas. Those staying and eating at higher end places, especially in Lima, will want a greater variety of clothing.
Additional Items for the December-March visitor to Peru
Highlands: add packable rain gear. I like both a large flexible rain ponchoand some good rain pants if I’m hiking. These need to be packable, meaning treated nylon rather than something stiffer. Make sure to bring shoes that are waterproof and/or you can get wet. I find that Lands’ End, LL Bean or the discounters like Sierra Trading post are your best bet for this kind of thing.
Coast: it’s summer– you’ll need summer clothes suitable for a hot, humid climate. Go to town with your usual beach wear but remember to bring some decent summer clothes for eating out. Air conditioning is not a ubiquitous as it is in the U.S. I like the fully line of Lands’ End swimwear (tugless tank is so reasonably priced, their rashguards and shorts for kids are great, and it’s pretty good bang for the buck)