What about safety in Peru? Is it safe to travel by myself? How safe is it to travel by bus in Peru? Are overnight buses in Peru safe to travel with? Is it safe for me to travel through Peru as a solo female traveller? It are all questions we receive frequently and they don’t surprise us. If you consider that a country like Peru is more likely to reach mainstream news when something negative has happened, it is only natural that people who have never travelled to South America will feel more cautious. However, the problem is how to answer these questions about safety in Peru? Yes, there is organised crime in Peru. But no, most tourists will not encounter organised crime while traveling through Peru. The most common crimes against tourists are crime of opportunity.

Is Peru a safe country?

Horse car tourist transport Lima PeruWhat is considered a safe or unsafe place is partly a projection of someone’s own previous experiences. When you grow up in downtown Houston, or in the countryside of the Netherlands, your perception of safety will be different. If you have travelled for many years through Latin America, or you have never left your own country, your perception of safety will be different. So how to divine the safety in Peru? The Institute of Economics and Peace examined the safety of 162 countries and compiled a Global Peace Index list . Number one is the safest country to live and number 162 is the most dangerous country to live. According to this list for 2024, Iceland is the safest country in the world to live and Afghanistan is the most dangerous country in the world. Peru is at place 102 in this list, while Ecuador is at place 96, Bolivia at place 77 and the Netherlands on place 16. Surprisingly the USA is at place 130… Does this mean that it is safer to travel in Peru than to travel in the USA?

Your safety while traveling

Looking at the statistics, it might be safer to live in Peru than in the USA, but those who travel to other countries obviously put themselves more at risk then those who only commute between their home and office. Most travellers who visit a foreign country will stand out. This makes them a more likely target for opportunity pickpocketing and robbery. Therefore your best defence as a traveller is always to try to blend in.

How to blend in?

Alright, I’m a 6.2 feet tall blond Dutchman, so how do I blend in with the mostly shorter Latino and indigenous citizens of Peru? I dress casually, but most importantly, I never try to look lost. Even when I go to new places I try to appear confident in knowing where I am and where I’m going. For any casual observer I might just be a foreigner who lives in Peru. I do take pictures, but I don’t have a huge expensive camera hanging around my neck. And I don’t have a smartphone on a selfie-stick to follow me around. To speak at least a few words of Spanish will also help. This will not only make it easier for you to navigate through Peru, but it will also increase your travel experience as the Peruvians will be more likely to accept you.

Street-wise in Peru

A safe street in Cusco PeruSo to improve your safety while traveling in Peru it is best to try to blend in. Other tips include to try to be street-wise. A common warning says: “Don’t walk the streets at night”. But this isn’t really correct. In the business district of Lima called Miraflores, it is perfectly safe to walk the streets either during the day, or at midnight. But most parts of Callao, the district of Lima airport, are not even safe during the day. Before traveling to Peru it is good to read up on the safety of local areas you want to visit. For this the information from other travellers and local people is often more valuable than the general information of your governments department of foreign affairs. And if you’re traveling through Peru, walk in an unknown part of a city and wonder if it is safe, then it is good to look around you. If you are the only one who walks the street, then there is probably a good reason for the absence of other pedestrians. It is often better to avoid these streets. On the other hand, if it is past 10 pm and you are in an unknown part of a Peruvian city, but there are still several other people walking casually around, then you are likely in a safer part of the city.

Protests in Peru

Safety in Peru protests in LimaWhile streets that are too quiet pose a risk to robbery, when streets are overcrowded, like during festivities, you have to be very careful for pickpocketing. Also the frequently occurring Peruvian protests, or even roadblocks are definitely activities you would like to avoid. Most protests are against their (local) government and not against foreigners. But the mood in an emotional mass of people can quickly change. Protests can easily be avoided and for roadblocks I recommend to trust the Peruvian bus companies. They are very good at obtaining the latest information about these roadblocks and possible alternative, safe routes.

Taxi in Peru

Finding a safe taxi in Peru is not very difficult, but paying a fair price is not always easy. Usually hotels and restaurants in Peru can help you with calling a secure taxi at a set, slightly higher, but still fair price. If you speak Spanish there are also several taxi companies you can call, who will tell you how far away their closest taxi driver is and how much the ride will cost. Uber also works in the bigger cities, but Uber isn’t checking enough on their drivers and cars. Therefore it happens too often that people have too wait too long for their driver who doesn’t always show up, drives a very old car, and/ or pretends that his app isn’t working very well, so askes you to pay him directly. If you are tired of roaming through a city and just want to take a taxi, how do you know that it is a safe taxi? The trick I use is to always pick my own taxi. I usually don’t get into taxi’s who pass by, slow down, or even honk to get me in their taxi. I also don’t choose taxi’s that are waiting at popular tourist hotspots. Instead I try to pick a taxi waiting at a traffic light, or a taxi that just drops off other people. I also trust my gut. If I see a taxi driver I don’t like, then I just wait for the next. There are usually enough taxi’s driving around the streets in Peru. Just always make sure to agree on a price before you get in the taxi.

The safety of buses in Peru

Safety of Cruz del Sur bus in PeruMost people who live in Peru travel around by bus. This can be in the form of a small mini Van (locally called a Combi) to huge buses with two floors and seats that can incline almost 180 degrees (called Coche Cama). With a huge demand and a big variety in choices, there is also a big variety in quality and prices. Personally I try to avoid the small Comi’s. Not only because they have little space for my long legs, but also because they are often crowded and have drivers who drive like crazy. Regular city buses I only take when there are seats available, because standing in a crowded bus, you are an easy target for the skilled pickpockers. When traveling overnight I always try to travel with one of the more upscale bus companies like Cruz del Sur, Ittsa, Oltursa, Movil Tours and similar. By Peruvian law it is necessary that bus drivers take a rest after driving for 4 hours. So either they stop after 4 hours for lunch, dinner, breakfast, or whatever, or they switch driver. The companies I just mentioned always travel with two drivers who take turns. Cheaper bus companies don’t always travel with 2 drivers. But it isn’t only the amount of drivers. The better bus companies have a central GPS control system that checks their speed and also their stops. Most long distance bus companies in Peru check and register the identity of their passengers before entering their buses. You even have to walk through a metal detector before entering the bus! However, the cheaper bus companies might also stop outside of the bus terminals to pick people up, or let people out. More passengers getting on and off the bus at random times and places make it easier for pickpocketing. Personally I also try to avoid the seats that are closest to the door, just in case. More information about the safety of overnight buses in Peru you can find in my previous article.

Other safety in Peru tips

Other tips to improve your safety in Peru while traveling around include general recommendations like: Don’t show off your valuables; Always first go back to your hotel after taking money from an ATM, unless you tend to spend that money directly in a restaurant; Carry two wallets with you. One with all your important stuff and another wallet (preferable even with an expired banking card) for small spendings, like buying souvenirs, or buying things from street vendors. If, in the rare occasion, you do get robbed, it is always best to be able to give the robber at least something to prevent frustration and maybe even violence; NEVER leave your drink unattended. This also means that you don’t accept other people to buy drinks for you, unless you can see the drink being poured in your glass.

Altitude sickness and safety in Peru

Summit of the Salkantay TrekWhen talking about safety in Peru, people often forget to talk about its geography. Traveling through Peru usually also means that you will be traveling through higher altitudes than your body is used to. Cuzco for example is already at an altitude of 3500 m (11483 feet) above sea level. Many tourists who visit Cuzco and Machu Picchu fly directly from Lima, at sea level, into Cuzco. This sudden increase in altitude will have an effect on your body. How much this effect will be is unpredictable and for everybody different. We had clients (with low blood pressure) who had to cancel part of their tour through Peru, because they suffered from altitude sickness. We therefore always recommend our clients to take it easy and at least read the following information about altitude sickness while traveling.

Dengue and your safety in Peru

Clients often ask about the presence of Malaria in Peru, because their countries Health Department warned them about Malaria. However, some Health Departments forget to warn travellers about Dengue. The chances to get Malaria in Peru are low, but Peru is home to mosquitos that spread Dengue. For most tourists the risk to get infected is very low, as the Dengue mosquito doesn’t live above 2000 m (6562 feet) above sea level and the Peruvian authorities do their best at exterminating these mosquitos and their larvae. However, during raining season in Peru, between December and March, there appear so many mosquitos in the north of Peru and Iquitos that the authorities have trouble to keep up. For this you will need to be extra cautious if you travel during raining season to the areas of Piura and Iquitos in Peru. The symptoms of Dengue are similar (very high fever) to those of Malaria, but there are no vaccines and medication against Dengue. The only things you can do is to stay calm, keep your body cool and hydrated. But of course, it is even better to try to avoid to get bitten by the Dengue mosquito by protecting your skin.