Along with accommodation and transport, food is going to be one of your main daily expenses in Peru. But how much does it cost to eat out in Peruvian restaurants?
Well, cost and quality varies greatly depending on the type of establishment and, to a degree, the location. A tourist-orientated restaurant in a place like Miraflores in Lima will normally put a large dent in your daily budget, while a cheap and cheerful restaurant catering to the average local can be surprisingly affordable and very filling. (Most low key restaurants don't require a tip.)
Below you’ll find a few examples of price ranges in different types of eating establishments in Peru.
The Lunchtime Menú
The best bargains can be found for lunch. Lunch in Peru is the main meal of the day, and this is when restaurants both large and small offer their lunchtime menús. The menú is common throughout Peru, both in major cities and small villages, and typically consists of a starter, a main course and a drink (and sometimes a small dessert). You’ll have a few -- or sometimes many -- options to choose from, so you can tailor your meal to your taste.
According to figures released in December 2013 by Peru’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática (INEI), a menú in Lima typically costs between S/.5 and S/.15 nuevos soles (US$1.80 to $5.40). In more upscale districts of Lima such as Miraflores, San Isidro, San Borja and La Molina, the average price of a menú is S/.10. This average drops to S/.6.50 in less affluent districts such as La Victoria, San Juan de Miraflores, San Martín de Porres, Villa El Salvador and Villa María del Triunfo.
In smaller cities, towns, and villages, menú prices drop as low as S/.2.50 (less than $1). You should certainly not judge Peruvian cuisine by these low-priced offerings, however, as many of them are little more than rice, beans and a bone to chew on if you’re lucky. Consider S/.5 to S/.8 as a healthy price range throughout most of Peru; much lower than this and you might be served something inedible, much higher and you could be spending too much.
I’m a huge fan of informal street grills, especially in the jungle regions of Peru. In cities such as Tarapoto, Moyobamba, and Tingo Maria, for example, you can grab a slab of cecina, a marinated chicken breast or a chunk of chorizo served with tacacho and salsa for as little as S/.4 or S/.5. That’s a pretty good feast straight off the grill.
The street-side grills normally come out as the sun begins to set, serving a range of items (including grilled chicken feet, should you wish to experiment) from the early evening to nine or ten at night.
Fast Food Prices in Peru
You’ll find U.S. fast food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and Domino’s Pizza in Lima and some of Peru’s other big cities. Why exactly you’d want to eat in such a place while on holiday is an entirely different issue, but here are some prices for you anyway: a Big Mac Meal is about S/.13 ($4.60); three pieces of chicken in KFC will cost you about S/.14 ($5.00); a family-size pepperoni pizza from Domino’s will set you back about S/.48 ($17.00).
Peru also has its own fast food chains. In the popular Bembos chain, for example, a classic hamburger currently costs S/.9.90 ($3.50).
Pollo a la Brasa
Pollo a la brasa is sold throughout Peru and, along with the likes of ceviche and chifa, is one of the most popular food options among the local population. The Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is tasty and filling, but it’s not necessarily a low-budget choice.
A quarter of a chicken with fries and side salad typically costs between S/.10 and S/.14, depending on the location and the sophistication of the restaurant (according to the INEI statistics, a quarter pollo a la brasa in Lima ranges from S/.7.50 to S/.19.50). You can also choose a smaller eighth or dive into a half pollo (or go Medieval-style and buy yourself a whole chicken).
Chifas offer a wide range of prices, including affordable and very filling lunchtime menú options, more expensive platos a la carta and all-day-long combos (set meals for individuals or groups).
The chifa menú consists of a starter (normally wanton soup or a fried wanton) followed by a choice of main meal. Menú prices range from about S/.7 to S/.15 ($2.50 to $5.50), while individual main dishes can creep upwards of S/.30 ($11.00, but can normally feed two).
Other Midrange to Upscale Restaurants
Expect a wide range of prices in mid-range and upscale restaurants in Peru, again depending on location and sophistication. But if a restaurant looks too fancy for your budget, always check the menu anyway. Some places look expensive but are actually quite affordable; the reverse is also true.
The INEI figures for Lima emphasize the range in prices for classic dishes in Lima: a lomo saltado can cost between S/.8.00 and S/.39.00, while ceviche ranges from S/.10.00 to S/.55.00.