As more and more rental agencies open across the country and prices drop, more and more tourists are taking to the roads of Peru. If you're planning on driving during your trip, it's important to know what you'll need to legally drive in Peru as well as what you can expect from other drivers on the road so that you're able to safely navigate the busy Peruvian streets.
Fortunately, Peru’s driving license laws make things easy for international travelers because they allow drivers to use their original licenses from other countries—in conjunction with a valid passport—to drive in Peru for up to six consecutive months.
Drivers are also required to carry car insurance, which is generally included in car rental contracts, as well as their Tarjeta Andina, a document stating a traveler's reason for visiting (as well as other personal details) that is required for coming to and leaving Peru. Additionally, after six months of living in the country, you'll need to obtain a Peruvian driver's license to continue legally operating a car.
Peruvian Laws for International Motorists
According to Peru’s Ministry of Transportation (“Decreto Supremo Number 040-2008-MTC”):
“Original licenses from other countries that are valid and which have been issued in accordance with international conventions signed and ratified by Peru may be used for a maximum period of six (06) months from the date of entry into the country.”
In other words, you can drive in Peru using your driving license from back home (as long as it’s still valid) in conjunction with your passport. Your passport will have an entry stamp showing your date of entry into Peru, which will help you determine how long you can legally drive in the country without needing to acquire a Peruvian license.
If you still want to drive legally in Peru after six months, you’ll need a Peruvian driver’s license. To obtain a Peruvian license, you’ll need to pass a written exam, a practical driving test, and a medical exam. More information about these tests, as well as test center locations, can be found at the Touring y Automovil Club del Peru website (Spanish only).
International Driving Permits in Peru
If you’re planning to drive frequently in Peru, it’s also a good idea to get an International Driving Permit (IDP), which are valid for one year—negating the need for a Peruvian driver's license after six months. They are not, however, a replacement for a driver’s license, acting only as an authorized translation of a driver's home license.
Having an IDP offers many benefits compared to just bringing your passport and driver's license. Primarily, it's helpful when dealing with stubborn, ill-informed, or possibly corrupt police officials—some of which may try to take advantage of international travelers—and proving the validity of your original license. Additionally, since the IDP is written in multiple languages, it's easier for Peruvian officials to understand the document.
Dealing With Peruvian Transit Police and Scammers
Peruvian transit police, which must wear uniforms and display their identification cards on their chests, can be difficult to deal with, especially when they are sniffing out a potential fine (legitimate or otherwise) or a bribe.
While it's important to be compliant when dealing with traffic officers, you should also be aware that Peru has many scammers posing as officers as well as many officers who are themselves corrupt. For this reason, international drivers should be aware of what officers are supposed to look like and what they can legally do during a traffic stop.
Traffic officers are not allowed to keep your personal identification or vehicle documents and must write a written ticket for a traffic violation. According to the U.S. Department of States' Bureau of Consular Affairs, "under no circumstances should you offer or agree to pay money to traffic officers" directly as the ticket issued to you should include a fine amount, the offense committed, and where to pay the fine.
What to Expect on the Road in Peru
Driving a rental car in Peru provides a number of benefits to the international tourist; chief among them, the ability to set your own schedule and route lets visitors experience the most out of their trip to Peru. However, driving a car also comes with its share of headaches like dealing with steep rental and gas prices, corrupt officers and scammers, and navigating some of the more congested or poorly-maintained roadways of Peru.
Although Peru is home to hundreds of miles of open roads that offer locals and tourist alike space to take in breathtaking views of the countryside, its drivers are often described as aggressive and its city streets are bustling with traffic almost constantly during the day. Additionally, horns are used liberally both in the city and the countryside—but especially around blind mountain turns or to alert other drivers—which could add stress to your driving adventure.
In terms of laws that differ from U.S. driving regulations, the biggest change is Peruvian speed limits. In general, drivers are permitted to drive at speeds up to 90 kilometers per hour on open roads, 50 kilometers per hour in towns, and 100 kilometers per hour on motorways. Additionally, traffic cameras have been in place since 2018 to ticket speeding drivers even when officers aren't around, so you should never exceed the speed limit.