Sol is the national currency of Peru. The Peruvian sol is abbreviated as PEN. In terms of the exchange rate, the American dollar typically goes far in Peru. At the time of this reporting (February 2019), $1 USD equals $3.32 PEN.
Brief History of the Sol
Following a period of economic instability and hyperinflation during the 1980s, the Peruvian government chose to replace the nation’s existing currency, the inti, with the sol.
The first Peruvian sol coins were put into circulation on October 1, 1991, followed by the first sol banknotes on November 13, 1991.
Peruvian Sol Coins
The Peruvian sol is subdivided into céntimos (S/.1 is equal to 100 céntimos). The smallest denominations are the 1 and 5 céntimo coins, both of which remain in circulation but are rarely used (especially outside Lima), while the largest denomination is the S/.5 coin.
All Peruvian coins feature the National Shield on one side, along with the words "Banco Central de Reserva del Perú" (Central Reserve Bank of Peru). On the reverse, you'll see the coin's denomination and a design specific to its value. The 10 and 20 céntimo coins, for example, both feature designs from the archaeological site of Chan Chan, while the S/.5 coin features the Nazca Lines Condor geoglyph.
The S/.2 and S/.5 coins are easily recognizable due to their bimetallic construction. Both have a copper-colored circular core surrounded by a steel band.
Peruvian Sol Banknotes
Peruvian banknotes come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 soles. Most ATMs in Peru dispense S/.50 and S/.100 banknotes, but you might sometimes receive a few S/.20 notes. Each note features a famous figure from Peruvian history on one side with a notable location on the reverse.
During the latter half of 2011, the Banco Central de Reserva del Perú began introducing a new set of banknotes. The Peruvian honored on each note remains the same, but the reverse image has changed, as has the overall design. Both the old and new notes remain in circulation. The most common Peruvian notes used today include:
- S/.10 - Peruvian Air Force Lieutenant José Abelardo Quiñones Gonzales with Machu Picchu on the reverse (the old note shows Quiñones Gonzales flying upside down in his biplane)
- S/.20 - Famous historian and professor Raúl Porras Barrenechea with the Chan Chan archaeological site on the reverse (the old note features the Palacio de Torre Tagle in Lima)
- S/.50 - Peruvian writer Abraham Valdelomar Pinto with the Chavín de Huantar archaeological site on the reverse (the old note shows the Laguna de Huacachina)
- S/.100 - Peruvian historian Jorge Basadre Grohmann with the archaeological site of Gran Pajatén on the reverse (the old note shows the National Library in Lima)
- S/.200 - Saint Rose of Lima with the archaeological site of Caral-Supe on the reverse (the old note shows the Convent of Santo Domingo in Lima)
Central Bank of Peru
The Banco Central de Reserva del Perú (BCRP) is Peru’s central bank. The Banco Central mints and distributes all paper and metal money in Peru.
Fake Money in Peru
Due to high levels of counterfeiting, travelers need to be wary of receiving fake money in Peru (either handed over unknowingly or as part of a scam). Familiarize yourself with all coins and banknotes as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the look and feel of Peruvian currency, as well as the various security features included on both new and old versions of all sol banknotes.
There are watermarks located in the upper left corner of paper money which are used to limit banknote counterfeiting.
Damaged Peruvian Currency
Businesses rarely accept damaged money, even if the money still qualifies as legal tender. According to the BCRP, a damaged banknote can be exchanged in any bank if more than half of the banknote remains, if at least one of the note’s two numerical values is intact, and if the note is authentic (not counterfeit).
If a banknote’s main security features are missing, the note can only be changed at the Casa Nacional de Moneda (National Mint) and authorized branches.