Peru is one of the safest countries you can visit in Latin America and offers many beautiful things to see from the ruins of Machu Picchu to the majesty of Lake Titicaca. Most tourists do not experience safety issues while traveling in Peru, but that doesn't mean crime does not exist and petty criminals tend to prey on tourists in highly-trafficked tourist hotspots like Lima or Cusco. Violent crimes like muggings against tourists are a rarity in Peru, but they do happen from time to time.
If you do fall victim to a crime, you can contact the Tourism Police (0800 22221). This is a division of the police force established to protect travelers and are usually patrolling well-established tourist areas.
- Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Peru's borders have since reopened but tourists will need to show proof of a negative test result before they arrive.
- Prior to COVID-19, the State Department advised travelers to exercise increased caution and it still warns against traveling to the Colombian-Peruvian border and other regions due to instances of crime and terrorism.
Is Peru Dangerous?
Despite South America's poor safety reputation, Peru is considered to be one of the safer countries on the continent. While violent crime does occur, most instances of crime are petty crimes like pickpocketing or ATM fraud. Criminals that prey on tourists in Peru are opportunistic, so if you leave your valuables unattended for a moment, they'll likely be snatched.
Although it doesn't happen often, muggings and express kidnappings do occur. In an express kidnapping, the traveler is held and forced to withdraw money from the city's ATMs until hitting the withdrawal limit on their account. Muggings usually happen at night and some areas, like the Sacsayhuaman ruins in Cusco, have a reputation for these crimes occur. Perpetrators usually target victims who are traveling alone. If you have hopes to visit a certain destination, it's wise to ask some locals on the ground what they've heard about it and whether or not they think it's safe to go alone.
Is Peru Safe for Solo Travelers?
Traveling solo doesn’t mean you’ll always be alone. Peru has a vibrant backpacker scene, so it’s easy to make friends, many of who may be looking to tag along with new travel companions to attractions, restaurants, and between cities. Hostels are the best places to meet other travelers, so skip the hotels if you want a more sociable experience.
Solo travelers do need to be particularly careful at night, especially when walking in the street or withdrawing money. Whenever possible, and most importantly after dark, try to walk around with fellow travelers from your hostel, hotel, or tour group.
Great treks and trails exist throughout Peru—many winding through stunning landscapes far from the nearest town or city. If you like to trek alone, always ask locals and experts about potential dangers—both natural and manmade—before setting off. Muggings sometimes occur along known tourist trails. As always, it’s safest to go with a group.
Is Peru Safe for Female Travelers?
Machismo and male chauvinism are both alive and well in Peruvian culture. As a female traveler, you’ll almost certainly experience some form of street harassment in Peru. This type of harassment is rarely aggressive and is normally limited to childish comments and catcalls known as piropos. The vast majority of women traveling alone in Peru never experience any major problems beyond catcalls and maybe an instance of petty theft.
Female travelers in Peru can also be taken advantage of emotionally. A brichero is a particular type of male Peruvian who targets female tourists intending to forge an intimate relationship for personal gain. These men happily play the role of an enamored devotee, as long as their foreign conquest pays for everything, including, ideally, a plane ticket back to the foreigner’s home country.
Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers
Peru is not the safest country for LGBTQ+ travelers, but it's not the most dangerous either. The general population in Peru is predominantly Catholic, conservative, and can at times be hostile to the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ travelers may generally want to avoid displaying affection in public, but tourist centers like Machu Picchu and large cities like Lima, where there is an active gay nightlife scene, tend to be more tolerant.
One common error LGBTQ+ travelers make in Peru is mistaking the official flag of Cusco with a gay pride flag. Both of these flags are rainbow flags with the only difference being that the flag of Cusco has an additional light blue stripe. So if you see rainbow flags waving proudly outside an establishment, they might just be expressing regional pride.
Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers
Like many South American countries, Peruvian society struggles with colorism and prejudice, particularly when it comes to the indigenous and Afro-Peruvian populations. However, it's unlikely that BIPOC will experience this kind of racism during their travels, especially if they are traveling within the main tourist corridors like Machu Picchu. Generally, racially-motivated violent crime is not an issue for BIPOC travelers in Peru but the occasional racist comment is not unheard of.
Safety Tips for Travelers
Here are some general safety tips for anyone traveling to Peru:
- Learn some basic conversational Spanish before you go, so you’ll be more capable of dealing with tricky situations.
- Going to any site or attraction as part of a guided tour is normally safer than going independently.
- When hailing a cab, always call a taxi from a reputable agency whether than flagging one down on the street and try to share one with a fellow traveler or reliable local if you can.
U.S. Department of State. "Peru International Travel Information." November 9, 2020.