Using US Dollars in Peru

Peru souvenirs
••• USD isn't always your best bet for souvenir shopping in Peru. ElOjoTorpe / Getty Images

If you look online for information about taking US dollars to Peru, you’ll probably come across conflicting advice. Some websites and forum dwellers recommend taking a large stash of dollars, stating that most businesses will happily accept US currency. Others, meanwhile, suggest relying almost entirely on Peruvian currency. So, what advice should you follow?

Who Accepts US Dollars in Peru?

Many businesses in Peru do accept US dollars, especially within the tourism industry.

Most hostels and hotels, restaurants and tour agencies will happily take your dollars (some even list their prices in US dollars), while also accepting the local currency. You can also use dollars in large department stores, supermarkets and travel agencies (for bus tickets, flights etc).

For day-to-day use, however, it’s best to carry soles rather than dollars. You can pay for all your travel needs -- food, accommodation, transport etc. -- using the local currency, whereas not everyone will accept dollars (you’ll have problems paying for small items in many shops and markets, for example, as well as in basic, family-run restaurants).

Furthermore, the exchange rate can be very poor when you pay for items or services in dollars, especially when the business concerned isn’t accustomed to accepting US dollars.

How Much Money Should Your Bring to Peru?

The answer is anywhere from none to some. If you’re coming from the United States, carrying a small reserve of USD is a good idea, even if just for emergencies.

You can exchange your dollars for soles when you arrive in Peru (avoiding possible ATM withdrawal fees), or use them to pay for hotels and tours.

However, if you’re coming from the UK or Germany, for example, there’s no point changing your home currency for dollars just for use in Peru. It’s better to use your card to take out soles from a Peruvian ATM (most ATMs also hold US dollars, should you need them for any reason).

New arrivals will find ATMs in Lima airport; if you don't want to rely on the airport ATMs, you could take enough dollars to get you to your hotel (or reserve a hotel that offers a free airport pickup).

The amount of USD you take also depends on your travel plans. If you are going backpacking in Peru on a reasonably low budget, it's simply easier to travel with soles rather than US dollars. If you’re planning to stay in top-end hotels, eat in upscale restaurants and fly from place to place (or if you're heading to Peru on a package tour), you might find that dollars are just as useful as soles.

Consideration When Taking US Dollars to Peru

If you decide to take dollars to Peru, make sure you keep up with the latest exchange rate. If you don’t, you run the risk of being ripped-off every time you make a purchase or exchange your dollars for soles.

Make sure any dollars you take to Peru are in good condition. Many businesses won’t accept notes with slight rips or other minor defects. If you have a damaged note, you can try to change it in a major branch of any Peruvian bank.

Small dollar bills are better than large, as some businesses won’t have enough change for larger denominations. Finally, be prepared to receive your change in soles rather than dollars.