It starts with the Sun. You see, in Peru, we use Soles (“Suns” in English). Technically, the correct term is Peruvian Nuevos Soles or PEN, which is the official abbreviation.
Throughout your trip in Peru you are going to need Soles to access amazing food, shops, taxis, and everything in between. Here is the information you will need to successfully get a hold of those Soles…
Brand New Bills Peru, unfortunately, is one of the global leaders in counterfeit cash. The price you pay for that you are required to bring brand new dollar bills with you from the States. You see, any kind of tear or graffiti or even heavy use will be enough for any Money Exchanger to reject your cash. Before you go to Peru, go to your bank and ask for a stack of brand new, unfolded bills. Put them in a money purse or somewhere they won’t get smashed in your luggage and use those for exchanging money.
**Quick Tip: the state of your Soles doesn’t matter. Once you have a wallet full of Soles it doesn’t matter if they get bent or are heavily used.
Where and When you will need Soles. The majority of places you will dine or shop for souvenirs will accept credit cards, especially in Lima. Make sure to take your Soles with you anytime you’re going outside of a major city (i.e. the jungle outside of Iquitos, the Sacred Valley outside of Cusco, etc.) You will need Soles for all Artisan Markets, local boutique souvenir shops, taxi rides, tips, and some smaller local restaurants.
How to Make the ExchangeThe key is finding someone you trust. If you’re staying at a reputable hotel, ask the front desk. Any bank will offer money exchange services. If you decide to exchange money on the street, make sure to find a group of Money Exchangers (they’re typically wearing vests and travel in groups), but my recommendation would be to exchange money at a bank, the airport, or your hotel. Always count your money and make sure they performed the exchange properly.
In a bind at the airport? Go Dunkin’… Dunkin’ Donuts that is, or any other American franchise. They usually have an exchange rate that is much friendlier than the official Money Exchange stands. Order your Apple Fritter and pay with a $20 for some quick soles for a taxi ride.
One last tip: There is no need to bring more than $400 to Peru. In fact, every time I go, I just take $200. You have no reason to be carrying around large amounts of cash. If you need more, you can use an ATM.
Now, where you are going to spend the money… we’ll leave that up to you.