$$ Issues in Cusco Peru

Old Jun 21st, 2018, 07:53 AM
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$$ Issues in Cusco Peru

My son is spending a month in Cusco Peru (July 2018). Can I ask some questions about $$ issues in Peru. I have looked on this board but some of the answers I found were many years old. Here are my questions:

1. Does money come out from an ATM in Soles or US Cash?
2. Do US Bank Debt cards with VISA work in foreign countries?
3. What are the best places to exchange US dollars?
4. Are there specific types of business that only take Soles, not Credit, Debt, or US Cash?
5. Is there common practices on tipping? What percent is normal?
6. Are there scams for tourists to avoid? Places where pick pockets thrive?
Also a non-money question - what worked best in terms of cell phone sim cards? Any tips.
openstage is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2018, 09:02 AM
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I can only answer one of your questions (maybe indirectly two) - when we needed cash, we used our Bank of America debit card in a ScotiaBank ATM right on the main square. The cash we got was soles.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 09:31 AM
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1. In major cities ATMs will dispense both USD and Nuevo Soles.
2. No idea as I am U.K. based
3. Authorised money changers can be found on the street in major cities like Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. Exchange booths ( Cambios) offer good rates or the banks ( where you will most likely have to queue
4. Most smaller businesses such as restaurants and hostals will only take soles. In fact most businesses will prefer soles - it is there National currency after all. If they do accept $ then it will likely be at an unattractive fx rate. I have found that only the larger establishments will accept debit or credit cards so go armed with cash.
5. Tipping is not really part of Peruvian culture. Some restaurants will add a 10% service charge. Smaller places a % is not expected but for say a menu del dia set lunch one might add a sole or two to the total. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips
6. Peru is really no different to other countries for scams. I only use ATMs attached to banks during working hours and check machines for tampering. Not a scam as such but ATM fees are high and max withdrawal are low which can add to costs. Check with your bank for their charges too. Many charge a % fee in teh region of 2.5-3% plus a flat charge. Some card providers charge zero.
Pick pockets tend to operate in crowded places. Most Peruvians I know are especially vigilant on buses and in markets. There are many ATMs around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco which are frequented by tourists. A friend had someone try to grab cash from her after she used an ATM there. Generally speaking Cusco is probably no more risky than many upeurpean or American cities.

We have never bother with SIMs as WiFi is available in most accommodation so we relied on that and used Skype, WhatsApp for comms etc. Movistar and Claro are the big providers and outlets are everywhere.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 06:21 PM
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>>2. Do US Bank Debt cards with VISA work in foreign countries?<<


In my limited experience (only one trip there) many places in Lima and Cusco do price things in both US$ and Soles . . . But it is just my personal philosophy -- If I am in Peru I use the local currency - Period. Re tipping - just very small gratuities like rounding up a little. My only exception was I ended up with a torn ACL and a couple of people went way above and beyond to help me several times and I did tip them pretty generously. But restaurants/bars/etc just minimal tips.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 06:25 PM
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1. The ATM user specifies whether s/he wants soles or USD.

2. VISA debit cards will work in Cusco, but not at all ATMs. I had no trouble finding ones that accepted my VISA debit cards. (That was my experience throughout Peru.)

3. Using an ATM is likely to be far better than a currency exchange, but it depends on the specific bank and card. Your son would do well to investigate his options and consider opening new accounts if he will end up with lower fees by doing so.

4. Of course! As crellston notes, it’s Peru; their currency is Nuevo Soles, and many smaller establishments will accept only cash. In the most touristed areas of the Sacred Valley (e.g., businesses associated with visiting Machu Picchu), I found places that would allow one to charge in USD rather than soles, but as rule, that is a bad strategy for the person paying, as it invokes charges associated with dynamic currency conversion (DCC – look it up).

5. Here are some sources of info on tipping in Peru:
Tipping in Peru (Hotels, Restaurants, Taxis & Guides) - LimaEasy
While tipping at low end restaurants, and tipping taxis for anything other than extraordinary service, are unusual, I think you will find that tips are expected at higher-end restaurants and that tipping guides is the rule.

6. My advice: Exercise common sense and remain aware of one’s environment. FWIW, I spent a month in Peru as a solo woman and felt very safe, but of course, that’s no guarantee.

7. No idea – I don’t own a cell phone.

Last edited by kja; Jun 21st, 2018 at 06:30 PM.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 06:56 PM
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I should add: I was surprised and rather saddened by the number of businesses in Aguas Calientas that seemed to expect that I would ask to pay in dollars. Their relief when I said "no, I would prefer to pay in soles," was palpable.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 07:26 PM
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ď... and that tipping guides is the rule.Ē

I believe weíve been on seven guided tours in Peru on two trips and I think only one guide was not expecting something, although everyone was pleasant about it. Well actually our hiking guide was pretty direct - hand over the money. But we knew what to expect with him going in. He also confiscated one of our friendís expensive hiking poles. Still LOLing about that.

We we also used the Scotiabank ATM.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 07:40 PM
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OMG, I didn't mean to suggest that any of my guides made the expectation of a tip obvious! Quite in contrast, they all acted as though stunned and pleased that I should offer a gratuity, and no one actually looked at the amount in my presence. What I meant was that my understanding, based on my research, was that current etiquette dictates that a tip should be provided. Sorry for the lack of clarity!

@ x: OMG! You really have had, uh, interesting experiences in Peru....
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 08:03 PM
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I think you were clear Kja. We do our research. We talk to locals. And then we tip or donít tip accordingly.

Iíve still pulled a couple of whoppers through the years. We tipped too much once in the Netherlands. I thought the woman was going to slap me. Still LOLing about that one too.
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Old Jun 21st, 2018, 08:06 PM
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Originally Posted by xcountry View Post
We tipped too much once in the Netherlands. I thought the woman was going to slap me.
LOL! If we ever meet, xcountry, I promise to slap you in her stead.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2018, 07:47 AM
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To supplement what kja has replied.

In some small towns, USD may not be available, just soles. But USD are also fairly widely used and accepted by Peruvians (e.g. some have an option to be paid in USD for inflation/devaluation protection). Some businesses in the tourism sector prefer to be paid in USD and often will quote prices in USD cash, and if you want to pay another way, eg in local currency or with a credit card, it may not be in your favor. I usually try to pay with a credit card charged in Nuevo Soles because I don't have a foreign exchange surcharge on mine. I do keep about $100 worth of Nuevo Soles on hand for taxi drivers, small merchants and vendors.

2. Mastercard also works there. Sometimes better. If you have both, bring both.

3. Local ATM surcharges and amounts vary even among the same bank and depending on which card you use.. I can't explain it! For safety I try to use ATMs inside a bank branch or shopping mall... Sometimes I'll change a small amount on the street (like $20) but you have to be careful with counterfeit bills (and even coins).

5. Re tipping.. it's common to leave the small change even in local restaurants or the 10% standard in nice ones.Taxi fares are negotiated in advance and no tipping is needed. The Lima Easy website is great for all things Peruvian, btw. Although be sure to check open hours of sites as that part isn't updated.

6. It's always a good idea to check with the hotel receptionist about when and how to take a taxi and if there are any places you shouldn't walk, especially after about 10pm or whatever the witching hour is locally. Probably the biggest problem is theft of electronics..cellphones and laptops that aren't being watched. Coming from Lima airport it's advised to store your luggage in an enclosed trunk and wear your money underneath clothing..not casually sitting on the car seat. Every now and then there are smash and grab thefts in Lima. Anywhere there are tourists there are opportunists.. in Colombia the saying translates "don't give papaya"..watch your belongings, especially in bus stations, markets, etc.

7. I believe Claro works best but lately I also don't bother with a SIM in Peru, just use the free Wifi.

8. By the way, if you intend to do any shopping and pay with a credit card, they may ask to see your passport (the original, not a copy) since that is the official ID. Also don't be surprised when it's asked for at hotel checkins..the stamp gets you out of paying the IVA tax. (I do a fair amount of shopping for clothing in Lima, especially fine cotton knits.. you can often find name brands in "export sizing" at big discounts).

Last edited by mlgb; Jun 22nd, 2018 at 07:55 AM.
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