There are mountains to be climbed in Peru. Literal, air-thinning, cloud-parting mountains. And figurative, unseen, patience-testing mountains too. Either way, the summit is sweet as chicha morada, and you’ll leave feeling more empowered than ever before.
Despite my best attempts, it’s hard to sum up Peru in words. Especially after visiting Peru as a solo female traveler.
It’s visually stunning, culturally rich, deliciously diverse, and unbelievably varied in its landscapes, foods, and people. With so much to see and do spread across the country, most people choose to spend their Peru trip exploring multiple places, which can be logistically overwhelming for solo travelers. So, if you’re planning a solo trip to Peru, this solo travel guide to Peru will help you navigate the best ways to visit the country!
Peru is a special place for me – it marks my 30th country, my third world wonder, and my first time on the South American continent. I traveled around Peru with a tour company called Intrepid Travel, which is an amazing organization I’ve personally been wanting to travel with for ages (more on this below). After the trip with Intrepid, I spent a few days in the country on my own as well. Like most people, I was drawn to Peru for the chance of glimpsing Machu Picchu, eating my way through Lima, hiking in the Andes, and wandering the colorful streets of Cusco. But of course, what we see online is only just the beginning.
Read on for everything you need to know about solo female travel in Peru!
Visiting Peru Solo Versus in a Group: What’s Right for You?
I often recommend group travel companies if you’re new to solo travel, or if the country you’re trying to visit is logistically demanding – like Peru.
Can you travel to Peru on your own without any issues? Absolutely! Solo female travel in Peru means you’ll be able to plan your days independently and explore on your own terms. It also means you might be able to save a little money, depending on what you do and where you stay.
However, traveling with a group on an organized tour means you have to worry less about logistics, you’ll have a clear idea of what you’ll be doing on your trip, and you’ll have a built-in community of other travelers that could become friends! Depending on the tour company you choose, you might also get the added bonus of local, ultra-knowledgeable guides.
About Intrepid Travel’s Peru Women’s Expedition
Endless travel companies exist that can take you to Peru. But Intrepid Travel has one of the largest footprints and resources on the ground in the country (particularly in Cusco and the Andes), and as a B-corp, their trips are all committed to traveling responsibly. In a place like Peru with so much natural beauty and cultural sites, traveling with a responsible company couldn’t be more important.
Some of the coolest things about Intrepid Travel in Peru include:
- Local Experts: In Peru, all team members, trekking guides, and tour leaders live and work in the Andes. Many of my guides on this trip were Quechua (Inca descendant), too. Local employment means the money from your trip stays in the local economy!
- Game-Changers in Travel: Intrepid’s Machu Picchu team includes some of the best in the country. Our guide, Tina, was one of the first female guides in the country, overcoming the odds to normalize women with careers in a country known for traditional and often ‘machismo’ cultural expectations. We also had dinner with Maritza Chacacanta, the deputy manager of Intrepid’s trekking department who commits her time to educating staff and travelers on the importance of protecting the environment when trekking the Inca Trail.
- Sustainable Outlook: all Intrepid trips give back to the communities you visit, so you know your money is going to improving the planet.
- All Logistics Handled: When doing something logistically complicated, like going to Machu Picchu, this is a game-changer because you don’t need to worry about a thing! Train bookings, entrance tickets, visiting hours, trail directions… all of this is handled so you can focus on the experience.
While Intrepid Travel offers several ways to visit Peru, I specifically visited Peru on their Peru Women’s Expedition – a type of tour that allows you to experience different countries while learning about gender equity, local women and entrepreneurs, and the impact they have on the places you visit. In Peru, this meant dining at woman-run restaurants (like Mama Seledonia and Nuna Raymi), making crafts with local makers, and trekking the Inca Trail with an all-female trekking team of guides and porters. It was unbelievable and truly my DREAM itinerary – not something I would’ve been able to plan myself even as an experienced traveler.
Intrepid Travel now offers several Women’s Expeditions, including Peru, Iran, India, Morocco, and Jordan.
Learn more about Intrepid Travel’s Peru Women Expedition here.
On This Intrepid Women’s Expedition Itinerary, We…
- Biked and ate our way through the streets of Lima, exploring coastal neighborhoods while stopping at food carts to sample local favorites like anticuchos and picarones
- Visited women-owned and women-run restaurants in Cusco, learning about Peru through the eyes of female entrepreneurs
- Explored the breathtaking Sacred Valley, getting to know local artisans and even make our own ceramics
- Wandered many Incan and pre-Incan ruins
- Hiked to Machu Picchu
- Toured Machu Picchu with a female trekking guide who walked us through the history and mysteries of this unfathomable place
- And so much more!
When traveling solo in Peru as part of a group tour like this, you never have to worry about feeling truly alone. One of my favorite moments was climbing the Inca Trail – not an easy feat considering the crazy altitude! – and cheering each other on every step of the way. It was an unforgettable bonding experience that I’ll have to remember with these strangers turned friends for the rest of my life.
Now, you know about traveling solo in Peru with a group tour, but even in a group it’s important to familiarize yourself with some general travel tips for navigating the country. I spent a couple days in Peru solo (sans group) and spoke to several other solo female travelers about their experiences, and came up with this list.
Here’s some essential info for how to travel Peru as a solo female traveler!
Safety Tips for Solo Female Travel in Peru
Walking Around Solo
Generally, I felt quite safe walking around in the daytime, and in the evenings mostly (see below). In Lima, there are cops patrolling the streets regularly, especially in the more tourist-centric neighborhoods like Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro, and the Centro Historico.
Going Out at Night
Solo female travel in Peru requires extra caution at night. After dark, I’d stick to more tourist-centric neighborhoods as a solo female traveler, walk on well-lit sidewalks only, and try to keep my commutes to less than 10-15 minutes at a time.
In Cusco, which is regarded as a safer city than Lima, I actually experienced a fair amount of cat-calling which is sad to say but unfortunately not uncommon for Peru based on my research and conversations with other women.
In Lima, I went to a bar by myself and while I thought I was being low-key, a man approached me to politely let me know he could tell I wasn’t a Peruana because “South American women never go to bars by themselves.” I don’t know if that’s true, but I did learn from this experience that I did stand out. He and his friends respectfully admired me for being a woman alone in a bar paying for her own drinks, but if you’re weary about calling that kind of attention to yourself, maybe avoid doing this alone.
Bar crawls at hostels and even booked through sites like Airbnb Experiences are good alternatives to going out at night alone!
Crime in Peru
Like anywhere, especially busier cities like Lima, pickpocketing is a common concern. One girl on our trip put her phone in her pocket for a moment when wandering the bustling streets of Lima’s Chinatown, and her phone was swiped. Don’t carry extra cash or valuables on you when you can, and, always keep your purse cross-body and in front of you when walking in crowded places! Never leave anything valuable in loose pockets where someone can easily snatch your belongings without you feeling it.
Outside of this, Peru does feel quite safe. In big cities, police patrol means you also have authorities at your disposal when necessary. I and my group didn’t experience any other safety concerns outside of my friend’s phone getting stolen.
The effects of high altitude when visiting the mountain regions of Peru are often unavoidable, as some of the best parts of the country sit at elevations of 9,000 feet or higher. However, there’s lots you can do to make the transition easier. Give yourself at least 2 days to acclimate. Stay super hydrated. Avoid alcohol on the days of acclimatization. Drink coca tea (a natural Andean remedy for altitude effects). And take it easy so your body can adjust to the reduced oxygen levels.
When needed, taking pain killers and drinking electrolytes can also help, so be sure to pack some for your trip.
Food poisoning can occur in any country that has a different diet, different ingredients, and different methods of preparation than your own. No one in my group experienced food poisoning on this trip, but it’s always smart to travel with Imodium and / or Pepto Bismol just in case.
Solo female travelers in Peru should also get travel insurance ahead of time in case you ever need medical help! World Nomads, SafetyWing, and Allianz are all well-known travel insurance companies popular with solo female travelers.
Other Practical Tips for Solo Female Travel in Peru
It’s always handy to know a few phrases in the local language. You might be able to manage with English in Lima while visiting tourist-centric neighborhoods and fine dining restaurants. However, smaller towns and remote areas will rely much more heavily on Spanish. My Spanish is still a work in progress, so having a travel guide in Peru like I did in our Intrepid trip was very helpful for navigating more complex scenarios.
Peruvian culture is a layered experience filled with international influences, Indigenous traditions, and Hispanic customs. You’ll notice a very strong connection to native practices and language especially in the mountainous and rainforest regions. In fact, 45% of the entire population of Peru are descendants of the Incas themselves, and known as the Quechua people. Another large population are Mestizo, or mixed-race Indigenous and Spanish people. What’s more, in larger cities like Lima, you’ll even find a small but substantial Asian population, which has had a ripple effect on Peru’s culinary scene (dim sum in Peru? Yes please!).
In all these layers, politeness and a willingness to learn are key for any intrepid traveler wondering how to travel Peru. Learn a few words of Spanish (‘buenos dias! Habla ingles?’ can get you started!), or even try your hand at some Quechua (‘allianchu,’ I learned, is how to say ‘hello, how are you?’) which will no doubt make an Andean’s day. You’ll notice that local Andeans, especially women, may dress in beautiful colors and traditional dress. It’s always best to make eye contact and even ask politely when possible before photographing them as they go about their day.
Making Friends Abroad
Making friends is always a big apprehension for solo female travelers, but there are so many easy ways to find community abroad. One way is to travel as part of a group trip like this Intrepid Travel trip I was on. If you go to Peru solo, you can stay at hostels to meet other like-minded travelers. And, you can sign up for day trips, walking tours, cooking classes, and other activities to get to know other travelers in Peru at the same time as you!
Is Haggling Acceptable?
Outside of large department stores, chain brands, hotels, and renowned restaurants, haggling is generally acceptable in Peru. You will especially be able to command a lower price if you’re able to pay in soles versus with credit card. You can ask for the price at a local market, barter down while leaving some space for negotiation, and agree on a price in the middle. Or, if you buy multiple things you can ask for a deal on all of the items altogether. Keep in mind that going too low can be insulting, so be reasonable and know you’ll be contributing to the local economy with your purchase.
If you’re apprehensive about offending someone when haggling, it’s a good idea to ask your hotel or your guide what a fair price might be. Consider also that some people will naturally charge tourists higher prices than Peruvians. This may feel offensive to you but it is one way of keeping prices fair for locals.
Budgeting in Peru
It’s a good idea to carry some soles with you, though credit cards are also accepted, especially in cities. You can easily find a hotel for $75 – $150 USD, though some more luxurious hotels in Lima can cost several hundred.
For solo female travelers comfortable with hostels, you can find dorm accommodations for as little as $10-$30 USD per night. Eating in Peru can get expensive quickly given the country’s culinary status, but if you keep your Michelin-rated restaurant visits to a minimum you could get by on around $30 – $60 USD per day. From there, you’ll want to bring extra cash for transportation and to shop for souvenirs!
Getting Around in Peru
It’s a good idea for any solo female traveler to book your airport transfers ahead of time so someone is waiting for you at arrivals. Even more so if you don’t speak Spanish!
In Lima, taxis and ride-shares make up up to 80% of all vehicle traffic at any given time. Why? It’s actually a bit expensive to own a car in the city. If you take a taxi, look out for only official, registered taxis which you can generally recognize by being white or yellow, or having a yellow stripe across the license plate. These taxis aren’t metered, so you’ll need to negotiate a price before getting in, and make sure the price quoted is in soles!
When in doubt, you can always ask your hotel or even a nice restaurant if they’d be able to help you call a cab.
If hailing a car via an app is more comfortable for you, Uber is available in Lima, Arequipa, Chiclayo, Cusco, and Piura. Cabify, another similar app, is also available in the same cities.
Traveling Responsibly in Peru as a Solo Traveler
Solo female travel in Peru can have a massive, positive impact. Traveling responsibly in Peru means respecting local people, being open and curious about Peruvian culture, and leaving the places you visit the same as – or better than – you found them. One of the Intrepid guides we met with on our Women’s Expedition, Maritza, actually commits her entire career to education on keeping the Andes clean. If locals are doing it, we should be, too.
Some easy ways to be a responsible solo traveler in Peru include:
- Going with a Responsible Tour Company: The options for visiting Peru are endless for solo travelers, but be sure to vet your tour company so that you can be confident they follow responsible practices. Intrepid, for example, gives back to the local communities they visit. And in Peru, their presence encourages gender equity, environmentalism, and cultural responsibility for local communities.
- Choose Green, Sustainable, and / or Locally Owned Hotels when Possible: If you can’t find a hotel that’s certified sustainable, the next best thing is to support locally owned. That way, your money goes right into the local economy.
- Clean Up After Yourself: When hiking in Peru, leave nothing behind. No bottles, no granola bar wrappers, no banana peels. There is a massive shift happening in Peru where locals and trekking guides are also realizing their own culpability in the cleanliness (or lack thereof) on the mountains, and visitors to Peru should follow suit!
- Support Local: Patronizing local restaurants, shops, and the like put your money directly into the local community.
- Ask Before Taking Pictures: How would you feel if someone put a camera up to your face, snapped a picture, and walked away? Taking portraits of Peruanos without asking can feel dehumanizing. Plus, you never know if doing so could go against their personal, cultural, or even spiritual beliefs. Always ask for permission when you’re in close enough contact to do so. Some may be savvy to this and monetize their photogenicness (especially those in traditional clothing), and ask for a couple soles in exchange for the photo opp. Give it to them, and then thank them after.
- Know That You’ll Make Mistakes (And That’s Okay): In Machu Picchu, I sat on a ledge for a photo before learning it was not allowed to sit on any of the rocky walls or ledges in the site. This was for safety reasons as well as for conservation, which I totally understand, but didn’t know at the time. You won’t know everything there is to know when visiting a new country – and that’s okay. Be open-minded and willing to adapt as you learn, rather than expecting things to work the same way you’re used to. Give yourself grace to make mistakes and learn from them, and you’ll have a more enjoyable time as a solo female traveler.
Supporting Women-Owned Business in Peru
While on this Intrepid Travel Women’s Expedition, we learned so much about tourism through the eyes of local Peruvian women. As solo female travelers visiting Peru especially, we can help empower local women directly by supporting woman-owned whenever possible.
Why would you want to support woman-owned businesses and tour guides when visiting Peru?
Doing so actually boosts gender equity, leveling the playing field so to speak for men and women to have the same opportunities. It also directly supports the women who’ve had to work harder to achieve the same opportunities as men.
Take our main tour guide, Tina. She was one of the first female tour guides in the entire country, and when she got her start, there was almost no one else like her to show her the ropes. She went to university to learn Spanish and English all while juggling the duties of parenthood, and there were no resources for her to alleviate that strain at the time.
Supporting female guides in Peru can also promote safer and more inclusive travel for all. Peru has a history of machismo culture, and local women are well-equipped to understand and navigate any issues solo female travelers might face (like being cat-called, which I mentioned can happen in Peru).
Until the cards are stacked equally for all genders, supporting woman-owned has a much bigger impact than you might expect when traveling!
Where To Go in Peru as a Solo Female Traveler
Now that you know everything you need to know to prepare for Peru as a solo female traveler, where should you go? Here are some great places to explore that are generally safe and popular for solo female travel in Peru.
Peru’s capital city of 10MM people, and one of the top gastronomic cities in the world! Lima is a fascinating and delicious city with dramatic sea cliffs, sprawling urban centers, and a beautiful historic city center. However, be vigilant in any large city and follow the safety tips above when visiting to have the best time.
The gateway to Machu Picchu and the historical capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a beautiful, hilly, sprawling city. Sitting at more than 11,000 feet above sea level, Cusco will take about 2 days of acclimatization, so be sure to plan accordingly and spend at least 3 or 4 days here to really enjoy.
Sacred Valley, Pisac, Ollantaytambo
Seemingly remote, but filled with local and expat inhabitants alike, the Sacred Valley is a dramatically beautiful agricultural region near the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Come here for gorgeous valleys, ancient ruins, wellness, and local artisans.
To visit Machu Picchu, you’ll want to decide whether you want to hike or visit Machu Picchu by train. Many Intrepid Peru itineraries allow you to do an unforgettable 4-day trek to Machu Picchu, though you’ll also have the option of going by train if that is your preference!
Note that this will be one of the most expensive items on your itinerary as a solo female traveler in Peru if not visiting as part of an organized tour. If traveling without a group, I recommend planning ahead and buying your tickets and transfers well ahead of time so you don’t run into any surprises.
The “White City” due to its whitewashed buildings, Arequipa is a popular and beautiful urban destination that’s a bit more low key than Lima.
More than half of Peru is covered in dense Amazon rainforest. Here, you’ll find plant and animal species that don’t exist anywhere else, and learn more about the Amazonian peoples that inhabit this region. While I haven’t visited yet, I have heard it’s easiest to visit this city as part of a group tour, like this one.
The itinerary I did with Intrepid allowed me to visit Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, for reference. If I had more time post-trip, I would have visited Arequipa and Iquitos (in the Amazon). But that’s a visit for next time!
There you have it! After spending time in Peru both as part of a group and by myself, I was fascinated by Peru and recommend it highly to any solo female traveler curious to visit.
If you have any questions about solo female travel in Peru that weren’t covered in this guide, please let me know below!
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