Packing for Two Weeks in Peru

This past July (2013), Boston was trying to show off with a string of days in the upper 90’s. I was sweltering in our non-air-conditioned apartment and attempting to pack for winter in Peru, which proved to be a test of mind over matter. I stumbled upon a couple packing lists that helped, and now I would like add to my newly found expertise for those planning a trip and as a personal resource for when I return to Peru someday (fingers crossed).

So now onto the packing list. I used these two lists to help me with packing: Adventures Within Reach and Nature Travel Specialists. Below you’ll find what I did bring and a little commentary about my thoughts afterwards. If you want to skip to a the more concise list, there is a link at the bottom of this post.

Trip Length – 14 days 

Lima/Miraflores – 4 days; Arequipa – 2 days; Ollantaytambo – 2 days; Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu – 2 days; Cuzco – 2 days; Lima/Miraflores – 1 day, Travel – 1 day

My List: female,  generally cold-blooded =)

  • Long pants: 3 pairs – Perfect! Some women may want 1 more pair…
    • 1 pair of jeans (evenings in Lima and airplane)
    • 1 pair corduroy pants (evenings in Sacred Valley)
    • 1 pair hiking pants (used only in Sacred Valley)
  • Shorts/Skort: 1 hiking skort – This could go either way, it was nice to change it up in Arequipa, but I did end up with many bug bites on my legs…
  • Shirts: 4.5 Short sleeve – OOPS! Too many! Next time 2.5. TIP: Pack light as t-shirts are great souvenirs that you can wear while on the trip.
    • 3 Polyester/quick dry shirts, 1 cotton, 1 tank top (that’s my .5)
  • Shirts: 2 Long Sleeve – OOPS! Next time 3
    • 1 Polyester/quick dry/light
    • 1 hiking shirt with sleeves that roll up
  • Jackets: 3
    • 1 thick fleece hoodie (used this every evening and on airplane)
    • 1 long sleeve light hoodie (used every day in AM/PM and tied around my waist in between)
    • 1 rain jacket (great for Lima, not necessary for other places. I did use it in Cuzco as a third layer, but remember, I’m always cold. Side note, my raincoat is red, and I definitely stood out. Peruvians mostly wear dark outer clothing at this time of year.)
  • Sleepwear: 1 shorts/tank top – OOPS! The evenings are COLD! All but one of the hotels we stayed in had no heat, so if I were to do it again I would bring comfy/yoga pants and a long sleeve shirt. My intention was that these clothes could also be used for exercise…I didn’t work out once…duh.
  • Underwear: 6 pairs – TIP: use polyester blends and NOT cotton as it takes too long to dry.
  • Bras: 4 total – 2 regular bras, 2 sports bras (low intensity, yoga-esque)
  • Hats: 2 – 1 athletic, 1 cute…most people could probably just do 1, but I like hats.
  • Swimsuit: OOPS! I thought I would go into the hot springs in Aguas Calientes, but I was way too tired, so I never used this. You can rent swimwear there, and this would have been a better choice. Also, none of our hotels had swimming pools. If yours does, reconsider.
  • Socks: 6 pairs total – 1 smart wool (airplane), 5 quick-dry/not cotton
  • Footwear: 3 pairs Perfect! We went back and forth about bringing hiking shoes and running shoes because they take up so much space. I would do it the same way again. Sometimes my sneakers were damp at the end of the day, so it was nice to have a dry pair. I wore the hiking shoes while in the Sacred Valley and we climbed Machu Picchu Mountain. You could get away with only one pair if you are packing really light, but then you should pack more socks.
    • Hiking shoes, Sneakers/Running Shoes, Flip flops

My husband: generally warm-blooded =)

  • Shorts: 2 pair (workout shorts, hiking shorts)
  • Long pants: 2 pair (jeans, hiking pants)
  • Shirts: Long sleeve – 3 (2 button down casual, 1 Hiking shirt)
  • Shirts: short sleeve – 1 (hiking/athletic shirt)
  • Undershirts: 5 (1 Long Sleeve, 1 thermal, 3 Short Sleeve)
  • Underwear: 6 pairs
  • Hat: 1
  • Jackets: 1 rain jacket
  • Socks: 6 pairs
  • Footwear: 3 pairs
  • Sleepwear: shorts/t-shirt

Laundry Note: – On day 5, I washed my shirts, socks and underwear in the sink at a hotel. If this isn’t your style, several of the hotels did have laundry service (2 day turnaround).

Technology

  • Smartphone (for reading, guidebooks, English/Spanish translation app, photos)
  • Small netbook or laptop computer (optional) – We liked checking our email and uploading some photos as a back up. Most hotels had a computer to use for a short amount of time and there are Internet cafes around as well.
  • Chargers
  • Converter – Peru’s sockets run on 220 volts. Check the fine print label on your plugs to make sure (most of ours had a range of 100v-240v, which were great). You will not need a converter unless  you have something that is less that 220v (i.e. 120v), then bring a converter or check with your hotel as they may have one that you can use.
  • Flash Drive – We used this to back up our photos.

Cameras

  • Fancy Camera
  • Little Camera or Smartphone
  • Small Tripod
  • Lens Cloth – Remember all the dust…
  • Memory Cards – fyi, these are sold in every city and market.
  • Chargers/extra batteries – TIPS: Charge your cameras every night to be safe. We did not bring extra batteries, but some people do as an extra back up.

Personal Care

  • Eyes: Glasses & cases, Contacts  & Solution, Visine
  • Tissues/Toilet Paper/Wet-wipes/ Hand Sanitizer – You will find that there is not always toilet paper and rarely soap, so bring these along and ALWAYS keep a small stash in your pocket! When I say always, I mean ALWAYS (literally).
  • Suntan Lotion, small bottle – Essential!
  • Insect Repellant, small bottle – We used this in Machu Picchu and Arequipa. I recommend using it on your lower legs/sock line every day.
  • Water bottle – I put duct tape around mine because…well, you know, duct tape holds the world together.
  • Eye/sleep mask – I used this on the airplane and in a couple hotels in which the curtains did not block the streetlights well.
  • Money/passport belt – We only used this when travelling between cities.
  • Multi-tool – This was recommended on several packing lists, but I didn’t use it. If you bring one, make sure it does not end up in your carry-on luggage.
  • Small flashlight – This was recommended, but I didn’t use it.
  • Earplugs – I didn’t use these either, but I bet there are people who would have.

First Aid

  • Headache Medicine – Ibuprofen, Tylenol/Aleve
  • Allergy Medicine – Tylenol Sinus, Benadryl, Sudafed, Claritin
  • Cold Medicine– Alka-Seltzer, throat drops
  • Stomach – Imodium, Pepcid AC, Pepto Bismol, Tums (you will most likely need this at some point.)
  • Band-Aids

Food:

  • TIP: Pack snacks for the flight and long travelling/hiking days. The plus is that all of this will be gone by the time you fly home, which creates space for souvenirs.
  • Trail Mix (big bag!), Granola Bars, Protein Bars, Fruit sticks, Twizzlers – to share with Peruvian friends (on trains or long taxi rides), Gum

Luggage

  • NOTE: First of all, you will not be allowed to bring any liquids when you fly from Peru to the U.S., not even what you buy in the airport. They will either confiscate it or make you pour it out, so plan accordingly. We flew with Spirit Airlines…ugh. Be sure you read up about their baggage restrictions and fees BEFORE you get to the airport. They are sticklers about size and weight and they WILL charge you! This happened to the person next to us in line and led to a sad start to his trip!
  • Small Suitcases – Carry-on size, but we checked them to avoid the hassle of transferring (1 per person)
  • “Personal Item” – backpack/messenger bag (1 per person)
  • Small Camelback – We packed this in our luggage. We used this every day in Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. It fit our essentials for the day and left our hands free water bottles so we could take photos (and oh boy did we ever!).
  • Plastic bags (ziplock bags, plastic bags, etc) – These came in handy for dirty clothes, shoes and other random things.
  • Rubber bands – Similar to duct tape, rubber bands help to hold the world together.

Airplane

  • Passports (duh)
  • Inflatable pillow
  • Pill box with essential medicine
  • Pen (for immigration paper work that they give you onboard)
  • Headphones
  • Reading Materials (e-reader, guide book, etc)
  • Snacks
  • Smiles

Books

  • BEFORE THE TRIP: The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming – I suggest reading this beforehand. It provides great insight into the history and culture of the Incas. Plus, it’s a great book!
  • Machu Picchu Guidebook by Ruth M. Wright & Dr. Zegarra (GREAT GUIDE!!)
  • Footprints Guidebook – Cuzco and the Inca Heartland – this book is small and a pretty good guidebook. It contains some info about the sites and the restaurant recommendations are good. However, the Lima section is small and it does not include Arequipa or other areas.
  • Post-it Notes – I keep in my guidebook to mark the pages you’ll need for that day/city.
  • Travel Journal – I didn’t journal at all but you know…
  • Pens

NOTE: If you forget something, don’t worry. You will either be able to buy what you need while you’re there (Peruvians are warm people that will help you find what you need) or you will realize that you didn’t really need it in the first place.

Concise Packing List for Peru

Below is a link to a Word document with the concise version of my thoughts from above. Everything that I determined to be an ‘oops’ I changed to what I would do next time.

Happy Trails!

08.2013_Concise Packing List for Peru

Photos like these are the reason for getting to Machu Picchu early in the morning!

Photos like these are the reason for getting to Machu Picchu early in the morning!

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Peru’s Weather in July

Traveling to Peru in July (2013) was my first trip to South America! It was also my first time below the equator, and therefore shifting from summer to winter back to summer over a two-week period. Since Peru is close to the equator and therefore the winter is more of a dry season than ‘winter’ as I’ve come to know it (raised in Michigan and now a New Englander). As one might expect, the climate is different depending on whether you visit the coast (Lima) or inland (Arequipa, Cuzco, Sacred Valley). Our trip began in Lima; a city that I would suggest does not have a dry season, but a damp season and is overcast for 8 months of the year. When I say overcast, I mean that you will not see the sun – at all. There was a light drizzle/mist every morning; it remained overcast all day yet surprising to me, there was not a drop of rain. I inquired about the weather and the chance of rain with several Peruvians and found that our experience was the norm. The lack of rain was affirmed with my observation that Peruvians do not wear raincoats and no one carries an umbrella. The temperature during the day is mild (upper 50’s and 60’s), but the dampness makes it feel a bit colder. The temperature in the evening drops slightly, but it never gets cold there.

Larcomar is an entertainment complex in Miraflores. The mist is typical in Lima. (Miraflores/Lima, Peru)

Larcomar is an entertainment complex in Miraflores. The mist is typical in Lima. (Miraflores/Lima, Peru)

Arequipa’s and the Sacred Valley’s (Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Cuzco, etc.) weather patterns are fairly similar to each other and very different from Lima. Again I wouldn’t consider this winter, but the very, very dry season. It will not rain, nor is there any dampness as in Lima (sans Aguas Calientes). Be prepared for an uncomfortable dryness in the air, especially while sleeping. To anyone else who has spent their life fighting frizzy hair in high humidity, a word of advise: drink a lot of water before going to sleep and have a full water bottle for each person. There were several nights that my husband and I decided to share one water bottle and one of us woke bone dry at 1 am only to realize the other had already finished it off. Since in Peru you can’t drink the water from the sink, this predicament leads to hours of discomfort and angry mumbling toward one’s travel companion. =/  Bottled water is easy to come by in all areas, except in the middle of the night, so always overestimate how much you will need.

View of the Plaza de Armas from the Cathedral rooftop in Arequipa, Peru.

View of the Plaza de Armas from the Cathedral rooftop in Arequipa, Peru.

I digress…during the day, the sun is bright and it is warm. If I were in Boston, I would definitely wear shorts, yet Peruvians are all wearing pants. It is warm and dusty – really, really dusty! If you are in a city center it won’t be too bad, but if you end up anywhere else, be aware of this. (I am speaking to anyone that wears contacts or has a dust allergy…like me. Consider packing Visine and sinus medication. Also, bring a lens cloth for your camera.) Now the evenings are a completely different story. The temperature DROPS! Cuzco is at a higher altitude so it will get significantly colder than Arequipa, so bundle up. This is where I bought a pair of alpaca mittens and considered a hat as well.

Machu Picchu

Overlooking the Inca ruins on a beautiful day in Machu Picchu, Peru.

Despite being located very close together, the weather in Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes were quite different due to the altitude and time of day that we were in both locations (Note: Aguas Calientes is the small city from which you travel up the mountain to Machu Picchu). One can only visit Machu Picchu during the day, and since that’s where you will spend your day, you will most likely be in Aguas Calientes in the evening only. If you go to Machu Picchu as the sun is rising (which is awesome!), it will be chilly, but bearable. The afternoon gets very hot and sunny! Given the name, Aguas Calientes (Hot Waters), you can correctly infer that it will be damp here, but again, it will not rain. It gets a little chilly in the evening, but not as cold as Cuzco or Arequipa (no mittens needed). =)

Overall the weather in Peru was quite lovely – not too hot, nor cold, nor wet, just a little too dry.