21 Jun Get Organized for a Trip to Peru
Peru is an amazing country full of contradictions. It is very poor, with shanty towns dotting the landscape and education out of reach for many. Yet it is rich in history and most famous for Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines. It is a glorious place to visit, especially if you’re prepared. So, here are my top three survival tips for Peru.
1. Don’t drink the water. Like most non-first world nations, they do not have the same kind of sanitation and water systems that we do. Stick to bottled water, even for brushing your teeth. Do not eat raw fruits and vegetables unless you have washed them with bottled water.
2. Take it easy on the coca. If you journey into the Andes, you will be told that you can prevent altitude sickness by chewing on coca leaves, drinking coca tea, and/or eating coca candy. Coca coca coca! What nobody ever says is how much you should have. A few days after the situation I’m about to describe in #3, I learned at a coca museum that the leaves have many uses – including that of a digestive cleanser. If you ingest too much of the leafy wonder, you might just get a cleanout that you weren’t expecting.
3. Bring your own medications. We only visited two major cities, Lima and Cuzco. The rest of the towns and villages would not be considered modern in any way, shape or form by American standards. Lima was the only place where we saw a medical facility. We also did not find any places where over-the-counter medications were sold. So when I suffered from a lower gastro-intestinal problem, I was so grateful that I’d packed my stash of prescriptions: industrial strength anti-diarrhea meds and wipe-out-anything powerhouse antibiotics. I don’t know what made me ill. It could have been from accidentally brushing my teeth with tap water, or eating a few bites of salad before realizing what I was doing, or perhaps it was from all of the coca products I ingested. Whatever the cause, my meds saved me because we were nowhere near civilization and even further away from medical help. I’m a pretty tough cookie, but that bug literally brought me to my knees in tears. Bring your own meds.
All of this advice sounds a little scary, but don’t let it put you off from visiting Peru. These are the things you need to know ahead of time so that you’re prepared for anything and will, therefore, enjoy your trip even more.