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  • Total days on the road: 586
  • Currently in: USA
  • Miles Driven: 36821
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Peru Budget Recap

Written by Jared on October 10, 2012

This article is part of our Budget and Money Report series.

Our per diem expenses cover food, lodging, gas and other supplies and travel costs for three people. We travel in a 1997 Toyota 4Runner, tent camp in paid facilities roughly 70% of our nights and eat less than 10% of our meals in restaurants. This budget does not reflect personal spending money, which is mostly used to buy souvenirs and booze. We don't track this money, but we do know we have not come close to spending our budgeted amount of $10 per person per day.

We spent nearly seven weeks in Peru, and in that time we did our fair share of eating out, visiting ancient ruins and driving a whole heck of a lot. Aside from the gas prices, Peru is a cheap country to travel in. Groceries are reasonably priced, especially at local markets, and camping is prevalent, even in larger cities.

We stuck pretty close to budget. Our main downfalls were expensive hotels and a pricey trip to Machu Picchu that we never bothered to include in our budget. But we made up ground the old fashioned way, by camping the majority of our nights and cooking most meals for ourselves.

Budget Recap

Number of Days in Peru: 43
Average ATM Exchange Rate (Soles per USD$):  2.56
Budgeted Per Diem:  $77.87
Actual Per Diem:  $80.77
Per Diem Spent:  $3,473.31
Per Diem Budgeted:  $3,348.41
Peru Balance:  -$124.90

We were over budget because of one reason: Machu Picchu. The two days we spent in Aguas Calientes set us back over $200, plus $150 for entrance tickets to the park. Leading up to our time in Cusco and Aguas Calientes we were routinely under budget by $200 or more.

ATMs are everywhere in Peru. Withdrawing money was never a problem. The only issue we encountered many times was not being able to easily break larger bills. ATMs tend to distrubute bills in 100 or 200 denominations which work at gas stations and supermarkets, but rarely anywhere else.

Per Diem Breakdown

Lodging:  $931.98 27.77%
Groceries:  $858.31 25.58%
Gas:  $832.31 24.80%
Eating Out:  $343.14 10.22%
Park Fees:  $181.63 5.41%
Transportation:  $80.07 2.39%
Tolls & Parking:  $37.77 1.13%
Entertainment:  $35.94 1.07%
Laundry:  $31.64 0.94%
Supplies:  $15.23 0.45%
Insurance:  $8.00 0.24%

Not much out of the ordinary here aside from the $182 in park fees, most of which were the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. Transportation costs were also a big higher than usual due to the number of buses and taxis we took in Aguas Calientes and Cusco. Considering you can't drive to Aguas Calientes, and traffic and parking are a nightmare in Cusco, we don't regret spending the $80.

There are a few tolls in Peru, but the fees are $1-$3, not nearly as bad as Colombia or Mexico. We paid the most driving from Nazca to Cusco and to the Bolivian border at Lake Titicaca. Tolls are only paid when heading away from Lima, so the entire stretch from Ecuador to the capital we were able to pass through the toll booths without handing over any cash.

Food & Lodging

  Budget Actual Difference
Percent Time Camping:  50% 65% +15%
Average Camping Cost:  $10.00 $14.51 +$4.51
Average Hotel Cost:  $25.00 $46.72 +$21.72
Daily Food Expenses:  $25.00 $27.94 +$2.94

Camping in Peru was on par with our experiences in Ecuador and Colombia. As usual we had the best luck at national parks/reserves, hostels and hotels that allowed camping and even managed to find a few proper campgrounds along the way. Peru's park system is not very well developed, so don't expect many amenities unless you're in a hostel's back yard.

As with Colombia we got destroyed on hotel costs. Two or three places we stayed we ended up having to spend a lot (around $70 per night) for a hotel that had secured parking. A bit more research ahead of time, or giving ourselves more time to hunt around before it got dark would have likely lowered that cost.

Our food costs were fairly close, as usual. We ate out 18 times including a breakfast, nine lunches and four dinners. Peruvian food is cheap and delicious, we could have easily eaten out more often without spending a significantly larger portion of our budget.


  Budget Actual Difference
Average MPG: 13 18.12 +5.12
Average Gas Price $USD/Gallon: $5.00 $5.67 +$0.67
Miles Driven: 2,500 2,688 +188
Total Spent on Gas: $961.54 $818.31 -$143.23

Gas in Peru is expensive, but we more or less knew that coming in. Gas stations are easy enough to find, although finding higher-octane gas, especially in the mountains, can be a challenge.

Gas is sold by the octane rating, on the coast your choices are usually 84, 90 and 95+. At higher elevations you get 84 and sometimes 90 at larger stations. 84 cost around $5 per gallon, 90 around $5.80 and 95+ is $6.50-$7.50 per gallon. For the most part we filled up with 90. We tried 84 once but our car was losing power while climbing a steep mountain pass so after that we stuck to 90 and haven't had a problem. It could have just been a bad batch of gas - your mileage may vary.

Lessons Learned

  • Hoard your small bills and change. Always try to pay with a larger bill and ask if the person behind the counter has change. ATMs distribute large denomination bills ($40-$80 equivalent) that can rarely be broken at smaller stores.
  • Machu Picchu is f'ing expensive. If you can, hike to Aguas Calientes from Santa Teresa with a pack, tent, sleeping bag and stove and camp/cook for yourself. Either way you'll be out the ~$50 entrance tickets, but we spent way more on a hotel room and meals than we did to get into the park. Aguas Calientes is a huge tourist trap.
  • Four for one drinks does not equal four drinks for the price of one. It equals four drinks for the price of three point five.
  • All campgrounds in Peru charged us per person, usually 10-15 Soles ($4-$6). Sometimes it cost extra to park, but not usually more than $5 per day.
  • If your car can handle the 84 octane, especially at higher elevations, you'll save quite a bit by buying it over 90+ octane gas.
  • Eat at local markets and small restaurants with set menus. You'll get a soup, a choice of three or four entrees and juice or tea. The price is usually around $2-$3.
  • Car insurance (SOAT) must be bought at the border. If you have international insurance that covers you in Peru you do not need to purchase SOAT. We didn't know this, so we ended up spending $8, however our policy was only good for a month while our visas & car permit were 60 days. Quite possibly a mistake on the part of the sales person, we're not sure. We didn't bother to buy another month, instead we printed out our international policy but only had to show it once when we crossed the border into Bolivia. We've heard of people having trouble buying monthly incriments once you're in the country, especially for motorcycles.
  • If you have no option but to stay in a hotel and need secured parking, check it out ahead of time if you're going to be arriving late. On two occasions we ended up staying at the most expensive hotels in town because they were the only ones we could find with parking before it got too late.

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