Travel & Places Latin America

13 Tips for Traveling Alone in Peru

Traveling in Peru alone has some definite benefits: more freedom; more independence; more engagement with strangers both local and foreign; and a greater incentive to learn Spanish. Altogether, that can result in a more rewarding experience in Peru.

But there are some downsides, including those moments of downtime when loneliness can creep in. Safety can also be a bigger issue for solo travelers, especially for female backpackers. Group travel can also be cheaper and easier at a practical level.

I’m a solo traveler by nature (not that I can always escape on my own). With that in mind, here are my top tips for traveling solo in Peru.


Hostels are Social Hubs

Backpacker hostels are the best places to meet fellow travelers in Peru. The shared experience and the communal areas make striking up conversations easy. And if you want to go see something, ask everyone else if they want to go too and there you have it: instant traveling companions.

Don’t Be Shy….

Of course, you won’t meet many people if you lock yourself in your private room or bury your head in a book or laptop. If you’re a little shy, now is the time to open up and approach people -- or at least be open enough for them to approach you. Travel can do great things for your self-confidence, as long as you give it the chance.

…But Don’t Be Too Quick to Trust

Be open, but be wary. This might sound cynical, but a certain level of distrust is a fine companion for a solo traveler in Peru. Fellow travelers and locals might have ulterior motives behind their apparent friendliness, so the one thing to trust beyond all others is your own instinct.

Be Flexible With Your Travel Plans

If you really click with some fellow travelers, you might not want to ditch them straight away. Your itinerary, on the other hand, might be saying otherwise. If your travel plans are flexible, you can easily change them and head off with your new friends. Alternatively, convince them to come with you.

Your Bags Are Your Babies

Travel companions provide extra eyes for keeping track of backpacks and bags. As a solo traveler, you’ll have to keep an eye on things yourself, at all times. Your bags are your babies: never leave them alone and never leave them with people you don’t trust completely. If you have to leave your backpack in a bus terminal baggage room or bus compartment, keep your most valuable items with you. Having a separate daypack for valuables (camera, passport, laptop etc.) is always a good idea.

Volunteer


Volunteering can be a good way to meet locals and other non-Peruvian volunteers. There are plenty of free and low-cost volunteer programs in Peru, so you should be able to find something of interest.

Selfies: A Necessary Evil


The word “selfie” makes me shudder. I’m not sure why, but it does. Anyway, solo travelers often take plenty of holiday snaps featuring all kinds of landscapes, historic sites and interesting cultural scenes. But let’s be honest: your friends and family back home don’t really care about all that. They want to see photos of you, whether it’s a photo of you drunk in a bar or stood in front of Machu Picchu (fully clothed, ideally). So don’t forget the selfies, or better still, ask someone to take a photo of you using your camera (as long as you’re sure they won’t/can’t run off with it).

Tell Someone Where You’re Going


I’m assuming you’ll tell your parents or your husband/wife or at least a friend about your upcoming trip to Peru. That’s fairly normal, after all. Once you arrive in Peru, your contact with people back home might decrease significantly, unless of course you’re addicted to Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Twitter etc. (an all too common trait of the modern traveler). If you don’t fall into the latter category, it’s a good idea to at least check in occasionally with someone back home to let them know where you are and where you’re going next. Should something bad befall you during your time in Peru -- as unlikely as that is -- at least someone will know your whereabouts. For added security in the event of an emergency, you can also register your trip to Peru.

Embrace the Expats

Many cities in Peru have an expat community. If you’re traveling solo and would like to hang out with people who speak your own language and know the local scene, they can be a good option (they can also be quite weird, but normally in a good way). Unsurprisingly, expats normally gather in one or two specific bars; just ask the locals where the gringos hang out. If you come across an expat with a blog, you could try sending him or her an email through the contact page. I can’t speak for all expat bloggers, but when people contact me through my Tarapoto blog, we often end up sharing a beer or two when they arrive.

Don’t Deny the Downtime

If you travel for long periods, you’ll have days when you feel exhausted. You might also have days when you just can’t face trying to speak any more Spanish. When that happens, embrace the downtime and take a day off. Watch CNN in your hotel room and catch up with global affairs. Or buy a bottle of cheap Chilean wine from the nearest bodega, go back to your hostel and watch five movies in a row. Whatever, just forget the whole travel thing for a day and recharge your batteries.

Enjoy Eating Alone

Eating alone as a solo traveler can feel weird. It can also be pretty boring. If you’re learning Spanish, take a phrasebook with you and learn a few new lines while you eat. If that sounds like piling boredom on top of more boredom, then you need to find a restaurant or cafe with a bar. If you eat your food at the bar, there’s a good chance you’ll end up chatting with the barman or barwoman. Another option is to go to the same restaurant regularly so you can get to know the staff and feel more at home.

Consider an Organized Tour

I’m a big advocate of avoiding organized tours in favor of doing things independently whenever possible. But if you feel like seeing an attraction with some English-speaking travelers, then an organized tour is a perfectly good option. Like hostels, organized tours can end up being a great way to meet fellow travelers.

(And Finally... Learn Spanish!)

Yes, it’s boring, but solo travelers have more reason than most to learn Spanish before going to Peru. Without the moral and linguistic support of a travel companion, you really are on your own when it comes to conversing in the local lingo. If you take the time to learn at least the basics, you’ll find things much easier. If you get your conversational Spanish up to a reasonably fluid level, then you’ll always have someone to talk to in Peru.

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