All you need to know before moving to Peru

Expats moving to Peru will find that the cost of living in this country is affordable, compared to other South American nations. Peru’s grandiose and colourful festivals make a great cultural experience that expats should not miss.

Peru’s rich culture and tradition can be seen in their everyday lives. You can spot fine arts and crafts everywhere. Local women are often seen in conventional outfits like embroidered long skirts, colourful shawls, hats tipped to the side of their head, and long hair braids.

The country itself is just as intriguing as its people, and looking at what it has to offer, it can be quite an attractive relocation destination to consider. Find out why below!

Country facts that may surprise you

1. It is less obscure than you think

Though Peru is highly understated and you may not have heard of it, it is actually neighbours with countries like Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile!

Its population stands around 31 million, with over half of them settled in the coastal areas, and the rest in the mountainous areas. Lima, the capital of Peru, is located in the heart of the country’s coastal desert on the Rimac River. Dubbed as the “City of Kings”, Lima is a quiet city of Spanish colonial charm transformed into a modern-day metropolis. Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo, and Piura are some of the other populous cities.

"Bureaucracy is not Peru’s strong point. Government buildings are usually quite old and take a drive to get to. Expect multiple and confusing lines, long wait times, and limited to no English. In government buildings, you may need to be more assertive about asking for help; don’t expect to be gently shepherded through the offices."- Jessica Federle, Expat in Lima, Peru

2. It is part of the Amazon Rainforest and Andes

Peru prides itself with the great biodiversity, covering 13% of the Amazon Rainforest and one of the homes of the Andes, the world’s longest continental mountain range.

Situated on the Pacific coast, Peru’s diverse regions are divided into three:

  • The Highlands (Sierra), which is mostly a mountainous area dominated by the Andes;
  • The Coast (Costa) features arid deserts, beautiful beaches and fertile valleys;
  • The Jungle (Selva), which covers over half of the country including the Amazon River Basin and the Madre de Dios River Basin.

3. Earthquakes are normal

Peru lies below the equator and is located in the seismic zone, so light earthquakes or “temblores” are common. It is estimated to have 200 minor earthquakes in a year, and a major one every six years. 

However, unlike equatorial countries, the climate is not exclusively tropical. The mountainous regions experience a colder weather than other places. The wet season is from December to April while the dry season starts from May and ends in November.

4. Economy is looking promising

Peru has stepped out of its economic instability in the late 20th century and is now an “emerging market that promises a strong business potential”, according to The MSCI Emerging Markets (EM) Latin America Index. Today, the Peruvian economy is the 7th largest in Latin America.

Peru’s strong economic growth is clearly manifested by its outstanding performance in 2013 as it gained a GDP of US$202.3b. Growth is largely attributed to Peru’s major exports such as copper, gold, petroleum, animal food, cars, and electronics.

Check these off your bucket list

1. Immerse in several millennia worth of history

It is home to one of the six oldest civilisation in the world, Norte Chico, around 3500 BC, and the Inca Empire, the largest worldwide in the 16th century. Say what?!

Mark my words - the archaeological, historical and natural wonders are truly mind-blowing. Here are some of its magnificent landmarks on the World Heritage List to get started with:

  • Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu, built in the middle of a mountain forest, is known to be the most fascinating architectural creation of the Inca civilisation
  • Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, consisting of ancient royal palaces built in even before the 15th century
  • Chavin Archaeological Site, a place of worship, largely made of stone, that is incremental to the culture that developed between the 15th and the 5th century BC
  • City of Cuzco, a preserved city that was remodelled after a pre-Inca occupation process of over 3,000 years, became the capital of the Tawantinsuyu Inca Empire, and was subsequently conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century
  • Lines and Geoglyphs of Nasca and Palpa, which Pre-Hispanic inhabitants drew on the ground with outstanding precision, despite the non-existence of writing tools, for some 2,000 years

2. Join some of its 3,000 festivals per year

Believe it. Most Peruvians are devoted Roman Catholics. Every town has their own patron saint and patron festivals. There are numerous Christian festivities during Easter, Christmas, Corpus Christi and the Holy Week. Other religious events include Inca traditions and rituals.

Meanwhile, there are also carnivals held throughout the year in the love of dancing, singing, food and wine! Parades, contests, street parties and processions are common sights. Check out the best festivals to participate here.

3. Enjoy the outdoors with the kids

  • Zoo

There are two zoos in Lima, Peru’s capital - Parque de las Leyendas (Legends Park) and Parque Zoologico Huachipa (Huachipa Zoological Park). Both zoos feature a wide variety of wildlife, botanic gardens, rides and eateries. You will, however, find that each has its own unique merits.

Notably, Legends Park is built inside Lima’s largest preserved ancient Archaeological Complex of Peru.

  • Maranga

Complementing its historic appeal, it houses a museum with mummies and other artefacts, which definitely offers great educational value. The newer zoo, Huachipa Zoological Park, on the other hand, is most known for its sea life exhibit, which includes sea lions, otters and penguins.

  • Theme park

One of the biggest and most popular amusement parks in the country is Daytona Park. Located in the Hipodromo of the Monterrico race track, teenagers and adults will get a kick out of racing activities and bumper cars. The younger ones, meanwhile, will take delight in carousels, bouncy castles, and video games.

  • Beaches

The beaches in the southern part of Peru are mostly not attractive and shrouded by the fog. Whether you are thinking of picnics, sunbathing, water sports, or just taking a walk with your pet, you are better off heading to the north. Here are some of the top beaches there to choose from.

Take note of…

About the locals

Most of them are traditional and easy-going folks. However, communication may be an issue if you do not speak their language. About 84% of them speak Spanish and a fraction of them speak native tongues such as Quechua and Aymara.

The Peruvians hold kinship close to their hearts and form a close-knit community. Starting a family is often encouraged. Healthcare for pregnant women is affordable, as it is with Peru’s general cost of living.

Always be mindful of the "La Hora Peruana" or "Peruvian time" principle, that they religiously apply to their lifestyle. It refers to the respect for time and promptness. For more information on avoiding possible culture shocks, click here.

Working here

Unless you are interested in starting your own business, working in the mining industry, or teaching English, it may be difficult to find employment locally. The government limits local companies on the number of foreign hire and amount of total salary paid to foreigners. However, if you are in Peru on an assignment, your salary will likely afford you a very comfortable lifestyle.

A tourist visa permits a maximum of 183-day stay, of which expats can take to find a job and convert to a work visa thereafter. Some exempted countries do not have to apply for a tourist or transit visa. A business visa allows lesser, at 90 days, but gives you the freedom to sign contracts.

Daily life

Those travelling from more advanced cities may find infrastructure in areas such as utilities and public transport. Corruption and poverty are also prevalent.

It is not safe to drink tap water before boiling as bacteria strains are present. Also, caution against other tropical diseases and get the necessary health coverage with an international health insurance.

New expats should have these numbers saved, so they know who to call in the first instance, in the event of any trouble.


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