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Travel Safely?:

While pickpockets are remarkably ingenious in Peru, this country no longer deserves such a poor reputation when compared with Venezuela, Colombia and even Ecuador or Brazil. As far as violent attacks go, you're probably safer in Peru than in New York, Sydney, or London. Nevertheless muggings do happen in certain parts of Lima such as in the central main shopping areas. However, a few simple precautions can make life a lot easier. The most important is to keep your ticket, passport (and tourist card), money, and credit/debit cards on your person at all times. And as for terrorism - as the South American Explorers' Club once described it - "the visitor, when considering his safety, would be better off concentrating on how to avoid being run over in the crazed Lima traffic."

Although more under control since the 1980s, devaluation is a regular occurrence, leading to two major currency switches in the past couple decades. The current Peruvian currency, the Nuevo Sol - whose symbol is S/. - is still simply called a "Sol" on the streets and has so far remained relatively steady against the US dollar. In Lima and Cuzco (and most other cities), Euros are as acceptable as US dollars for changing into soles. In smaller cities and in machu picchu also and Euros are easy to exchange. For changing small amounts of dollars, the street changers (cambistas) give the best rates, but take care to check their calculations and check your soles before handing over your dollars. Other options are of course banks and exchange houses (casas de cambio) which provide added discretion. Rates vary from place to place but not significantly, unless you try to change money at a hotel which charges high commission. Most banks accept American Express traveler's checks and some will accept Visa traveler's checks, although you will often receive a much lower exchange rate for traveler's checks. Many travelers find it easier to simply use a debit card as there are ATMs/ Cash Machines found in all major cities. Credit cards are also now widely accepted at major restaurants and stores, with Visa and Master Card being the most popular. Naturally street vendors and sellers in the markets don't accept credit cards, so you'll want to have some cash on hand. A combination of taxes and service charges are added to bills in the best hotels and restaurants and can total as much as 28%. The cheaper hotels and restaurants don't add taxes. Tipping is not expected in budget restaurants, although a minimal tip is gratefully received. A tip of 10-15% is fine in upscale restaurants if a service charge has not already been added to the bill. Taxi drivers are not tipped - bargain hard beforehand and stick to your price. Local guides should be tipped US$3-5 per day. Bargaining in Peru is a way of life, people expect it, so you should not feel bad about negotiating a price (obviously keeping in mind that prices should be fair for both parties involved)..


The first inhabitants of Peru were nomadic hunter-gatherers who lived in caves in Peru's coastal regions. The oldest known site, Pikimachay cave, dates from 12,000 BC. Crops such as cotton, beans, squash, and chili peppers were planted around 4000 BC; later, advanced cultures such as the Chavín introduced weaving, agriculture and religion to the country. Around 300 BC, the Chavín inexplicably disappeared, but over the centuries several other cultures - including the Salinar, Moche, Chimu, Nazca, Paracas Necropolis, and Wari (Huari) - became locally important. By the early 15th century, the Inca Empire had control of much of the area, even extending its influence into Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile. Between 1526 and 1528, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro explored Peru's coastal regions and, drawn by the riches of the Inca empire, returned to Spain to raise money and recruit men for another expedition to the country. Return he did, marching into Cajamarca, in northern Peru, before capturing, ransoming, and executing the Inca emperor Atahualpa in 1533. Pizarro subsequently founded the city of Lima in 1535 but was assassinated six years later. The rebellion of the last Inca leader, Manco Inca, ended ingloriously with his beheading in 1572. The next 200 years proved peaceful, with Lima becoming the major political, social and commercial center of the Andean nations. However, the exploitation of Indians by their colonial masters led to an uprising in 1780 under the self-styled Inca Tupac Amaru II. The rebellion was short-lived and most of the leaders were rounded up and executed. Peru continued to remain loyal to Spain until independence was declared in 1821. Peruvian independence, however, was not consolidated until 1824, when the country was liberated by two 'outsiders': the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar and the Argentinian José de San Martín. In 1866, Peru won a brief war with Spain but was humiliated by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), which resulted in the loss of lucrative nitrate fields in the northern Atacama Desert. Peru also went to war with Ecuador over a border dispute in 1941. The 1942 treaty of Rio de Janeiro ceded the area north of the Río Marañón to Peru but the decision was fiercely contested by Ecuador. Cuban-inspired guerrilla uprisings in 1965 led by the National Liberation Army were unsuccessful, but a series of nationwide strikes coupled with a violent insurgency by the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas caused political instability in the 1980s. Another guerilla group - the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) - also gained in strength during this time. However, the 1990 presidential election victory of Alberto Fujimori (erroneously known as El Chino ("the Chinese one") because of his Japanese parentage) over Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, and the capture in 1992 of inspirational MRTA and Sendero Luminoso leaders buoyed hopes for a sustained period of peace. The main threat to domestic stability remains unemployment and poverty, despite Peru's fast-growing economy. Fujimori was re-elected in April 1995, comprehensively beating former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar. A treaty was signed with Ecuador in 1998, peacefully resolving a contentious 57-year-old border dispute, paving the way for increased foreign investment in both countries. In November 1999, Peru and Chile settled their last long-standing territorial dispute over the important trade bottleneck of Arica. The world watched the April 2000 elections intently as Alejandro Toledo, an Andean Indian from a poor family who became a World Bank economist, gave two-time President Alberto Fujimori the election run of his life. One week before the country headed to the polls for a second time, Toledo filed a formal letter with the National Election Board to further call attention to election corruption, a move that brought a response from the Organization of American States (OAS). It announced that the National Election Office needed more time to correct 'deficiencies' in the voting process. Toledo instructed his followers to write 'No To Fraud' across their ballots and ultimately withdrew from the runoff. Fujimori emerged victorious in that controversial and rigged election. However, he resigned from his third presidential term in November and fled to Japan following charges of human rights violations and corruption that were made against his intelligence adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos. After a brief term by provisional president, Valentin Paniagua, Alejandro Toledo was elected and served as president (2001-2006). The current constitutional president of Peru is Alan Garcia Pérez (2006-2011).


World renowned for breathtaking architecture and scenery, Machu Picchu is a must see for any visitor the country. Every corner of these beautiful ruins is filled with intrigue and display the brilliance of Inca imagination. They fit in perfectly with the towering green peaks that surround the citadel making its seclusion and serenity both humbling and thought provoking. Machu Picchu has recently been voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in recognition of this magnificent accomplishment of human endeavor. It now receives thousands of visitors every year who all clamor to see the citadel with their own eyes. Even after exploring the ruins it is difficult to imagine how they were ever constructed. This always leaves visitors with a great deal of dignified respect for the Inca Empire, which although crumbled in the wake of Spanish weapons and disease over four hundred years ago, still leaves its mark on the society and culture of modern day Peru. To see this Empire at its finest, make a tour of Machu Picchu a part of your South America vacation.


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