Unless you’re travelling overland through South America, you’ll need to fly to reach Peru. Although prices vary depending on the time of year, how far in advance you buy and the type of ticket, the main airlines seem to hold fares fairly steady and tickets can easily be bought online. Outside of Christmas and to a lesser extent Easter, high season is roughly from late May to early October.
You can sometimes cut costs by going through a specialist flight or travel agent, who, in addition to dealing with discounted flights, occasionally also offer special student and youth fares and a range of other travel-related services such as insurance, car rental, tours and the like.
Most people arrive at Jorge Chavez airport in Lima. There’s an airport hotel (ramada.com), but it’s a fair distance to downtown areas of Lima – Miraflores, San Isidro, Barranco – or even the old Lima Centro. A taxi to downtown Lima takes 35 to 55 minutes (S/45–S/55).
As there are no direct flights from the UK to Peru, getting there always involves switching planes somewhere in Europe or America. From Heathrow you can expect the journey to take anywhere between 16 and 22 hours, depending on the routing and stopovers. The permutations are endless, but the most common routes are via Amsterdam on KLM (klm.com), via Madrid on Iberia (iberia.com), via Frankfurt on Lufthansa (lufthansa.com) or via Miami, Atlanta, New York and Houston on one of the US airlines.
Fares (usually £750–£1200) vary almost as much as route options, and the closer to departure you buy, the higher the price is likely to be, so it is worth booking in advance. KLM, Iberia and Continental airlines (continental.com) tend to offer the most competitive rates.
There’s also a wide range of limitations on the tickets (fixed-date returns within three months etc), and options such as “open-jaw” flights are available (flying into Lima and home from Rio, for example). Having established the going rate, you can always check these prices against those on offer at discount flight outlets and other travel agents listed in the press.
It’s best to avoid buying international air tickets in Peru, where prices are inflated by a high tax (and are not cheap to begin with). If you’re uncertain of your return date, it will probably still work out cheaper to pay the extra for an open-ended return than to buy a single back from Peru.
With the exception of Continental’s frequent nonstop service from Newark to Lima ($900–1500 return), nearly all flights to Peru from the US go via Miami, Houston or Atlanta. Delta (delta.com), Continental (continental.com) and American airlines (aa.com) are the traditional carriers serving Peru from the US. Most airlines can book connecting flights to Miami, Houston or Atlanta from a range of cities throughout the US. A number of airlines fly Miami-to-Lima, including American, Copa (copaair.com) and LAN (lan.com); the fare is usually $1000–1500 return. Fares from New York (via Miami) cost no more than fares from Miami.
Flights from Toronto straight to Lima start at about Can$900 with LAN (lan.com); it costs around the same price when flying from Montréal via Toronto.
There are a huge variety of tours and packages on offer from the US and Canada to Peru, starting from around $1500 for a two- to three-day package and ranging up to $4000–5000. You’ll also find a number of packages that include Peru on their itineraries as part of a longer South American tour.
Scheduled flights to Peru from Australia and New Zealand are rather limited and tend to involve changing planes, usually in the US. High season is December to February; low season is the rest of the year, but prices also vary depending on how long you stay (between a minimum of 21 days and a maximum of a year).
Aerolineas Argentinas (aerolineas.com) fly from Sydney via Auckland and Buenos Aires, with connecting flights to Lima; fares start at Aus$1875. LAN (lan.com), in combination with Delta (delta.com) and Air Canada (aircanada.com), also fly from Sydney to Lima via the US; their cheapest tickets are 45-day returns at Aus$2500. Continental (continental.com) and American airlines (aa.com) fly regularly from Melbourne via Sydney, Auckland and the US (stopovers available) with fares that start at Aus$2800/NZ$3600 and range up to Aus$4000/NZ$5160 for a six-month return in high season, including connecting flights to Lima.
Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com) fly to LA from Auckland and Wellington but have no specific connections to Peru. Qantas (qantas.com .au) have flights from Auckland to LA via Sydney or Melbourne and also fly to Dallas and New York from Sydney, from where there are connecting flights to Lima; prices start from about NZ$1300. Round-the-world (RTW) tickets including Peru are usually a good investment.
All flights from South Africa to Lima involve making connecting flights. British Airways (britishairways.com) fly from Johannesburg to Heathrow and Toronto, which gives the option of flying Heathrow-to-Madrid (to connect with Iberia flights for Lima) or connecting with Air Canada flights to Lima. Lufthansa also fly from Johannesburg to Frankfurt where there’s a change for Lima flights via Caracas (ZAR18,500). South African Airways (flysaa.com) fly to Lima from Johannesburg, with a changeover in either Buenos Aires (ZAR12,000–15,000) or Sao Paulo (ZAR11,000–16,000) and also fly from Cape Town via the US.
Peru neighbours five other South American countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Chile. From Brazil, you can now drive directly into Peru via Puerto Maldonado on the new Transoceanic Highway; Puerto Maldonado is just two to three hours from Peru’s side of the frontier.
Arriving in southern Peru from Bolivia requires catching a bus, either directly or in stages, from La Paz across the altiplano to Copacabana or Desaguaderos, both near Lake Titicaca, and on to Puno, or even straight to Cusco. From Chile it’s a similarly easy bus ride, across the southern border from Arica to Tacna, which has good connections with Lima and Arequipa.
From Ecuador, there are two routes, the most popular being a scenic coastal trip, starting by road from Huaquillas, crossing the border at Aguas Verdes and then taking a short bus or taxi ride on to Tumbes, from where there are daily buses and flights to Chiclayo, Trujillo and Lima. An alternative – and also rather scenic – crossing comes into Peru from Macará in Ecuador over the frontier to La Tina, from where there are daily buses to Peru’s coast.
It’s possible to take a boat ride up the Amazon from the three-way frontier between Brazil, Colombia and Peru to Iquitos. This is a 12-hour to 3-day ride depending on the type of boat. From Leticia, just over on the Colombian side of the three-way frontier, there are speedboats up the Río Amazonas more or less daily to Iquitos. Taking the slow boat is usually a memorable experience – you’ll need a hammock (unless you book one of the few cabins) and plenty of reading material.