What to pack for Peru. A detailed packing list with all the clothing and special items you will need for your perfect trip to Peru.
Peru is an incredibly diverse country. From beaches to glaciers, from nightclubs to islands without electricity, there’s virtually no experience you can’t have in Peru. Just check out my guide on 20 amazing things to do in Peru to get a good impression. But endless possibilities also mean you have to pack very wisely. Here is what you should pack for Peru so nothing goes wrong.
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Things you should know BEFORE packing for Peru
Peru has doesn’t have seasons as we know it. That close the equator, temperatures are fairly moderate throughout the year. Instead, it has different climate zones:
- Coast and desert
- Highlands and mountains
- Jungle (Amazon Rain Forest)
Depending on where you want to go, you will have to pack special items. Layering clothes is usually considered the best idea for any extended Peru itinerary, but more on that later.
May through October is generally considered to be the dry season, with little to no rain. Most insiders agree that this is the best time to visit Peru.
December through March is called the rainy seasons (especially in the mountains and the Amazon rain forest). The rainy season is especially strong in Machu Picchu: Here’s a detailed guide on the weather in Machu Picchu.
April and September are the two transition months, with mixed weather but usually less of a crowd.
The coastline (Lima etc.) never sees any rain. Instead, there will be a lot of fog except during the “summer” from December to March. (If you are still wondering whether you should visit Lima, do read my guide!)
Essential Peru packing list
Before I answer any questions about what to pack for Peru, you need to choose a proper suitcase for Peru. Most visitors will move around quite a lot, often with trains. It’s better to have a softshell suitcase you can easily carry around. If you are comfortable with it, a big backpack or a duffel bag will be the best option.
If you are doing Peru the luxury way, then just bring whatever suits you (just in case, I compiled a list of the 5 best hotels in Peru), you will have transfers and porters anyway. Be aware, that most trains to and from Machu Picchu will have a weight limit. Ask your hotel to get clearance for a heavier bag in advance. I never had any problems then.
Think in layers. It can get cold, wet, and extremely warm all in one day. The humidity is rather high as well, so I’d recommend you to go for cotton or, better, special fast-drying outdoor clothes. For Peru you should pack:
- Light-weighted T-shirts (preferably something fast drying)
- Long trekking pants (Loving the Lundhags Baalka Pant; but not cheap; these are the ones u see on the pictures; there is a short version as well)
- Underwear as you see fit
- Cotton socks & Trekking Socks (!!)
- A jumper/zipper (will be cold at higher altitudes, especially at night);
- A light-weighted rain jacket or a poncho (I really like this one and recommended it elsewhere already)
- a large scarf (good for the plane, good for the chilly hours in the evening)
- a hat (preferably one to cover your neck)
- one dressy outfit (for going out or to a good restaurant)
- (optional) bathing suit for hotel pools & hot springs
You will spend most of your time in Peru on foot. Cusco, Machu Picchu, Colca Canyon and the Sacred Valley of the Inca all have one thing in common: big, big cobblestones. Do bring:
- comfortable walking shoes/trainers; I am using the Adidas Terrex Swift (pic above; click here for the female version) ) as they can easily handle a short hike as well.
- Hiking shoes, preferably with high ankles (if you plan to do any hiking); don’t shop them online but search for the perfect fit in a real store!
- Sandals (they may not be sexy, but I am very satisfied with these Teva sandals | women’s version) there are some fancier models as well.
I really can’t recommend Flip Flops, as the roads/paths really are nothing you’d expect in any western city. I would also leave the high heels at home (except you plan to spend time in Lima).
Peru has power sockets of type A and C and a standard voltage of 220. So, US citizens (and many others) will need an adapter. Bring:
- Power adapter; Buy an international one you can use on your next trip
- Good Camera
- Extra battery & SD Cards for your camera
- A flashlight (only if you do budget/hiking; alleys might be very dark at night)
- An e-reader (I used to read only paperback. Loved the smell and so on, but these days I always got my Kindle Paperwhite along. Need a new book, just download it – also saves luggage space)
Important: If your gadgets can’t handle a voltage of 220 you have to bring a step-down converter. If you just want to charge a mobile or a camera battery, this step-down converter will probably be fine for you.
You could also opt to get a combination of a power adapter and a step-down converter. I have been very satisfied with the BESTEK gear (they also offer special gear for the car). They got a Universal Travel Adapter 220V to 110V Voltage Converter that comes with USB ports and whatever else you may fancy. It’s a wee bit more expensive, but in my opinion, a great investment if you are traveling with a lot of electronics.
Toiletries & Medicine
Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lake Titicaca are all way above 2,000 meters of altitude. The sun can be very intense. Other parts of Peru (like Machu Picchu) are located in the middle of the jungle, so gnats and mosquitos can be a problem. Do bring:
- Bug spray (pick something strong and no organic rubbish!)
- Sunscreen (I use Neutrogena with high SPF as I got fair skin)
- Something against altitude sickness (so something like this); the locals will offer you coca tea – but that won’t help if you are prone to real altitude sickness
- Painkillers (headaches are common on your first day in high altitudes)
- Blister plasters (nothing beats Compeed if you ask me)
- Anti-malaria medication (consult your doctor if you are traveling to areas where you need it)
Important: Do consult your doctor if you need any vaccinations. Rabies and yellow fever are an issue in some parts, etc.
Other items to pack for Peru:
- Daypack (I love this one), as my camera fits in as well); as temperatures, can change quickly, you will need a place to store your layers as well; I visited the Amazon rain forest as well, so you might bring a waterproof one instead; got one from Lundhags)
- Water canteen (So something like this)
- Copies of all your important travel documents (preferably print & online)
- A small travel umbrella (so something like this)
- A money belt or some equivalent
Peru is, sadly, not the safest country. I did not have any problems, but I only stayed at 5 or 6-star hotels. If you are backpacking or/and staying at hostels you might want to invest in a backpack lock or similar items. Thefts are rather common in Peru, especially in the Lima area, and it’s better to be prepared than sorry.
What to pack for Machu Picchu, Cusco & the Sacred Valley
The above packing list were all the essentials. If you are traveling to the area of the Sacred Valley (meaning Machu Picchu, Cusco, Pisac & Urubamba) you should prepare for high altitudes. So, skip the fashionista allures and focus on outdoor clothing. You will break into a sweat quite fast above 3,000 meters – especially on a sunny day.
I compiled a very detailed Machu Picchu packing list, you really should check out if you are heading to the famous Inca ruins. I’ll keep things brief here.
As most travelers to Peru focus on exactly this area, the initial packing list pretty much covers all your basic questions about what to pack for Peru. In addition, I would recommend you to bring at least one full hiking outfit, two if you plan to stay longer. It should be light-weighted and fast-drying and doesn’t need to be very warm.
You should also have at least two pairs of shoes fit for longer walking. But you probably know, that wearing the same pair of shoes for a prolonged time is not especially good for the health (and smell) of your feet.
Also, know that temperatures can drop quite fast at night, especially in Cusco. One or two warm sweaters will be more than welcome. As mentioned above, some precautions against altitude sickness are recommended.
If you are visiting during the rainy seasons, do invest in rain gear and preferably pack each item twice. Count on your clothes getting wet. Because of the high humidity, they will take ages to dry, so having a spare sweater or pants along will save the day. A good and big poncho (where your backpack will fit) is an essential item. I have this one, and it served me more than well.
What to pack for the Amazon rain forest in Peru
The Amazon rain forest is one of the most remarkable places on this planet. I could name you a thousand reasons to visit (I saw pink dolphins and tapirs, and so much more!), but instead, I’ll stress that rain forest means rain. But actually, the rain isn’t your biggest concern. The biggest problem is high humidity (around 100 percent) and mosquitoes. The combination of the two leads to rather contradicting packing decisions (ideally you would want to wear short pants, but that also means serving the bugs an easy meal).
- Long-sleeved pants to protect you from insect bites. Focus on fast-drying and super light-weighted stuff.
- Long-sleeved shirts. I got a couple of anti-bug shirts was pretty satisfied (pic above)
- HIGH rainboots (if your lodge doesn’t provide them)
- LONG summer Trekking Socks to wear in the rain boots
- A waterproof bag / dry sack (I am using these) for your electronics
- Water canteen (!) – they don’t sell bottled water on the Amazon ;-)
- Hat or baseball cap with a strap (you will probably spend a lot of time on riverboats with strong wind)
- Sunglasses (again against the wind on the riverboats, don’t think, just believe me & bring them)
It is very important to note, that any prolonged stay in the Amazon rain forest will wreak havoc on your electronics. While the high humidity will leave your clothes feeling “just” damp and moldy, your camera or mobile phone might short-circuit eventually. The better lodges will offer you a special dry-box. As most tourists don’t stay longer than 5 days, this is usually no problem, even if there is none.
What to pack for the dry season in Peru
I mostly covered everything you need to pack for the dry season in Peru. Generally speaking, the dry season (April through October) is the colder time of the year. So, if you are coming to Peru during these months, I’d recommend you bring something against the chill.
During the day, temperatures are usually fairly moderate, so you can leave your skiing suite at home. But walking back home to your hotel after a nice dinner in Cusco will make girls want to have a shawl along and a good sweater. Again, think in layers and have something you can easily undress again.
If you are visiting the Lake Titicaca area or the Altiplano during the dry season, some winter clothes are actually recommended. It is fairly warm during the day (especially in the sun). Expect something around 15 degrees Celsius, but temperatures drop to the freezing point and beyond at night. Especially the pictures from lake Titicaca are mostly deceiving as you see the brilliant sun.
I wouldn’t waste luggage space on a warm jacket (expect you are hiking in the Altiplano). A waterproof windbreaker (and a sweater underneath) will be enough.
What to pack for the wet season in Peru
The wet season is not especially popular among tourists. But prices are lower as well. Also, tickets for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail sell out fast, so ever-increasing amounts of tourists do visit Peru during the less favorable time. And actually, the coastal area is much sunnier (if colder) during the off-season.
Umbrellas, ponchos, rain jackets and fast-drying clothes will be your best friends. Waterproof everything will save you many unpleasant surprises on the Inca Trail or any other hike.
What to put in your carry-on
Personally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend traveling to Peru with just your carry-on. Peru is such a diverse country, that packing too light will be a mistake you’ll regret for a long time. Also, apart from Lima, Cusco, and a couple of other big cities, the shopping infrastructure isn’t especially good. At the end of the day, you will spend more time looking for stores than the time you save at the baggage reclaim.
As usual, I would put all your valuables, documents and a set of clothes in your carry-on. Think smart, but don’t overthink it ;-)
I hope this little packing list for Peru will help you prepare for your (hopefully awesome) trip to Peru. If you got any further questions on what to pack for Peru, do ask them in the comments below and I’m sure I will be able to assist you.