Peru's currency is the Nuevo Sol, “New Sun”, commonly called Sol, or Soles in its plural form. The conversion rate between soles and US Dollar is about 3,90 (soles) to 1 (dollar) at the moment of writing (August 2022).
Converting Your Money into Soles
It is recommended to convert your currency to Soles once you arrive in Peru as the exchange rate should be better here than in your home country. There are lots of small changing booths located near the tourist centre of any city in Peru and most have an honest exchange rate.
Just to be sure, however, it is advisable to ask the exchange rate at one booth and then double check in one or two more “casas de cambio” in order to see where you will receive the best quote.
At the respective change booth, they also stamp each bill they give to you with their personal mark so that you can take that bill back to the change booth to trade in for another, should you find it is a fake or if it is too damaged to use.
Fakes and Forgeries
Fake bills are fairly common in Peru and nearly everyone has their own way of checking. When you pay in cash you will see merchants holding up the bill to the light, running it between their hands or subjecting it to other tests.
Don't be alarmed, this is common practice. Most people are looking for watermarks, metallic markings, and raised lettering that prove the bill is real. Most merchants won't accept your money if it is too worn out or ripped.
When you exchange your money, don't hesitate to ask the changer for a different bill if you think the one they gave you is too worn out or if it is ripped. If you do get stuck with an old, but real, bill that no one will take, then you can go to any bank and they will replace it free of charge with a bill of equal value.
Using an ATM
Most tourist hotspots have ATM readily available, including 24 hour ATMs. If you take money out of an ATM in Peru, you will have the option to take out money in Soles or in US Dollars. It is advisable to withdraw money in US dollars and then go to a money changing house to convert it to Soles. When withdrawing money in Soles from the ATM your are likely to be charged a conversion fee and your bank´s rate might not be as good as the local one.
Scotiabank appears to have low withdrawal fees for using ATMs in Peru. Scotiabank is a common bank in Peru and you should not have problems finding an agent.
Please be aware that electrical outages are fairly common in many parts of Peru. Don't overly rely on ATMs as a source of cash. If there is a power outage, you won't be able to access your money! Try to have at least some cash on hand in case using an ATM isn't an option.
Make sure to withdraw large amounts of money during the day and avoid using ATMs a late hours.
Paying with Cash or Card
Many places in Peru take credit and debit cards, including Visa and MasterCard. Many tourist shops, souvenir shops, museums, restaurants, hotels and tour agencies offer the option to pay with a card.
Make sure to tell your bank beforehand that you will be traveling to another country so that they can lift certain restrictions from your card in order to use it abroad.
Also, be aware that your bank may charge you a fee for international transactions.
Many places in Peru, however, do not take cards. Market stalls, street vendors, and smaller stores or restaurants normally will only take cash.
Managing Your Money: Watch Out for Theft!
Once you have your money, you need to know how to keep it safe. The most common crime that you need to watch out for in Peru is petty theft. This can come in various forms, but the most common is pickpocketing or stealing things out of your bag or purse.
Some simple precautions and vigilance should help you to avoid this. Your frontline in protecting yourself from theft should be:
Keep your valuables close
Store your money, phone, and documents in a money pouch under your clothes or in an inside pocket of your jacket or backpack that is not easily assessable.
While a money pouch hidden where only you can access it is the best option, sometimes this isn't very practical if, for example, you need to do a lot of back-to-back shopping like grocery shopping in the market. Getting things out from under your clothing can be a hassle and each stop only requires a few soles as payment. In this case, go for the inside pocket of your jacket or backpack for safe but easier access.
It is better to keep things in your jacket as opposed to your backpack because your backpack could get snatched. Keep your jacket zipped up if you keep things in an inside pocket. Wear your backpack in front to keep a better eye on it. If you are a woman, your bra makes a great pocket and improvised money pouch! You can even buy sports bras that come with pockets sewn in exactly for this purpose or sew one in yourself.
Be vigilant in crowded places
Keep an eye on your valuables especially in crowded streets, markets, tourist hot-spots, and when using local transportation. As a foreigner ,you will stick out and be an instant target no matter where you go, but these places are where you will most likely run into thieves. They flock to crowded areas where they can easily rob you and slip back into the crowd unnoticed.
Don´t get distracted
Be very aware of your surroundings. While there are many exciting things that can distract you, don't lose track of where you are, what you are doing, and who else is near by. Got jostled by someone in the crowd as you paused to admire a stunning view in the middle of a crowded sidewalk? They might have taken that moment to peruse your pockets or unzip your bag. Also be aware of what type of neighbourhood you are in.
While it is unlikely that you will just stray into a dangerous neighbourhood as they tend to be located far away from touristic centres, you should still remain conscious about the place you are exploring. Use your common sense.
Some thieves might peg you as a lost tourist, and for them that is easy prey.
Use the buddy system
If you are traveling with family or friends, keep an eye out for each other and your things.
Keep in touch with your things
If you have to put your backpack or bag down for any reason, use your leg to prevent a run-by snatching. Step through a strap so that the backpack or bag is securely wrapped about your leg and no one can just grab it and run off.
Be conscious of loose items you might have on your person like jewellery or accessories. Some thieves, for example, might grab the pair of sunglasses that you pushed up on top of your head.
Don´t carry all your valuables
In general, minimize any damage a thief might inflict by only taking the amount of money you will need for your day's activities and leaving your extra money and credit card in a secure location in your hotel room. If you are robbed the thief only made off with part of your travel budget, not all of your money and credit card.
If you can't be sure of leaving your extra money, credit card, and documents in a safe place where you are staying, then this is the moment for a good money pouch under your clothing.