ABOUT Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is divided into three regions. The coastline is formed by a long snaking desert hemmed in between the sea and the mountains. The Andes to the east and the cold Humboldt sea current that runs along the coast are what make this area so arid. From the Sechura desert to the Nazca plains and the Atacama desert, the dry coastal terrain is occasionally split by valleys covered by a thick layer of cloud and drizzle in the winter. The vast Peruvian jungle, which surrounds the wide and winding Amazon river, is divided into two differentiated areas: the cloud forest (above 700 masl), which features a subtropical, balmy climate, with heavy rain showers (around 3000 mm a year) between November and March, and sunny days from April to October; and the lowland jungle (below 700 masl), where the dry season runs from April to October and is ideal for tourism, with sunshine and high temperatures often topping 35°C. Accessibility by air there are 14 airports equipped to receive commercial flights and 10 ready for international flights: Lima, Arequipa, Chiclayo, Pisco, Pucallpa, Iquitos, Cusco, Trujillo, Tacna and Juliaca. By sea Peru's largest port is Callao, outside Lima. Other major ports include Paita, Salaverry, Chimbote, Callao, Pisco, Ilo and Matarani. Peru is criss-crossed by more than 78,000 km of roads, of which 16,705,79 km are national highways. Of these roads, 8,711.02 km. run from north to south and 7,994.77 km from east to west. The main roads running down the length of the country are the Pan-American Highway (North and South), which links up the towns along Peru's coast, and the Marginal Jungle Highway which links up the towns in the northern jungle with the south, near the Bolivian border. Cutting inland is the Central Highway, which starts out in Lima and runs up to the central highlands, climbing through the high mountain pass of Ticlio (Kilometer 132), which at 4,818 meters above sea level is also the world's highest railway pass. From here, the road descends to the towns of La Oroya and Tarma, continuing down to the Chanchamayo jungle valley in the department of Junín. New bus terminals are popping up all over the larger cities in Peru. There are separate terminals for long-distance and local buses. If you’re travelling via a bus terminal you’ll need to pay a terminal tax. Bus and train stations are well guarded. There’s a large police presence and there’s always an information desk. The platforms are only accessible with a valid ticket. On the bus and train rides your bags are stowed at the bottom of the bus or in a separate baggage carriage, and you should get a receipt. Travelling by train the Backpacker and Vistadome train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes has an on-board snack cart. You can book ahead for the Vistadome which is more comfortable with panorama windows and spacious seats- a great way to travel in Peru, the baggage limit for the trains is 5kg.
CLIMATE The Peruvian winter June – September is the driest season and therefore the best time of year to travel, especially if you are planning to visit Cuzco area and trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Peruvian summer November – March is the wettest season and with frequent heavy showers. The temperatures are higher than in summer, but the nights can get very cold. Spring April – May and autumn October are the most unpredictable seasons with varying weather conditions much like the British spring and autumn. The weather can be quite good at this time of year and it’s a lot less busy than the Peruvian winter months. In the Peruvian highlands, there are two well-defined seasons: the dry season (from April to October), marked by sunny days, cold nights and the lack of rain (the ideal time for visiting); and the rainy season (November to March), when there are frequent rain showers (generally more than 1000 mm). A characteristic of the mountain region is the drop in temperature during the day: temperatures commonly range around 24°C at midday before plunging to -3°C at night.
BEWARE Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Be vigilant in public places and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night. There have been a number of cases of rape, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas. Take particular care at bus terminals and in taxis. Be alert to the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. If you’re in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Tourists have been targeted and robbed by bogus taxi drivers. Use a taxi registered at the bus terminal or book one from a reputable company. If you hail a taxi on the street make a note of the registration number before getting in. Be wary of taxi drivers offering cheaper than normal fares, which is often a lure for a robbery. If you have luggage, don’t take a station wagon cab where your luggage can be seen. It attracts robbers who use mobile phones to advise accomplices to hold up the cab. Never leave your luggage in the cab with the driver behind the wheel.