Peru - Frequently Asked Questions

US citizens traveling to Peru
  • Visa not required for stay of up to 90 days. 
  • A valid U.S. Passport is required
  • As you go through the immigration check point in Lima, a small piece of paper (approx 3" x 4") will be slipped into your passport. Keep that paper in your passport.  You will need it when you leave the country.  

About Iquitos
Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iquitos for information about Iquitos as well as a map of Peru locating Iquitos.

Hotel March 7
our first night in Iquitos, we will stay at:
Hotel Maranon, a modern, 3 star hotel near the main plaza in Iquitos

In the unlikely event that the Maranon is filled to capacity we will select an alternate nearby hotel and update this information.

Airport pick up
The hotel will pick you up at the airport. The cost of your transit in included in your course fee. Cielle will give your arrival details to the hotel staff so they will know when you will be at the airport.

If your arrival flight into Iquitos will be delayed, please call the hotel to let them know the new pick up time at the airport.

The Maranon hotel phone number (Peruvian country code is 51) 065 242673
There are help-and-information desks at the Lima airport. The staff at these desks are very helpful and speak some English.  They can help you make a call to the Hotel in the event your flight is delayed. I have used this service in the past when one of my flights was delayed. The information desk staff was happy to dial the number for me and speak to the hotel staff in Spanish for me. 

Hotel check in
If Cielle or Jeffrey are not able to meet you at the front desk, please check yourself in. We will make your reservation as well as pay for your room.
  • Couples will share a room
  • Participants traveling without a partner will have private rooms

Meals the first and last days in Iquitos
Cielle and Jeffrey will be in the hotel lobby at 6:00pm.  Those interested in going to dinner as a group are welcomed to assemble in the lobby to walk with us to a nearby restaurant for a dutch treat meal. You will find many excellent meal choices for under 30 Soles per meal (approximately $12)
(Breakfast the next morning is included with the hotel stay.)

You will  want soles for buying meals the first and last day in Iquitos. (a few - but only a few  - restaurants accept credit card payments). To plan for this expense, count up the number of meals you are likely to eat in Iquitos, in light of your air travel, arrival and departure plans

 

March 7 - need to pay for your own meals on this day.

March 7-18 all meals through breakfast on March 18th are included in your retreat fees

March 18 - you need to pay for lunch and dinner this day

March 19 - Retreat  ends with breakfast (included) at hotel.  



Money

The Peruvian currency is the ‘Sol’. The current exchange rate is (as of August 2014) approx. 2.85 soles per 1 US dollar. There are many ‘cambios’ or money changing places in the Lima airport and in Iquitos. We find the exchange places in the Lima airport offer good exchange rates.


At various and unpredictable points in your journey you my encounter local people offering handcrafts, primarily embroidered cloths and rattles and simple jewelry.  If you might want to make a purchase from them, you'll need to bring extra soles along to make your purchase. 


There is no way to obtain Soles while you are at the retreat center other than to borrow them from another participant.

 

Options for obtaining Soles or exchanging Dollars into Soles


ATM machines - We strongly recommend that you bring a debit card with you. ATM machines are found in most cities and are an easy way to obtain Soles. Exchange rate is generally good. No lines, 24 hour availability.  Clearly marked machines are even sometimes available at open air markets. You will probably be charged the equivalent of $3-$4 per transaction. You will be able to withdraw either US dollars or Peruvian Soles from an ATM machine.  We recommend that you withdraw Soles for use in Peru.  If you withdraw US dollars you will then have to find a "cambio" to exchange them to Soles..


Cash 

  • Some restaurants, stores, etc accept US dollars as long a your bills are as new and unblemished as possible.  Not all vendors accept US dollars.
  • Some open air vendors will accept unblemished US bills. In addition to bargaining the price of something you buy from an open air vendor, you will also have to negotiate the exchange rate should you pay in US dollars.  Obviously this only becomes a major concern for fairly high-value purchases.
  • Banks accept US dollars as long a your bills are as new and unblemished as possible and will exchange them for Soles.  There may be a small charge for this and Peruvian banks often have long lines.
  • You may also encounter street side money exchangers who will exchange Dollars for Soles.  Their rates tend to be OK. No lines.   I generally feel uncomfortable doing money exchange in such a public way where by-standers are able to see the transaction.


Travelers checks – very safe but it can be difficult to find a place that accepts them. Generally only exchangeable at a bank. This is time-consuming as there are often long lines at banks and banks are not always open. You will probably pay a 1% commission to your US bank to purchase travelers checks as well as a commission to exchange them. We do not recommend travelers checks as your primary means of funds.


Expect to bargain the price of almost everything from cab rides to souvenir purchases.



Malaria
Please do not bring malaria pills. They are incompatible with ayahuasca, and are not necessary at our center. Malaria is not a problem in the Iquitos area.


Mosquitoes

We have not found mosquitoes to be a problem even in the wettest month of the year.  Yes, there are mosquitoes and we did get a few bites but no big deal. On optional jungle walks there were more mosquitoes so during a jungle walk, we simply wore long sleeves and long pants and were OK.  

The mosquito net over each bed can be lowered at night to ensure a mosquito-free night's sleep.

Water

Do not drink the tap water in Peru. 


Filtered drinking water will be provided at the retreat center. Please pack a refillable water bottle.   

 

In addition it is best to:

  • Brush your teeth with bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes
  • Avoid fresh fruit juices. Juices in Peru are often freshly made by blending fresh fruit and water.  Although delicious, the water used may not have been filtered.
If you will extend your travel in Peru:

Recycling projects are just beginning to be initiated in Peru. It is best to bring a refillable water bottle that you will fill from larger bottles rather than to purchase several smaller bottles of water each day.  A great alternative is to bring a small water-purifier with you. There are many of these available, usually from suppliers of backpacking gear. What we use is a small battery-powered device called a “SteriPEN”. It takes 90 seconds to sterilize a liter of water.


Digestion - food

Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables that you cannot peel unless you trust the source of raw produce to have been handled with proper hygiene.


The food at the center is washed and handled hygienically so you can eat raw produce there.  The food at the center is very simple. Mostly vegetarian, breakfast is porridge or eggs. Fruit, vegetables, cooked grain and lentils for lunch. Soup for supper. Very little seasoning is used. The idea is that we eat simply to allow very little "stimulation" from herbs or spices, in our diet at the center to receive maximum effects of the plant medicine.

 

As with any international travel, your body will encounter unfamiliar foods. Consider packing digestive aids such as pro-biotics, digestive enzymes and diarrhea medication. You may want to bring charcoal capsules available in whole food stores.  At the first sign of digestive upset, take one of these capsules.  The charcoal changes the pH of your digestive tract and will frequently avert indigestion and diarrhea.


Accommodations at the retreat center

Bedrooms are in wooden longhouses with double occupancy. Rooms are clean,  comfortable, have 2 beds with mosquito nets (although mosquitoes are rarely a problem here) and linens. The center turns on a generator each evening for about an hour.  There is electricity in the bedrooms for that hour.  This is authentic rainforest accommodation, used for centuries by indigenous people. There are no gadgets, TVs, or internet in the bedrooms to get in the way of your experience, so you can let go of the outside world and focus on your healing. When the generator is off you may use candles for light in your room.  The center has candles.


There is a bath house with showers and toilets.




Internet

The retreat center has internet wi-fi several hours each day. Internet reception can be accessed in the retreat "common room".  The internet connection will be slow.


There is also wi-fi in the hotel where we will lodge in Iquitos on the first and last night of the retreat.


In most small to large cities in Peru there are abundant internet cafes.  Less than $1 per hour.  Internet is slow and the cafes tend to be busy and noisy.


Weather in Iquitos Area


Despite being only three degrees south of the equator, the weather in Iquitos is surprisingly pleasant, rarely too cold and never really hot.  The normal nightly low temperature is about 70° F (22° C), while the daily high is seldom above 90° F (32° C). The frequent light rain showers cool thing down just when you might begin to feel too hot.  Surprising too is the fact that the frequent Amazonian rains seldom limit activities as the rain storms are usually of short duration and one can simply wait a short while as the storm passes.


February is one of the moderately wet months with an average monthly rainfall of 9 inches. June, July, August are considered the "dry" months, which are also the coolest months. Average rainfall for the month of August is 6.5 - 7 inches. Expect at least a little rain every day.


Altitude

The altitude is about 350 feet above sea level.  


Attitude

 Your most important resource, and your gift to those around you. Advance preparation encouraged ... trust and commitment essential.


What to bring


Start with whatever you'd usually take on a trip away from home: Your personal clothing, toiletries, writing paper and pen, etc.

Here are items specific to this area and this trip.


  1. Water bottle.  
  2. Flashlight. (You'll need a light to move around at night)
  3. If that flashlight is large, please add a small one for ceremony. So that you don't disturb others if you need to move around or go outside.
  4. Light-weight shirts suitable for hot weather, and lightweight shorts.
  5. A light sweater or jacket for cool nights.
  6. Bathing suit - there is a swimming pool at the hotel we will stay at before and after the retreat.
  7. Long loose pants and top for ceremony.
  8. Mosquito repellent.
  9. Sunscreen.
  10. Light-weight hat for protection from sun.
  11. Light-weight rain coat or rain poncho.
  12. Sandals
  13. Comfortable closed shoes for jungle walks - sport shoes work well.
  14. Extra batteries for your flashlight and camera.
  15. Used books for the retreat bookshelf - books relevant to your journey towards wholeness may be relevant to others'.


Telephone service

There's no phone service at the retreat center, other than by internet using skype. A generator to run computer connections is turned on for a few hours daily.  Internet connection is slow.  At times when the connection is good, you might be able to use Skype to make a phone call.


Following pertains to the city of  Iquitos.


Unless you have an international plan with your cell phone, your US cell phone will not work in Peru If you do have an international cell phone, you will probably need to purchase a special Peruvian "chip" or SIM card in order to make and receive calls to and from phones in Peru. These chips can be purchased at most cell phone stores in Peru for less than $15. As of April, 2012 you can purchase a Peruvian SIM card for an internationally compatible cell phone at the airport of Lima,  close to the entrance of the national terminal by the food court. You will also have to purchase minutes for your phone.


The two cell phone service providers in Peru are Movistar and Claro.  If you buy a SIM card and cell phone minutes in Peru, make sure the shop you purchase it from gets it set up and working, especially if you do not speak Spanish.

  

If you need to make a call to the US from Peru, there are shops that offer "phone booths" for you to use to make both domestic and international calls. 


If you have a Skype account, you will be able to log onto Skype at a hotel or internet cafe in order to make phone calls. Every internet cafe we have been at in Peru in the last 2 years has downloaded Skype and has a head-set microphone to enable Skype calls.  Calling the US from Peru via Skype will incur a charge from Skype of less than 3 cents per minute.  Internet cafes in Peru change less than $1 per hour for use of the internet.  Some of the hotels we will stay at will have wifi, internet access and a computer for quests to share. The computers at hotels will not likely be Skype-equipped.



Electrical current and outlets


Phones and computers can be recharged  at the "common room" retreat center. during the hour per day that the generator is running.


In the rest of Peru:

Current is 220 volts opposed to the US where it is 120 volts.

  • The power cords for most laptop computers include a rectangular shaped power supply that accepts voltage ranging from 100-240 volts. The power supply should state the voltage range.
  • You may research and purchase step down converters on-line for under $20. There are a variety of these converters suitable for different types of appliances.

The wall receptacles are generally the same shape as the 2 prong receptacles one finds in the US. 

  • There are rarely 3 prong receptacles (that 3rd prong is the grounding prong). A 3 to 2 prong converter may be useful if your appliance uses a 3 prong power cord.These are readily available in hardware sections of discount stores in the US 
  • Some outlets in Peru, only accept a plug with round prongs. We have purchased adapters for this situation in hardware stores in Peru for very little cost. 

  

Also recommended is a portable surge-protector; the current is less stable than in the US.



Emergency contact information 


To be posted



Tips
While it is true that Peruvians are not big tippers, tipping is a great way to show your appreciation to the people serving you and to have your dollars go straight into the pockets of the people that need it most. A 10% tip will be warmly accepted at any restaurant and will put a surprised smile on a person's face. 


If you want to leave a tip for the retreat staff, you are welcome to do so.

Taxi drivers do not expect tips. Fares are negotiated prior to initiating the trip. DO confirm the fare when you get in the cab.

Hotel porters and bell boys expect a tip of $1 per bag.

Clean unblemished dollar bills are readily accepted as tips - I generally bring 20 one dollar bills for this purpose


Language
Peru's official languages are Spanish and in certain areas Quechua and Aymara. 
There are dozens of languages spoken in the Peruvian Amazon River Basin.  Amazonian region natives learn Spanish at school. Monika
 at the retreat center speak English and some Spanish and can assist you with translation as needed at the center.

Time zone

Peru does not adjust for Daylight Savings. During the months that the US applies Daylight Savings Time , the time in Peru is the same as the Central Daylight Time in the US.  This is the time zone that Chicago is in.


Photographing the People of Peru

Ask permission first and give those you have photographed a tip following taking their photograph. 1 Sol per person is adequate.


Public Restrooms

There is generally a charge of 1 Sol to use public restrooms. Toilet paper is not always available in public restrooms. It is a good idea to bring some with you.

 

Airport taxes:

Usually the airport taxes have been added to the price of your ticket. If this is the case, a stamp or sticker will be attached to your boarding pass when you check in. If airport taxes are not pre-paid then you will pay them at the airport. These taxes can be paid in Soles or US dollars

Lima to Iquitos–approx. $6

Iquitos to Lima – approx. $6

Lima to US - $30.


Travel Insurance

You may want to purchase travel insurance before departure. It is perfect protection in case you have to cancel your trip, miss a flight, return home early or need to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. It must be purchased before you leave for your trip.  I have purchased it in the past from www.travelguard.com