Peru lies on South America’s west coast and boasts not only a large portion of the Amazon rainforest but also staggeringly beautiful beaches, majestic mountainscapes and plenty of ancient ruins, including Machu Picchu. Besides luring plenty of tourists, Peru, and its capital city of Lima, in particular, has also become a popular expat destination of late.
New arrivals to Lima and Peru will need to pick up some Peruvian Spanish to get by outside of international businesses. Although increasing numbers of young adults can speak English thanks to globalised youth culture, the language is rarely spoken outside large cities like Lima.
Living in Peru as an expat
Due to Peru’s intricate history, the population is a mixture of ethnicities and heritages. Expats will find the country has a diverse and colourful melting pot of languages, cuisines and cultures, including Chinese, Spanish and Amerindian, to name a few.
As one of the largest cities in the Americas, the sprawling metropolis of Lima is home to almost 10 million people. In fact, the city is home to a third of Peru's population, including a sizeable multi-ethnic expat community working in the many multinational companies based here. Lima is also a major financial centre in Latin America and generates over 50 percent of Peru’s GDP. Expats skilled in mining, manufacturing and tourism will find ample opportunities in the country, and English teachers are also becoming more sought after.
Decent accommodation in Peru is generally affordable. Freestanding houses are somewhat rare, but a few areas offer wider choices for expats and working professionals. Residential complexes on the outskirts of large cities often have some of the best choices available for new arrivals.
Expats to Peru should remember that despite its strong economy and multinational influences, it is still a developing country. The country has a limited public transport network which mainly consists of buses and taxis. A rail network exists, but it is more practical for tourists. Expats with their own cars can often explore the country more freely, but roads are generally in poor conditions, especially outside big cities. Air travel is a practical means of transport, considering the country’s size.
Public healthcare in Peru is often underfunded and understaffed. Cities have better amenities than rural areas, but even here, expats generally prefer private institutions. The country has public healthcare, called Segura Integral de Salud (SIS) and EsSalud, but expats often take out private or international healthcare to ensure coverage.
Cost of living in Peru
The cost of living in Peru is generally cheaper than in the US and Europe, especially for locally produced foodstuffs and services such as domestic help. That said, new arrivals should factor in the expenses of hiring taxis or buying a car, as public transport is usually rather limited.
Expat families and children
Public schooling in Peru is generally of good quality, though many schools are underfunded. Tuition is mainly in Spanish, with local languages such as Quechua offered in more rural areas. There's a number of good private and international schools in the country, and the choice of tertiary education is wide and usually of high quality.
Peru is a country with a range of colourful experiences and activities. Families can explore the rich historical sites or take a trek through the beautiful natural landscape. The large cities like Lima and Cusco offer many interesting things for newcomers to explore, including interesting tours and myriad exotic foods.
Climate in Peru
The country has a climate that varies across its different regions. With dry desert climates across its coastal regions and freezing temperatures in its mountainous regions, the climate in Peru may take some getting used to. The more tropical regions also experience a reasonable amount of rainfall during the wet season.
Most expats who choose to relocate to Peru instantly fall in love with this corner of South America. With warm and friendly locals, some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world, a rich history and a good standard of living, it's no surprise. New arrivals can enjoy a low cost of living and a truly unique expat experience.
Population: About 32 million
Capital city: Lima
Neighbouring countries: Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil
Geography: While a mostly mountainous country and with the Pacific Ocean to the west, Peru is extremely diverse in its geography. There are three natural zones. The Costa (coastal) region is a narrow coastal plain consisting of large tracts of desert broken by fertile valleys. The Andes are in the Sierra highlands, with peaks towering over 6,000m (20,000ft). The fertile Selva (jungle) area lies between the Andes and the borders with Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.
Political system: Presidential constitutional republic
Major religion: Roman Catholic
Main languages: Spanish, Aymara, Quechua
Money: The Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN) is divided into 100 céntimos.
Tipping: Some restaurants add a service charge of between five percent and 10 percent, but waiters can be offered an additional 10 percent for exceptional service. Taxi drivers are not tipped, but tour guides are.
Electricity: 220V, 60Hz. Two-pronged plugs with flat blades and plugs with two round prongs are used.
Internet domain: .pe
International dialling code: +51
Emergency contacts: 105 (police), 116 (fire), 117 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side
►Learn more about what awaits expats in this South American country by reading our Culture Shock in Peru page
Are you an expat living in Peru?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Peru. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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