One of the perks of living abroad in Peru is having friends and family come and visit you. It always feels like a blessing when people choose to travel from another country to spend time with you and visit Peru at the same time, so in order to ensure that this is a positive experience for everyone involved, here are a few tips:
IT’S ALL ABOUT PREPARATION
Let your visitors know ahead of time what they should pack and how much to bring with them; I still have flashbacks of lugging my Mum’s massive red suitcase on her first trip as we were “backpacking” around South America. As uncomfortable and impractical as it was to travel with, it should be acknowledged that she did fill it with artesanias, supporting the local communities and artesanos along the way. Most importantly though, make sure your future visitors are well informed about the micro-climates in Peru; the heat and mosquitos, the cold and the altitude that they will encounter along the way. The best advice you can give them is not to bring flashy jewelry, clothes or valuable personal possessions that they would be too upset about being separated from. There are greater disparities between people who are wealthy and people who have very little here, which means higher rates of petty crimes and theft.
Take extra precautions and don’t assume that your visitors are as street-wise as you are, as you have already gained valuable knowledge from living here. Once again it was my Mum who filled her coin purse with a sizable amount of cash in Cuzco, planning to splurge it at the local market. Unfortunately though, she had it precariously tucked into the back pocket of her jeans, and by the time we got to Pisac someone on the bus had already taken possession of it. So make sure your guests are informed about the risks and take extra precautions, for example in taxis, don’t keep your handbag or even all your luggage next to you, particularly coming out of the airport as someone can stick their hand in the vehicle and separate you from it very quickly. For the majority of visitors to Peru their first stop is Lima and inevitably the airport, so if you can’t pick them up yourself make sure you have a safe taxi waiting for them inside the terminal, as the airport is notorious for robberies and sadly many involve taxi drivers. On a lighter note, if it’s your guest’s first trip to a Latin country let them know about the cultural differences such as kissing someone on the cheek as oppose to shaking their hand when you are first introduced or see one another, as this is the common way of greeting people here.
Lima is a modern city, however once you step into the provincial areas there is a lack of access to many basic things so prepare yourself and your visitors before you get there. Things to keep in mind are the lack of ATM’s (and currency exchanges), modern supermarkets, pharmacies (small ones are run out of people’s houses but they are not fully stocked with all medications) and in general everything will be much slower and more relaxed. Due to the informal public transport systems waiting times can be difficult to estimate, so don’t make travel plans that rely on a tight schedule and easy connections. When people come to visit the north of Peru I always provide them with the precautions they need to take to avoid contracting dengue, which is basically to avoid getting bitten by mosquitos. This means always using a good quality repellent, mosquito coils and always sleeping with a mosquito net. Make sure you hotel room has a mosquito net and a fan, especially during the summer. Although less noticeable in affluent parts of Lima, access to water is a daily struggle for many people here so be super conscious about conserving it and encourage your visitors to do the same; particularly in provincial areas where water is only delivered every few days. We should really be like this the world over as it is becoming our most valuable resource and scarcer every day.
TRANSALATOR & GUIDE
Unless your guests speak Spanish well, you will find yourself in the role of translator, from the big conversations with all of the friends and family you introduce them to, to all of the small daily tasks such as buying artesanias in a market or checking in to a hotel. It is exhausting, so be prepared to really go out of your way to make your visitors feel comfortable by navigating this language barrier for them. As always when someone comes to visit you, especially if they are new to your city or town, it is up to you to be the tour guide and show them all the wonderful places your home has to offer. This is even more the case when you host visitors in Peru, albeit a temporary home you are still the knowledgeable one and a source of information. So don’t just take them to the places that are listed in the tour guide, make the most of your insider’s knowledge and take them to the little spots that make this place special for you.
About the author: Ellie Ryan is an Aussie expat working and living in Peru. She is the Founder of TEFL Zorritos, a TEFL training institute that trains people to become English language teachers and places them in positions in Peru and abroad.