After receiving a couple of emails from people looking for travel tips on cycling in Peru, I decided to put together the answer in one place. These travel tips on cycling in Peru cover most of the commonly asked questions. I hope they prove useful for you!
Cycling in Peru – A Few Travel Tips
1. How safe is Peru? What risk is there from bandits and other criminals?
Everyone has their own experiences, but I felt Peru to be a very safe country. Touring on a bicycle will immediately make you somewhat of a novelty with the locals of course, but there were no particular dangers. That said, there is one area that most cyclists will avoid, and that is Paijan in the north of Peru. Tales of robbery are not just limited to bicycles – Tourists travelling on bus and car here also get robbed. Best avoided I think!
2. What accommodation do you recommend? Normally we camp but are unsure how safe that will be when cycling in Peru, and how many campsites are there?
Almost every village or town has accommodation of some description, and most of it will cost less than 10 dollars a night. Of course, you shouldn’t expect too much for this! A room with a bed that you would probably prefer to lay your sleeping bag on is the norm out in the sticks, but the tourist centres have better quality accommodation. Camping (wild camping) is more than possible throughout the country, and I did it on many an occasion. It's very easy up in the mountains, but of course, it will get cold at night! On more than one occasion, the water in my water bottles froze when I left them on the bike – bring them into the tent is my hint here!
3. How bad are the mosquitoes?
I didn't really notice them that much when cycling in Peru, although they are present in the lower areas. It really is going to depend on which parts of Peru you are going to travel through – Up in the mountains, you won't find any mossies, but you may encounter biting flies of other types. Overall, not much of a concern. Insect repellent might not be a bad idea, as is covering up at dawn and dusk when they tend to bite the worst.
4. What is the quality of the roads and what are the drivers like?
Road quality can be quite variable. The main roads are normally in pretty good condition, but they are not so much fun to cycle on with the traffic etc. In addition, where a main road is poorly maintained, it is harder to cycle on than if one took a minor dirt road. The minor roads I will call “dirt roads”, but these can very from quite literally dirt, to small gravel type stones. These are far more fun to cycle on, the traffic is less heavy, and there is certainly more of a sense of adventure.
5. Anything else we need to know?
A few things that I would mention are
Speak some Spanish – You will be lucky to find anyone outside the tourist centres that speaks English… In fact, you will be lucky in some of the more remote villages if the people speak Spanish!
700c wheels are a rarity. If you are cycling in Peru with these, make sure you have all the inner tubes, spokes and spare tyres you think you might need. Take spare brake pads as well – Those long downhill descents will soon wear through them! This is hard-core bicycle touring at its finest!
Guinea Pig – If you are going to try it, do it in a small village and pay a dollar or so as opposed to 15 dollars in a tourist hotspot. You'll probably just have it the once anyway! I've tried it a couple of times, and wasn't particularly impressed.
Cash – Keep enough on you to last between cities. Small towns wont have an ATM machine.
If you have any other questions, just drop me a line. My bicycle touring blogs through that period are pretty accurate. Depending on the length of time that you want to travel, picking a route will perhaps be the hardest thing. Peru is a lot bigger than you might at first think. It is also, in my opinion, one of the best countries to cycle through, beautiful with stunning views… Hope you enjoy your trip!
If you are interested in general tips about bicycle touring, check out these bicycle touring tips.