If you are going to do any shopping in Peru, it is good that you identify yourself with the Peruvian currency. The official currency of Peru is the nuevo sol (new sun). It comes in both coin and paper form, and is divided into 100 centavos. The coins are broken down into denominations of 5, 10,20, 50 centavos, while the bills come in denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200. The U.S. dollar is also accepted as currency in Peru, and many hotels, shops, restaurants and other businesses are perfectly fine if that is all you have at the time. In fact, so many hotels in Peru advertise their rates in dollars, that you might be somewhat surprised. Nonetheless, it is surely still more customary to use the nuevo sol if you plan to go shopping at any of the Peru markets, particularly those of the open-air variety.
If you want the most complete Peru shopping experience, then you will head for the shops in Lima. Especially in the upscale neighborhood of Miraflores and San Isidro, trendy shops and restaurants are when many visitors like to hang out. The area is generally safe, and the views of the Pacific Ocean are certainly not a drawback. Lima also has handcraft markets and produce markets, and really you can pretty much buy just about anything in the capital city, from knock-off sports jerseys, to exquisite diamond watches. Generally, travel in Peru is quite cheap, all things considered. Many Peru tours are less than you might think, and flying between major destinations is also pretty affordable. At most open-air and crafts markets, it is still customary to haggle, but you should never start at ridiculously low offer, as this could result in an insult. Restaurants don’t generally allow haggling, nor do the major stores, so you should keep it to the artisan affairs.
Perhaps the best handcraft market in all of Peru is the Pisac Market. Pisac is a Sacred Valley town, and besides its market and scenic setting, it boasts the impressive ruins of an Inca fortress. But, many visitors who endure the 10-minute trip to Pisac from Cusco, come for the Sunday market. From near and far, native Andean ancestors of the Inca make their way to the Pisac Market, decked out in their traditional Sunday best. It truly is a most colorful, if not a bit raucous, event. Hundreds of booths surround the Plaza de Armas, or main square, and the souvenirs are as good as they get. That is because they are beautiful items that someone took the time to create with their hands. Musical instruments, beautiful rugs, handbags and masks are among the wares you’ll find here, and hopefully you left extra room in your suitcase. Cusco is also known for its authentic outdoor Peru market, where natives roll out their goods on part of the sidewalk. You can peruse the goods without the oppressive pressure that you can experience in some third-world markets, and the people are a pleasure to interact with, especially if you have brushed-up on your Spanish language skills. This market occurs daily in the old part of town, and as night wears on, the vendors generally pick up and resume the next evening. The Cusco shops, like those in the neighborhood of San Blas, also sell plenty of handmade goods. Cafes and galleries are fun places to hang out here, and shopping in Peru really doesn’t get much better, if at all.
Generally, you can get around Peru on around $15, but if you can swing $50, it will significantly affect your comfort. With plenty of good hostels to choose from, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg on lodging, and even the bulk of nicer hotels in Peru are relatively cheap when you consider what they might cost in other cities. Food in Peru is generally very affordable as well, and plenty of small restaurants have a special dish, generally chicken and sides, that you can get for a good price. Of course, you’ll have to try a Pisco sour at some point. It is the national drink, after all. Just make sure you have cash on you when you travel to the smaller towns and more out of the way destinations in Peru, as travelers checks and credit cards can sometimes prove useless.