Gringo Packing 101: 9 Must-Haves For Traveling In Peru

Traveling in Peru can be stressful, exciting, and ridiculous. Here’s a list of things items to cover all the bases. Pack with us and have a blast in Peru!

9. The prescription “I-hope-I-never-need-to-take-these” antibiotics.

For in case your stomach is not able to master Peruvian cuisine at first bite. You can get these prescribed from a travel clinic before your trip. If at any point you do get sick from drinking the water or eating something you can’t handle, having a basic travelers antibiotic will save you a traumatic visit to la pharmacia, and will help you kick the bug immediately so you have more time for sangria and ceviche in Peru.

Peru backpacking
PHOTO Lena Kazer

8. Winter clothing you would never expect to need.

This one depends a bit on where in Peru you go and what time of year, but considering the diverse elevations and multitude of ecosystems you will encounter, bringing scarves, hats, and mittens is a brilliant choice. Or even better, plan on spending time in the various market-places where you can buy alpaca wool mittens in various colors, hats with earflaps and string ties, and patterned socks that come up to your knees. You’ll be warm and remarkably stylish (for a gringo).

Peru backpacking
PHOTO Lena Kazer

7. Sandwich and garbage bags.

These take barely any room in your suitcase and are tremendously helpful while traveling. The sandwich bags are great for leftover food, waterproofing electronic devices, storing ticket stubs and other keepsakes, and dozens of other purposes. The garbage bags are great when you need an impromptu poncho in a surprise downpour, for storing wet bathing suits or towels, for lining your suitcase or backpack, or temporarily using as your suitcase or backpack should it break. Brilliant!

6. Waterproof flip-flops.

While remembering to pack hiking shoes is often a no brainer, flip-flops are equally vital. They’re great as a slip on for quick errands or day outings, throwing at your travel companions, and for showering at hostels or stays with shared bathrooms.

Peru backpacking
PHOTO Lena Kazer

5. Clothes you can layer.

The unpredictable weather requires a savvy traveler armed with numerous articles of clothing one can apply and remove moment to moment. I recommend bringing mostly cotton shirts and sweaters, as they are comfortable, easy to wash, and easy to match. Find a fit you like and get a few colors, no one will know the inside of your suitcase looks like a Gap catalogue.

4. Hand Sanitizer and/or baby wipes.

Any day trips you take will end with your dirty aching body happily curling into the seat of a taxi, van, or train. When you remember that you packed a chocolate bar for post-hike heaven, you’ll look down at your dirt-crusted fingernails and wish you had latex gloves. You’ll be the hero for the whole group when you take out these gringo cleaners.

Peru backpacking
PHOTO Lena Kazer

3. Mini-packs of tissues.

Tissue is arguably the most important item to pack. In my experience, tissue was frequently absent from most bathrooms in Peru, so having your own mini-pack is a blessing. They are also good to have for eating, the sniffles, and reminding yourself of your mom. Bonus if you get the kind with monkeys or kittens on them.

2. Dymenhydrinate or another motion sickness cure.

Dymenhydrinate is an over the counter antihistamine used to prevent nausea, vomiting, and dizziness associated with motion sickness. Before traveling to South America I had never heard of it, but it truly rescued myself and several of my travel companions when motion sickness threatened to have us toss our tamales. Be wary of taking too much because it does cause drowsiness, but for overnight bus rides, train rides, and the hike, it will be the difference between clutching your garbage bag (see, another use!) and snoozing happily. Anti-motion sickness wristbands with pressure point beads also work well if you’d rather avoid taking pills.

Peru backpacking
PHOTO Lena Kazer

1. Patience, flexibility, and a great sense of humor.

Traveling in South America can be stressful, exciting, and ridiculous. Time is treated differently in Peru; the regimentation and timeliness worshipped in America is not norm, so you will want to prepare for people, planes, and food to be late, by our standards. Have a drink, and enjoy the wait. Sometimes your plans will fall through or change do to weather or something extraneous. Take it as an opportunity for another adventure, and don’t get held up on particular goals or expectations. Laugh when something goes wrong, try your best to speak Spanish even if the only word you know is “baño,” and most importantly, embrace the gringo within.

Lena Kazer

Lena is a Chicago native, her travel style consists of red cowboy boots that make her feel like she can take over the world. She adores Peru and can't travel without her journal to draw or write in.

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