Thinking of using US dollars in Peru? Not sure who accepts them and how to change them to Peruvian soles? Read on for answers to these questions and more…
Where is the US Dollar Accepted in Peru?
Most large businesses in Peru will accept the US dollar. These include airlines, some long-distance bus companies, supermarkets, large department stores, upscale restaurants and tour agencies. Many hotels will also take US dollars, as well as some backpacker hostels. Generally speaking, you’ll find US dollars are easier to use in Peru’s larger cities and tourist hot spots.
You’ll find it harder to use dollars in small stores, traditional markets and with street vendors. Dollars are also unlikely to be accepted for short-distance public transportation, including taxis, mototaxis and minibuses. Small bars and family-run restaurants might also be reluctant to accept dollars, but that will often depend on the owner or bar staff and how accustomed they are to receiving dollars from foreign travelers.
Should I Take US Dollars to Peru?
You certainly can, but you don’t need to. If the dollar is your normal currency, then it might be worth taking a few hundred dollars to Peru to spend if and when necessary. But generally speaking, especially if you’re a backpacker, Peruvian soles will be more useful day to day.
Withdrawing US Dollars in Peru
Most banks have ATMs that allow you to withdraw US dollars in Peru. If the ATM dispenses dollars, it will sometimes say so on the machine itself.
Changing US Dollars in Peru
You’ll find street money-changers (cambistas) on main squares and outside many banks. The two cambistas pictured here are standing outside a bank in Tarapoto. They’ll normally be holding a calculator and wearing a fanny pack (bum bag if you’re English); some wear jackets/vests that clearly identify them as money changers. More importantly, they shout out “Cambio! Dolares!” to everyone who walks past — especially foreigners.
The money changers are normally a good option. It may seem counter-intuitive to be changing US dollars in Peru with some random guy in the street, but they tend to give the best exchange rates — better than banks and casas de cambio (currency exchange offices/bureaux de change).
You’ll find casas de cambio at Lima Airport, should you need to change dollars as soon as you arrive in Peru. Some hotels also offer money exchange services, but the exchange rates are typically poor.
Always check the latest exchange rate before exchanging your dollars in Peru, and carefully count the soles that you are given. Safety issues when changing dollars in the street are similar to those when withdrawing money from an ATM in Peru: check your surroundings, change dollars during the day and not at night, and watch for people following you immediately after changing your money.
Can You Tip in US Dollars in Peru?
It’s OK to tip in US dollars in Peru, but in most cases people will prefer soles just because it’s more practical. When you pay in soles, the tip recipient doesn’t have to then go change a dollar or two in the street. For larger tips, dollars are fine. For example, when you tip a guide on the Inca Trail after a four-day trek, it’s OK to tip in US dollars. But when you tip the porters, who might be returning directly to their villages (where there are no banks or money changers), a tip in Peruvian soles might be preferred.
Are There Fake Dollars in Peru?
Peru is one of the world’s great producers of counterfeit US dollars. If you’re accustomed to using dollars, then you’ll have more chance of spotting fakes (you can read more about identifying fake US dollars at www.uscurrency.gov). ATMs should be reliable, and most street money changers too, but always keep an eye open for fake notes, especially when receiving your change (in dollars or soles).
What About Using Canadian and Australian Dollars in Peru?
As far as I’m aware, it’s tricky to change Canadian and Australian dollars in Peru. You might find a casa de cambio in Lima that’s willing to exchange them, but don’t bet on it and don’t expect a fair exchange rate if you do. And no business is likely to accept Canadian or Australian dollars. You’d be far better off exchanging your Canadian or Aussie dollars for US dollars before traveling to Peru.
Do You Have More Questions About Using Dollars in Peru?
If you do, feel free to ask in the comments section below and I’ll try to answer as soon as possible.