Friday, August 31, 2012

Safety and security for tourists visiting Peru

By The Colca Specialist

Safety and Security - Terrorism

The internal terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s in Peru has largely ended, but not completely disappeared. Remnants of the Shining Path terrorist movement are still active in the some of the main coca growing areas in central Peru (Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia and Apurimac-Ene VRAE river basins). There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

Safety and Security - Crime

Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. You should remain vigilant at all times and avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night. Provincial and Inter-city buses are occasionally held up and the passengers robbed. Passport theft is common on inter-city buses. Keep your passport with you at all times during your bus journey and take particular care of valuable personal belongings when travelling on buses at night. You should take care when using web-cafes, restaurants and similar venues as thieves operate in places where people are easily distracted.

You should be particularly careful when arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport. Unwary passengers are often approached by thieves masquerading as tour operators, people who pretend to know them or by bogus taxi drivers. Rogue taxis have frequently been used to perpetrate robberies. You should use the services of one of three official companies located at desks directly outside the International and Domestic Arrival halls. Visit the Lima Airport Partner website which gives details of airport registered taxi companies. Tourists have been targeted and robbed by bogus taxi drivers, especially at night, and when travelling to and from bus terminals, airports and the main tourist areas of Lima, Cusco and Arequipa. Wherever possible you should use a taxi registered at the bus terminal or from a reputable company, such as those that can be booked by radio. If possible book these in advance from a hotel reception desk or by telephone. If you cannot avoid taking a taxi from the street, be sure to take a conspicuous note of the registration number before getting into the vehicle. Be wary of taxi drivers offering cheaper than normal fares which is often a lure for a robbery (hotels can advise you on the standard fare to airports etc if you must get a street taxi). If you have luggage, you should not take a station wagon cab where your luggage can be seen, as it attracts robbers, who use mobile phones to advise accomplices to hold up the cab and rob you further along the road. Never leave your luggage in the cab with the driver behind the wheel. There have been incidents where passengers have got out with their luggage still either in the cab or boot and the driver has driven off. Wait for the driver to stop the engine and get out first. Be aware of the risk of "express kidnappings" - short-term, opportunistic abductions, aimed at extracting cash from the victim. Victims are held while criminals empty their bank accounts with the stolen cash cards: sometimes they are escorted to the ATMs by the robbers. Once the cards have been used the victim is usually quickly released. These have occurred in the main tourist areas in Peru, including Lima, Cusco and Arequipa; they also occur on the routes to and from airports and bus terminals, kidnappers working on the assumption that tourists will have all their cards with them at such times.

There have been a number of cases in the past few years of female tourists being raped and killed. Most have taken place in the Cusco and Arequipa areas, but cases have occurred elsewhere too, in places such as Mancora, Pucallpa and Lima. A recent case occurred in Cusco city in July 2011. Be alert to the availability and possible use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. You should purchase your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they cannot be spiked. If you are in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Women should take particular care at bus terminals, when hiring or getting into taxis, and avoid isolated areas particularly after dark.

Unlike in the UK and elsewhere, ATM machines in Peru do not always automatically release your credit or debit card at the time you receive your money. You sometimes have to request its return by pushing a button. Many ATMs in main towns have instructions in English.

Safety and Security - Local Travel

Local protests are common and often involve closure of roads and occasionally cause disruption to airports and rail services. Protests in Puno can sometimes result in the closure of the border crossing with Bolivia. You should maintain contact with your airline/ tour operator before travelling. In country, you should monitor local media reports for up-to-date information.

Street demonstrations and protests are commonplace in Peru. You should avoid any area in which large crowds are gathering to protest and take particular care if close to places where protests are taking place. You should monitor the local news and seek local advice for the latest information.

If you get into difficulties when travelling you should seek advice from the local Tourist Information and Assistance Service, whose operators can handle calls and enquiries in English. They can be contacted on +51 1 574 8000 (24 hours a day).

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Huaraz Region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains

Several hikers have died and others have had to be rescued after serious accidents in the Huaraz region of the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, where Peru's highest peaks are located. Most rescues are carried out on foot because helicopters cannot fly to the high-altitude areas where hikers are stranded. Contact iperu offices in Huaraz Tel no: (+51) (43) 428812 before starting to climb in the region.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Drug Trafficking

Drugs, organised crime and terrorism are inextricably linked in Peru, as they are in other major drug producing countries. Visitors should be aware of the heightened risk to their safety in regions where there is intensive coca cultivation. You could well be at especially high risk in the vicinity of cocaine processing labs and in areas where terrorists are based, particularly in the Alto Huallaga, Aguaytia, and Apurimac-Ene (VRAE) river basins. You should follow local advice about areas to avoid.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - States of Emergency

A State of Emergency declared for security reasons gives the armed forces responsibility for law and order with the police. Some civil rights are suspended. If you do decide to visit any area under a State of Emergency you should follow instructions given to you by military, police or other officials and heed local safety advice.

A State of Emergency was declared for security reasons on 4 July 2012 in the provinces of Cajamarca, Celendin and Hualgayoc, in the region of Cajamarca, for 30 days. This is due to a number of anti-mining protests that led to the death of some protesters. The State of Emergency was extended for 30 days on 3 August.

A State of Emergency was declared for security reasons in May 2003 and remains in force in the following areas: Huanta and La Mar provinces in the Department of Ayacucho; Kimbiri, Pichari and Vilcabamba districts in La Convencion province in the Department of Cusco (Cusco city and Machu Picchu are not affected); Tayacaja province in the Department of Huancavelica; Satipo province, Andamarca and Comas districts, (Concepcion province) and Santo Domingo de Acobamba and Pariahuanca districts (Huancayo province) in the Department of Junin.

A State of Emergency was declared for security reasons in December 2005 and remains in force in the following areas: the districts of Cholon in Maranon province, the province of Leoncio Prado, and the district of Monzon in the province of Huamalies, all in the department of Huanuco; the province of Tocache in the department of San Martin; and the province of Padre Abad in the department of Ucayali.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel

You can drive for up to sixth months in Peru on a UK driving licence and up to one year on an International Driving Permit. In either case, you should carry your passport with you to prove how long you have been in the country.

You should seek local advice before trying to pass blockades and take particular care if close to places where protests are taking place.

Travel by private vehicle outside major cities is not recommended after dark. Driving standards in Peru are poor, with stop signs and traffic lights often ignored. Crashes resulting in death and injury occur frequently. Drivers do not always show concern for pedestrians.

Bus crashes are commonplace, especially at night. Inter-city bus crashes have resulted in loss of life and serious injury. You should use only reputable transport companies, and where possible avoid overnight travel, especially in mountainous and remote regions. Cruz del Sur, Ormeno and Oltursa bus companies operate with two crews, but accidents still occur. You should always wear a seat belt when travelling by inter-city bus. For more general information see Driving Abroad. The Peruvian Ministry of Transportation publishes a list in Spanish of the intercity bus companies with the highest rate of traffic accidents resulting in fatalities and serious injuries. This can be found at the following link

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Inca Trail

Hikers walking the Inca Trail should go with a guided group. To protect natural resources along the Inca Trail, the Peruvian government charges fees for hiking the trail and there are restrictions on the numbers of hikers permitted on it. Hikers during the high season (June–August) are advised to make reservations for the Inca Trail well in advance via a travel agency. Visitors should always register when entering national parks and should be particularly careful in steep or slippery areas which are neither fenced nor marked. Several climbers have died or suffered serious injuries after falling while climbing Huayna Picchu, a peak near Machu Picchu.There were many tourist who died in Huayna Pichu but the peruvian press doesn´t publish info about the accidents.Be careful. Only very basic medical assistance is available at Machu Picchu.

Safety and Security - Local Travel – Colca Canyon

Hikers walking the Colca Trails should travel with a guided group which is recommended in case you have any kind of problem on the way. In the last months there were many accidents and deaths reported in Colca Canyon provoked by fake tour guides who have not a professional ID card. Be careful and avoid very cheap tour operators which work with illegal tour guides. Before taking buying the tours ask for the tour guide´s ID card and name if it possible.

Visitors should avoid buying tours on the streets. “jaladores” are locals who offer tours on the streets of Arequipa at very cheap prices and then the next day they disappear. If you have any kind of problem you should report it to the touristic police station in Arequipa. They will gladly help you to solve your problems. There are many hotels who offer you the service but it is not recommended to buy tours in the hotels because they are not tour operators and they will charge you an extra quantity of money for the same service.

Commissions are one of the main problems in Colca Canyon. Tour guides are asking for abusive commissions to local restaurants and to pack drivers of mules in Colca Canyon. If you are planning to rent a mule to take you out of the Colca Canyon you better talk directly to the owner so in that way you avoid for paying an extra price for the service.

Safety and Security - Local Travel – Mountainbiking in Arequipa

Mountainbiking in Arequipa is another good option for your holidays. The most well known mountainbiking circuit in Arequipa is Downhill Pichu-Pichu and there are many visitors who choose this option tour because of its safety and because of its variety of landscapes on the way which are not seen in Chachani volcano circuit. If you are looking for a good mountainbiking trip, it is better to buy directly from the tour operators and not in hotels or agencies that are not mountainbiking tour operators in order to avoid high commissions.

Before buying the tour check the credentials of the tour guide and the kind of equipment you will use during the tour . That will help you to realize about the kind of service you will receive. Downhill Chachani is another mountainbiking circuit eventhough that is very high it is monotonous and there is not a notorious variety of landscapes.Many tourists reported the presence of lots of garbage areas and vagabond dogs at the end of this circuit.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sand Buggies

There have been cases of deaths and injury from recreational sand buggies, particularly in the sand dunes around Ica and Lake Huacachina. These buggies are unregulated and the drivers and agencies take no responsibility for the welfare of their passengers.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - River Rafting and Tours on Lake Titicaca

If you intend to participate in extreme sports you should check that the company is well established in the industry and your insurance covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. Those considering white-water rafting should consult local authorities about recent weather and the impact on white-water rafting conditions. Two Australian tourists were killed white water rafting in 2010.

British nationals are advised to travel in groups when walking along the banks of Lake Titicaca. A British National was held at gun point and robbed in early 2011. You should exercise caution at all times and contact the local tourist information centre for advice about known safe zones on the banks of the lake.

Local authorities advise against travelling alone at night in the Desaguadero area on the Peru / Bolivia border at the southern end of Lake Titicaca.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel - Nazca Lines

You should take account of the serious risk involved in flying over the Nazca Lines. On 2 October 2010 a light aeroplane crashed at the Lines killing all six people on board, four of them British nationals. There have been a number of fatal accidents and emergencies at Nazca over the years, including in 2011. In February 2010 a plane carrying Chilean and Peruvian tourists over the Nazca Lines crashed, killing all seven people on board. In April 2008 five French nationals were killed when the aeroplane they were flying in to view the Lines crashed. Past accident investigations have shown that necessary aircraft safety and maintenance standards were not being implemented. We have no reason to believe that proper safety and maintenance standards are now being reliably adhered to.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Spiritual Cleansing
‘Spiritual cleansing’ is a service regularly offered to tourists by shamans and others in Peru, especially in the Amazon area and in Arequipa,Puno and Cusco. This service is not regulated and there have been instances of serious illness and deaths following such ceremonies.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel - General

There are restrictions on the carriage of liquids, sprays and gels (especially in hand luggage) for passengers travelling on l flights from Peruvian airports.

Safety and Security - Political Situation

Peru Country Profile

Street protests, which occasionally become violent, are commonplace in Peru, and can frequently cause disruption to road services. It is difficult to predict where and when protests will take place.

Try to avoid protests and demonstrations and take special care in any area in which large crowds are gathering. Local media reports are a good source of up to date information.

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