Rumors are common in everyday life, and you’ll often hear a lot of them about a particular travel destination. While some might be enlightening, some are just old myths with no real evidence or data to back them up. Peru By Bus brings you a small article with the top 3 myths about traveling to Peru you definately need to forget about.

Traveling to Peru

Some of the most common myths go like this:

1. “The Incas built everything (and Machu Picchu is the one place to go!)”

The influence of the Incas throughout Peru is undeniable. Their empire, Tawantinsuyu, was one of the largest in the world in the early 16th century, stretching not only across Peru but also nearby countries..

But don’t go thinking that the Incas were the only major civilization in pre-Columbian times. There were, of course, the Nazca, builders of the famous Nazca Lines, who were themselves heavily influenced by the preceding Paracas civilization.

Head north along the coast of Peru and you’ll discover archaeological sites by the Norte Chico, the oldest known civilization in the Americas. They built the ancient city of Caral. Further north lie the tombs and truncated pyramids of the fascinating Moche and Sican. They buried their rulers with incredible offerings of gold and other precious items.

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If you go inland in Northern Peru you’ll come across the Chachapoyas. They were known as the “Warriors of the Clouds”. The built the amazing fortress of Kuelap. Also in the highlands are ruins of the Chavin civilization, and in the south-central Andes there are Wari ruins to explore.

And that’s just to mention a few of the cultures that existed either long before or during the time of the Inca Empire.

Machu Picchu, therefore, is just one of hundreds of major archaeological sites in Peru. Yes, many were built by the Incas, but not all of them. So don’t only focus on the Incas and Machu Picchu, as Peru has much, much more to offer.

2. “Peru is dangerous!”

Peru is dangerous, don’t go there!” Peru doesn’t have a really bad reputation in terms of safety, but many (probably most) first-time visitors are concerned about security issues. There are also plenty of stories out there of people being pickpocketed, scammed, mugged and worse in Peru. And sure, bad things can happen, but Peru isn’t fundamentally a dangerous place to travel.

You obviously need to exercise basic safety precautions in Peru, the same as you would anywhere in the world. Realistically, the things you have to worry about most are petty theft and traffic accidents (and, to a certain degree, altitude sickness in the highlands).

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Photo: Pedro Szekely´s Flickr

Snatch theft, and any kind of opportunistic theft, is rife in Peru, so always keep one eye and a firm grip on all your belongings. Don’t leave valuables unattended in public anywhere, ever, and don’t be overly trusting in other people just because you’re on holiday.

As for traffic, Peru’s streets and highways can be chaotic. When you’re exploring a town or city on foot, be careful crossing roads and don’t expect cars or buses to stop at stop signs, pedestrian crossings or even traffic lights. If you’re using public transport, stick with the best bus companies and avoid beat-up or generally dubious taxis.

3. “All Peruvian food is great!”

Peru has an excellent international reputation for its food. But sorry, Peruvians, it has to be said: Some food in Peru is absolutely awful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Peruvian cuisine is the problem –just stating that the country’s culinary standards are often at fault.

For example, a backpacker traveling on a tight budget might try to eat lunch every day at a cheap family-run restaurant selling the classic Peruvian menú (an inexpensive set-lunch option). These two- or three-course lunches can cost as little as S/4 or S/5 ($1.20 to $1.50 US). That’s great if they’re actually edible, but a lot of the times they’re not. Or they’re edible, but all you get is a watery soup, a plate of rice, half a boiled potato and a little bone to chew on.

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Peruvian Ceciche

If a backpacker eats like that every day, he or she could easily leave Peru dissapointed. “Why the hell do people say Peruvian food is so good??” 

So do yourself a favor: If you really want to know why Peruvian food has such a great worldwide reputation, treat yourself occasionally. Go eat some classic Peruvian dishes at a locally-recommended restaurant, and escape the S/5 menús occasionally. Or at least find a menú that costs S/7 or S/8 or more. If it looks popular with locals, its probably good.