What to bring on a Northern Peru holiday

A good maxim when packing to go on holiday is 'half the luggage; twice the money'! Peru has plenty of shops, selling everything from Alpaca sweaters to camera batteries, and by spending in them, visitors are doing their bit to support the local economy

Moreover, we once had a client arrive for a two-week holiday in Belize with just hand luggage ... and this was by choice, not at the whim of the airline. He had two shirts and would wash one, while he wore the other. 

Nonetheless, Peru North understands that this is not the norm, and so please see our advice on what to bring. Northern Peru is a very diverse place, geographically, climatically and culturally, so there will be variations according to your exact destination. We will start with the essentials, and then suggest additions, according to the region or activity. 

Before we start, another good maxim is 'layering': peel off during the warm day, and add layers as it cools down after dark. By this rationale, it is better to have two fleeces, rather than one thick overcoat, as an example. 

Luggage: the days of lugging everything on your back are over, as you will not be expected to carry your bags a long distance. 

  • A soft case with rollers is a good option. Easy to wheel the short distances between transport and accommodation.
    • Make sure you can put a little padlock on this for extra security.
    • It is best not to overfill to start with, so you have room for purchases; and closing the case is not a struggle every time you change hotels.  
    • Put identifying tags on all cases. 
  • A small backpack (25 litres approx), in order to carry the things you need during the day (ie water; sun & rain protection; snacks etc.).

Essential Clothing: 

  • Comfortable footwear: I find lightweight hiking boots - with ankle support - to be ideal for most situations. Others prefer trainers / sneakers. 
  • Sandals / flip flops / crocs: for relaxing in hotels, lodges and camp sites, and on board Amazon cruises
  • T-shirts: for every day use. Older ones could be given away at the end of your trip. 
  • Long-sleeved shirts: it's a good idea to have a couple of these, for areas with lively insect life, and perhaps also for evening wear. 
  • Fleece: can get cool at night, even in the Amazon region. 
  • Shorts: a couple of pairs take up little room in your luggage and always come in handy. I find sports shorts very practical, being lightweight and easy to wash ... and can double as underpants in an emergency! 
  • Trousers / long pants: lightweight is the way to go, as heavier materials, such as denim, take much longer to dry. 
  • Underwear: of course! I always assume I won't have a chance to do any laundry, and so take enough underwear to cover me for the whole trip. Other items of clothing are generally easy to re-wear, buy or borrow, even in remote locations, so not quite so important. 

Essential Accessories: 

  • Camera (with spare batteries and memory). 
  • Binoculars.
  • Sun block (high factor - the sun is very strong close to the Equator, and either on/near water or at altitude).
  • Insect Repellent: be sure it contains the ingredient DEET. The higher the percentage, the more effective, but the more diluted varieties are safer. 
  • Sunglasses (with good UV protection).
  • Hat (wide-brimmed).
  • Personal Medicines.
  • Passport (can be left in hotel safe when on excursions, but a photocopy should be carried at all times).
  • Rainproof jacket (lightweight).
  • EpiPens: if you are allergic to insect bites or stings, these are not readily available in northern Peru, so good to have a few with you.
  • Toiletries.
  • Book & Writing Materials: to fill your downtime and record your impressions. 
  • USB Stick: for sharing photos with fellow passengers or guides. 

Here are some region-specific suggestions to go with the above: 

Amazon Rain Forest:  Peru's Amazon jungle areas are generally hot and humid, and rainstorms are regular and intense. Therefore, comfort and practicality are the rule. 

Stylish - yes; Practical - no. 

Amazon Clothing: 

  • Long trousers and long-sleeve shirts are generally recommended, especially on excursions. 
  • Lightweight, tightly-woven cotton is generally best, as it protects from the sun and insects.
  • Given that clothes get wet and dirty, and it can be hard to dry them while on an Amazon cruise or at a lodge, we recommend bringing more than you would for other destinations. A rule of thumb is one long sleeve shirt for every two days of Amazon travel, and a T-shirt for every day of travel. 
  • Sandals with straps: as you are likely to enter the water, it is good to have footwear that won't come off in the water, and still offer protection from rocks, logs etc. 
  • Rain Poncho: more luxurious cruises and lodges provide these; but if not, it is easy to buy cheap, plastic ponchos, that while not stylish, are very effective in keeping you and your backpack dry. 
  • Waterproof trousers: to be used in conjunction with the poncho in heavy rain, or can be used on their own, in muddy, damp conditions. 
  • Wellington boots: these are the most effective footwear for hiking in the Amazon jungle, and will normally be provided by the lodge or cruise boat. Ask us, if not sure. Can be bought cheaply in Iquitos or Tarapoto, if necessary. 
  • If you plan to walk in trainers or hiking shoes, be sure you don't mind that these get muddy. 
  • Bandana: Passengers find these very handy to cover their necks ... and add a hint of outback style to their look!  
  • Bathing Suit: swimming is one of the greatest pleasures in the Amazon. 

Amazon Field Equipment:

  • Camera: you will be sure to want to capture your jungle experience, but please note that, if you hope to take good wildlife shots, a camera that can shoot many frames per second, and has a telescopic lens of some sort is a requisite. Be sure to bring a water-proof pouch for any camera equipment.
  • Tripod: also essential for quality wildlife shots. 
  • Torch (aka flashlight) & batteries: good for the night-time excursions. We find a head-lamp is the most practical, leaving hands free for photography, wrestling anacondas, firing bow and arrow etc. 
  • Plastic bags: an assortment of small and large ones for storing soiled clothing, keeping things dry etc. Large “Zip-Loc” bags are popular. 
  • Binoculars: in the birding paradise that is northern Peru, these are de rigueur, but it should be noted that a good quality, large pair per person is worth the investment in order to see some of the Amazon's more elusive species. 

Hiking: 

  • Hiking boots: these should be worn-in to avoid blisters, and have ankle support. 
  • Rain Poncho & Waterproof Trousers: see above.
  • Sleeping Bag: this should be of a decent quality to resist the below-freezing temperatures that are often reached overnight (I learned this the hard way on my first Inca Trail!). These are sometimes included in the trek package, or can be rented for the duration of the hike. 
  • Wooly Hat & Gloves
  • Thermal Underwear: ie long johns & vest. 
  • Head-Lamp: invaluable when going to the toilet in the middle of the night ... among other things. 
  • Walking Poles: particularly useful for protecting the joints on steep descents.

Please note that formal wear is not needed on any northern Peru trip.