Written by Kieran Proctor

How To Pay In Peru: And How To Tip Like A Local!

Payment and tipping might seem like it’s straightforward in Peru. But most of the tourists that I see, tip too ...

Payment and tipping might seem like it’s straightforward in Peru. But most of the tourists that I see, tip too much, at the wrong times and they pay with the wrong means. And, if you don’t know how to pay or when to tip, your vacation could end up costing you much more than you’re expecting.

Now, I live in Peru. At one time or another, I’ve bought everything from a can of beer through to actual real estate in the form of an apartment. And for purchases big or small, here’s how I personally handle payments and tipping in Peru.

How To Pay In Peru: Cash Or Card

Like most other countries the world over, Peru has three main methods of paying for goods and services. You can pay with cash, card or a ‘tap and go’ payment option on your mobile device. And the electronic options are widely accepted in Lima and in all touristic areas of the country like Cusco, despite what you might have heard.

Now, I’ve ranked your payment options below, based on three primary factors. They are safety, convenience and fees. And the order in which I’ll tell you that you should use them, from best to worst, is as follows:

  1. Tap & Go with Apple Pay or Google Pay
  2. Card
  3. Cash

Note: Peru also has mobile payment applications called Yape and Plin. Plus, local bank accounts can make payments via cell phone numbers. But these options are not readily available to tourists.

How I Pay In Peru

For the vast majority of all my payments in Peru, I use ‘tap and go’ through Apple Pay with my WISE digital debit card. Now, I do have local Peruvian bank accounts in both Peruvian Soles and United States Dollars, but I don’t use these on a daily basis.

Instead, I use my free WISE digital debit card for the bulk of all my daily transactions. And this is because it not only insulates my main accounts from digital theft, but also because WISE gives me the best exchange rate with the lowest transaction fees in Peru.

Now, sneaky transaction fees and card skimmers, scanners and cloning are what you need to be aware of in Peru. No mainstreet bank is going to give you the mid-market (real) exchange rate. Banks make money by slicing off a percentage on every transaction.

I use WISE because it gives me the real mid-market exchange rate. But I also use the WISE digital debit card through my mobile phone, because it prevents card skimming, scanning and cloning.

If you’re using a physical bank card from your home bank and it gets skimmed or cloned in Peru, the thief can clean out all of your credit and savings accounts in a matter of minutes. With WISE and through ‘tap and go’, they can’t skim, scan or clone my card.

Yet, if by chance some digital thief did get into my WISE account, they can only get what’s in my WISE account at that time. Because it’s a digital debit card that I can top up in real time from my actual bank accounts, they can only get the small amount of money that I have in my WISE account at any one time!

Note: WISE works with Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay and all the other mobile providers. So, no matter which model phone you have, it will work. I just use Apple Pay because my current phone is an iPhone.

Local Tip: I even used WISE for my larger cross border transactions when I was buying a new apartment in Lima. It worked flawlessly and was significantly cheaper than my Australian and Peruvian banks.

How To Get Cash In Peru?

ATM machines in Peru are notorious for having low limits and high fees. Plus, ATM machines are a magnet for nefarious individuals looking to rob people. Personally, I refuse to use ATM machines in Peru. And that’s because it’s not just the banks engaged in daylight robbery, you may actually get robbed in broad daylight!

Instead, I use cash transfer services. In my case, I use Western Union like an ATM and I send myself cash. I then pick it up from the outlet with my passport.

Getting cash through a cash transfer service removes the tiny transaction limits that all ATM machines seem to have. I can send myself cash in USD or Soles. And I can send as much as $50,000 USD per transaction.

Plus, I only pay a fee of around $4 USD. Which is much less than the $20 USD that some ATM machines will charge.

Local Travel Tip: Avoid ATMs whenever and wherever you can in Peru. You’ll increase your safety and decrease your bank fees, simply by avoiding the use of ATMs.

Getting cash from an ATM in Peru
I will always avoid getting cash from an ATM in Peru, whenever possible.

Which Bank Card Should I Use To Pay In Peru?

The bank card that you should use to pay for goods and services in Peru, will depend on your personal circumstances. But, there are some things that you should ensure your chosen card does have.

You need to make sure that the bank card that you use in Peru, has the following attributes:

  1. Is a debit card that is not linked to your main bank accounts;
  2. Has ‘tap & go’ functionality and is compatible with your mobile phone;
  3. Has no hidden transaction or exchange fees.

Note: You need to separate the card you use in Peru from your main bank accounts. This is the most critical aspect. You need to have a kind of air gap between your main bank at home and the card you use on a daily basis in Peru. This prevents anyone from skimming, scanning or cloning your card and emptying all of your foreign bank accounts.

Payment Scams To Avoid In Peru

When you’re out for the evening in a restaurant or bar around town, you need to know that when it comes time to pay your tab, there are a few tricks and scams you need to avoid. The first is the currency in which you pay and the second is how you pay.

When paying in Peru, you always need to:

  1. Choose the currency carefully;
  2. Look out for card skimming, scanning and cloning devices.

Now, when you pay your restaurant bill or bar tab, the server will sometimes ask you whether you’d like to pay in USD, GBP, Euro or Peruvian Soles. And you should always select Peruvian Soles.

Just like the private ATM machines you find in other countries, that give you a horrible exchange rate if you allow the machine to conduct the currency conversion, a lot of the payment processors in Peru have a similar function.

Instead of giving you an exchange rate equal to or better than your card provider, the point of sale (POS) system will use a lower exchange rate. And the exchange rate it does give you if you select a currency other than Peruvian Soles, could be 10-20% lower than your card provider. Thereby adding 10-20% to the actual cost of your bill.

The second thing you need to be aware of and look out for when paying, is a card skimmer, scanner or cloning device. Despite my best efforts to dissuade you from using a physical card, if you do decide to use your foreign visa or mastercard, don’t let the waitress or bartender walk off with your card.

Don’t let your physical card out of your sight. And do watch the machine that it’s used on. Look carefully at the machine and satisfy yourself that the machine doesn’t have anything added to it, that might allow a thief to capture your card number.

Tipping In Peru

Tipping in bars and restaurants in Peru is generally expected. But only when the service is good. Unlike the USA, tipping in Peru is completely voluntary and it has no set percentage.

You should only tip in Peru if the staff members serving you, have done a good job and they have provided you with a good service. If the service was slow or lacklustre, then you should not tip. Just pay your bill and leave.

Yet, if the service was good, always consider tipping. A tip is a reward to say thank you to the staff member who worked hard for you. It’s considered rude not to tip, when the service was good.

Don’t tip taxi drivers, Uber drivers, delivery couriers, bodega (convenience store) clerks, supermarket attendants and just basic service workers. Tipping is only common in restaurants and bars in Peru.

Local Travel Tip: Don’t just tip everyone, all the time. And definitely don’t fall into the trap of taking a photo with the ethnic looking persons walking around with llamas. Because what they’ll want isn’t a ‘tip’. They’ll expect you to pay them about $20 USD in USD. It’s actually a scam.

How To Tip In Peru

If you’re paying your bar or restaurant tab with a ‘tap & go’ electronic payment option (recommended), there will be no service charge or ‘tip’ added to your bill. Instead, the service worker will politely ask you if you would like to add a ‘tip’ (called ‘propina’).

When you’re asked if you would like to add a ‘tip’, don’t just say a percentage. Don’t tell them 10% or 20%. The payment processors don’t have an easy function that will allow the waitress to add a percentage to the bill. And the attendant will need to whip out a calculator and try to work out what the total bill is, with the percentage added.

Instead, tell them an amount in Peruvian soles to add to the bill for a tip. Tell them 10 soles or 20 soles. And that’s a lot to them. The average service worker makes around 50 Peruvian soles a day. So a 20 soles tip has added almost 50% to their daily wage.

Now, if you’ve paid your bill in cash (not recommended), don’t just leave the change in the check-holder and walk away. If you do, you might find the waitress running after you down the street, thinking you’ve forgotten your change. Which creates an awkward experience for both you and the service staff.

If you’re going to pay in cash and leave a cash tip, hand the check-holder back to the waitress with the tip still inside. Say thank you and then leave the premises. That way, the service worker will know that you’re giving them a tip and they won’t just assume that you’ve forgotten your change.


Hopefully after reading this article, you’re not going to make the mistake of tipping anyone and everyone, that you meet on your holiday in Peru. And I hope that I’ve successfully convinced you of the dangers associated with ATM machines and carrying around a physical bank card, that’s linked to your bank accounts back in your home country.

If I’ve made you think twice about who and how you pay in Peru, my job here is done. Because the more money you save and the safer and more enjoyable your holiday, the more you’ll rave about Peru when you get back home. And you’ll become an unofficial ambassador, for this beautiful country!

Safe travels!