By Renato Romero
During the course of my life, I have seen 3 different currencies in Peru. The first one was known as Sol de Oro and it was used since 1931 until 1985 when I was ten years old. At that time the inflation became so bad that the government decided to get rid of this currency to create a new one known as Inti. This new currency only lasted until July of 1991 when an uncontrollable inflation pushed the new government to establish once again a new currency which was named Nuevo Sol. This currency has been used since then and all governments until today have managed to keep it strong. When this new currency started to be used, I was a teenager and I remember that I was able to exchange 1 American Dollar (USD) for 1 Nuevo Sol (S/.).
During the first days of this year people were able to exchange 1 American Dollar for 3.60 Nuevo Soles (in average), but in the last 4 months this exchange rate has jumped at rates never seen before, and nowadays S/. 4.10 (Nuevos Soles) are needed to buy 1 American Dollar. This sudden exchange jump has been caused by the election of Pedro Castillo as the new president of Peru as well as foreign economical data. President Castillo is a syndicalist teacher, from the Andean town of Chota located in the region of Cajamarca. He seems to be a radical lefty supported by a communist party known as "Peru Libre". Both of them, Castillo and the left party, "Peru Libre", have managed to make investors stop their plans to invest in current and new projects, and billions of dollars have been lost in the markets or have been sent to foreign countries such as the US to keep it safe. For the benefit of all Peruvians, I hope that the minister of Economy will be capable of fixing this situation.
Where to exchange money in Lima
Most travelers make it to Peru by air, and most of them carry American dollars or Euros. It is at the Jorge Chavez International Airport where travelers will have their first chance to exchange money, but the rates paid at the airport are lower than the ones paid in the tourist towns of Lima. Whenever I go back to my country, I exchange fifty or one hundred American dollars at the airport to pay for a taxi and a meal. Ath the airport, I only exchange enough to allow me to settle, and then go and look for a safe place with the best rates to exchange as many soles I will need for my stay in Peru. I suggest travelers to do the same.
In Lima, I usually stay in Miraflores and here is where I exchange dollars for soles. I usually walk to Ave. Larco on direction to Kennedy Park (coming from Larcomar). During this 7 to 8 block walk I look for money exchange stores where rates are the best ones and the store is not crowded. I also prefer to do business with a store that is affiliated to Western Union and/or Money Gram. At Larcomar, there is a money exchange kiosk where money can be safely exchange but rates are too low.
If my hotel would be far from Miraflores, I would book a safe taxi for a couple of hours and ask the driver to wait for me at the Kennedy Park parking while I exchange what I need (I never say what I am going to do). In downtown Lima, I would only exchange money in small amounts. I must say that I never exchange money in the streets with people offering this service and this should be everybody’s last resource.
Where to exchange money in Arequipa
In Arequipa, travelers usually arrive by air or land, and the bus stations in Arequipa as well as the local airport offer money exchange kiosks but rates are even worse than the ones offered in Lima. These are two places where I never exchange money. In Arequipa, I usually exchange money at downtown in the corners of streets Gral. Moran and San Juan de Dios, or in the city of Cayma in the corners of Ave. Cayma and Ave. Ejercito. There is less crime in Arequipa than in Lima, but I still take the same precautions in my city, Arequipa, than I take in Lima.
If I am heading to Colca Canyon or another remote area, I always bring as much soles as I am going to need during my excursion (dollars won’t be needed here unless your hotel accepts dollars or euros). In these areas is extremelly hard to find places to exchange dollars, and there is one their rates will be very low.
Where to exchange money in Cusco
When I visit Cusco, I exchange money at Ave. El Sol. The first two blocks are located right next to the main square of Cusco and this section of the avenue has several money exchange stores and most of them offer the same rate (best rates in Cusco town.) During my stay in Cusco or anywhere in Peru, I avoid exchanging money in banks since their rates are considerably lower than everywhere else.
Cusco is a region where most business owners will accept dollars, but the exchange rate will be not comparable to the ones paid in Ave. El Sol. If visiting a remote area, soles should be brought to cover all expenses since locals sometimes refuse to take dollars.