Yes, you certainly can use US dollars in Peru. Not only do some businesses accept US dollars, you can also withdraw dollars from many Peruvian ATMs (cash machines).
But back up a little there, as it’s worth emphasizing the “some” in that last sentence.
If you’re on a package tour; if you’re hopping from one four- or five-star hotel to the next; if you’re eating at only the best restaurants; and if you’re only going to Lima, Arequipa and Cusco, then yes, you can probably get by on a big stack of US dollars.
But if you’re a backpacker; if you like street food and dirty bars; if you buy chewing gum, cigarettes and chocolate bars from regular shops on regular streets, then a stack of US dollars won’t get you too far unless you change it to Peruvian currency — the sol (formerly the nuevo sol) — at the first opportunity.
So, yes, you can use US dollars in Peru, but you’ll soon realize that a pocket full of soles is vital for day-to-day activities.
Who Accepts US Dollars in Peru?
US dollars are typically accepted by the following businesses in Peru:
- modern backpacker hostels
- large supermarkets and department stores
- upscale or touristy restaurants
- travel agencies and tour operators
Places that won’t accept US dollars could include:
- stalls in traditional markets
- small stores
- street vendors of any type
- local public transport (including standard taxis and city minibuses)
- smaller, non-touristy restaurants
- most bars, unless they are in tourist zones in cities like Lima and Cusco
Should You Take Some US Dollars to Peru?
You don’t need to carry any US dollars in Peru (I never have). If you’re coming from the USA, then go ahead and bring some — they’re easy to exchange and you can use them in some places, as mentioned above.
But there’s no reason to bring dollars if your home currency is different — UK pounds or Euros, for example. You can easily get by on Peruvian soles and by using your debit or credit card (Visa is best).
If you are traveling in Peru with dollars, keep up-to-date with the latest exchange rate as you’ll probably need to change dollars for soles at some point. This is normally easy to do, but you run the risk of being screwed over if you don’t know how many soles you should get for your dollars (watch out for fake money in Peru, too).
Also, any dollars you do take to Peru need to be in tiptop condition. Try paying with a worn or torn banknote — US or Peruvian — and you might receive nothing more than a sneer of abject derision. The good news, however, is that you can normally take your worn or damaged notes to the local bank, who might be willing to change them for something more presentable.
As always, leave any questions or comments below. Thanks!