If you’re thinking of taking a laptop to Peru (or a netbook, tablet), accept the fact that it could be damaged or stolen. If that would totally ruin your trip, then consider leaving it at home.
It’s a hassle traveling with a laptop, mainly due to the extra worry and additional weight. That said, there are a few ways to minimize the risk of damage and theft. I travel around Peru with my 15.6 inch Asus laptop (which I highly recommend, by the way) and have never had any problems, despite — or perhaps because of — my paranoia about it being damaged or stolen.
I also travel with my Asus ZenFone 2, which is perfect for taking pictures, checking emails, using Facebook, and calling my mum on Skype. For some travelers, a good smartphone can be a perfect alternative to a laptop. But here I’ll keep the focus on taking a laptop to Peru.
Laptops and Peruvian Customs Regulations
Before we go any further, it’s worth pointing out the Peruvian customs regulations for bringing a laptop into the country. According to SUNAT (Peru’s National Superintendency of Tax Administration), each traveler entering Peru is allowed to bring one laptop, as well as one tablet and two cellphones. You can also bring two external hard drives and four USB sticks. Anything beyond this is subject to a customs charge.
Protecting Your Laptop from Damage in Peru
You’ll need a decent case for your laptop. The case will take up additional space in your backpack, but that padding is really worth it. You won’t want a bulky case if you’re trying to travel light with limited backpack space; my laptop case, as shown in the image above, is slim but offers just enough padding to protect my laptop from jarring bumps and other minor impacts. It’s done well so far.
When you travel by bus in Peru, it’s best to keep your laptop with you — even with the best bus companies. You could leave it in your main pack in the below-decks storage compartment, but baggage handlers chuck backpacks around like it’s a national sport. I always carry valuables and fragile items (including laptop, smartphone) in my smaller backpack/day pack, which I take with me on the bus (my main backpack, which holds all my clothes etc, goes below decks). I normally keep my small backpack between my feet to help protect it from light-fingered passengers
You also need to consider environmental issues. Water is obviously a killer, so it’s a good idea to carry a plastic bag in case of torrential rain (your main backpack will ideally have its own rain cover). Sand and dust are both laptop-killers, too; blogging on the beach is nice in theory, but there are many cracks and crevices that will testify to the invasive and abrasive nature of sand.
Finally, don’t toast your laptop as soon as you plug it in. Most laptop power supplies can handle both 110 volts (used in the USA) and 220 volts (used in Peru). If you’re not sure, triple-check before plugging in (read more about electricity and plugs in Peru).
Protecting Your Laptop from Theft in Peru
Thievery… a profession so old it makes prostitution look like a crazy new fad. Breaking your laptop is painful; having it stolen hurts even more.
When you have your laptop with you, watch it like a hawk. Keep it in reach. Ideally, keep it hidden. If you have to carry your laptop in the street, put it in your day pack (do not walk around holding your laptop in its carry case for all to see).
If you take your laptop to an internet cafe, snatch theft is a potential threat — especially if you sit near the street. Never leave your laptop on a table unattended, not even for a second. Opportunist thieves are fast as lightning when they see a soft target.
The same applies when you’re traveling by bus. If you keep your laptop with you in a small pack, don’t leave it in the overhead rack. Between your feet or on your lap is a much better option, especially while you sleep, as you’ll be in physical contact with your gear (you can also loop a strap around an arm or leg).
When you need to leave your laptop somewhere, things get more complicated. It’s never a good idea to be walking around in the street with your laptop, but leaving it in your hostel or hotel room is also a risky prospect.
If you’re staying in a three- or four-star hotel, you can probably trust the staff to not steal things from your room. It should be safe to leave your laptop in your room, but ideally hidden from view to avoid any temptation. If you have a safe in your room, use it — if it’s big enough for a laptop.
In hostels, especially in dorm rooms, you really need to be careful. Fellow backpackers, no matter where they’re from, can also be thieves. Leaving your main pack in a dorm room is fine if it contains little more than rancid socks and a few crusty t-shirts. Leaving your laptop in your dorm room, however, is just asking for trouble.
Most good backpacker hostels in Peru now provide individual storage lockers for each guest. These are normally large enough to accommodate a laptop, so make use of them. If there are no lockers, then there might be a secure storage room, normally near the reception area. A storage room is normally a far better option than leaving your laptop and other valuables easily accessible in a dorm room, but only if you feel the hostel staff is trustworthy — a judgment call that only you can make.
Guarding the Contents of Your Laptop in Peru
In the event that your laptop is stolen in Peru, you don’t want to lose anything more than the piece of equipment itself:
- If you’re saving all your travel photos (or any other important files) onto your laptop, back them up onto an external hard drive or USB thumb drive, which you should always keep separate from your laptop.
- Use a strong system password to help guard the entire contents of your laptop.
- Use strong passwords to prevent access to your email account, online banking and other important areas (do not store or save passwords on your machine, and always log out).
- Read more about protecting your data. Start with “Top five data security travel issues” and “How can I protect my data if my laptop is stolen?“
If you have any more tips for traveling with a laptop in Peru, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks!