With Peru’s long history of textile weaving and handicrafts, perhaps no country in Latin America provides more opportunity for shopping. Partners of shopaholics beware. The question when looking for the best Peru souvenirs is where to begin.
Craft markets, stalls, street vendors and shopping centers are everywhere in Peru. From the cities of Lima and Cusco to the high altitude slopes of the Andes, Peruvian gifts await purchase.
Locals are friendly and enthusiastic in offering souvenir shopping opportunities to tourists. I purchased a scarf on the roadside after cresting a mountain pass on my bike 14,000 feet elevation as an example of available goods.
Shopping Tips in Peru
The Spanish word for souvenir is recuerdo translating to reminder. The night of drinking Peruvian Pisco Sours may create some special memories, possibly ones best forgotten. Not my personal experience of course.
As delicious as those Pisco Sours are, visitors may want to return home with a more lasting Peru souvenir.
From Peruvian folk art to pottery, alpaca clothing to baskets, leather to candles, woodwork to silver the choices seem endless. Definitely no shortage of what to buy in Peru.
Should I bargain for my Peru souvenirs?
In markets, on the street or floating reed island some type of bargaining is accepted and usually expected. In higher end stores this is not the case. Be good natured in your negotiation. Know that the prices in Peru are some of the best in Latin America.
Prepare to pay in cash. Many guidebooks advise that US cash is acceptable but that was not our experience in Cusco and southern Peru. We recommend small denomination Peruvian soles. Merchants are reluctant to give change so our advice is to have the exact change for the agreed to price.
Can I use a credit card to shop in Peru?
Peru retail shops in cities commonly accept VISA and MasterCard and on occasion American Express. However there may be surcharges for the use of a credit card up to 12%. Be sure to ask about extra charges prior to purchasing Peruvian gifts. Of special note, many goods also contain an 18% value added tax.
Credit cards are typically not accepted in markets or smaller stores.
How do I know if my Peru souvenirs are authentic?
With look alike stalls side by side all advertising their look alike goods as hand made where is one to begin?
Llama wool masquerading as alpaca in the form of hats, sweaters and blankets will smell when wet. Most merchants will not be keen to have you walk in the rain to test it out.
Shopping in higher end stores in larger centers you are more likely to get 100% alpaca rather than a mix.
Baby alpaca is incredibly soft, light weight and definitely more expensive. If your Peru travel schedule allows, visit a high end store early in your trip. Feel a genuine alpaca garment so you will be a smarter shopper in the markets. If a deal for real alpaca seems too good to be true it likely is.
Are their souvenirs in Peru that are illegal to bring home?
In some markets Andean condor feathers are on sale. Both illegal to sell and purchase this is one souvenir from Peru you do not want in your possession at customs.
Should a merchant try to sell 1000 year old artifacts this would be another another purchase to avoid at all costs.
Peru shopping for social good
In the village of Chinchero, a group of 30 weavers and their children ensure the 2000 year old traditional textile weaving thrives. The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco is a non profit organization providing support to ten weaving communities on a fair trade basis.
Chinchero is one of ten communities weaving ancient patterns and utilizing natural dyes and fibers. In buying the women’s work you get an authentic souvenir from Peru assist indigenous families in generating a sustainable income and preserve textile traditions of the area.
Do you have a favorite souvenir you like to bring home from your travels?
Do you love shopping? For our tips on shopping in Mexico click here.