For safety’s sake the bulk of your money should be carried as traveller’s cheques – preferably of two different types, as rumoured forgeries make individual brands difficult to exchange, from time to time. American Express is probably the best bet since it has its own offices in Lima and Cusco, is widely recognized by casas de cambio, hotels, travel agents and is exchangeable in Peru’s most efficient bank, the Banco de Credito. American Express also offers an efficient poste restante service. Master Card traveller’s cheques (such as those issued by Thomas Cook and HSBC) are exchangeable for nuevo soles in the Banco Wiese and Banco Latino.
US dollars (preferably cash) are by far the best currency to carry in Peru – anything else will almost certainly prove hard to get rid of outside Lima, and the dollar exchange rate is the one most keenly followed. Pounds sterling cash, or even as traveller’s cheques, really aren’t worth carrying; you often get a very poor exchange rate. Damaged dollar notes will not generally be accepted anywhere, but the same isn’t true of nuevo soles.
Credit cards are accepted in the more expensive restaurants and hotels of large cities throughout Peru, such as Lima, Arequipa, Trujillo and Cusco, and increasingly even in smaller places (especially Visa) such as Puerto Maldonado, Huaraz and Iquitos, as well as for car rental. The better known ones (including Mastercard, Visa, Diners Club and Citicorp) can also be used with larger travel companies, but not to pay for bus or train journeys, or at cheaper hotels or restaurants. American Express cards are not that widely accepted. Local currency can be withdrawn from ATMs at a number of banks. Be careful using the ATMs, though, they have become a target for muggings. These banks will also advance cash on these cards for a small fee – the amount varies considerably, so check beforehand.
Getting change from your nuevo soles is almost always a problem. Large denominations should be avoided; you’ll find them more difficult to change anywhere in South America. It’s particularly hard to change the larger notes in jungle towns, and even in Cusco and Lima shopkeepers and waiters are often reluctant to accept them; if they do, they’ll end up running around trying to find small change, which is a time consuming drag for both parties. It’s best to break up large notes at every opportunity – in major shops, bars and post offices. If you hang on to the smaller nuevo soles notes you’ll have few difficulties in even the remotest villages.

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