Peru solo travel: amazing things I’ve seen and done

If you’re looking for my Peru solo travel safety post, this is not it. In fact, this is not the traditional post I write about traveling alone. This is sort of a walk to memory lane on the amazing things I’ve seen and done.

I was browsing my Facebook photos today and came across multiple photos from the crazy year that I did my Peru solo travel. I remember the 20-something girl in me, and at that moment, I still recognize that girl who left home to travel the world at 25.

Peru was part of my 3-year South America backpacking where I get to travel countries like Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay – all by land! At a very young age, I never believed I’ve done it. Now, 14 years later, I still can’t believe the amazing stories that I had while traveling slowly.

I want to share these stories with you in the hopes that you’ll decide to embark on your own solo travel to Peru. Even if you think it’s impossible for you to travel Peru solo, you’d be surprised with your capacity as a human being. With time, you’ll get used to being alone. And the truth is, you’re never really alone.

Peru solo travel experiences: 1 year in the land of the Incas

#1: I took a bus from Ecuador to Peru for 72 hours!

Before arriving in Peru, I was in Ecuador, a country I did not like so much so I only stayed for 90 days. After my 90-day visa expired in Ecuador, I decided it was time to move on. Peru was the closest and I was able to navigate all these by bus.

Related: How to travel from Colombia to Ecuador by bus
peru solo travel
Goodbye, Ecuador!

The bus ride was long because I started in Quito to Guayaquil. From there, I crossed the border to Peru (by foot) and then took another bus again. I first stopped in Mancora, a beautiful beach town north of Peru where I worked in a hostel (more on that later).

This was so memorable not because the bus journey was long but because I never thought that traveling to Peru overland from Ecuador was easy. At first, I was thinking about all the bad things that could happen but then I learned if you just push through, everything will be fine!

#2: When I arrived in Lima, I stayed with a stranger

Alright, don’t freak out. He was not a total stranger. When I was traveling Palawan in the Philippines (some lifetime ago, honestly), I met this Peruvian guy who became my travel buddy in Palawan. Actually, there were four of us who did all the tours together and just basically hang out the entire trip.

When I told him I was visiting Lima for the first time, he said that he was still in Asia and could not host me in his house. To tell you the truth, I was not even looking for a free stay. Hostels in Lima are cheap so even if I was on a tight budget, a bed in a dorm is still part of my main expenses. In fact, a priority!

See also: The best things to do in Lima, Peru
Back when we were in the Philippines / 2012

Out of nowhere, he opened a Facebook messenger thread between me and his best friend. He introduced us and when I arrived in Lima, I stayed in his house for a few days! It’s really amazing how the chain of people you meet while traveling is all connected. My friend’s best friend didn’t know me but he openly welcomed me into his home just because his best friend said so.

Up until today, I keep in touch with these guys and I know that when they visit my home in Mexico, it will be my turn to return the favor.

➢ Click here to read about this experience

#3: I stayed in a hostel in Lima for a while

I only planned to stay in a hostel in Lima because I got a volunteering job at Kokopelli Hostel, a hostel chain in Peru that has branches in Cusco and Paracas. I was going to the Paracas branch so I figured, why not check out the branch in Lima just to see the vibe?

Read: 32 solo trip ideas for women, recommended by pros
Love this gang!!! I can’t believe this photo was from 7 years ago!

But then I ended up staying longer than expected. The moment I entered the hostel, I immediately clicked with the bar volunteers (and the manager) and they asked me to work in Lima instead of going to Paracas! At the time, Lima was not that inviting for me to stay long-term. I declined the offer but I stayed there as a normal guest. I still got to hang out with everyone!

The people in the photo above? We’re still best friends up to now – I never outgrew them!

#4: I went to Paracas and volunteered in a hostel

This one deserves a book. And I’m on it. I don’t know how to start but sorry Lima, the Paracas branch is way cooler! Paracas is a small town south of Lima (about 4 hours bus ride). Originally, I was only volunteering here for 2 weeks but I ended up staying for 4 months!

See also: My volunteer work in Paracas Peru [2014]

The job was at the hostel bar. Meaning, I had to mix drinks for clients even if I had no idea how to. The bar manager trained us a little bit but pretty much, we were on our own. I don’t remember how old I was at this time (probably 22-25) but I do remember that all of us, including the hostel staff, were drinking every night!

Part of the job is to make backpackers drunk and what better way to do that than to get drunk with them.

#5: My friends in Paracas became my best friends forever

One realization from my Peru solo travel escapades: you are never really alone. I mean, I arrived by myself but after a while, I found a family. When you volunteer in hostels, you will share a dorm with fellow backpackers from all over the world. You will have to put up with all the mess and the craziness because you technically live with these people.

There were more guys in my volunteering group than girls so you can imagine how disgusting our dorm room is. But half of my heart is these people (photo above). I am not kidding when I say we talk almost every day up until now. We have a Whatsapp group and most of us, though not complete, have met in different countries after Peru.

Related: Where to go in Peru – 15 recommended places
We were a big family!

To tell you the truth, these are my current best friends and I share everything with them. I feel closer to them than the best friends I grew up with, mainly because we are on the same wavelength when it comes to living life. When you make living in the present your mission, you will come across people like this! I love these kinds of encounters!

#6: I became the hostel manager after volunteering!

The ex-manager had to leave and he recommended me to be the next manager. Look, I am really a hard worker but I never thought that a bar job was something I’d be offered. Because of my highly organized skill as a volunteer, the hostel owner hired me as an employee and processed my work visa in Peru!

Recommended: 34 tips for first-time solo female travelers 
Celebrating my birthday in the hostel. Love this gang!!!

Then I stayed in the same place for another year which was another chapter. I got an apartment, I was in a relationship, I lived in Paracas and stopped moving frequently for a year. It wasn’t something I was expecting to do since the plan is to keep moving.

But when opportunities like this arise and you feel good about it, then you have to take it. I felt good about staying longer in Paracas and that’s all that matters.

#7: All of us in Paracas went to Bolivia together

As if we didn’t spend enough time together, all of us went to Bolivia together and start our journey there! The good thing about backpacking is you’re not following a schedule. You can stay and leave whenever you want to. I don’t remember the exact conversation we had about going to Bolivia together.

Read: The exciting, unruly, and beautiful world of solo female travel and dating apps

But I do remember that when people leave, I always had the feeling of feeling left out. I start getting lonely. In this case, I think I was the one who was leaving so without questions, the whole dorm packed their stuff and hopped on a 32-hour bus ride to Bolivia!

When we arrived in Bolivia, we also worked in a hostel… TOGETHER. We told the hostel owner that he had to accept all or nothing. We also explained to him our bar dynamics in Paracas and that we know how to work together very well. He was convinced and gave all of us the bar job!

#8: I went to Machu picchu. Thrice.

I don’t know why I did this three times but every time I come across people who are about to go to Machu Picchu, I always tag along. My very first Machu Picchu trek was literally by myself. I just met some people on the bus on the way up. The second one was a sponsored trip for the blog and the third was with friends from the Philippines (and the hostel).

Recommended: Your guide to visiting Sacred Valley, Peru
First Machu Picchu trip in 2014.

I always had fun visiting Machu Picchu but what I enjoy the most is the 6-hour trek to Aguascalientes! Through these trips, I realized how little difference there is if you are traveling alone, with a tour guide, or with a big group of friends. It just gave me more courage to keep traveling solo and never feel afraid.

#9: I stayed in a hostel in Cusco for 2 months and made awesome friends!

It’s the same hostel chain that I worked in in Paracas but has a different vibe. I really like Cusco even if a lot of people only stay for a short time because of the altitude.

There is a different culture in Cusco that is so young, vibrant, and exciting but only if you know locals. If you’re visiting Cusco just because of Machu Picchu, then that’s a different experience.

See also: Solo travel in Cusco, Peru
peru solo travel
In 2016, I came across 2 of these guys in Sri Lanka. Then we ended up backpacking Sri Lanka together!

I did not work here. I was just a normal guest who kept hanging out with the hostel crew, but most of the time with guests. There wasn’t another way to spend a whole month in Peru but to live in this hostel. No rush, no activities, no early morning tasks.

The only thing you need to do is to go up the bar when it’s time for happy hour – everyone will be there for sure.

#10: I worked in a vegetarian restaurant in Cusco

This was a sort of emergency accommodation. I never really planned to work in a restaurant because I know that the hours are super long. But as someone who loves food and cooking, I went with it anyway. The truth is, when I was looking for volunteering jobs in Cusco, this was the only one available so I applied and got accepted.

The owners of the restaurant are an Israeli and Peruvian couple. They have a cute newborn baby (probably already 8 years old now!) and I lived with them together with a German volunteer. This wasn’t the best volunteering job because there were only two of us but I really learned a lot about Israeli food.

#11: I worked in a hostel in Mancora

This is probably the loudest hostel I’ve worked in my whole life. Up until today, I kept thinking about how I was able to rest and live in this very loud environment. Or maybe I didn’t?! It’s funny how we feel so invincible in our 20s’ but now it’s taking its toll – I am pretty sure I can’t live this life anymore!

peru solo travel

Mancora is a surf town in Northern Peru. Most people don’t really visit this route but I loved Mancora because of its small-town vibe. I also worked with a lot of girls here, something new because I always worked with guys. For sure, there were many nights I don’t remember but always with the people I will never forget.

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Peru solo travel: was it worth it?

I still have a thousand things to add to this post but I will continue to update this as I write my book about Peru. For now, these are all the memories that I can remember – I have to browse all the photos again on my Facebook to see some more memories!

If you’re doubting traveling to Peru alone, check out my post about solo female travel in Peru. This article tackles more about safety and how to navigate Peru by yourself. Should there be any more questions, feel free to get in touch with me. Let’s chat and plan your solo trip to Peru!

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  1. You had such a fabulous experience in Peru. You met so many interesting travelers while staying at the hostels! I was thinking about doing volunteer in a hostel when I traveled too. Maybe I’ll try on my next trip. It’s lovely that the ex-manager recommended you to be the new manager.

  2. We were so sad when we had to cancel our trip to Peru in 2020. You had a great stay and saw so much. Three times to Machu Picchu sounds lovely. How great that you made so many friends long the way.

  3. Wow, 3 years travelling solo! That’s amazing. I did 6 months in South East Asia and always wanted to travel the americas next. Peru and boliva are high on my list, although interesting you didn’t like equador as much. Inspiring read

  4. Sounds like an amazing adventure! Next year were suppose to travel in Peru and go to Machu Picchu for husband’s birthday. We are not sure where the situation with covid will go, so we haven’t really confirmed the trip yet. But I loved reading about Peru and your life there. So fun that you got to work on your trips as well.

  5. I have been to Peru but not solo. I went with my friends. I think I can travel solo in Cusco but not Lima. I was so comfortable there and I felt very safe. I think while solo traveling, staying at hostels make a huge difference and you meet so many like minded people. It’s awesome that you had a great time in Peru.

  6. How fun! You surely don’t have a boring life, lol. I bet you had experiences that a regular traveler will never have. I would never dare travel alone in places like South America, but when you travel alone you get to meet a lot of people. It’s wonderful that you remained friends for such a long time with people you just met by accident.

    1. That is truly amazing! Your journey was filled with thrill and new experiences. That is an inspiration for me. I have always wanted to travel the world, but I was scared of travelling alone. But now it looks like travelling alone can be so much more fun!

  7. I’d say it looks perfect! Solo travel is so enlightening- one of the best experiences we can have to grow as people. It looks like you had some varied moments that did just that!

  8. Peru is on my bucket list! I totally can’t imagine being on a boat for 72 hours, though. There are so many gorgeous sites, and I’m envious that you were able to spend so much time there. I love your reminiscings about your trip!

  9. It’s a super memory and all the while I was going through your trips, I could feel the excitement that you were going through. Fun & Work together make longer stays worthwhile. Love the fun you had with all your friends.

  10. Machu Pichu is such a fascinating place and is part of my bucket list forever. Hoping to tick it off someday. Lovely pictures and great information. Thank you!

  11. How brave of you to do three years of solo backpacking.
    Peru has been close to the top of my list for a very long time, so your post is of particular interest and very useful to me, thank you for sharing.
    A 72-hour bus tour, especially in a region like this, though… thanks no haha… 🙂

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