Renting a car is not the easiest or even cheapest way to get around in Peru. Driving conditions can be bad and drivers are aggressive. Renting a car, however, will give you maximum flexibility and freedom, and can be an acceptable option in certain regions.
For most travelers, it doesn’t make sense to rent a car. The distances between destinations can be long and the scenery can be boring. Gas is also fairly expensive (around US$5-8 per gallon), and the roads can be in poor condition. Additionally, Peruvian drivers are known to be aggressive and the accident rates are high.
However, if you do want to rent a car, we recommend getting to your destination first (by flying or taking a shuttle) and then renting a car. Driving within a given destination or region is much more feasible than a cross-country road trip.
Major Peruvian cities – including Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa – will have rental car agencies. It usually costs about US$70 a day for a midsize vehicle; four-wheel-drive cars run around US$100–130 per day. Major rental companies include Avis, Hertz, Budget, and Dollar. The minimum age to rent a car is 25. You’ll need a valid driver’s license and passport, and it’s usually required to put down a deposit by credit card.
If you do decide to rent a car, there are a few things you should know. The road conditions can be bad in Peru and there may be serious road hazards. It’s dangerous to drive at night due to slow-moving trucks and speeding buses. Gas is expensive and gas stations may be far apart — so be sure to fill up regularly and carry a few spare gallons of gasoline with you. It’s also a good idea to pack emergency items, including food, water, sleeping bags, and flashlights.
Know the traffic laws before you hit the road. Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is a criminal offense. Don’t speed or run yellow lights, and if you do get pulled over, don’t try to bribe the police officer. That will only get you in more trouble.