One of the many experiences a tourist will be faced to when traveling is to learn the country’s monetary system. In Peru, the currency is 100-based, meaning one “Nuevo Sol” is subdivided into 100 centimos. El Nuevo Sol was first put in use on October 1st, 1991.
One of the main differences with American dollar is that there is no quarter (25 centimos) coin, but there is a 1, 2 and 5 nuevos soles coins. The banknotes in circulation are 10 (green), 20 (orange), 50 (brown), 100 (blue), and 200 (pink) nuevos soles. All notes are of the same size and there is a picture of a well-known historic Peruvian in the back of each note.
One of the first places to exchange your money will be the airport. Personally I don’t think that is a good idea. I don’t want to be accused of propagating a myth but I don’t think you can get the best exchange rate at the airport. But ask andor change a small amount if you want to feel safe. Taxis will take dollars, actually taxi drivers probably expect that, and will quote you accordingly, say 20 dollars for a trip to your hotel, so there is really no need to exchange your money right away.
Hotels will definitely exchange your currency to nuevos soles. And even the smallest touristic hostel will accept dollars. By law the prices displayed will be in nuevos soles but just ask for the exchange rate, haggle a bit if you want, and pay in dollars.
Banks will of course be able to exchange your money. This I had never done. I believe their rates are not very good. But nothing beats them in safety and security.
4. Cambista (Street Currency Changers)
There is a distinct, picturesque even, profession being exercised in the streets of Lima and Peru, the one of street money exchangers or “cambistas”. Usually standing in the sides of heavily transited streets, cambistas are a safe and secure way to exchange your money and get a good exchange rate while doing it. They offer the convenience of exchanging your money while taking a taxi ride, walking along Avenida Larco, or just before going out for grocery shopping or a restaurant.
One tip here, not all cambistas, even within a small group of 3, will give you the same exchange rate. They can take some liberties depending on how the business for the day is going so far, how much money you are exchanging, and how good you are at bluffing. So ask around, try it, have some fun.
5. Pharmacies & Food Markets
Another good place for money exchange and I think I said this before is pharmacies and also grocery shopping centers. But you will need to purchase some amount of merchandise to be able to exchange your money. Use mostly for small amounts.
But don’t worry too much. Like anywhere in the world, if you want to pay for a service or a good, somehow, the selling party will accommodate your needs and accept your money.
For up to the minute, official exchange rates, check Banco Central de Reserva del Peru
USD to Peru’s Nuevo Sol Currency Converter: Yahoo! Finance
Euro to Peru’s Nuevo Sol Currency Converter: Yahoo! Finance