In a perfect world, traveling to Peru would be a simple matter of packing your bags and jumping on a plane. Realistically, however, there are a few fiddly but important things to do before going to Peru.
Passports and Visas
First, make sure your passport is still valid. It should ideally have at least six months remaining before the expiration date. You’ll also need blank pages in your passport for entry and exit stamps.
If you hold a passport from a nation in North America, South America or Oceania, you can enter Peru for a maximum of 183 days with a simple Tarjeta Andina tourist visa. The same applies for most European passport holders, with some exceptions (read "Do You Need a Tourist Visa for Peru?" for more information).
Visit Your Doctor
Visit your doctor for advice regarding vaccinations for Peru. Typical shots include hepatitis A and B, tetanus, typhoid and diphtheria (booster jabs may be sufficient). A yellow fever certificate is not required for entry into Peru, but it's a good idea to get immunized.
If you are likely to be handling animals (as a volunteer at an animal reserve, for example) or exploring caves (spelunking), then a rabies vaccine may be necessary. Malaria is a problem in certain parts of Peru, particularly in lowland jungle regions. There is no risk in highland areas such as Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca. Always consult a doctor before traveling to high risk areas.
If you’ll be in Peru for a while, pay all your outstanding bills before you go and cancel any standing orders that you no longer need (including regular deliveries). Tell your bank about your upcoming trip so they can clear your debit and credit cards for use in Peru -- if you don’t, your cards will be blocked or cancelled shortly after using them. If you don’t already have one, consider setting up an online banking account as a useful way to keep track of your finances abroad.
Make photocopies all of your important documents, including your passport and flight details. Leave copies with a reliable person back home, and take some with you for added security.
Register Your Trip
Many government-run websites allow you to register your upcoming trip, providing contact details and added support in the event of an emergency at home or abroad. It only takes a few minutes to register and the service is free.
Contacts and Communication
Peru is full of internet cafes, providing a cheap and easy way to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Before you leave, update your email contacts and let people know how to contact you by email or through other services such as Facebook and Twitter. Windows Live Messenger and Skype (not quite so common in Peruvian internet cafes) are good for live chat -- give your parents a quick lesson if needed.
A dependable contact back home is invaluable for keeping an eye on things while you’re away. You might need someone to watch your house, collect your mail or send you something while you're in Peru. If you rent, remember to tell your landlord about your upcoming trip.
Learn Some Spanish
Learning Spanish, even a few key phrases, makes a huge difference in Peru. You’ll find plenty of English-speaking tour guides in the tourist hotspots, but your day-to-day interactions will be severely limited without some basic español. If you take a Spanish course before you go -- or buy an audio course -- you’ll reap the rewards when you arrive in Peru.