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US dollars are very popular currency in Peru. Even salary was paid in USD instead of Peruvian soles (probably because of inflation).

What is the best way/place to change dollars to soles?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Although the official currency of Peru is sol, US dollars are widely accepted in many places.

I found out three ways to exchange dollars into soles:

  • In banks - the banks have the worst exchange rates and there were always lines. Besides, not all commercial bank exchange money. I don't recommend this.
  • From street moneychangers - there are people in most cities, they wear blue vests with euro and dollar signs, and they are licensed money changers. They offer better rates than banks and sometimes you can even negotiate the rate (almost always in Lima, not so often in smaller cities). I recommend this
  • In supermarkets - most supermarkets (like Wong, etc.) accept payment in USD and give change in PEN. They had the best exchange rates and I frequently paid with large notes to get more money changed. I strongly recommend this.

I heard that casinos, which are almost at every corner in Lima, exchange in the same way as supermarkets, and have even better rates.

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I don't think that exchanging dollars from street moneychangers is safe, here most thieves are always looking at them watching how much you change. However they do give you a better exchange rate, just do it in a safe place and always looking around ;) –  Washu Feb 23 '13 at 17:07
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The other posts give great places to change money. But be aware that there are a fair number of counterfeit notes in Peru (and other South American countries). You will often see locals holding the money upto the light and feeling it to check for fakes. The fakes here can be very good - even having watermarks and that metal thread thing. I have seen several during my stay in Peru in 50 and 100 sole values usually but also in 10s and 20s. (Coins too). It is not easy to spend fake bills if you do get them (and is illegal to do so).

So I recommend checking for counterfeit notes when ever you change money or even just get change. Here are things to look for:

  • clear watermark of the amount of the note eg "50" for a fifty sole note
  • the big purple amount number changes to green as you rotate the note against the light
  • there is raised print at the top of the note
  • metal thread in middle of note
  • really tiny print at top of note (that is hard to photocopy)
  • the ink is slightly wet (rub on a sheet of white paper) - the copies have dry ink and don't leave a mark
  • the paper just feels different

Counterfeit dollars exist here too in case you every change soles back into dollars.

I think it is more likely to get stiffed by more informal money changers, so take that into account when comparing rates.

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It depends on the location in Peru, but from my trip there:

  • at the airport, there are official money exchange spots
  • at the border - there are official, 'official', and very unofficial ('dodgy') money changers. Each with different rates, each with different levels of risk. Licensed money changers are your best bet, although potentially a lower rate, at least they're official.
  • some shops - supermarkets, for example, will change
  • almost all banks will change money for you
  • some tourist spots will change small amounts of money for you
  • some hostels will change money for you. Presumably hotels will too - but I stayed in hostels.
  • other travellers! There are always travellers going in and out of Peru, who you'll meet who want to get rid of sols and get their next currency, or vice versa. And you won't have to pay exchange fees like you might at a bank.
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