Travel Tips for Northeast Andes Route
Spanish is spoken throughout. If you are traveling alone you will want to have a smattering of useful phrases at a minimum. Most tourist facilities normally have one or more staff members who speak English, including the airlines, larger hotels, and car rental agencies.
Weather and Clothing
You may well encounter a wide variety of weather during this trip. Rain gear (including rubber boots or the equivalent), as well as T-shirts are necessary. One warm fleece type sweater is also worth having. Layer!
Expect food to be fairly basic – but good. The cuisine of Peru is spectacular, but this area is not especially known for its culinary prowess. Unless indicated otherwise by an experienced guide, stick to cooked foods and avoid water and ice.
If you are traveling independently, we suggest that you hire a car or small van (better with a driver). Travel is mostly on a paved road but some side trips might require 4WD. Bus transport is available, but not recommended unless you are a hardened backpacker potentially willing to wait for long periods in isolated areas. Road works are common e.g. to repair landslides, so allow plenty of time especially when returning to the airport in Tarapoto. The main road has IIRSA check points where you have to pay a small toll. The restrooms at these checkpoints are often the best in the area (except for the lodge).
There are two good field guides to the birds of Peru, one published by Princeton and one by Ibis Publishing (which lacks range maps). If you can still obtain the mostly out-of-print Where to Watch Birds in Peru by Thomas Valqui, that can be a great help, especially if you are travelling independently. Otherwise, Where to Watch Birds in South America by Nigel Wheatley has a good summary of this region. Waterproof binoculars are suggested, as well as at least one telescope per group, but not necessarily per individual. Bird recordings should be used sparingly and can be obtained from the Xeno Canto web site (though be sure to test the files before you leave, as we have found that some may temporarily jam your iPod). There is a full list of Peruvian Birds on Wikipedia, though the format is not field friendly.
Extra flash cards may be available in cities such as Cusco and Lima, but the general rule is to take everything you need. British birders may require electrical adapters for battery recharge. Most areas have sockets that are compatible with regular U.S. electrical plugs, but you may want to pick up an adapter anyway – just to be 100% sure.
Passports and Visas
U.S. and British travelers do not require visas for stays of up to 90 days in Peru. A passport is required of course. Nationals of other countries should check with their Peruvian Embassy or consulate regarding visa requirements.
Malaria can be a problem in the lowlands but is uncommon in this area. Yellow fever is also present. Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel web site for up-to-date details as Malaria areas can shift, or with your doctor or vaccination center. Snakes are rarely encountered in the highlands, and altitude sickness would be very unusual along this particular route which reaches at most around 8,000 feet in elevation. Biting insects are rare, but beware long grass which can (and often does) hold chiggers.
The area is generally safe, but use the usual level of caution in crowds, or on isolated roads. Keep an eye on the media regarding any planned demonstrations, or talk to hoteliers to get the local information which is always the best. ABC staff and partners have spent years working in this area with a single demonstration temporarily blocking a road as the only incident .