Missing stuff from home that you’d like to order on Amazon? Want to send some awesome Andean gifts to your friends back home? Go for it! But just know how to do it right.

You can choose to use Serpost, the Peruvian national postal system, and it is indeed reasonably efficient (though surprisingly expensive). For more security, there’s DHL in Cusco, but expect to pay much more.

Prices vary greatly depending on the destination (specifically local, national or international) and the size and weight of the letter or parcel.

You can find a full list of prices at the Serpost website. International tariffs are divided into first and second-class (postcards/letters/small packages) and first and second-class packages ( encomiendas). You can pay more for added security and tracking, but to give you a general idea: to send a postcard or letter (1 g to 20 g) from Peru to the USA or Europe, expect to pay from US$2.70 to $3.00 (S/.8 to S/.10 soles). Prices rise rapidly with added weight, with the classification changing from “small package” to “package” once you pass 2000 g (at which point you’ll probably be paying in excess of US$40).

Postcards and letters should take about 15 days to reach most international destinations, while second-class parcels may take 30 days, but that being said, it’s certainly not an exact science – prepare for delays!

Receiving Mail in Peru

Here in the Valley, most people don’t even have an address, but don’t worry – you can use a lista de correos postal address. Your mail will be sent to and held at a Serpost office of your choice, where it will await collection. Your post should be addressed as follows:

Your NAME (surname in capitals)
Lista de Correos
Correo Central
City or Town in Peru
Peru

For example:

Jane Doe
Lista de Correos
Correo Central
Calca, Cusco
Peru

The letter or package will be delivered to the main post office in the town nearest you. You will need to show your passport in order to collect your mail; the name on the letter or package must match the name on your passport.

Depending on the efficiency of the local post office, you might have to wait while a staff member rummages around for your mail. Many larger parcels are held at the nearest Serpost office due to customs issues; you will receive a notification, after which you must go to the office to collect your parcel.

Don’t be surprised if you have to empty out the contents of your package in front of a customs official. As long as the contents are deemed to be of less than US$100 in value, you shouldn’t have to pay any additional fees. On the other hand, if the Serpost official thinks that your package contains more than $100 worth of items, prepare for some hefty duties. If you buy a camera or a laptop for delivery to Peru, for example, you could end up paying the equivalent of the item’s original cost just to cover the duties.

How Reliable is the Peruvian Postal Service?

Letters and packages can and do go missing, but the Peruvian postal system is generally reliable. In my experience, the success rate is probably about 75%, and around half of that missing 25% is down to stuff being stuck at customs because of duty fees needing to be paid.

Another potential problem is the disappearance of items from packages. While the package itself may arrive on time, it may soon become apparent that a light-fingered postal worker has, at some stage, opened your package and pocketed some of the contents. Be sure to ask anyone sending you stuff to wrap the parcel up tightly, and if you’re sending valuable items from Peru, it may be worth paying extra to have your package sent as registered mail (registrado or certificado).

Do you have any experiences with Serpost you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments section below!

Tambo del Caminante

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