Why Arequipa Peru Is A Solid Choice For Liveability

After blitzing through Chile, I headed north through vast deserts into Peru. Arequipa was my first stop.

I stopped there mainly because it was recommended by many other travelers that I’ve come across, including travel bloggers who have traveled all over South America. It was also recommended by some readers of this blog as “the most liveable city in South America.”

While I’m not sure I would agree with such a superlative, there are some good reasons why Arequipa is a city you should check out, particularly if you are planning to retire or settle down in some place for awhile.

1. Low cost of living

Peru in general a decent option for those who really want to flat-line their living costs. Though not quite as cheap as places in Ecuador, a good life in Arequipa can be had for under $1000 / month, easily. There are simple places to live near the city center at $150-$250 / month (though they’re very simple and might not include internet). Some people I talked to found even lower rates.

Speaking of internet, there are a number of cafes around town with wifi. Though not guaranteed to be fast (which is something I really want these days), these wifi connections are good enough to do basic surfing.

You can eat simple meals in restaurants for $3-$5, or you can go to nicer restaurants and spend $8-$10. You can buy produce in the streets or in the small produce shops for a pittance.

So, if you want to, you can live very cheaply.

2. Wide-ranging food options

Not sure if you knew this, but Peru has some really tasty meals waiting for you, including this one…

rocotorelleno
Rocoto Relleno (stuffed pepper & cheese)

From rocoto relleno and ají de gallina, to alpaca and ceviche, Peru serves up some really tasty food. Practically every South American traveler I’ve talked to agrees that Peru has the best food on the continent. I’m not the best foodie blogger, so if you want more photos and descriptions of Peru’s culinary smorgasbord, see the Peruvian food guide on LimaEasy.

The only bad thing about food in Peru is that most foreigners end up with stomach problems of some sort, at least initially (I was no exception). Nevertheless, it’s tasty and if your stomach can get use to it, you’ll definitely find it favorable. Arequipa is home to many of these dishes and doesn’t disappoint.

3. Walkable city center

Arequipa’s city center is based around the cathedral and a number of government buildings. Nearby you can find the various points of interest you’ll be interested in, including restaurants, cafes, bookstores, travel agencies, bars, and nightlife options.

It’s also easy just to stroll down to the park during the day for a good walk.

arequipacentro

I really enjoy being able to walk where I need to go, and I’m not planning on having a car any time soon, so this is an important factor for me.

4. Expat connections

Arequipa is a little bit of a hotspot among backpackers coming to and from Bolivia, or to and from Cuzco. As such, there are a number of hostels in town to offer short-term stays, as well as good local info to get yourself situated.

Apart from this, though, you’ll come across English-speaking expats as you walk through the downtown… younger folks, older folks, they’re all there. If you hang out during the day in the cafes, you’ll find a number of older expats who have chosen to retire in Arequipa or younger folks who are volunteering in NGOs or teaching English. So this offers you a little bit of community in case you are still learning Spanish.

My favorite cafe spot, by the way, was Cusco Coffee Company, a couple of blocks from the main square. It’s definitely an expat hotspot.

cuscocoffeearequipa

5. Excellent climate with nearby mountains

When the sun is shining, it’s very pleasant to be outside in Arequipa. It’s a very spring-like climate. At night, you’ll likely need a jacket. But overall, I found the weather very agreeable. (Also note: Arequipa sits at 2380 meters, so it may take a few days to get use to the elevation.)

There is also the famous Colca Canyon nearby, and the El Misti Volcano. While you wouldn’t call Arequipa a “mountain town”, you can see the mountains off in the distance. Not only does this makes the scenery beautiful, but also offers opportunities for day excursions.

And, Arequipa has some neat sunsets…

arequipasunset

(Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I actually took that picture. 😉 Hold your applause, hold your applause.)

6. Appreciating currency

The Peruvian Sole has been appreciating against the US dollar over the past 5 and 10 years.

USDPENchart
USD vs PEN over 10 years… notice a trend?

If you’ve read my post on currency rates, you know this is something that interests me and something that should definitely interest you, if you are wanting to grow your wealth. The devaluing of the US dollar is a trend that you can bank on, as the government has overtly shown no interest in stopping the printing of money.

How moving to Arequipa would benefit you is if you decide to put boots on the ground and open a bank account. If you transfer your money over to soles, they will likely preserve their value over the long-term versus the USD. It gives you a solid opportunity to diversify your money internationally.

7. Relatively quick citizenship

One of the aspects of Peru that should not be overlooked is that you can apply for citizenship after 2 years of permanent residency. Permanent residency can be acquired through work or marriage and from the people I talk to, can be obtained pretty easily. There’s a good market for teaching English in Peru, and you can find work for this in Arequipa.

So if you are looking at acquiring a 2nd citizenship by putting in time on the ground, check out Peru. From what I hear, the application process itself can take another 1-2 years, but 2 years of permanent residency for citizenship qualification is about as low a requirement as you’ll find on the planet.

My Take

If you read this blog, you might know I’m a pretty tough customer when it comes to liveability. I have a number of things I’m looking for when I’m considering where I’ll live, including my main reference point and a desire to not spend a lot of time in places I don’t find attractive.

On the positive side, I found the food options in Arequipa (and Peru in general) to be the best I’ve seen in South America. There are so many good Peruvian foods to eat, as well as your ‘standard’ dishes like sandwiches, meats, American chains, etc. This is not to be overlooked.

I also like the fact that Arequipa is basically walkable, and living there would be cheap. Temperatures are very pleasant. It also has a strong indigenous influence to it. In these respects, it reminded me of Cuenca.

On the not-so-positive side, it’s a more expensive flight from the US, with Arequipa not being a major airport hub (though if you plan far enough ahead, you can get a flight to Lima for $60.) I don’t like the fact that it’s pretty isolated. There aren’t any other major cities close by, and it’s surrounded by desert. The internet was too slow (I’m looking for very fast internet these days). Also I’d say the social / nightlife / girls scene really didn’t reach that of Colombia or Brazil.

Conclusion

Even though I personally wouldn’t settle down there any time soon, Arequipa remains a good choice for liveability. Consider taking a visit, especially if you are an older expat who is looking for a place to settle down, with citizenship possibilities.

  • I wasn’t aware Peru had a reputation for causing tourists stomach problems? In my 7 months there (6 of which were in Lima), I don’t remember having any out of the norm problems.

    • It appears you were spared! Ceviche and the water are the two biggest culprits.

      • I take that back. I remember coming down with “Peru belly” within my first few days of arriving in Lima. I remember drinking the tap water, and blaming it on that.

        I don’t care much for ceviche, so I think I dodged that bullet.

        • Jee Ba

          I Dave, I live here in Arequipa, What you say it’s true, in Arequipa an Perú in General you can’t drink the tap water. I suppose we should advise all foreigners about this. We have to boil the water first. And yes Peruvian food is spicy, but once you get with it, you will be good. Also as in any new country it’s best to ask where you can find a good and healthy restaurant. I one a lot of good and cheap ones, here the prices are like 2-3 dollars for an Awesome meal.

    • It’s basically bacteria adjustment. I had it at least 3 times during my first 2 years here, even when I’m from Lima! Some people come more “prepared” to the adjustment but most of the travellers I’ve met are not, so they get sick the first weeks after they arrive.

  • Geoff

    Food and internet? You must be American.

    • Geoff Walters

      You must be an asshole.

  • erick

    Is nt the water or the food that make you feel bad in the stomach is that food and water are different and doen nt mean *dirty* means pure. Peru use mountain water and is not recycled like europe has. In europe you can be very bad in the stomach just by the water, because some places like Holland has no mountains and they keep cleaning the waters even the wc waters, to make it able to be drinkable. Dont complain about Peru, they live better and clean..in spite of all situation. I think!!

  • ecuadordean

    In my six weeks of travel in Peru I had a case of diarrhea twice and the second was pretty bad. It seems that most of the cheap places to eat are either rotissere chicken places opr ‘chifas’ Peruvian for Chinese restaurant.

  • arnoldsemmons

    Your exchange rate predictions didn’t work out. The dollar is almost back up to 3 soles!

  • Dee

    Thanks for your input. I plan to go there this Spring and this was helpful.

  • joe

    ill stomach anything, if its descent health care, reasonable work, and I’m not paying 25% of my income for things like tomahawk missiles tht just go boom!!! health care eats me alive and I cant use it or it costs as well, sounds great for a northerner such as myself

  • tommy

    I want to visit Peru with my dog (75lbs).

    I was wondering if you might suggest a few towns or areas (rural is ok), where me and my dog could be, for awhile, since…we go everywhere together,safely? I dont mind staying in a village for a few weeks, and then move elsewhere.

    Thing is, I dont want to stand out with my dog, since we’d be a duo, basically.

    Is it highly uncommon to see “dog-owners” walking about with their best friend?

    Thank you.

    • Penn Diehl

      I just spent a month travelling Peru for a college course (Jan Term) and I did not see very many dogs with their owners. There are A LOT of stray dogs in Peru, but I did not see many pet dogs, nowhere near as many as you will see in America. Although I did see more dogs in Trujillo (mainly around the town square)

  • James

    Arequipa is a nice place. It benefits from a nice climate (usually) for 9 months a year. However it can be a very polluted city. I would choose to live away from the centre and downtown areas as there’s lots of traffic and the combi buses emit lots of pollution which is difficult to avoid in the narrow streets. As far as work goes, it’s quite easy to find a job teaching English, especially if that’s your profession, if that’s what you want to do. However whilst it’s possible to obtain a work permit, not every employer wants to go through the hassle and paperwork in setting this up. Up to recently, some foreigners went over the border for a visa renewal, but from March this year the rules have changed and you are only allowed to stay for six months within a twelve month period. So, in order to stay you need a work permit or you have to marry a Peruvian.

    I think society is more open than in Europe. I met lots of nice people who welcomed me in to their homes with open arms. People are warm and hospitable. I recommend staying with a Peruvian family. People are also very religious, going to mass and going to church is very important to them. This may not sit well with you if you prefer not to be religious. Personally I find it a little depressing that religion has such a hold on many people here, but I guess it’s similar to many other countries across Latin America.

    The language can be a big problem if you are not fluent. Lots of people are studying English, but few can speak it well. This may change over the next few decades as there are many schools now that teach in both English and Spanish, as well as in other languages. If you want to work here in a job other than teaching English, then you have to have a good level and understanding of Spanish.

    Arequipa has a reputation for having a good level of spoken Spanish, the older generation especially often speak very clearly and at a good pace. However not everyone speaks well, not everyone speaks clearly and often the younger generation, those working in supermarkets, in stores and in restaurants, often speak extremely fast, it’s like they don’t have to breath. This can be very frustrating and difficult for those that are learning Spanish or are not yet fluent. Arequipa is a popular location to learn Spanish, it has a number of Spanish schools and some experienced teachers.

    WiFi is generally good, not as fast or as reliable as in Europe but it’s quick enough, and much better than in Bolivia. Accommodation in the city can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, with many options in between. There are some super modern apartments and houses available, build quality is higher than in the UK (with protection to withstand earthquakes) and prices are lower.