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Bad news for traffickers in Peru’s New Year

Christmas is around the corner and so is New Year. The streets in Peru are starting to look glittery and the adverts about New Year’s Eve parties will soon fill all newspapers and bars.

In Peru, Christmas is a fairly quiet, family-oriented celebration. Although it falls at the very start of summer, the tradition is to have a very hearty meal on Christmas Eve which typically includes hot drinking chocolate and panetón, a traditional Christmas cake decorated with snowmen and santas. New Year’s Eve tends to be wilder affair with lots of partying, drinking and staying out late.

Around 69,000 British tourists travel to Peru every year, and although most of the visits are trouble-free, we face drug-related arrests and loss of passports regularly. December is no exception. With the highest rates of crime in the country due to the holidays, a higher frequency of internal travel and the recent touristy New Year parties in the Plaza de Armas (main square) of Cusco, Machu Picchu town and Mancora beach in the north of Peru, it would be wise to get some advice before you come.

Fabiola Aguilar: UK Proconsul

Cusco parties generally end well, however we have seen British nationals who after partying all night, have decided to see in the New Year by jumping into a river for a swim. Unfortunately this has resulted in death – not a great way to start the year. During holidays, accepting rides or drinks from strangers in Cusco has sometimes ended in a drug-assisted rape. New Year parties in Mancora are trouble-free, but it’s quickly becoming a summer hotspot for tourists so just be aware and avoid isolated places.

In Lima public offices are closed for the holidays in December, but officers on duty still arrest foreign nationals at the airport trying to smuggle drugs out of Peru, even if they have swallowed the capsules! So we would advise you to think twice if you have been offered “a good deal” to spend your holidays in Peru! A prison in Peru is really not a place where you would want to spend Christmas or New Year.

There are 40 British nationals imprisoned in this country at the moment, most of them facing long-term sentences for trying to traffic drugs out of Peru. We are advised quickly by the police as soon as they are arrested and visit them the next day. Prison conditions in Peru are not of the same standard as in the UK or Europe and this can be shocking for new detainees. Facing Christmas in a cell away from family and friends, a long way from home and unable to speak Spanish can be very hard. If you don’t believe us, take a look at the video below.

On a final note, passports are regularly stolen in Peru, especially on buses and coaches. Keep your passport in a zipped pocket while on the bus – not in your rucksack. If possible, when you’re out and about it’s best to keep a copy of your passport on you and leave the original in your hotel safe.

More by the UK Foreign Office at their Twelve Blogs for Christmas.

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