For Tipping in the Peruvian Amazon
advice on dealing with panhandlers, tourist predators, public transportation
changer cheating, and other risks in Iquitos and vicinity


the Peruvian Amazon as elsewhere, it is appropriate to award tips and honoraria
for services rendered. The amount is elective based on your means and satisfaction
upon conclusion of services rendered. The suggested guidelines are based
on current standards.Tips for services

Ten percent
is the standard restaurant tip. Three to five soles is sufficient for baggage
handlers at the airport. They’ll seem to expect more for 30-60 seconds
work from your vehicle to the check-in counter

Always tip
for any special personal services or assistance you request.

Our cooks are
great ladies who work hard to keep us well fed and content. You may
wish to give them a special gift of thanks for the excellent food they
will prepare during your stay.

for shamans and curanderos

True grassroots
community curanderos live on very modest income derived from their
service to the local community. For most, it is their full time occupation
and they have no other source of income. True curanderos provide
their healing services for whatever their local clients can afford and
often do “pro bono” work for those more impoverished than they.

Although our
and shamans are well-compensated for their work, please consider a generous
personal honorarium if you find their work beneficial and rewarding. It
will help subsidize their pro bono community healing work after
you are gone.

We encourage
your generosity with our local staff and leave the matter to your personal
discretion without pressure or prejudice.


and con games


Street begging
and panhandling is common in areas frequented by foreign visitors. It is
difficult not to give a sol or two here and there. Most of the people
of Iquitos are materially under-privileged but are not materially unhappy
in their lives. Deception, fraud and petty theft are often encountered.
Be advised that the street slang in Iquitos for new tourists in town is
carne fresca“…”fresh meat”. Behind many a friendly, smiling face
is a bright, clever mind scheming to get at your money, property, and more
if possible.Use your own
discretion but try to avoid becoming a target for hustlers and panhandlers.
It is best for all to discourage them by simply smiling and saying “no”.
Be firm if they persist. They will often try to make you feel guilty if
you do not give something. Don’t fall for it. They are no worse off than
anyone else and are most likely doing much better by virtue of their exposure
to tourists. Rarely is the situation as dismal as portrayed and your money
usually will not go to the stated need.

A common tourist
ploy is to present as sad scenario of poverty, mistreatment, and dire need
as possible. The fact is that no one is starving in the Amazon and
the people in greatest need (with a few obvious exceptions, i.e. handicapped
individuals) generally do not frequent tourist areas.

It is far better
to pay for a product or service such as a shoe shine even if you don’t
really want it. In this way honest work is rewarded, the dignity and self-respect
of the people is nurtured, and freeloading and scamming is discouraged.

Be especially
cautious with local people you meet in tourist areas or who are employed
in tourism. Regrettably, many of them are dishonest scam artists
who are very adept at confidence games to separate you from your money
and valuables. These include overcharging for services, misrepresentation
of services or costs, conning tourists out of money or belongings, and
contracting for services paid in advance but not delivered.

Tragic stories
of family and personal woe and need are often told with great emotion and
apparent sincerity to arouse sympathy and hopefully, a “propina
or more substantial commitments of support such as a monthly stipend conveyed
by bank wire transfer to their bank account.

Not infrequently,
naive foreign visitors are persuaded to subsidize entire families and arrange
visas and travel opportunities for people they’ve known less than a week
or two! Strangely enough, visitors here will often give large amounts
of money to local people they’ve known only a few days that they wouldn’t
give to friends or even family back home. We see it all the time.

Iquitos is
in many ways a criminal empire where dishonest dealing is rewarded and
tacitly sanctioned. Confidence crime involving swindling of tourists
is considered morally acceptable in the minds of many here since the visitors
are assumed to be “rich” and able to afford the “gifts” they so willingly
bestow. If this doesn’t bother you and you have plenty of money then
give as much of it away as you want. But do it with the understanding
that your are supporting a “gringo welfare system” built on fraud and dishonesty
which will be perpetuated week after week with other tourists after you’ve
gone. It is a very successful confidence crime strategy that reaps
easy money for little or no work.

Transportation Scams –

Be wary of
(motokar taxi drivers) who’s favorite scam is to overcharge tourists by
two or three times the normal fare. One can go anywhere in Iquitos for
1.5 to 2 soles per ride. Drivers also love to quote a fare in soles then
at the destination insist the cost is in dollars, i.e. a one hour motokar
tour of Iquitos costs S/10 (soles). If the passenger does not make the
price clear at the beginning, he will always be charged $10 (dollars) at
the end of his one hour tour. They’ll try to charge double for any fraction
over the one hour tour too. Always get a clear charge in SOLES before entering
the vehicle. If the deal is clear at the beginning and the driver still
tries to cheat you, just give him the agreed amount in soles and walk away.
He’ll accept it because he knows if you go to the police he’ll be in trouble
because this scam is well-known to the authorities.

Money Changing

Dealing with
street money changers (cambistas) is another potentially risky street
encounter in Iquitos. They offer a better exchange rate than the
banks and are often more convenient. Just about all of the male cambistas
will try to cheat you a half dozen ways if given the opportunity. They
are quite clever in their tactics. On the other hand, female cambistas
are almost always honest and will usually give you a straight exchange
at the day’s rate without deceptive games. ALWAYS LOOK FOR FEMALE MONEY

Common money
changer cheats include quoting a lucrative exchange rate, receiving your
money first, then lowering the rate in their favor. NEVER EVER give a money
changer your money first. ALWAYS receive their money first, count it, make
sure some of the bills are not doubled over to be counted twice, and carefully
examine any bills which look different in any way. Change bills in increments
of $20 and $100 to make it easier to confirm the calculated exchange amount
since some of the cambistas use rigged calculators. If unsure, do
your own math before parting with your money. After you are satisfied the
exchange is honest, then and only then should you hand over your money.
Remember, once your money is in their hands, it is very difficult to retrieve.

Some final words of advice

Iquitos and
vicinity is a hotbed of lies, fraud and dishonest dealings. Most
people here are not above any sort of story or scam to get your money.
Many are professional con artists who prey on tourists. They make
a very good living by exploiting generous and good hearted travelers with
tales of mistreatment by employers, major family health emergencies, etc.
with the sole intention to win sympathy and get as much of your money as
possible. They can be very patient and VERY convincing. When
you realize you’ve been had, it often dampens an otherwise positive and
rewarding Amazon experience. Be kind, be generous…but don’t be foolish
and too trusting either. Remember, on the streets of Iquitos and
especially among many tourist workers, i.e. guides, cooks, etc., you are
“carne fresca” …fresh meat.

Remember that
foreign travelers are seen as wealthy by most Peruvians. Many will lie,
cheat, con, or steal from you and won’t feel the least bit guilty about
taking advantage of your kindness and generosity. It is therefore
best to avoid the trappings of affluence as much as possible. Leave your
jewelry and finer clothes at home and dress down for both comfort and more
effective immersion in the culture. Above all, don’t flash your money or
affluence with exorbitant tips or gifts. Here it is likely to spark
a feeding frenzy. Word travels fast and you will be engulfed by new
“friends” after your money.

Finally, remember
above all that most Loretanos are fine hard-working, culturally-rich
people of high character and integrity. Most will not abuse your trust
and will give you as much or more than they take. They sincerely want to
know you and hope you will return. Don’t miss the opportunity to make
many new and lasting friends while in the Peruvian Amazon!

El Tigre Journeys

Educational and Adventure

Travel Opportunities to PerúUnited States

(303) 442-8090 telephone/voice mail/fax ~

P.O. Box 1704, Boulder, Colorado 80306+1704 ~

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