Here in Peru, we use the Peruvian Sol as currency. The symbol for the Sol being S/ and the currency code being PEN, the Sol is divided into 100 cents or céntimos like the American dollar. The Sol comes in .5, .10, .20, .50, 2, and 5 dollar coins and 10, 20, 50, 100, and the ever so elusive 200 dollar bills. And because I’m your neighborhood history lover let me give ya’ll the back story right quick:
The Sol is relatively new having been only been around since 1991 when Bryan Adams still was belting out the soft rock jams. Due to hyperinflation during the presidency of Alan Garcia (who also ran for president this year), the Sol replaced an earlier form of Peruvian currency called the Inti – named after the Incan sun god. And if your Spanish game isn’t on point and you haven’t caught on yet Sol means “sun.” Since the its introduction to the economy, the sol’s exchange rate has fluctuated between 2.2 to 3.66 with the current rate being S/1.00 = $3.00.
Anywho, I recently read something online that stated that Peru is one of the cheapest places in the world to live. After reading it, honestly, I wasn’t that surprised – Every time I come back from the market, I mentally convert the money I spent dollars and think about how far the dollar would go here and of course day dream about how great it would be if we got paid in dollars. I’m sure you guys at home also figured that the cost of living here is much cheaper than in the States but I wanted to give you guys an inside look into the wallet of a poor Peace Corps Volunteer so I made a chart documenting my purchases for the past week and a half:
Note: Ya’ll are probably wondering how on earth I am feeding myself with the items on the chart but its important to say that I only buy my food for breakfast and dinner. I eat all of my lunches with my host family and pay S/4.00 for every lunch I eat with them. For breakfast, I usually eat something light like fruit or eggs. And because the principal meal is lunch and I am served incomprehensibly large portions, I am never too hungry for dinner so that tends to be very light as well.
I know this isn’t the “whole picture” when it comes to all of the expenses you might have in Peru but as you can clearly see that things here are extremely cheap. In the States you could never find a pomegranate or avocado for less that $1 – And as The Rock says, you bet your candy a** that the fruit at Whole Foods isn’t nearly as fresh as the stuff you find in the market here. And just think, instead of paying $15 for a half a pound of Amazonas coffee sold by Starbucks, you could be paying $3 for 2 lbs. of that same (and no doubt fresher) coffee. On top of things like food prices, average rent here for a room with a private bathroom is between S/100 – S/200 ($33 – $66) a month. And a ride from one side of town to the other on a mototaxi (the closet thing we have to public transport) would be about S/2 ($.66).
When people visit Peru they often visit large tourist cities like Cusco, Arequipa, and Lima dropping serious cash and not really experiencing the relative “cheapness” of Peru. I would assume that most visitors leave with an unrealistic sense of what spending money day in and day out is really like here. I know that I always talk about (and my talk about I mean endlessly complain about) how much I miss American food but I know that one thing I’ll miss is being able to find such cheap, fresh produce and how far my soles take me.
So the next time you gotta buy the three pomegranate at the market, think of me and let your eyes turn green with jealousy cause I’m out here in South America straight winning.
Until next time, ya’ll!