sencillo means loose change in spanish. peru is built on an economy of loose change. in my past life in the US, i carried maybe a few twenties and some quarters in my wallet. the rest of the space was filled with credit cards, id cards, gift cards, reward cards, or some other type of card representing currency. in peru, i’ve traded plastic for monedas (coins) and my wallet for a coin pouch. i’ve even gone so far as to hoard coins (to the annoyance of one particular friend).
there is a 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent, 1 sole, 2 sole, and 5 sole coin. there are also 1 cent and 5 cent coins (tiny, they feel like plastic), but those are only distributed by supermarkets. they’re really annoying.
the majority of businesses in peru never have change. if you want to buy a piece of cake for 3 soles, or a bottle of water for 1 sole, or take a ride on a combi for 1.20 soles, you better carry exact change with you or 2 things may happen: 1. the price of your desired good will have increased to the money that you do have. 2. you will not be able to buy your desired good.
but i have made a list of vendors that should have change for you (this is where you can break your 20, 50, or god forbid, your 100 sole bill).
- banks (i’ve asked banks to break my 100 bills into twenties. this is especially useful in small towns where absolutely no one will carry anything bigger than a 20)
- supermarkets (i’ve paid for a bottle of water with a 100 bill before)
- collectivo/combis (since their business is all about collecting change, they should have some for you. but be aware that they may try to rip you off if your fare is determined by how far you travel)
- restaurants when you’re eating with friends and the bill is large (someone will always offer to paid with their 50 and get change. make sure that person is you)
- bus stations
here is a list of vendors that will not have change:
- small, family owned restaurants
- small, family owned stores
- everyone at the market
- anyone selling anything on the street
- taxi drivers (especially in the mornings)
i’m really curious to see how much change there is in peru. because i imagine there to be mountains of it. and they’re all being hoarded by the combi drivers and they have sencillo parties and create pedestals made out of it to laugh at all the vendors below who never have change.
they really shouldn’t make bills bigger than 20 because the usefulness of them is on the same level as credit cards in peru. you might think that vendors would realize the inefficiency of not having change or maybe try to keep some change from the day before, but obviously i may be the only person in peru who thinks this is really an issue.
i noticed recently that there is a 200 sole bill. why??
the 1 sole coin was recently remodeled with a design that an artisan group in my town also uses on their products. see it here on wikipedia. one of my friends tried to buy something with it and the vendor refused it because of it’s newness. which reminds me that during PC training, one of the first things we were taught was how to determine if a bill or coin is fake. there are various techniques including making sure if there is a hologram, the thickness of the paper, etc. i’ve pretty much stopped checking those things because i feel like i wouldn’t be able to tell if it was fake anyway. but i did have in my possession a fake 1 sole coin once. i could only tell because it was much lighter than a normal 1 sole coin. i know this because i hoard sencillo.