The Peruvian Sol: Your Complete Guide to Peruvian Currency

Last updated on March 7th, 2024 at 04:29 pm

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Peruvian currency: view of a city in Peru

Peruvian currency has changed a lot over the years, and it’s worth knowing more about the currency before you spend it, exchange it, or send money to Peru. That’s why our team here at Remitly put together this guide. Read on to learn more about the currency and how to exchange other currencies for it.

What is the official Peru currency?

The Peruvian sol or nuevo sol is the official currency of Peru, and you’ll find it everywhere in the South American country, from Lima to Machu Picchu to the Amazon basin. Its currency code is simply SOL.

When writing out values and prices, use the symbol S/. For example, if something costs 550 soles, you would write S/550.

Peru’s historic currency and its economy

Long before Peru declared its independence from Spain in 1821, the city of Cusco was the seat of the Inca Empire. Instead of physical bills and coins, the Inca Empire used an accounting system called quipu to keep track of trades and inventory. This made it possible for the Inca to trade up and down the coast of South America.

Between the 16th and 19th centuries, during Spanish colonial rule, the Spanish real was the local currency. After its independence, Peru introduced its own version of the real in 1822.

After the global economic downfall of 1929, Peru struggled with hyperinflation, as did many other nations. Because of this instability, the government created the Central Reserve Bank of Peru to help control inflation and restore economic prosperity.

In 1963, the government replaced the real with a form of money called the sol. This differs from the sol you’ll find in use today, as it went out of circulation in the 1980s when the country introduced the inti currency. But an unstable political climate led to mismanagement, hyperinflation, and a short lifespan for the currency.

Many years later, President Alberto Fujimori implemented a program in the 1990s to help control the country’s hyperinflation by removing the inti and creating a brand-new currency. This new monetary unit became the nuevo sol (or nuevos soles in plural). Today, it is more commonly referred to as the Peruvian sol.

The monetary system replacement was so successful in stabilizing the country’s economy that ever since the country has experienced normal inflation growth and better economic stability compared to many other countries in South America.

Peruvian nuevo sol banknotes and coins

As of 2022, the Central Reserve Bank of Peru (Banco Central de Reserva del Perú) produces coins in the following denominations:

  • 10 centimos
  • 20 centimos
  • 50 centimos
  • 1 sol
  • 2 soles
  • 5 soles

You can find banknotes in these denominations:

  • 10 soles
  • 20 soles
  • 50 soles
  • 100 soles
  • 200 soles

But how do you know if a banknote is authentic? Peruvian soles have security features to prevent counterfeiting, including three watermarks, a security stripe, and black strips with raised ink.

To ensure authenticity, the mint also uses techniques like microprinting, optional variable ink, and fluorescent features.

5 fascinating facts about the Peruvian sol

Nuevos soles are unique among world currencies. Read on to discover some interesting facts about them.

Rainbow Mountain in Peru

1. It pays homage to Peru’s history.

The monetary unit gets its name from Peru’s post-independence currency, also called the sol. The word “sol” comes from the Spanish word for sun, and nuevo sol means “new sun.”

2. Sol banknotes feature Peruvian historical figures.

The 10 soles banknote has an image of José Abelardo Quiñones Gonzales, a Peruvian war pilot regarded as a national hero.

The 20 soles banknote features Raúl Porras Barrenechea, the former president of the Republic of Peru who was also the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

And on the 50 soles banknote, you’ll see the image of Abraham Valdelomar, a famous Peruvian journalist, essayist, poet, and dramatist who lived from 1888 to 1919. He is often considered the founder of the avant-garde in Peru.

3. The Peruvian sol saved the nation.

In the late 1980s, massive hyperinflation was hurting Peru’s economy and the Peruvian people. The introduction of the new Peruvian sol helped usher in an era of lower inflation and a more stable exchange rate compared to the U.S. dollar.

4. Some Peruvian sol coins were rarely used.

In some countries, low-value coins like the penny are no longer produced or circulated. Peru has done the same with 1 and 5 centimos coins, discontinuing the 1 centimos in 2011 and the 5 centimos in 2019.

5. The “sol” image was not minted right away.

Despite its name, the original sol currency did not have a symbol of the sun. The sun icon only came into production much later with the nuevo sol.

The Peruvian Sol

Understanding Peruvian sol currency exchange rates

Although the Peruvian currency is less volatile than it once was, it’s still important to keep exchange rates in mind when sending money to or from Peru. Exchange rates vary based on a wide range of economic and political factors, from global trade to national elections to interest rates.

When you need to change money like US dollars into soles, research the exchange rate ahead of time. Different exchange offices, banks, and transfer apps will offer varying rates. By shopping around, you can secure the most favorable exchange rate possible.

Tips for obtaining legal tender in Peru

Cash is still the main driver of Peru’s economy, so you can expect to need banknotes during a trip there. Read on for tips on how to change your foreign currency once you arrive.

Skip the bank and the airport

You can find exchange offices at international airports, and many banks in Peru will exchange foreign currencies for you. However, exchange rates at these locations tend to be less favorable than they are elsewhere.

If you need to get some bills to pay taxi drivers for your airport transportation, you might want to exchange a small amount at the airport and then wait to use the exchange offices at top-end hotels or the private exchange houses called casas de cambio, where rates tend to be better.

Take advantage of ATMs

If you’re visiting Peru, you may spend less by withdrawing cash from an ATM. While you will be charged fees for making withdrawals, they’re typically lower than those charged by casas de cambio and banks for exchanging money.

Most ATMs will accept cards from the Cirrus and PLUS networks, which are used around the world. Contact your bank to find out if your ATM card is a part of this network.

Visa and Mastercard are accepted in major Peruvian cities, too. If you’re traveling to small towns, finding businesses that accept credit cards may be more difficult.

Check international transaction fees before using your credit or debit card abroad.

Bring U.S. dollars or Euros to exchange

Most casa de cambio locations and banks will only trade in U.S. dollars or euros. Exchanging other currencies for USD or euros at home before your trip may make it easier to obtain Peruvian banknotes.

Soccer team in a huddle

Familiarize yourself with the appearance of Peruvian bills

As previously mentioned, Peruvian law enforcement faces an ongoing battle against counterfeiting. You’re unlikely to receive counterfeit notes if you exchange currencies at a bank or through a reputable service. However, it’s possible that you might end up with some when you receive change after making a payment.

Knowing what Peruvian notes look like can help you spot fakes. Do the following whenever you receive bills:

  • Feel the texture: Genuine soles are cotton, not paper, and the printing is noticeably raised. On fake bills, the printing may be smooth and flat.
  • Hold it up to the light: On real bills, the watermark is crisp and clear. Fake bills are more likely to have a blurred watermark.
  • Tilt it: When you slowly tilt a genuine bill, the appearance of the printing colors will change slightly. This usually won’t happen with fakes.

Inspect bills carefully

Most businesses won’t accept bills that are torn, even if the flaw is very minor. Look over banknotes before you leave the money-changing counter and request replacements for any damaged ones.

Carry small bills whenever possible

Due to concerns about counterfeiting, many businesses are hesitant to accept banknotes in large denominations. When possible, request a mix of smaller value bills to simplify purchases.

Sending money to Peru

If you’re sending money to Peru, you have many options for checking exchange rates against the U.S. dollar (USD), the Canadian dollar (CAD), the euro (EUR), the Australian dollar (AUD), the British pound (GBP), and other currencies. Easily find the current exchange rate by using an online converter or by checking with your bank or the money transfer app of your choice.

To send funds to a family member or friend, look for an online money transfer service like Remitly. It allows for faster transfers and lower fees than traditional wire transfers.

With Remitly, you can send money to major Peruvian banks, such as Interbank, BanBif, and Banco Azteca, or arrange a cash pickup location.