There were always half a dozen people outside our local supermarket in Lima, wearing turquoise waistcoats and brandishing bricks of banknotes. Cars would pull over, and money would change hands after a few seconds’ bargaining. This mostly seemed to be people selling US dollars for soles, but I can’t figure out quite why. Most ATMs in Peru give you the option of taking out USD or PEN - is this because people still remember when the old sol went through the floor and was replaced by the inti in 1985 (1,000 PES = 1 PEI) and then again in 1991 by the new sol (1,000,000 PEI = 1 PEN), even though things have been pretty stable ever since? Or perhaps because a lot of Peru is still a cash-based economy and it’s hard to take out more than a few hundred soles from the bank at once, so Benjamins under the mattress are a good store of value?
A word to the wise. Change your money in Peru if you can, and definitely don’t cross the border to Ecuador with more than pocket change left in soles, because it will be difficult and expensive to change. Peruvian money changers will happily give you $50 and $100 notes, but, despite being legal currency, nobody likes them in Ecuador and even big businesses may refuse to take them.