In this paper, we study the peristaltic flows of generalized Oldroyd-B fluids through the gap between concentric uniform tubes under the assumption of large wavelength and low Reynolds number approximations. The inner tube is rigid and the outer tube has a sinusoidal wave travelling down its wall. Homotopy perturbation and variational iteration methods are used for solution of the problem. The obtained solution is then used to discuss various interesting features of peristalsis. The effects of relaxation time, retardation time and radii of the tubes on pressure rise and friction forces (per wavelength on the inner and outer tubes) are discussed with illustrations. It is found that pressure rise diminishes with increase in relaxation time or the ratio of radii of inner and outer tubes. It increases with increasing retardation time. The effects of both time parameters on friction forces have the opposite behavior to that of pressure rise. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.