Peru is a big country, so many travelers take internal flights if they have limited time. There are four bigger companies operating flights ( LanPeru (co-owned by LanChile), Taca Star Peru, peruvian airline,. There are also a handful of small airlines flying to remote destinations in light aircraft. There’s an 18% tax on domestic flights and services
Public buses are the usual mode of transport over long distances. They are cheap, frequent and relatively comfortable, at least on major routes. When traveling between towns, have your passport with you, as it will need to be shown at police checkpoints. Armed robberies on night buses are not unheard of in Peru, so travel on a day bus (or fly) if you have the option. Trucks often double as buses in remote areas. Local buses are slow, cheap and crowded; when you want to get off just yell out. Taxi fares need to be haggled over; there are no metered cabs. Agree on the fare in advance.
When to Go
Peru’s peak tourist season is from April to August, which is the dry season in the highlands, and this is the best time to go if you’re interested in hiking. Travelers do visit the highlands year-round, though the wettest months, January to April, make trekking muddy. Many of the major fiestas occur in the wettest months and continue undiminished in spite of heavy rain. Basically, there is tourism in the highlands throughout the year.
On the coast, Peruvians visit the beaches during the sunny months from late December through March, although few beaches are particularly enticing. The rest of the year, the coast is clothed in mist. In the eastern rainforests, it naturally rains a lot. The wettest months are December through April, though travelers visit year-round since it rarely rains for more than a few hours and there’s still plenty of sunshine to enjoy.
What to Bring
Because Peru is a country of such diversity, what you bring depends on your travel plans. Bring warm clothes for the mountains, light clothes for the jungle and a combination for the coastal deserts, which are warm by day and cool at night. Items that are difficult to obtain in the country include: personal medical supplies, a money belt, sunscreen, good books in your native language and any electrical equipment you use.
Some other suggestions include: something small and typical from your home country (for your guest family). Dictionary; Spanish grammar book in your own language (there are no Spanish Grammar books or Dictionaries available in Cusco); email addresses; a guidebook, English novel books (no good bookstores around). If you plan to do the Inca Trail or another camping trip we suggest bringing a warm jumper/sweater; raincoat; walking shoes/hiking boots; sleeping bag (for Inca Trail, although these can be rented as well); water purification tablets (can be bought in Cusco as well); pocket knife; torch/flashlight and equipment because there is a shortage of trekking supplies in the country. For the jungle excursions malaria tablets, mosquito net and a raincoat (all can be bought in Cusco as well).
Money in Peru
The currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol. There are 100 centavos to each sol. At the time of writing US$ 1.00 was equal to S/.3.05. There are a number of automatic teller machines that take credit cards and there are numerous “Casas de Cambio” where Travelers Checks may be cashed or US Cash may be changed. There are also ATM that excepts Eurocards, which are Banco Latino and Banco del Sur. It is useful to arrive with American dollars. When changing money, be careful that you are not distracted with anything to make you lose count of what you have been given.
Expenses in Peru
The following list gives you some indication of what you may wish to plan for during your stay in Cusco. Taxis US$ 3.00; local transport US$ 1.20; a set meal/menu in restaurant US$ 4.00; a beer in a nightclub US$ 3.00; a coffee in a trendy caf/bar $1.50; a pizza in a nice restaurant US$ 5.00; international phone call $0.50 per minute; laundry service US$ 2.00 per kilo; long distance local transport US$ 13.00 for about 15 hours; email service US$ 0.50/hr.
If you are planning a trip in Peru after the Spanish Course, you have to consider a US$ 15-20 for a tiny budget including low-budget accommodations, all your meals and travel expenses. However, there are a couple of expensive tours you might want to take (e.g. Machu Picchu, river rafting, etc).
Climate in Peru
The rainy season in Cusco occurs from December through April Students may still walk the Inca Trail, however, it may be wet at times. During the dry season, temperatures are hot during the day and very cold at night. It is recommended that students bring a wet weather coat and a warm coat for the nights and inside buildings, as they don’t have heating. During the dry season it gets hot during the day in the sun, but it is always chilly during the nights, inside the buildings and in the shade. In May, June and July temperature really drops and it gets pretty cold. However, it is (almost) always sunny during the day.
Generally, it’ll be no problem to contact home, either by phone, mail, fax or internet. Long distance phone calls are about US$ 3.00 per minute but there are cheaper possibilities with Net2Phone etc. There are lots of cyber cafes in Cusco, the price for an hour of internet is about US$ 1.00
No visa is necessary for most western countries (but please check with the Peruvian Embassy in your home country). The tourist visa you will get upon arrival at Lima Airport, will allow you 90 days in Peru. You are allowed a maximum of three 30-day extensions for up 180 days (6 months) in Peru. Each extension will cost you about US$ 25.00. You might want to consider just crossing the (Bolivian or Chilean) border, if you need more time in Peru. It’ll take you about two days and you’ll be guaranteed another 90 days.
Generally, it is pretty safe and relatively easy to travel around by yourself in Peru. There are buses, planes, taxis etc. all over the country as well as hotels of all categories. There are all kinds of travelers and tourists around and it will be easy to meet other people and have a great trip full of adventure, culture and new friends.
There are several laundry services in town that charge about US$ 3.00 per kilo to wash and fold, your clothes normally in 24 hours.
Are innumerable. They can be flagged down by shouting taxi or by waving. Upon arrival at Lima airport an official cap might charge you US$ 20.00 or even US$ 25.00. From any point of the city to the airport is less expensive, about US$ 8.00 (an unofficial taxi). Within the city (Lima), the rate will vary from US$ 3.00 till US$ 8.00. Out of Lima, fares are cheaper. In Cusco, for example, taxis charge S/. 3.00 during the day and S/. 4.00 after 22:00 pm within the city. A taxi ride from or to the airport is more expensive. We recommend only official taxis especially during the nights. The cost is the same and they can be recognized because they have a phone number on the roof.
Peruvian toilets rarely have toilet paper, even in the restaurants. It is best to take your own miniroll around with you. Dont put paper down the toilet as it will block it. Receptacles are provided, even in the houses, and these are regularly emptied.
Items purchased in shops and restaurants have fixed prices and cannot be bargained for. However, items on the street or in the market are bargainable. Peruvians have learnt that the tourists have more money than themselves so will sometimes put up their prices when they see you coming. If you think you are being conned then start to walk away. If they don`t call you back with a lower price then you have probably reached as low as they will go.
The best quality and value lies in handcrafted products. This particularly applies to gold, silver and copper works, as well as Peru’s rich textile goods. These include alpaca garments and woven tapestries. Alpaca products are well worth buying, as long as you are prepared to hand-wash them with great care. Vendors will often tell you their goods are made from alpaca beb. This does not mean baby alpacas, but refers to the wool taken from the throat of the animal, where it is at its finest and softest. Most woolen jumpers sold as alpaca are actually usually a more hardwearing mix of llama wool and synthetic fibers. Many tourists also take home reproductions of pre-Columbian ceramics, with gourds being the favorite.
Most stores are open from 10:00am to 21:00 pm with a long lunch break between 13:00 pm and 16:00 pm. Banks are open only in the morning from 9 am to 13:00 and from 4:30 till 18:00 in the afternoon.
It is recommended that prior to arrival, students undertake a thorough medical examination, purchase health insurance and consult your physician about the necessary injections. There is no malaria in the Cusco area!
Don`t forget that the sun is much stronger at tropical latitudes. It is easy to get sunburnt even when it is overcast. Take extra precautions to avoid being sunburnt: wear a hat and use sunscreen. Try not too spend too much time in the direct sun, especially between 11:00 and 14:00. Be especially careful when going on boat trips as the wind and reflection of sun from the water will increase the risk of sunburn. Drinks lots of water.
Symptoms are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The best precaution against this is to avoid uncooked vegetables, salads and tap water. Eat only fruit that requires peeling. If living with a host family all your food and drinks will have been properly prepared, so indulge. Despite precautions, many visitors are affected by an upset stomach. If you are affected get plenty of rest and drink lots of liquids. Oral Rehydration Solutions (ORS) are available from pharmacists and can help you to replace the fluids lost. If you are affected for more than three days and/or you have a fever, you should visit a doctor.
Some people experience some discomfort at this altitude. We recommend at least a day of rest prior to the commencement of classes. The symptoms are headaches, dizziness, stomach upset and tiredness. These symptoms can be managed by reducing the alcohol intake; drinking lots of fluids; eating light meals and getting plenty of rest.
Cusco is a relatively safe city but as the urban center have swollen, so has petty crime. Unfortunately, pickpockets and thieves have become more and more common in Lima and Cusco and one should take precautions such as not taking a taxi alone at night nor walking around on the street alone after 22:00. Objects such as money and passports should not be left openly in your room.
Inka Grill, Portal de Panes 115, Plaza de Armas, Cuzco – $10 – Tel: (084) 262992
This is, according to many, the best food in town with some excellent “Novo Andean” cuisine on offer. This means they use native ingredients and revived Andean recipes alongside more modern and innovative cooking techniques to create some excellent and intriguing dining options. They also have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes, hearty home-made pasta, delicious coffee and sumptuous takeaway pastries to feast on. Good service is at hand with attentive staff.
Tunupa, Portal Confiturias 233, 2nd Floor, Plaza de Armas, Cuzco – $10 – Tel: (084) 252963
This is another offering on the Plaza de Armas with a large variety of food. Options include a fabulous dinner buffet with meat, seafood, vegetables and traditional Peruvian fare. It usually caters for groups meaning there is usually a lively and jovial atmosphere. There is an evening show every day with colorful Andean musicians and Dancers or alternatively there are seats and tables with an excellent view of Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas.
Inkanto, Portal de Carnes 254, Plaza de Armas, Cuzco – $11 – Tel: (084) 222642
Pristine décor greets guests to Inkanto with crisp white tablecloths and good quality furnishings. The food does not disappoint – this is chiefly Italian cuisine with fantastic pizza, pasta and risotto enough to make your mouth water without even considering the freshly baked bread rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar that come as an aperitif. A great option for those looking for some fine Italian food on the square.
Cicciolina, Triunfo 393, Cuzco – $11 – Tel: (084) 239510
This is another Mediterranean offering with Italian food again taking center place but by no means the exclusive option. Tasty aperitifs include shellfish marinated in coconut milk with Asian spices. The entrées feature Italian pastas – one particularly good dish is the Lamb Ragu which has an outstanding sauce. Moroccan spices also feature and even the odd Peruvian number – Causa de Cuy is a delicious pureed potato dish with fresh lime and – you guessed it – Guinea Pig, an Andean delicacy that has been eaten for centuries.
Granja de Heidi, Cuesta San Blas 525, 2nd Floor, San Blas, Cuzco – $4-$5 – Tel: (084) 238383
A fresh-from-the-farm restaurant with top quality local ingredients, Granja de Heidi is a great value restaurant in the San Blas district of Cuzco. Wonderfully healthy home cooking is the order of the day with a range of locally inspired dishes infused with the style of the pleasant German chef-owner. Vegetarian options are also available, with the rocoto relleno (stuffed red chilli pepper) a definite hit for those who can handle their spices. The desserts are simply exquisite – try the Chocolate fudge cake which will leave you in awe of how chocolate can actually be made to taste that good.
Chez Maggy, Procuradores 344, 365, 374, Cuzco – $5 – Tel: (084) 234861
Maggy’s always has a great atmosphere with backpackers and it offers a great value meal with Peruvian, Mexican and Italian food all on the menu. Particular favorites are pizza and the ravioli dishes, an excellent take on the Italian original with their own distinct Andean influences and flavors. There are three locations on Procuradores Street though the last one on the left probably has the most authentic and rustic character.