I have made my way to the beautiful country of Peru. What drew me in, like many other tourists, was one of the renowned 7 wonders of the world, Machu Picchu. It was a spectacular display of architectural brilliance and just as amazing as “they” say.
Before my trip, I wish I knew a bit more about the booking and planning process. I found researching my trip to be a grueling and annoying experience. I wished that there was a one stop place for me to get all the information I needed, which inspired me to create this blog post.
Booking and Planning.
The most popular time to visit Peru is during the dry season between May and October. One can expect sunny, warm days and chilly, cool nights. It is important to note, Peru is not a trip that can be planned at the last minute. There are laws governing the number of tourists allowed on the Inca trail, or Machu Picchu per day. Be sure to give yourself leeway.
Destinations: Lima, Paracas, Huacachina, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca.
Lima is a great starting and ending point to a vacation in Peru. Spending a couple of days in Lima is a great way to kick back, relax, and indulge in the fine cuisine the city has to offer.
Feeling a bit restless from lounging around, then look no further than Paracas and Huacachina. Paracas is a small beach resort. When you’re not frolicking around by the beach, you can enjoy a trip to Ballestas Island, also known as the poor man’s Galapago’s Island, or the Paracas National Reserve. The Ballestas Island tour includes an overview of the Candelabra and island enveloped by sea lions, Humboldt penguins, peligans, and several species of birds. La Catedral ruin and the sands of a red beach can be seen in the Paracas National Reserve. Huacachina is a tiny village located around a desert oasis. Here you’ll be able to experience thrilling dune buggy and sandboarding tours through the desert.
Now off to Cusco to begin your journey to Machu Picchu. Before heading off to see this spectacular Incan empire, you may want to travel through the Sacred Valley, which is made up of several Incan ruins including including Pisac, Chinchero, Moray, and Ollantaytambo. Travel through the Sacred Valley can be done by tour bus or taxi.
Then there’s Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water located at 12,507 feet. Here, you can take a tour to the Uros Floating Islands and enjoy a meal on Taquile Island while overlooking the lake.
Weather and Climate.
The weather in Peru in late August/Early September is what I feel is the perfect weather. Early mornings and evenings are cool and can feel chilly. Be sure to pack a sweater. During the day, it was nice and warm with no humidity.
Wear sunscreen! The sun will get you. I thought I would trek through Peru unscathed by the sun, but the top of my scalp and cheeks burned.
Bug spray is a must. This is of the utmost importance especially when visiting Machu Picchu. I did not run into any mosquitoes, but there were HOARDS of no-see-ums (e.g. sandflies) flying around the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Wear pants, not shorts. These little buggers are hard to see, but once bitten, you’ll be left with small, red bumps that will itch for days. Hydrocortisone cream is a miracle worker post bites.
The official currency of Peru is the sol. During my visit in August 2017, the exchange rate was 3.33 sol = 1 USD. USD is accepted, but better to have sol on hand just in case. Major credit cards, such as, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are accepted, as well. I tried to use American Express as much as possible to avoid foreign transaction fees.
ATMs are easily accessible in almost all cities in Peru. Huacachina was the only city where an ATM was not available during my trip. BCP is one of the best ATMs that I used. It had the lowest withdrawal fee (13.00 sol = ~4 USD) and allowed the largest withdrawal (700 sol = ~260 USD).
I noticed many restaurants in Peru add a 10% gratuity to tabs and 18% igv (impuesto general a las ventas, also known as, general sales tax). If you feel your service was impeccable or satisfactory, it is customary to add an additional 10% tip.
After a couple of days in Peru, I learned that taxi ride fares can be negotiated in Cusco. Be sure to ask for the price of the taxi ride before climbing aboard. To give you an idea of what you’ll be spending and negotiating on taxi rides, I spent 140 sol (42 USD) for a two hour taxi ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, but a ride from Ollantaytambo back to Cusco cost me 80 sol (24 USD). Be sure to negotiate!
My companion and I had a real run with altitude sickness upon our arrival to Cusco. I know many people do not have a problem with it, but in case you do, be sure to remember these useful hints. Take it easy the first day and allow yourself time to acclimate. I spent the first four hours of the morning hiking just outside the city of Cusco and was overcome with a relentless headache. Most importantly, STAY HYDRATED!!
You’ll have no trouble finding tour buses as there are a plethora to choose from. I went with Peru Hop, mostly for its raving reviews and the tour guides were English speaking. The buses had bathrooms available, comfortable seating, and entertainment (i.e. community movies). The Peru Hop guides were extremely helpful and an itinerary was provided to avoid confusion. As a little bonus, a free t-shirt can be retrieved if you stop by the Peru Hop office located in the city center of Cusco or Miraflores in Lima.
The official language is Spanish; however, many people in Peru are fluent in English.
Hello. – Hola.
Good morning. – Buenos días.
Good afternoon. – Buenas tardes.
Good evening. – Buenas noches.
How much does this cost? – ¿Cuánto cuesta?
English? – ¿Inglés?
Bathroom? – ¿Baño?
Where is _____? – ¿Dónde Está _____?
Thank you. – Gracias.
I also found it useful knowing how to count from 1-100. It’ll come in hand when you’re haggling with market vendors for nifty souvenirs and trinkets