You trip to the Incan City of Cusco should be unique and memorable. So, your travel plan should not be full of errors or improvisations. To help you organize your trip, we have put together a list of suggestions that will aid you in making your trip to Cusco a great one.
Let’s see. What are the most important tips that you really should not forget when you are making up your travel plan for Cusco?
Reserve your entrance ticket into Machu Picchu
For the majority of visitors, the City of Cusco is only a stopover on their journey to Machu Picchu. So, they only stay in the city for a night or two.
Let’s imagine that you, yourself, are one of these intrepid travelers coming to Cusco. We recommend that you buy your Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket weeks or months in advance. These tickets tend to sell out fast.
In order to explore other Cusco attractions, you will also need a Tourist Ticket Cusco. But there is no rush to get one of these. They never sell out. You can always buy one at the first tourist destination that you visit.
Buy your airplane tickets to Cusco
If you are planning on flying into Cusco you should remember that there are only direct flights from the following places: Santiago de Chile, Bogotá (Colombia) and La Paz (Bolivia). Unless you are departing from one of these cities, you will arrive in Lima first and then fly up to Cusco. Buy your Lima to Cusco roundtrip airline ticket months in advance.
Another option would be to travel from Lima to Cusco by bus. Some recommended bus companies are: Cruz del Sur, Ormeño and Tepsa.The two most frequently used routes to Cusco from Lima are:
- Lima – Ica – Nazca – Abancay – Cusco.
- Lima – Ica – Nazca – Arequipa – Cusco.
It is good to remember that overland travel from Lima to Cusco is only recommended for those adventurous travelers who can put up with bus trips of over 21 hours.
Reserve your hotel
Within the City of Cusco there is a large variety of lodging options. There are hostels and inns and hotels with ratings of from 1 to 5 stars. But, as in all of the world´s major tourist destinations, sometimes there are no vacancies. That is why we recommend that you make your lodging reservation for the place that best fits your needs well in advance.
You might also want to consider staying out in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Some of the most exclusive hotels are located there.
Be careful of altitude sickness (soroche)
Cusco is located in southern Peru, in a high valley of the great Andean Mountain Range. The elevation is over 3399 masl. For this reason, the first problem that you will have to surmount could be altitude sickness.
What is altitude sickness? Altitude sickness (also called soroche or MAM) results from the body´s lack of adjustment to the lower amount of oxygen present in the air at high elevations. This illness affects those travelers who have not yet fully adjusted to the high elevation. It is not a cause for worry, because it is generally a short-term problem, and it lasts only as long as it takes for a body to get used to Cusco’s altitude.
The main symptoms of soroche are:dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, lack of co-ordination, and trouble breathing.
In order to combat soroche, we recommend that you breathe deeply without desperation, drink plenty of water or other natural beverages, or, as they say in Cusco, drink coca tea. Avoid drinking alcohol. 24 hours before arriving in Cuswco,you could take an anti-soroche pill.
According to what we have heard from many travelers, putting a few drops of chlorophyll into your drinking water might help. This increases the red blood cell count in your blood, making it easier for your body to absorb oxygen.
Choose the best time of year to visit Cusco
Any month is a good month to come to Cusco. But it a good idea to remember that there are generally two epochs per year regarding tourism in Cusco. High season is from May – November, and low season is from December – April.
During the low season it is easier to find discount prices and greater availability of services such as entrance tickets, trains seats, and hotel rooms. On the negative side, there are more cloudy skies, rainy days, and other weather-related problems that could interfere with your trip.
During the high season, the skies are generally clear blue, and the days are sunny and warm. But you will find less vacancies, higher prices, and colder nights.
What is the best date to come to Cusco? Not disregarding what was stated in the preceding paragraph, my personal preference would be the month of April. During this sweet month you will usually encounter blue skies with some white clouds, warm sun, and all the vegetation will be bright green, flowering, and well-watered after the rainy season.
Make sure you bring your personal documentation with you
Like all other countries in the world, Peru requires that you enter the country with a valid passport that will not expire for at least 6 months. If you are from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay or Venezuela, then you would need only your national identity document (DNI) to enter Peru.
The amount of time that that you can stay in Peru is 183 days. A visa is mandatory for any tourist who is not from one of these countries. Algiers, Egypt, Morroco, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, México, Panamá, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Brunei, China, South Korea, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Russia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, cia, Hungary, Itally, Luxemburg, Macedonia, the Low Countries, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Rumania and Ukraine.
If you are a student, it will also be necessary to bring your up-to-date student card with you so you can receive some discounts, especially on entrance tickets.
Bring cash and your credit card
About currency: it is advisable to carry U.S. Dollars. These you can always change into soles at the exchange houses that are close to the Plaza de Armas. But try not to change dollars at the airports. You will not find good prices there…
You can also bring credit or debit cards, since in Cusco there are a large number of ATMs and banks that are located within the Historic Center of Cusco.
Always watch out for your safety
Cusco, in general, is a fairly peaceful place with very friendly and hardworking people. However, as everywhere, there are opportunists and thieves.
For your safety in Cusco:
- Do not go far from the Historic Center of the city. It is the only site that is monitored with security cameras.
- Use tourist services from duly authorized Travel Agencies.
- Verify that the taxi service vehicle you take is from an authorized company and has its respective license plate. In addition, before you begin, agree with the driver on the price you must pay.
- Exchange money only in the exchange houses and not in the street.
The Historic Center of Cusco and its main tourist attractions are protected by the Tourism Police. So, in case of emergency, do not hesitate to go to them or call the emergency center (105).
Bring along appropriate clothes
In Cusco there is rainy season and dry season. The nights are cold, and the days are warm if the sun is out.
- During rainy season, bring waterproof footwear, waterproof clothing and some warm clothes.
- During the dry season, wear light but warm clothes: windbreaker, long-sleeved polo shirts, trekking shoes and a wide-brimmed hat.
Always take good care of your health
For your visit to Cusco, you will not be required to receive any vaccine. However, it is a good idea to consult your doctor who will might recommend a vaccine against yellow fever, influenza, typhoid and hepatitis A.
Also, always carry your sunscreen, mosquito repellent and sunglasses. Do not forget to bring your personal medications and a small first aid kit.
The City of Cusco has 2 hospitals, several clinics, many health centers and countless pharmacies and drugstores.
Use urban transit or tourist transportation services
The best way to get around within the City of Cusco is by taxi or with tourist transport services. Taxi prices vary from 5 soles and up, depending on where you want to go.
On the other hand, to explore outside of Cusco or to leave the city, it is best to take the intercity transport services or use the tourist services of a Tour Operator.
Always stay connected
In Cusco you will not have any communication problems, because this city has all the communication services that large cities have: internet, fixed telephones, cel phones, etc.
So you will find it easy to stay connected to friends and family. Tell them where you are and where you are going.
Taste the exquisite cuisine of Cusco
The cuisine of Cusco is varied, traditional and full of flavors and colors. So, you will not have trouble finding foods that you like. Of course, always try to eat in a restaurant that is located around the Plaza de Armas or within the Historic Center.
Around the Historic Center you will also find many restaurants that offer varied menus at good prices. However, always be careful with hygiene and health.
Another recommended option is to visit the San Pedro Market. Here you can observe the mix of the traditional with the modern, and you can taste the lots of different dishes.
Explore Cusco on your own or with an Agency
There are different ways to explore Cusco, either on your own or with your trusted Travel Agency. Either way, decide well before taking a tour or going out to explore some tourist attraction.
Most agencies offer group and private excursions, and the prices of the tours vary according to the type of service. However, before booking a tour, look for information about your agency’s reputation and the level of service it provides. For this you can go to Google, Tripadvisor, or you can call Dircetur (the regulator of the Travel Agencies in Cusco).
During your adventure in the City of the Incas, it is not the tips, the advice, or the recommendations that should matter most. It is the energy, desire, and intention of your adventurous spirit that will let discover how to create the perfect trip for yourself.