We chose Peru as our first destination mainly because we all wanted to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (a top item on almost every backpacker’s bucket list).  We bought our plane tickets for September 28th, 2016, before booking our trek to Machu Picchu; we wrongly assumed that we would have no problem scheduling a trek for sometime within the month of October.

Turns out, even though it was only the beginning of August, all of the October permits for the Inca Trail were already claimed! The destination is so popular that travelers are typically advised to book their trek about 6 months in advance, if not more.  The earliest date we could book our trek for was November 6th, 2016.

This planning error ended up being a blessing in disguise; we rented an apartment in the popular bohemian neighborhood of San Blas in Cusco, and we learned quickly that Peru has much to offer in addition to its main World Wonder, Machu Picchu.  In our blog posts about Peru, we go into detail about some of our favorite sites and activities.

You can check them out here:

Top Tips for Cusco: 

  • If you’re coming from the U.S., bring dollars with you.  The exchange rate was pretty close to exact, and there were money exchange offices everywhere.  That will save you the international ATM fees.
  • Spend a few days in the Sacred Valley before posting up in Cusco, specifically Ollantaytambo if you can.  It will help you adjust to the altitude, and there is so much to see there.
  • Don’t plan too much activity for your first days in Cusco; the altitude affects everyone differently, so you will want to take time to adjust, rest, and hydrate.
  • If you have at least two weeks to explore in and around Cusco, buy the 10-day Boleto Turístico.  This pass will grant you access to many of the main historical sites in Cusco and in the surrounding towns.
  • Utilize local public transportation, like buses and colectivos.  While it may not seem as convenient as grabbing a taxi, you will save money and travel like a local.  The most we paid for a colectivo was 10 soles ($3 USD), and the least we paid – for an hour and a half trip – was 1.7 soles ($0.50 USD).
  • When you get hungry, veer away from the central plazas of Cusco. On most side streets, you can find a menú turístico – soup, a main dish, and a drink – for 15 soles ($4.40 USD).  If you are looking for an even better deal, head to the Mercado de San Pedro or the Mercado de San Blas.  There, you can find the same type of food for as little as 4.50 soles ($1.30 USD); it’s just as delicious as food you’ll find in the Plaza de Armas.

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