9 Things You'll Wish You Knew Before Visiting Peru
If you’re headed to Peru or thinking about visiting Machu Picchu, you’ll want to read the following travel tips below. Peru has become one of the world’s famous destinations, thanks to the stunning site of the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. With its vast array of natural beauty to explore, it’s no surprise that the number of visitors have grown exponentially in the past decade.
From transportation options to souvenir shopping, below are nine very important things you need to know before visiting Peru:
1. There are a few ways to get to Machu Picchu.
Visiting Machu Picchu requires careful planning as there’s no direct route. Don’t fret! There are easy and adventurous ways to traverse this magnificent Incan citadel. You can either hop on a train from Cusco, ride a bus from Ollantaytambo or take a scenic route by hiking the Inca Trail or other alternative trails.
Personally, trekking to Machu Picchu was my first choice. I wanted to fully experience Peru and conquer one of the most epic trails in the country – Salkantay Trail.
Whether you want to experience more of Peru or need to know the quickest way to Machu Picchu, read my latest travel guide. There a lot of important details you need to know regarding this particular topic. I’ve included a list of booking sites and informative links to help you choose the right trail for you.
For more Peru travel tips, read Traveling to Peru: Ways to Get to Machu Picchu
2. Altitude sickness sucks! Talk to your doctor.
Don’t even think about not paying your doctor a visit if you’re planning to visit Cusco. This city is located at 11,152 feet above sea level, which means the air is “thinner,” making it difficult to breathe. Altitude sickness is no fun, and you need preventive medication to avoid getting sick. Some of the other symptoms are headaches, diarrhea and vomiting.
Talk to your doctor or a travel doctor before your departure to help you prepare for this unpleasant illness. It’s essential to give your body a day or two to acclimate upon arriving in Cusco as it takes time for your body to get accustomed to the lower amount of oxygen it’s getting. Plus, there’s nothing worse than feeling queasy on your vacation.
If you forget to stock up at the pharmacy, you can also try a Peruvian tea called Coca tea. This kind of tea is known to help with altitude sickness. (Note: Coca Tea is not allowed in the United States, so don’t bring it back!)
3. You may or may not need travel vaccines.
Some vaccines are recommended or required for Peru. According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, all travelers must be up to date on vaccines while traveling anywhere in the world. Some of the recommended vaccines are: Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Malaria and Yellow Fever. To protect yourself from these diseases, schedule a consultation with your doctor or a travel specialist and get the shots you need.
4. Planning is key! Buy your tickets and tours ahead of time.
As I mentioned before, there are thousands of travelers who visit Machu Picchu in a day alone. While you can purchase your entrance tickets in Peru, it’s highly advised to buy them before arriving at the site.
Booking a guided tour for me was the best decision I could’ve made as I didn’t have to stress about where to find entrance tickets, train tickets and bus tickets. Everything was included in the package. It was very convenient.
Machu Picchu Tickets
If you’re not coming on an organized tour, be sure to check availability and book your entrance tickets first. After you’ve secured your permits, you should then book your train tickets, flights and guided tour in that order.
Peru also announced new rules and regulations regarding the historic site this year. According to Alpaca Expeditions, as of July 1st, 2017, all visitors must be accompanied by an official registered tour guide. And surprise! You’ll need to pre-book your guided tour.
Train tickets from Cusco to Machu Picchu sell out fast in high season. The country’s peak season is May through September, which is also their driest season. Don’t procrastinate, get your seat now! There are limited trains and buses that you can choose from. You can find this list of train sites and guided tour websites on my travel guide.
5. Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink.
To avoid getting a bug and missing out on planned activities, only drink purified, filtered water. You can buy bottled water almost everywhere in Peru but be cautious. Make sure the caps are sealed as some vendors refill empty bottles with tap water.
Be sure to use bottled water or boiled water when brushing your teeth! Yes, I’m sure you don’t swallow your toothpaste but you just never know. A friend of mine learned this the hard way.
6. Aguas Calientes is a tourist trap.
Machu Picchu Pueblo also known as Aguas Calientes is the nearest town to the sacred Incan city of Machu Picchu. There are countless of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and hotels. Be prepared to shop, spend and well, overspend. Tourism is the city’s main source of income, so prices are little higher than usual. Nonetheless, it’s a very charming city and the people are very nice.
Quick tip: There aren’t many things to do Aguas Calientes, but there are hot springs or “thermal baths” you can relax at after a long day of hiking or traveling. It’s only PEN S/. 10.00 for adult foreigners.
7. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere!
Credit cards are accepted almost anywhere in Peru. ATM’s and money exchange can be found in the central Cusco and highly traffic areas in Lima. You may also find that some restaurants will ask for your passport number if you pay with card. This may feel a little uneasy, so I highly suggest to always use cash.
Quick tip: Notify your bank or credit card company that you will be out of the country. Some banks like Bank of America have mobile apps that allow their customer to set a travel notice.
8. There’s Uber in Lima!
Yes, you read that right! Uber is available in Lima. What’s great about taking Uber is that you don’t need to worry about running short on cash as the transaction can be done through the app. Rates can change during rush hour or times of intense demand and arrival times are sometimes inaccurate. Lima is known for heavy traffic. Do order it at least 10 minutes before you plan to leave. Personally, there were many times that our Uber driver got stuck in the same spot for a long time.
9. Lima is the best place for souvenir shopping.
Souvenir shopping is a mandatory element for many travelers in Peru. There’s a myriad of stores you can choose from. Whether you’re looking for a simple t-shirt or traditional Peruvian clothing, there’s a local shop in Lima that is sure to have it all. You’ll find almost the same souvenirs in Lima that you find in Cusco. So, hold on to your Peruvian soles and wait until you visit Lima!
I bought a sweater in Cusco 45 soles and found the same exact one in Lima for 35 soles. It doesn’t seem that much of a difference, but I had a long list of people I want to give souvenirs to – so saving money any way I could was a must.
If you’ve been to Peru and would like to share your travel tips, leave your comment in the section below!
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Hey there! My name is Margareth. I'm a curious individual, with a great desire to explore eclectic cities, gaze at the great wonders of the world, and more importantly - inspire others to live, love and travel.
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