Gringo Wasi Travel Tips
We know that your vacation time is very valuable to you and we want you to have the best experience possible, as such we offer these tips and suggestions that have been compiled from our own experiences , as well as those of our past guests. We hope these tips will help to ensure that you have a pleasurable visit to the Cusco region and Peru in general.
The most important thing to know is that Peruvians are very picky when it comes to US Dollars, and while most anything you happen to get out of a ATM or bank here should be fine, any USD you bring into the country should be thoroughly inspected before your trip. We recommend going to your bank and asking for the best bills they can give you, then check them at the counter before leaving to reduce the possibility you will have to return, things to look for would be;
- Any marks or stains on the bill.
- Damage, bills cannot be missing any piece no matter how small, and even the smallest tear can cause a bill to be rejected.
- B2 series bills, specifically bills where the serial number starts with CB and the series is B2. Near the serial number you will see a letter and number; if it is B2 it is possible that no one here will accept it and they definitely won’t if the serial number starts with CB, so it is best to avoid any B2 series bills.
- Lower denominations like ones and fives may be difficult to use and when accepted, may be taken at a lower rate, ten’s and larger are the best to bring.
While ATM machines are readily available in Cusco, check with your bank before deciding on this as your primary source of funds. Some banks may charge you an exchange fee in addition to an ATM fee; additionally most banks here will charge a fee for using the ATM as well. For credit cards, Visa is the most accepted card here and you will find that businesses that do accept credit cards will often charge anywhere from 6% up to 10% when you pay by credit card. Whether you decide to use a debit card to access your funds or are just bringing a credit/debit card for emergency, contact your bank and let them know you will be traveling, there is nothing worse than needing to use a card and having it be declined.
Cash really is king here and you will find that any of the smaller shops or more local eateries will only accept cash. US Dollars are accepted at most tourist locations, but for the best rate we suggest changing money at change houses (casa de cambio’s) upon arrival, and only paying in the local currency (Peruvian Nuevo Soles) while here. There is one exception to this rule, when prices are set in USD, like for the bus ticket between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, some tours and treks, or some accommodations, it is best to pay in USD as you are not likely to get a good exchange rate if you decide to pay in Soles.
While there are a few different designs for the Soles in circulation, here is a link to a good site to familiarize yourself with the local currency. http://www.andeantravelweb.com/peru/tips/peruvian-nuevos-soles-bank-notes-money-of-peru.html
One final note, here in our town of Huarocondo you will not find any banks or change houses, if you need to use an ATM or change money when you arrive, be sure to do it in Cusco. If you have had us arrange for your pick-up and need an ATM or to change money, let us know so we can make a stop before bringing you to Huarocondo. On occasion we can also change money here at the property, so if you let us know in advance how much you need changed, we may be able to have Soles here waiting for you when you arrive.
It is best to pack a variety of clothing as the weather in the Cusco area can vary from hot during sunny days to cold at night. Clothing that can be worn in layers is best as you can remove items as the day warms up, and if out late, put some back on as the evening cools. Bring comfortable walking or hiking shoes with good soles, there can be a lot of walking involved (depending on your itinerary) and the stone streets and walkways can become slick when it rains. A hat and sunglasses are also recommended as the UV factor can be quite high when the sun is out, and a good sunblock should also be included. Here is a link to some average charts for weather here in the Cusco region.
Let’s start with the one thing I shouldn’t have to mention, but I will. Your Camera, if it is a film type, be sure you have extra film. For digital cameras there are plenty of places where you can get new cards, or that can copy your pictures to a disk if you fill up your memory card, but this could take time away from visiting sites, so we would recommend making sure you are prepared with a large or multiple cards. In addition to the camera, we also recommend bringing the following items; Umbrella and/or Poncho, small day pack, water bottle, your favorite brand of pain reliever (Tylenol, Motrin, etc.), and any prescription medications you may need to take.
Keep in mind when packing that your international flight may allow for more luggage weight than your domestic flight, Domestic carriers in Peru typically only allow 2 bags with a combined weight of 50 lbs. to be checked free of charge. Additionally it is good to keep in mind that any souvenirs you may wish to purchase while here, will add weight if packed in your checked bags.
The tap water here in Peru is generally not considered safe to drink without first boiling, filtering or treating it. To help ensure an enjoyable Vacation, we recommend avoiding all untreated water, please keep this in mind when brushing your teeth and showering. While some restaurants use treated water for making Ice, we would recommend avoiding ice as well while visiting Peru, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure after all. We do maintain a container of filtered drinking water here at the property for your convenience.
Peru runs a 220v system; please check any electrical devices before bringing them, while most cell phone chargers are duel voltage, not all are. If you have a device that is only 110v, we do have some small transformers available for use. Every charger sold in the USA should have a label that will indicate what the allowable input voltage is; if it reads 110/220 then it will work fine here. You will also find that most electrical outlets in Peru are 2 prong and will accept the flat US style plugs, here at the property we have tried to be sure each of our rooms has at least one 3 prong outlet, but you may want to bring an adapter for this as well.
There are a few important things to know regarding the flight into Cusco, first is that during the rainy season, it is not uncommon for flights to be delayed or occasionally canceled due to bad visibility (Cusco is a VFR airport). Choosing flights that are around mid-day or later, can help reduce the risk of having your flight canceled, but the possibility of delays can be unavoidable at times.
Second is that on approach the plane will usually make a hard left turn as the City sits in an “L” shaped valley, so there is no need to worry if you find your plane suddenly making a hard left turn. When choosing your seats there is generally one side of the plane with a better view than the other, for flights arriving to Cusco the left side is better, and for departing flights the right side would be best.
There are also several options for your domestic flights, currently these are LATAM (formerly LAN), Avianca, Star Peru, Peruvian Airlines and LC Peru. When looking for flights it is important to know that both LATAM and Avianca have pricing that is only for Peruvian residents, if you happen to purchase one of these fares and are unable to prove citizenship or residency, you can be hit with a big sir-charge, so be sure to check the fare conditions before booking. LATAM and Avianca are also the largest carriers with the newest planes and the most flights each day, so in the event of a cancellation, you would be more likely to get a later flight on the same day.
Star Peru, Peruvian Airlines and LC Peru are all smaller carriers with older planes and fewer flights each day, but they can normally be the cheapest option when it comes to booking your domestic flights. These carriers do not have separate pricing for Peruvian Residents so you do not have to worry about checking the conditions for the fare you are considering.
Not the best of subjects, but there are a few things you should know, first is that here in Peru the toilet paper is not flushed, but put into the trash instead. We have been given many explanations for this from poor plumbing to the waste goes directly into the local rivers. Whichever the case please remember when here to not flush the paper or other items, but instead use the containers provided.
Another thing to know is that public toilets can be difficult to find and when you do, they are not generally very sanitary or even remotely clean, not only that but it can be about impossible to find a toilet with a seat on it. When you do find a public bathroom plan on paying to use it (50 centimos to 1 sol) and you will usually be given a small bit of toilet paper (we recommend caring toilet paper with you). If you have a day pack with you and need to sit, bringing a plastic over the door hook with you can give you a place to hang you pack, so that you do not have to set in on the floor or in your lap. Additionally Soap is not commonly found in Public bathrooms, if you save your soap slivers at home and toss them into a baggie for your trip. You can break them into pieces and have enough to use in a public bathroom by tucking one or two into a pocket each day. After use you can just leave it there after using it, or toss it in the trash.
A final note on the bathroom situation here in Peru, plumbing is another area that tends to be lacking at times, on occasion when you use a restroom, you will find that there is a large barrel full of water in the room, this usually indicates that the toilet is not connected to a water supply and you will have to pour a bucket full of water into the toilet after you finish.
If planing on doing a trek while you are here, bringing a medium stuff bag, duffel bag or dry bag can be helpful. For many of the treks that are available their will be horses or mules that can carry some of your belongings and having a bag to put them in can make things easier, some agencies will provide bags or offer them for a fee, but not all will do this.
A medium sized pack is normally sufficient if doing an organized trek, and it should only be large enough to fit everything that you will be taking on the trek, this will make the return on the train easier as you will only have the one item to carry, but a small day pack and a second bag is also manageable.
- The big cities can be noisy! Drivers honk to indicate their location in relation to other vehicles and to pedestrians, taxis will normally honk when approaching pedestrians hoping for a fare, and at times they also seem to honk for entertainment, bringing earplugs can help you to sleep when in any big cities.
- When you check in to a hotel, ask for a couple of business cards. When negotiating your taxi fare, it is easier to hand the card to the driver than to try and remember the address and drivers should not be expected to know where all of the hotels in town are located just by name.
- Take photos of location indicators (Hotel name, museum entrance, direction sign, ticket stub) so that when you get home and are trying to label your pictures, you have the location and name right there. If the sign has the entrance fees on it, that is even better because people often ask “how much was it?”
- We don’t recommend buying souvenirs while you are on a group tour. Group tours tend to stop at more expensive places that give them commissions, and it just means you will have to haul stuff around from site to site, so unless it is something really unique, don’t bother. Here in the Cusco region the central artisanal market is one of the best places for most of your shopping needs, and if you are interested in purchasing hand made textiles, we would recommend a trip to one of the weaving centers in Chinchero.
- If planning to Visit the Jungle or Machu Picchu, bring a good insect repellent with a high DEET content.
- Ladies: If using a purse, choose one with a strong strap that crosses your body from one shoulder to the opposite hip. It is much more secure and easy. Also when dining do not hang your purse over the back of your chair, it is best to keep it on, in your lap or hang the strap over your knee while dining.
- Men: Pick pockets occasionally work the more crowded locations so carrying your wallet in the front pocket is usually a good idea.
- Prices: All Peruvians haggle over prices, including taxis so don’t be shy in saying that it is too much or offering an amount that seems crazy low to you. Some locations like restaurants, hotels and tour agencies may not haggle, but most other services will, especially when it comes to souvenirs or gifts.