Living in Peru: tips and tricks
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be more than a tourist in Cusco? Well, about a year ago, my boyfriend and I decided to take the plunge and find out for ourselves. We had just finished a month and half long backpacking trip through Ecuador and Peru, with Cusco as our final destination. Without jobs or a place to live, we made the decision to call Cusco our home. We were ready to find out.. what would it be like to be living in Peru? In this blog you will find our “living in Peru: tips and tricks”.
Finding a Home and a Job
The first steps in moving anywhere are the essentials: a home and a job. Finding both of these things in Cusco isn´t too hard, but you want to make sure you are finding the right job and the right apartment.
As wide-eyed Cusco newcomers, it is easy to want to take the first things offered to you, but these might not be the best available. The same goes for all things, from weekly routines like grocery shopping in Cusco to meeting friends, and finding your favorite spots and activities to do in Peru! You´ve got to put in the work to find what works best for you. However, as a semi-expert, I can make this period of trial and error shorter for you, by giving you some recommendations, from one extranjera to another!
Finding a place to work
Finding work in Cusco is a little different than finding work in other parts of the world. While it might seem like all job offers and applications are done on the web these days, in Cusco that is just not the case. In Cusco, finding a job is really about keeping your eyes and ears open, as many places will advertise job offerings in their windows. However, another useful resource is the Cusco Expats Facebook page. There are always people posting job opportunities in Cusco or long-term volunteer work on there. In fact, that is how I found my current job!
Some things to consider when job hunting in Cusco:
- Most jobs in Cusco available for foreigners are at bars, cafes, and discotheques.
- Other opportunities are offered at language schools (as an English teacher), travel agencies, or NGOs. If you want to work here, be aware that there might not necessarily work in your sector.
- The salaries in Cusco will not be equivalent to what you might earn in your home country. It is important to keep this in mind, as you are being paid for the cost of living in Peru, and not in a more expensive country like the United States or Norther Europe.
- For those looking to do long-term volunteer work instead of work, many Spanish schools in region offer the opportunity to combine Spanish classes with volunteer work in Cusco. The website Idealist is also a good resource, which many NGOs use to put out posts for open volunteer positions.
|Learning SpanishIf you decide to make Cusco your home, you definitely need so speak Spanish. Interaction with the local people is an important part of your living abroad experience, and the daily immersion is an excellent opportunity you can’t let go. There are many Spanish schools in Cusco but the quality of instructions varies quite a lot. I recommend AMAUTA Spanish School. They give good discounts for long term courses, and the teachers are good and fun. The School is located in the city center, and the overall experiences of the students I’ve talked to are very good.|
Finding a place to live in Cusco
Just like finding a job, finding a place to live in Cusco has its own quirks. The best place to look for places to live is in the newspaper Rueda de Negocios. You can buy this paper at pretty much any newspaper stand in town. The Rueda de Negocios is updated weekly, so try to get a paper first thing Monday morning to have your pick of listings. In the listings, you can find an address and contact person, and sometimes the price of the rent per month.
Some things to consider when house hunting in Cusco:
- Be wary of the listings that are in English, as they try to attract unsuspecting foreigners so that they can charge more than normal for rent.
- Be prepared to pay more for rent the closer to the center of Cusco you live. However, if you decide to live outside of the center, you will have to factor in the time and cost of daily transportation.
- If you want a furnished apartment, be sure to look for the word amoblado in the listing. Bear in mind also, that your version of furnished might not necessarily be the same as the landlord´s. In many cases, it is rare to find a fully furnished kitchen.
Grocery Shopping in Cusco
Grocery shopping in Cusco is a little more involved than just hitting up your local Trader Joe´s. Often to find all of the essentials, you might have to visit more than one place. My boyfriend and I buy all of our produce from our local market and the non-perishables and meat from a supermarket.
When at the market, it´s all about finding your particular vendors and proving yourself to be a loyal costumer to their stand and establishing a relationship with them; you want to become their ‘casero’. In turn, the vendors will reward your loyalty by giving you lower prices or un aumento, meaning extra food for the price of less!
As for the grocery stores, here is a list of a few of the stores we frequently visit:
- Orion– While this grocery store has two locations close to the city center of Cusco, it usually doesn´t have as many things as some of the other grocery stores. However, what it lacks in product, it makes up for in convenience.
- La Canasta– This grocery chain has a couple of different locations a little outside of the city center. That being said, it has pretty much everything, included some food products imported from other countries (yes, that means Tabasco sauce). If you live in the center, expect to take a bus or taxi to get here.
- Plaza Vea– This is the grocery store located in Cusco´s one and only mall. Prices here are a big higher, but just like in La Canasta, you can find a wide variety of imported food and just about anything else you would need for your house. Think Peruvian Target! Again, this store will require some navigating in bus or taxi from the city center.
Meeting People in Peru
Meeting people can be hard, especially in a country and culture different from your own. What´s nice about Cusco is that it attracts people from all over the world. Because of this, it is possible to meet friends from all parts!
The best way to meet people is to find something you like to do, and try to find a scene that corresponds that. As with finding jobs, the Expats Cusco page is a great way to find different clubs and events that correspond with your interests. In general, lots of expats flock to the salsa scene and through this, can about to connect with a fun community of locals and foreigners alike.
Unfortunately for my boyfriend and I, we aren´t the best dancers, so this wasn´t the scene for us. Generally, my boyfriend and I found our friends through our respective places of work, as we both work in international offices with a fun mixture of Peruvians and fellow expats.
Local Attractions in Cusco
One of the best things about living in Cusco, is the abundance of fun restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs. In fact, one of the things that my boyfriend and I enjoy doing the most (maybe a little too much for our wallets) is eating out. As our gringo stomachs have adjusted, we have been able to explore more and more of the lovely Peruvian local cuisine, even frequently indulging in street food. From our year here, we have cultivated a list of our favorite restaurants.
- Yola– This is my boyfriend, and I´s favorite lunch sport. It offers all of the best local Peruvian dishes for low prices and some very healthy portions (seriously, order a medio plato). However, this place is very popular with the locals as well, so sometimes they can run out of some of the more popular dishes during the lunch rush.
- Punto Mar Cevichería– I didn´t realize that until I moved to Peru how much of Peruvian ceviche fanatic I was. In fact, it is probably my favorite Peruvian food. This delicious seafood restaurant, located out in the Magisterio neighborhood, offers a wide variety of different types of ceviche and other Peruvian seafood dishes, like tacu tacu.
- La Bodega 138– This restaurant has the best pizza in town! Not only does it have the classics, like a Margarita pizza, but also more funky pizzas, including one that has kiwi on it. La Bodega also has a great selection of local beers and has the perfect ambiance for a Friday night post-work gathering.
- Uchu´s Steakhouse– This is the type of place you go for special occasions or if you have relatives in town visiting you. The prices here are a bit higher, but if you convert the prices into USD, you realize that you are paying less than $15 for a delicious Alpaca steak, cooked in front of you on a hot rock. It´s worth the higher prices!
Pastimes: what to do in Cusco
Besides all of the eating my boyfriend and I do, we also love to get out and adventure around Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Being from Colorado, a hotspot for adventure sports in the United States, we enjoy any and all things outdoor oriented. We have spent a lot of time exploring different trails all around the Cusco areas.
Hiking in Peru is a slightly different concept here than in Colorado because there aren´t many marked trails or official trailheads. You find out about different spots to hike in the Cusco area by word of mouth or simply by getting out and following a trail. It makes everything truly an adventure and you never know what cool things there are to discover out there. This way we discovered some really cool off the beaten path hikes in Cusco.
However, there are many other things to see and do in Cusco besides hiking.
Here is a list of our favorite things to do in Cusco.
- Picnicking up at Sacsayhuaman/Cristo Blanco– There´s plenty of local families that do this on days when the weather is nice. It´s great to get out of the city without going too far and enjoying the view of the ruins.
- Visiting the Green Market in Pisac– This market happens every Saturday in Pisac (not be confused with the daily artisanal market in Pisac). This is one of the only places you can get bagels in the Cusco region. The market also great local honey, hummus, cream cheese, among other things like soaps and handmade goods.
- Going to the Cervecería Valley Sacred (Sacred Valley Brewing Company)– Many people are quite surprised that there is a craft brewery in the Cusco area and one that is award-winning nonetheless. Visiting the brewery is worth the hour and a half voyage from Cusco because they make it an experience. The brewery has not only great beer, but also good food, an outdoor seating area with lawn games, and live music. It is also close to some awesome hikes, as well as the ruins of Ollantaytambo, and a super fun zip line, if you really need another excuse to get yourself out there besides excellent beer.
- Taking overnight camping trips in the Sacred Valley– As with hiking in the region, there are many great undiscovered camping spots all around the Cusco area. My boyfriend and I prefer the Sacred Valley because it is generally warmer than Cusco. Many local families there will even let you camp on their land, if you pay them a few soles.
Adjusting to Life Abroad
Of course, moving to a foreign country isn´t without its own set of hardships. One thing that has been hard about living abroad in Peru is being away from my family and friends during important events like holidays, birthdays, graduations, etc. The hardest thing for me was being away from my family on Christmas. This was the first Christmas we had ever spent apart. However, getting to witness all of the Peruvian traditions, and making some new traditions of my own with my boyfriend and my friends here was pretty special as well. It didn´t hurt that my boyfriend decided to cheer me up by adopting a kitten for me on Christmas Eve!
Another thing that has been difficult at times is adjusting to a certain customs in Peru, different from those of my home country. For me, the hardest thing to adjust to was la hora peruana (the famous Peruvian time). At first, it was difficult for me to wrap my brain around the fact in Peru, 30 minutes late could be considered on time, or even on early in some cases. Let´s just say that living in Peru has made me a much more patient person :).
Despite the ups and downs and highs and lows of living abroad, my experience living in Cusco has taught me so many valuable things about life and the world beyond the borders of my own country.
I highly recommend the experience of living in foreign country to anyone who wants to get out and explore the world. It offers you a much deeper understanding of a different culture and worldview than your own. And as for places to live abroad, Cusco simply can´t be beat! From the rich Peruvian history and ruins, to the delicious Peruvian food, vibrant nightlife in Cusco, and spectacular scenery, Cusco is a one of a kind city that will forever hold a special place in my heart.