What is the population of Cusco? What is the city of Cusco like?
Cusco has a population of about 300,000 inhabitants. Cusco is the capital of the Region of Cusco, in the southern part of Peru at about 850 kilometers from Lima . The city center of Cusco is pretty small and there are quite a lot of tourists, especially in high season. On and around the Plaza de Armas (the main square9 there are a lot of nice restaurants, pubs and cafes as well as travel agencies, souvenir shops and Casas de Cambio (to change your money). Outside of the center there are the more residential neighborhoods. There are two universities, three hospitals, a swimming pool, several high schools and primary schools, a theatre, and an (international) airport.
What is the weather like? When do you recommend coming Peru?
Peru is a varied and diverse country due to the climatic, natural and cultural diversity of its regions: Coast, Mountains (sierra) and Jungle. Therefore the best time to come to Peru depends on your wants and needs.
The rainy season in Cusco is from November to March. It's usually clear and dry most mornings with outbursts of heavy rain in the afternoons. The daily temperatures are typically 18°C with only a small drop at night, 15°C .
During the dry season, from April to October, the weather is generally sunny with hot, dry days (20- 25°C ) and cold, dry nights, often hovering just above freezing, particularly in June and July. It is recommended you bring a wet weather coat and warm clothes for the nights and inside buildings, as they don't have heating. However in the sun it is very hot and you might get burnt easily.
It is summertime on the coast from December till April, where the weather is hot and dry and ideal for swimming in the sea. Temperatures as an average range from 25 - 35°C.
From May to November the temperature drops a bit and you'll find blankets of sea mist engulfing the coast from the south right up to about 200 km north of Lima. At this time of year only the northern beaches near Tumbes are warm enough to provide pleasant swimming.
The 'dry' season with daily temperatures averaging 30- 35°C is from December till April. However cold fronts from the South Atlantic are common and the temperature can drop to 15°C during the day and 13°C at night. The dry season is the best time to visit the jungle regions mainly because there are fewer mosquitoes and the rivers are low, exposing the beaches. The wet season is from March till November and is hot and humid. You can expect heavy rain at anytime. But it does normally only rain for a few hours at a time, not long enough to spoil your trip.
On the news I heard that there are a lot of problems in Peru at the moment and that it is a very dangerous country. Is this true?
Our experience is that international news about Peru tends to be exaggerated. Cusco especially is a relatively peaceful place. If you keep in mind some basic rules (do not carry a lot of cash money with you, do not walk around alone at night), you will usually be safe. Items that are on the news often happen in the country side or in other desolate places, where tourists never visit.
Is it safe to walk on the streets in Cusco?
It is safe to walk on the street during day time, keeping in mind the basic rules mentioned before. It is wise not to go to desolate places out of Cusco (e.g. to do an hike) if you are on your own, but with a guide and a group, there is no problem.
During the nights we recommend you to walk in a small groups in the city center, and to take a taxi if you have to go furthe. Late at night, when leaving the pubs and discotheques, always take a taxi even if your accommodation is only two or three blocks from the square.
Is it a easy to take taxi´s in Peru?
It is easy and cheap but be careful. Normally during the day it is fine to take any taxi, but please be very careful after sunset. In Lima you have to negotiate the price and, as a foreigner, you will definitely be overcharged. However, it will still be cheap. In Arequipa and in Cusco, for example, there is a fixed rate (3 soles in Arequipa and 2 soles in Cusco ). However, it is not uncommon, when you just hail a taxi from the street, to have to agree upon a rate, only to find that the rate has changed when you reach your destination, or the driver doesn't have enough change when you get there….. If you need a taxi early in the morning, to go to the airport for example, or to the train station, it is recommended that you have your hotel call a taxi for you (or phone one yourself). It is much safer to use those taxi that work with a taxi company.
Is it safe to travel around by myself in Peru?
There are lot´s of travelers and tourist in Peru, some of them traveling in (small) groups, others of them back packing in their own or in couples. There is usually no problem. Remember keeping to the tourist routes is usually safest it is in more remote areas you may have problems. It is easy to take public transportation, to find accommodation, to contact the local people and to meet other travelers.
How much money will I need during my stay?
That is difficult to say as it depends on your lifestyle while staying in Cusco . Just to give you an idea: Public transport in Peru is very inexpensive. A taxi in Cusco will charge you US$0.60 during the day and US$ 0.90 after 10pm. A ride on a public bus in Cusco costs US$0.20.
An average meal (set menu) in a restaurant will cost you about US$2.00. A beer or a coffee in a bar will cost between US$1 and US$3, depending on where you go.
With a US$10 Visitors Ticket (‘Boleto turístico') you can visit the most important ruins, museums and other sites of interest in and around Cusco . A visit to Machu Picchu or to the rainforest is much more expensive. For details, please check www.dosmanosperu.com, the webpage of our travel agency.
What is the Boleto Turístico (the Visitors Ticket) exactly?
This is a Ticket which allows you to visit 15 different places in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley . It is a good investment because it saves you almost half of the money than if you bought the entrance fees separately. You can buy it at the first place you visit or at the public ministery. The ticket is valid for 10 days. With an ISIC Card it is only $5.
Do I need a medical and a travel insurance when traveling in Peru?
Yes, we strongly do recommend you to take a medical and a travel insurance in your home country. Although health care is relatively inexpensive in Peru, it is always advisible to have travel insurance.
Is it easy to use internet in Peru?
Internet cafes are common and most of them have DSL or ADSL fast connections. Explorer, Netscape, and Hotmail are readily available at every internet stop. Expect to pay about 2 1/2 Soles for 1/2 hour of internet time.
Are there ATM machines in Peru? In Cusco?
There are several ATM machines in Peru . However, we do recommend you to arrive with some cash money in case the machines are out of order. Please check with you local bank about the rates they charge for withdrawing money in a foreign country.
How can I change money?
This is very easy in Peru. You can change money (cash US or traveler cheques) at the banks or at the different Casas de Cambio. The exchange rate, at the time of writing, is $1.00 equals 3.3 soles. It is also possible to exchange other currencies (e.g. euros) but the exchange rate isn´t that good. In the tourist towns (e.g. Cusco), the Casa de Cambio are open from 9am till 10pm.
Will I need a visa?
No visa is necessary for most nationalities (check with the Peruvian Embassy in your home country). You will get a tourist visa when entering Peru will allow you 90 days in Peru . You are allowed a maximum of three 30-day extensions for up 180 days (6 months) in Peru . Each extension will cost you about $25.00. You might want to consider just crossing the (Bolivian or Chilean) border, if you need more time in Peru . It'll take you about two days and you'll be guaranteed another 90 days.
Should I apply for an International Student Card?
With an ISIC Card you get discount at several agencies and some Spanish Schools (e.g. AMAUTA Spanish School). There is a $25.00 discount when booking the Inca Trail and a $5.00 on the Visitor´s Ticket. So it is worth it.
hat is altitude sickness exactly? Will I get it?
On reaching heights above 3000m, heart pounding and shortness of breath are a normal response to the lack of oxygen in the air. However, for some visitors these symptoms can deteriorate into a conditions known as Soroche (or acute altitude sickness) where you can start to experience headaches, loss of appetite, extreme tiredness, sleeplessness and often nausea. Symptoms usually develop within the first day at altitude, but may be delayed by up to 2 weeks. To prevent Soroche, try to take things easy as soon as you arrive. Once settled in your hotel room have a lie down for a while and drink plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and heavy food. Drinking mate de coca (an infusion of coca leaves) may help. If symptoms become more severe and prolonged it is best to quickly seek medical attention and make arrangements to descend to a lower altitude.
What kind of vaccinations do I need for my trip to Peru?
Recommended vaccinations are: diptheria, hepatitis A, polio, rabies, tetanus and typhoid. Yellow fever and malaria is compulsory when visiting jungle areas as Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos.
What can you say about the Peruvian cuisine?
Peru is a fascinating mixture of people from around the world and its food reflects that. Some typical dishes include: ceviche (raw, marinated fish), anticuchos (spiced, grilled beef heart), papa a la huancaina (boiled potato in a cheese and yellow peppers sauce), lomo saltado (beef strips stir fried with red onion, tomato, French fries and cilantro served with white rice) and aji de gallina (shredded chicken in a spiced milk sauce). International foods are available in tourist centres. Peru's famous drink is the pisco sour, a cocktail made with grape brandy, lemon juice, egg white and sugar. Mate de coca (made from the coca leaf) is served in the highlands to help new arrivals acclimatise.
Is the water fit to drink?
Try to drink bottled water when in Peru . Tap water is not safe, it may cause mild abdominal upset. On camping trips the water is purified with tablets or boiled.