Now is the time to travel and visit Peru. South America is filled with much to see and Peru is one of the many places you can visit. Going on a Peru Tour is common, but not all tours are alike. Choose a tour company with some experience such as South American Tours and guarantee that you can enjoy yourself to the fullest.
Essentials for Peru Tours
- If you are not a resident of Peru you are exempt from paying the 18% Peruvian sales tax for your lodging.
- There is a departure tax that must be paid in cash. The cost is $31 for international flights and $6 for domestic flights. You can pay in U.S. dollars or Peruvian soles.
- If you are tipping, normally people leave a 10% tip. If the restaurant already charges a service charge, then patrons usually tip an additional 5%
- Only drink bottled water that is widely available and never from the tap.
- Having change on hand while in Peru will be in your favor. You will find that many businesses and vendors do not have change. Carry small bills.
- Be certain to withdraw your money from the ATM while in Lima or Cusco.
Now that the essentials are out of the way, let’s share more about Peru!
Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu
Most people are advised to spend a couple of days acclimating to Cusco during their Peru Tours. This is not necessary because Cusco is significantly higher than Machu Picchu. Hire a taxi from the official taxi stand inside the airport, for the day as soon as you arrive at Cusco airport. Or, hire a tour company to handle everything for you.
You could spend a full day traveling through the gorgeous Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is a narrow and very scenic valley that winds between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Here you will find the ruins at Pisac and Ollanta, the salt mines, Moray amphitheater, and the town of Ollanta. Tourists are few and far between.
There are three main towns: Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollanta. The easiest way to get between Cusco and the Sacred Valley towns is to take a taxi. The distances between towns are short and the fares are cheap. There’s only one main road connecting these towns so picking up a cab is never a problem.
For a more authentic Peru tour experience, you can take a combi. Combis are basically just a big van that is used as their public transportation system. This is the cheapest way to get around. Finding where the combis are located is very easy.
South America is known for its market days. Make certain to check out a market while in Urubamba Valley. Market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Then, stop and have lunch at Ulrike’s Café right on the main square. After lunch, either hike up to or grab a taxi to the Inca ruins looming above the town.
Pisac’s ruins will give you a taste of what you’re about to see in Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Head a little farther along in the valley (again by taxi or combi) to a rustic country hotel near Urubamba or Yucay, where you’ll have dinner and spend the night.
Once inside, it takes about ten minutes to walk up to the Watchman’s Hut, which offers the best views over Machu Picchu. Wayna Picchu is limited to 200 people per session and there are 2 sessions: one at8 am and the other at 10 am. It takes about an hour to reach the top climbing slowly. The narrow trail can be quite dangerous at times after wet weather.
You can also hike to the top of Huayna Picchu. It’s much less formidable than it looks. No matter what shape you are in, if you are able to walk, you can do this hike. If you are out of shape the hike up will take an hour to an hour and a half, if you are in decent to good shape about half that amount of time.
The hike is not long, only steep. The trail is mostly in the shade. Take this hike slowly because the altitude will affect your breathing. At this point, you are at about 8,500 feet. Taking regular breaks will be best, but just keep going as the reward is coming soon. It would be sad to come all this way to South America, and not scale Huayna.
The view from the top is otherworldly and the most impressive part about the entire day. You will not find a view like this anywhere in the entire world and Peru is the only place where you will find this view as spectacular as this. When you get to the top you will realize it was all worth the challenge. Hopefully, you brought your lunch with you so you can enjoy your beautiful view with a break. The ranger will not permit anyone to begin the hike past 1:30 pm.
20 Essential Tips About a Trip to Machu Picchu
1) At any time of the year, the weather in Machu Picchu can change in an instant. Be prepared with a poncho or light raincoat just in case.
2) There is only one snack bar at Machu Picchu so go prepared with snacks and drinks. La Boulangerie de Paris in Aguas Calientes offers box lunches at reasonable prices.
3) There are local guides at the entrance to Machu Picchu. A guide costs about $50 U.S. Dollars for 2 hours. Talk to them first to make sure that their English is clear to you.
4) Make sure you get your passport stamped with the Machu Picchu stamp. There is a small office just past the entrance where you can get this done.
5) You can buy your shuttle bus tickets for Machu Picchu at the ticket sales office in Aguas Calientes. Often the line can be long, so if possible buy them the night before. Shuttle bus tickets are valid for 3 days.
6) There are bugs at Machu Picchu, wear long light clothing and use plenty of strong insect repellent. Wear closed-toe shoes.
7) Only small backpacks of less than 20 liters are allowed into Machu Picchu. There is a storage office just past the main entrance that charges about $1 USD to hold your things for the day.
8) The shuttle bus to Machu Picchu takes about forty minutes. The ride is a little bumpy so be prepared with motion sickness medication if you have a tendency to get ill.
9) Walking sticks are not permitted in Machu Picchu. One Stick with a rubber tip is more welcomed and less frowned upon.
10) The only public toilets are located outside the main entrance, underneath the snack bar. A walk from the far side of Machu Picchu to the toilets can take at least thirty minutes, so its best to be safe to use the toilet ahead of time and to pace yourself accordingly. In order to use the bathroom, the cost is about 30 cents. You do not want your Peru tour to be ruined by having to race back to the toilets.
11) Shuttle buses to Machu Picchu operate from 5.30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
12) To the left of the entrance of Machu Picchu, there is a pharmacy and a doctor’s service available. The service is operated by Clinica’s Pardo and San Jose (from Cusco).
13) The entrance to Huayna Picchu Mountain is limited to 400 people per day, 200 hundred at 7-8 am and another 200 people from 10-11 am. Entrance tickets must be purchased in advance.
14) The Tinkuy Restaurant at the Sanctuary Lodge Hotel offers a high-quality buffet lunch which is served from 11.30 am until 15.00 pm. The cost is about $40 per person.
15) Be prepared with sun protection including a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock. Some people even take in small umbrellas!
16) If you do not want to take the shuttle bus to Machu Picchu, there is a pathway that runs up the side of the road that is used by the buses. From Aguas Calientes follow the shuttle buses to find the start of the path. This takes about 1 hour.
17) In order to fully enjoy Machu Picchu, it is recommended that you spend at least two days there.
18) There are several optional short hikes that you can do at Machu Picchu:
- The Sun Gate is a three-hour hike, round trip and also free to do.
- The Inca Bridge is a one hour hike, round trip and free. Huayna Picchu is a two-hour hike, round trip, and entrance tickets are required.
- Huayna Picchu Mountain is a four-hour hike, round trip and entrance tickets required.
19) If you have a fear of heights, it is not recommended to hike Huayna Picchu. At the top, the path is very narrow and very steep.
20) Take your passport with you to Machu Picchu you will need to pass through the control at the entrance. If you do not have it you will be denied entrance.
The best days to visit Machu Picchu are Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. On these days Pisac (a town in the Sacred Valley) has its big crafts market. During this time tour groups descend in droves upon that town. Because of this, you will have fewer people at Machu Picchu. Sunday is also a big market day.