Destination guide: Cuzco, Peru
In the Andean area of Peru is the city of Cuzco, also known as the Archaelogical Capital of America or the “Center of the World” (according to its name in Quechua).
Cuzco is a living museum of Inca history and one of the most fascinating cities in the Peruvian mountains, as seen in its outstanding architecture, which reflects the stunning past of the Inca Empire.
Check out our flights to Cuzco at LAN.com and get to know this wonder of South America.
Cuzco - Practical Information
The center of the city is the Plaza de Armas, while traffic-choked Av El Sol nearby is the main business thoroughfare. Walking just a few blocks north or east of the plaza will lead you onto steep, twisting cobblestone streets, little changed for centuries, where multifamily homes built around cobbled courtyards house much of Cuzco’s working population. The flatter areas to the south and west are the commercial center.
The alley heading away from the northwest side of the Plaza de Armas is Procuradores (Tax Collectors), nicknamed ‘Gringo Alley’ for its huddle of backpacker-focused restaurants, tour agents and other services. Beside the hulking cathedral, on the Plaza de Armas, narrow Calle Triunfo leads steeply uphill toward Plaza San Blas, the heart of Cuzco’s eclectic, artistic barrio (neighborhood).
Recently the city has seen a resurgence of indigenous pride, and many streets have been signposted with new Quechua names, although they are still commonly referred to by their Spanish names. The most prominent example is Calle Triunfo, which is signposted as Sunturwasi.
Most travelers take a taxi into the city from the airport, bus terminals, or train station – or avail themselves of the free pickup offered by many guesthouses.
Budget & Costs
Shoestring travelers watching their céntimos – by sleeping in dormitory rooms, traveling on economy buses, eating set menus – can get by on a minimum of US$25 a day. Visitors who prefer private hot showers, à la carte meals in moderately priced restaurants, comfortable buses and occasional flights will find that at least US$60 to US$100 a day should meet their needs. Staying at luxury hotels and dining at top-end restaurants will cost several hundred dollars a day. Prices are always higher if you’re doing your trip by organized tour. The most expensive cities are Cuzco and Lima.
You can stretch your budget by traveling with a partner as double rooms are usually less expensive than two singles. Many restaurants offer filling three-course set lunches for around S7; eating à la carte will triple your bill. Many Peruvian ATMs dispense local currency (nuevos soles) and US dollars. Above all, keep your money safely stashed – an economical trip can get expensive.
Note to adventurers on a tight budget: hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is expensive. Unguided trips are now illegal (this is strictly enforced) and the cheapest four-day trips start at around US$300 per person, not including equipment rental, tips for the guides and porters, or any incidental expenses, such as bottled water. Plan on spending US$400 if you’re going with a reputable outfitter. A day trip to Machu Picchu isn’t always cheap either.
1 gallon gasoline: S17
1L bottled water: S3
Cusqueña beer: S5
Anticucho (beef skewer): S4
Souvenir T-shirt: S15
Spanish (Castilian), Aymara, Quechua.
With a few exceptions (notably some Asian, African and communist countries), visas are not required for travelers entering Peru. Tourists are permitted a 30- to 90-day stay, which is stamped into their passports and onto a tourist card, called a Tarjeta Andina de Migración (Andean Immigration Card) that you must return upon leaving the country. The actual length of stay is determined by the immigration officer at the point of entry. Be careful not to lose your tourist card, or you will have to queue up an oficina de migraciones (immigration office), also simply known as migraciones, for a replacement card. It’s a good idea to carry your passport and tourist card on your person at all times, especially when traveling in remote areas (it’s required by law on the Inca Trail). For security, make a photocopy of both documents and keep them in a separate place from the originals.
Thirty-day extensions cost about US$50 and can be obtained at immigration offices in major cities, with Lima being the easiest place to do this. There are also immigration offices in Arequipa, Cuzco, Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, Puno and Trujillo, as well as near the Chilean and Ecuadorian borders. you can keep extending your stay up to 180 days total.
Anyone who plans to work, attend school or reside in Peru for any length of time must obtain a visa in advance. Do this through the Peruvian embassy or consulate in your home country.
Weights & Measures
Peru allows duty-free importation of 3L of alcohol and 20 packs of cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. You can import US$300 of gifts. Legally, you are allowed to bring in such items as a laptop, camera, portable music player, kayak, climbing gear, mountain bike or similar items for personal use.
It is illegal to take pre-Columbian or colonial artifacts out of Peru, and it is illegal to bring them into most countries. If purchasing reproductions, buy only from a reputable dealer and ask for a detailed receipt. Purchasing animal products made from endangered species or even just transporting them around Peru is also illegal.
Coca leaves are legal in Peru, but not in most other countries, even in the form of tea bags, which are available in Peruvian shops. People subject to random drug testing should be aware that coca, even in the form of tea, may leave trace amounts in their urine.
Check with your own home government about customs restrictions and duties on any expensive or rare items you intend to bring back. Most countries allow their citizens to import a limited number of items duty-free, though these regulations are subject to change.
Hours are variable and liable to change, especially in small towns. Posted hours are a guideline, on a Sunday, most businesses (other than restaurants) are closed.
Most cities, however, are equipped with 24-hour ATMs. In addition, Lima has pharmacies, bookstores and electronics supply shops that are open every day of the week. There are also a few 24-hour supermarkets. In other major cities, taxi drivers often know where the late-night stores and pharmacies are.
Many shops and offices close for a lunch break but some banks and post offices stay open. In addition, many restaurants open only for lunch, or breakfast and lunch, especially in small towns.
Banks 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, some 9am-1pm Sat.
Bars and clubs 7pm-midnight, some until 3am.
Restaurants 10am-10pm, some closed 3-6pm.
Shops 10am -8pm Mon-Sunday.
Public pay phones operated by Telefónica-Perú (www.telefonica.com.pe) are available on the street even in small towns. Most pay phones work with phonecards which can be purchased at supermarkets and groceries. Often internet cafés have private phone booths with ‘net-to-phone’ and ‘net-to-net’ capabilities (such as Skype), where you can talk for pennies or even for free.
When calling Peru from abroad, dial the international access code for the country you’re in, then Peru’s country code (51), then the area code without the 0 and finally, the local number. When making international calls from Peru, dial the international access code (00), then the country code of where you’re calling to, then the area code and finally, the local phone number.
In Peru, any telephone number beginning with a 9 is a cell-phone number. Numbers beginning with 0800 are often toll-free only when dialed from private phones, not from public pay phones. See the inside front cover of this book for more useful dialing codes, including how to contact an operator or directory assistance. To make a credit card or collect call using AT&T, dial [tel] 0800-50288. There’s an online telephone directory at www.paginasamarillas.com.pe.
It’s possible to use a tri-band GSM world phone in Peru (GSM 1900). Other systems in use are CDMA and TDMA. This is a fast-changing field, so check the current situation before you travel: just do a web search and browse the myriad products on the market. In Lima and other larger cities, you can buy cell phones that use SIM cards for about US$65, then pop in a SIM card that costs from US$6.50. Claro is a popular pay-as-you-go plan. Cell-phone rentals may be available in major cities and tourist centers. Expect cell-phone reception to fade the further you go into the mountains or jungle.
Called tarjetas telefónicas, these cards are widely available and are made by many companies in many price ranges. Some are designed specifically for international calls. Some have an electronic chip that keeps track of your balance when the card is inserted into an appropriate phone. Other cards use a code system whereby you dial your own personal code to obtain balances and access; these can be used from almost any phone. The most common are Telefónica-Perú’s 147 cards; you dial 147, then enter your personal code (which is on the back of the card), listen to a message telling you how much money you have left on the card, dial the number, and listen to a message telling you how much time you have left for this call. The drawback is it’s in Spanish. The 147 card is best used for long-distance calls. For local calls, the Holá Peru card is cheaper, and works the same way except that you begin by dialing 0800. There are numerous other cards – ask around for which ones offer the best deal.
European plug with two circular metal pins
Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades
Two parallel flat blades above a large circular grounding pin