Peru, helpful hints before you go

Peru travel Helpful Hints

Our Gate One small group tour itinerary map.

Gate One Peru Legends tour map

Gate One Peru Legends tour map

Peru travel days and clothing needs, weather, activity level. 

The Peru Legends tour I took with Gate One Discovery Tours was 11 nights.  Getting from place to place we were on a small bus, three of the days were all day travel days.  We were at high altitudes (up to 16200 ft and everything in between) most of the time.  The weather was changeable and it was necessary to wear layers and shed clothes throughout the day.  Nights were cool, days could be warm but breezy.  We were active and climbing and walking on uneven surfaces.  There were no times throughout the tour when dressy clothes were needed.

PACKING

I tried to pack only what I needed and could reuse and I feel I did well. I washed more often than I thought because it’s so dusty in the highlands, but we had 2-3 nights in most places so I had time to dry clothes. I wore everything I brought and had just enough.  The color scheme I chose was black and white. I packed three pairs of black pants, two white t-shirts, a long and short sleeve, three black long sleeve t-shirts, three zippered cardigans one white, one hot pink, and one wine colored, and three colorful scarves. 

Shoes, always important!

I wore one pair of good flat walking shoes with rubber soles and one pair ballet flats for around the hotel in the evening.  I wore the same shoes every day, you really need good shoes for all the uneven steps and cobbled stones.  I quickly put away the suede boots with small heels as impractical (the only thing I regret bringing).  My jacket was lightweight and waterproofed with hood.  You need a good hat with a brim, the sun is seriously strong. I wore sunscreen and hat every day and still got color on my face.

Camera, Internet and electronics 

I had three spare rechargeable batteries for my camera and I kept them charged (all the hotels had 110v outlets).  I filled an 8G card but need to delete a bunch before I download.  I did download to my IPad every night so I could check the pictures and organize the blog.  Internet was very slow except in Arequipa and Lima.

What I wish I had was.….

Eye saline drops and saline nose spray for the dry air in the Andes, some kind of sleeping aid (for some reason I woke early and had trouble getting back to sleep when we were in the higher elevations).  I blame everything on the altitude! I wish I brought a medium-sized daypack.  I had a small leather backpack but it wasn’t big enough for what I needed on the bus.  (Water, iPad, notebook, hat, scarf, sunscreen etc)
I was glad I didn’t bring anything dressy, we were very casual day and night.

MONEY
Credit cards are accepted – but cash is king – either USD or Sols.  Much of the shopping is done in markets and stalls and they rarely take credit cards and if they do you aren’t able to negotiate as good a deal. (Bargaining is expected) There is money changing offices and storefronts everywhere and ATMs are found in the hotel/tourist areas.  Best to bring USD to exchange or use ATMs and forget credit cards for shopping.

DRIVERS
Drivers in Peru, especially in the cities, are aggressive and there is no right of way for pedestrians, this wasn’t a problem but be cautious.

SMOKING
Peruvians don’t smoke.  Our guide told us it’s against their culture.  He told us the only time they smoke is at a funeral!  He said he remembers going to a funeral with his father when he was young and the first thing his father did was ask Edgar to go buy a pack of cigarettes.  He chained smoked and drank corn beer throughout.  The Peruvians believe this protects them from evil spirits when at a funeral.  Go figure.

PERUVIAN LACK OF WELFARE
Peru doesn’t have a welfare system so if people have no money they don’t eat. That’s why children start young to hawk wares or services in the street.  For instance, we visited a cemetery in Cusco and our guide stopped a boy of 8 or 10 to ask him what he was doing at the cemetery.  We were forewarned that he was going to do this and here’s what happened.

Interesting fact…..about burial in Peru. 

In Peru, people are buried above ground in crypts or in a wall of glass openings one on top of the other. The young boy brought us to one that had a brass frame around the glass opening.  He began to shine the brass using a small lime and a cloth and did a beautiful job.  After he completed the job our guide asked us all to tell him to study hard and go to school to better his life.  

Our guide told the young boy that all of us had a good education which was why we were able to travel.  The little boy looked a little shell-shocked with the attention, but it was his lucky day because all of us tipped him for doing such an excellent job on the brass and for telling us his story.  I’m not sure how much people pay him to shine the brass but this is where he comes to make money.

Watch your wallet, as always. 

Unfortunately, there are also kids who make their money pick-pocketing. Our guide said when he was growing up many of his friends tried to encourage him to join them and he was tempted by the seemingly easy money.  We were warned to watch our handbags but I never felt threatened.  I think if they see you are aware and cautious they leave you alone.  

Hawking is everywhere and annoying. 

The most annoying is the hawkers who come up to you while eating or talking and want to sell you things.  Some can be aggressive and annoying, but most listen when you politely say no and they walk on.  You feel bad and want to help but giving them handouts isn’t the answer and I only need so many knick-knacks and key chains!  Most of what I bought in Peru was homemade by the people I met.

HOTELS:

Our hotels have been excellent but I can’t really speak to cost because I was on a tour that included accommodations.  The hotels we stayed in were 4-5 star  – meaning good linens, WIFI, robes and slippers, better shampoos and soaps, good service, restaurant and better buffet breakfast.  

I had no complaints with all but one of the hotels – the Novatel in Cusco needs work and didn’t live up to the standard of the other hotels on our tour.  (However, great location and lovely lobby but the rooms were pretty simple comparatively).    I would have been happier paying a little less for the tour and staying in 3 star, you only sleep in the hotels, but that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the nice hotels.

Hostels are available.

Hostels are all over Peru as well as two-hour laundry services.  Clearly, there are many young vagabonds traveling through the country and the services they need are there.

BATHROOMS:

Are fairly abundant at tourist sites and are different levels of cleanliness.  Many cost one sol to use (about 35 cents) so I always had a few one Sols coins in my pocket.  Better to carry tissues and a bottle of disinfectant lotion with you as well!

AIRLINES:

LAN was quite good, nice planes, friendly service, and decent food.  Nice blankets, pillow, and headphones were supplied, lots of entertainment to choose from.  They were efficient and friendly at check-in.  One note, Lima airport food is quite expensive so buy snacks for the plane elsewhere.  Water is confiscated as your board the plane so don’t bother buying a $3.00 bottle of water to bring on the plane because someone from the TSA will be enjoying it as you sit on the plane waiting for the flight attendant to bring the beverage cart!

SHOPPING:

There are nice handcrafts in the stores and markets.  Weaving (colorful runners, back packets, purses of all sizes, table clothes, blankets) as well as silver jewelry, pottery, and all the souvenirs you’d need.  Wool clothing from beautiful baby alpaca is available but expensive, they make shawls, scarfs, and coats in an abundance of colors and styles.  (the wool doesn’t come from baby animals but the “baby” means the first wool sheared from an alpaca.  It’s the softest, subsequent cuts are slightly less soft).

Our guide didn’t advocate shopping and didn’t bring us to souvenir places, he actually discouraged shopping unless we were buying handmade things. For instance, when we went to visit the Eros people on Lake Titicaca the young women brought out handcrafted embroidery, straw and knitted goods they had made.  At the farm, we visited the women showed us knitted small animals to hang or as tree ornaments. What the tourists buy directly affect these people’s lives and leave us with memories of our visit.

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

No Comments

Leave a Comment