Machu Picchu Travel – Cusco Adventure Log:
After our one-week stint in the Amazon jungle, we decided to start our journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco via the Sacred Valley. The cool weather in Cusco was much welcomed after the hot and humid jungle. Cusco is a medium-size town that caters primarily to the tourists on their trek to Machu Picchu. Even so, one can feel quite comfortable and relaxed here. However, be prepared to walk up and down hills a LOT. You will definitely feel the effect of the city’s altitude after climbing up hill for 10 minutes.
Peruvians are very friendly to the tourists. As with any other tourist spots though, they may try to sell you a few knicks-knacks, but if you are not interested, they generally leave you alone.
One of the most interesting paintings I saw on our around the world trip is the Last Supper in La Cathedral in Cusco. Apparently, Jesus ate the Peruvian special feast of Cuy (Ginuea Pig) with a glass of chicha that night. All this time, I though He ate bread and drank wine in the last meal!
Machu Picchu Travel – Cusco Travel Tips:
1) In many local restaurants, ask for “El menu turistico” or “tourist menu”. It is usually the most economical dining option, and it allows you to sample a few different dishes at a reasonable price. For about 15 soles (~$5.50 USD), the menu comes with an appetizer, a soup, an entree, and a drink. For the money you save here, you can then head to a nice restaurant for a fancy sit-down dinner another night! Note that some local restaurants try to hide the tourist menu and will first hand you the regular menu, which is ~3-4 times more expansive than the tourist menu, so do ask for it if you are interested.
2) It is impossible to leave Peru without having a cup of cocoa tea. Supposedly, the tea helps prevent altitude sickness better than drugs like Diamox. I am not sure how true that is. Fortunately, we didn’t experience any altitude sickness, and we definitely drank a lot of cocoa tea!
3) There are quite a number of Mexican restaurants in Peru. As is the case with New York City, we didn’t come across one that served authentic Mexican food, for example what are called Tacos are actually really just flautas. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend trying any Mexican food in Cusco. And don’t get me started about trying Chinese food there. I didn’t try because the dishes hardly even looked like Chinese food!
4) If you need to change money in Peru, do it in the many exchange bureaus on the streets of Cusco. They have the best exchange rate, beating those at the airport and at other towns in the Sacred Valley and Aguas Calientes. It never hurt to shop around for the best rate, but in our experience, all the exchange bureaus around Plaza de Armas have the same rate. There is no commission fee also. After Cusco, your next chance is in the Pisac Market. Even there, there were really only two exchange bureaus in town to choose from, and their exchange rate were less favorable than the ones in Cusco
5) Peruvians are perfectionist in the condition of their currency bills. If there is a tear on the bill, whether it be big or small, the Peruvians will promptly refuse to accept the bill. This applies to both foreign and local currency. So when you change money, make sure you apply the same level of scrutiny on the condition of the bills received. Otherwise, you may have to keep them as souvenirs and take them back home.
To follow our journey to Machu Pacchu, check out these posts:
- Sacred Valley, Peru – Pisac, Moray, Salinas and Ollantaytambo
- Seeing the Milky Way in Aguas Calientes
- 10 Tips for Getting to Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu – Lost City of the Incas
- La Marinera, the National Dance of Peru (POPULAR POST)
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