There are many reasons you should visit Cusco! Capital of the Inca empire and the closest transport hub for Machu Picchu is the main draw for many people.
We’ve prepared a quick guide to answer questions you may have before heading there, these were the things on our mind. If you want to know anything else just drop us a message and we’ll help you out ✌🏻
Here are our top tips:
How to get there?
Cusco is the most touristy city in South America, so you won’t find any difficulty getting there. 1 airport that connects with the other main capitals in Peru (not yet international) and you can also arrive by bus from any part of Peru or Bolivia. Both the station and airport are a 15/20 min taxi ride away from the city centre (Plaza de Armas) and you shouldn’t pay more than S/15.
Cusco is completely walkable (albeit challenging with the steepness & altitude) so there’s no need for taxis or busses unless you are heading outside the city. Main streets are very polluted, so consider a mask! It may not look cool though it’s worth it.
How long do I need?
3 to 4 days in the City will give you enough time to do everything, though there are a few towns outside of Cusco worth visiting (particularly if you’re doing Machu Picchu). You can read about our recommendations for day trips here in our full blog on Cusco.
Cash, cash, cash!
Everything (a lot of things) are cash only & frustratingly there are not many cash machines outside of the main square! We were caught out a couple of times and had to walk for cash, then back to pay. Another thing to prep for… no one has change! Cash machines generally give out 100 soles notes, which people don’t like to accept, there isn’t really a way around this apart from buying something small to help break down your notes or withdraw smaller quantities at the atms.
How bad is the altitude sickness?
Well… it really depends on the person, though it can hit anyone regardless your fitness level or health. The main challenge in Cusco is the steepness in some streets, it’s a city built on hills, so being out of breath is normal and will happen often. That said, you should do what you can to prevent the sickness part, we had a few recommendations from locals:
–Chlorophyll – This was our saving grace! Buy some online before going, it’s really hard to find in shops! You mix it with your water & have some each day (prepare yourself for green poo)
–Coca – So much of this stuff in Peru, though it does work. Have a couple of coca tea’s each day & if you can handle the taste, chew coca leaves
–Alchohol – this unfortunately has the opposite effect and can make things worse! Booo. So try and limit what you have… you’re high already 😉
–Have at least 3 days to relax and adjust before any big trips, let your body get used to it
–If all else fails – local pharmacies like Incafarma sell small oxygen canisters. Remember… It is completely normal for your body to need oxygen so you haven’t failed!
What’s the temperature like?
Warm in the day and cold at night. Don’t underestimate this temperature change if you’re coming from a steady climate. Not many places have heating, so having some body thermals will come in handy. It can also get stormy with lots of thunder and lightening / suprise downpours so carry a poncho in your backpack just in case! This weather makes cosy bars a perfect place to hide! You can read more about the best cafe’s we found here.
Is Cusco safe?
Absolutely. Normal rules apply of general awareness, particularly in crowded / market areas, though it’s a safe city. The main thing to prep for / embrace is the amount of street sellers – massages, restaurants, food, excursions – you will be approached in the main square quite literally every 10 seconds. Oh, and there are a lot of stray dogs, though they are all chilled and not dangerous at all.
What should I pack?
Of course this will all depend on what you are planning to do in and around Cusco, though we’d recommend:
– short and long sleeves
– windproof jacket to help layer
– trekking boots
– masks for the pollution
What I shouldn’t miss?
There’s lots to do in the Historical Capital of Peru and old capital of the Inca Empire, though if you’re tight for time exploring the city centre, we’d say you can’t miss:
– Plaza de Armas
– 12 angle stone / street
– Stroll around hipster San Blas
– Trying Cuy (guinea pig) in a non touristy restaurant
– Santa Clara arch
– San Pedro market
– Sacsayhuamán Inca site
– Cultural events in Plaza de Armas
Wifi and Peru are two words that don’t go together! Most of the hotels and hostels offer good connectivity, though the challenge arises when you’re out and about. If in Peru for a while, we’d recommend getting a Claro SIM card, they offer good internet packs for around S/30 per month.
The cafes with the best wifi we found are:
–D’wasi – cosy, vegan milk available and super fast internet. You also won’t have to leave the city centre either to get online whilst enjoying a cup of great Machu Picchu grown coffee.
–Vegan churro bar – there are many cosy coffee places in san Blas, though where else can you find vegan churros and chocolate? Plus you get to play with their adorable Labrador!
Vegan & vegetarian options
Almost all restaurants have veggie options on their menus. If you’re a plant eater, your options are reduced, though don’t worry! We found the best in town, so you don’t have to do all the research:
Las Frescas: personalised fresh salad bowls and tropical curries that will not only fill you up but give you a boost of energy to help you climb those steep hills! Cost: S/15, cash only.
Vida Vegan Bistro: this one is a little gem that surpassed our expectative. Every option in the menu is a crafted fusion of flavours with Peruvian cuisine as base. Big portions, super tasty food and detailed presentation for a reasonable price. Cost: a la carte S/40, cash only.
Chia: humble but great restaurant that offers a daily set menu and a la carte creative dishes. Cost: set menu S/15; a la carte S/40, cash only.
Green point: probably the most infamous vegan restaurant for the hipster crew, though not much of a Peruvian atmosphere as both clients and waiters are westerners. Good food, but pricey. Cost: S/60, cards accepted.
We really hope you enjoy this vibrant city and that our post helped to answer questions you had! If you need anymore advice or have any other questions just drop us a message and we’ll help you out.
Shay & Iban 👬 🌄