How not to visit Cusco

A friend of mine, alias “C”, was in town for a visit last week. Check out his story, a must read. While your visit will (should) likely be much more uneventful, his account gives you a good idea what to expect in Cusco from the viewpoint of a young, single guy.

My comments:

  • “C” is absolutely right that visiting the tourist areas of Cusco and Machupicchu does not constitute knowing Peru.
  • Service in the tourism industry here can be mixed, to say the least. Sounds like “C” got the typical treatment on the city tour: because you’re a gringo we’ll nickel-and-dime you to death.
  • Last I checked (about a year ago) you could buy a “city touristic ticket” for around 25 Nuevos Soles, and it gives entrance to nearly every tourist site around the city (including Sacsayhuaman). Instead of taking a city tour, just take a walk around the city yourself. “C” posted a pretty good list of places to see in Cusco on his blog.
  • I like Sacsayhuaman, but I agree listening to the tour guides can bore you silly.
  • Around the Plaza de Armas and San Blas you do find a ton of “gringos” in the bars and discos. But the residential areas where you can find bars and discos packed with mostly locals are only a few blocks away. Best to go in a small group though.
  • Sicuani is really not the smallest, poorest town around. It’s actually pretty representative of a provincial Andean town. If you really want to know how people live in the Andes of Peru, just take one of the local busses (like “C” did) and talk to some of the people. The bus “C” took was not for poor people per se, it’s what ordinary Peruvians use to travel in the provinces.

Final thoughts:

  • Your visit should by all means be less eventful than “C’s”.
  • If you do get in trouble, there is a “tourist police” agency on the Plaza Tupac Amaru.
  • Don’t drink like you’re at home. The elevation in Cusco is 3,460 meter (~11,000 feet), or about twice as high as Denver. Being away from home, combined with thin air, alcohol and bricheras makes for some wild scenes at the nightspots in Cusco.

2 thoughts on “How not to visit Cusco

  1. Ward,
    I just recently discovered your blog. Good stuff. I actually had the pleasure of hanging out with our mutual friend “C” during my trip to Arequipa this past Christmas. He certainly seems to enjoy living his life by his own rules. I intend to move to Peru in the future. Good luck to you.

  2. Thanks Dave. Nothing wrong with living by your own rules at times. I try to turn all my students at ICPNA into rebels so they learn not to accept the status quo here in Peru (poverty, prejudice, work conditions, etc.) I love Peru, but you can’t be naive about how life can be hard for ordinary Peruvians.

    Stop by if you’re in Cusco!

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