Cusco, Peru is one of the cheapest cities in South America to live. Consumer prices including the cost of rent are almost 50% less than in the United States, for example. As of March 2018, 1 USD is the equivalent of 3.27 Peruvian soles, and 1 Euro will get you 4.07 soles in Peru.
Of course the cost of living or traveling in the city will depend on your lifestyle and preference. There are of course plenty of travel options, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and experiences that are seen as more high end and for luxury travelers. Southern Peru Explorers will find the best option for you given your budget and wishes.
Transportation is very cheap in Cusco. When you take a taxi, you usually agree on a set price before you even open the door. That set price is usually around S/.4 to get to just about anywhere in the center. You will pay a bit more for longer distances (S/.10 from the airport to the center, for example), when heavy traffic is expected, or late at night. Still, your ride should only be around 4-6 soles for a normal ride around town.
Bus transportation is even cheaper in Cusco. You will almost always pay under S/.1 to get to where you need to go.
If you have a strong stomach, you can eat like a local in Cusco for very cheap. There are all kinds of local restaurants where you will find usually all-Peruvian customers around lunchtime. These restaurants have S/.5 menus of the day. This usually includes a soup and a main course dish as well as some sort of tea or beverage. Otherwise, you can find very yummy meals for around 7-15 soles. A meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will be around 30-50 soles.
A domestic beer in a bar will set you back about S/.6. Imported beers are a bit more costly at around 9-10 soles. You can find a good bottle of wine for around 20-30 soles. Delicious and popular cocktails like a pisco sour or mojito will be around S/.20. A good cup of coffee doesn’t have to cost a fortune, in Cusco you will find a cappuccino for only about S/.5. You will need to purchase filtered bottled water as the tap water in Cusco is not safe to drink. A regular bottle of water usually costs a little under S/.2.
The best way to take advantage of the low prices in Cusco is to cook for yourself. It is normal and expected to haggle in the markets, and if you are good at it you can really stretch your wallet. Per kilogram, prices of produce like bananas, oranges, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes are only around 4 soles. Chicken and beef are around 12-17 soles per kilo. A dozen eggs costs about 4 soles, and a liter of milk around 5. You can get delicious and fresh bread from local bakeries for very cheap.
Little trinkets like llama keychains, shot glasses, and yarn bracelets are good cheap items to buy in bulk for 1-5 soles. The price of other little souvenirs is usually very cheap but if you want a higher quality item you will pay more. Handmade jewelry in little bohemian shops will cost you around 30-100 soles, depending on quality.
You can’t go to Cusco without bringing back some alpaca souvenirs for your friends and family back home. From stuffed animals to sweaters and everything in between, you will see thousands of alpaca items in just a quick walk around the center. The price of the items really just depends on the quality and authenticity of the fur.
Some shops sell items containing just a touch of alpaca fur amongst a mix of other wools and textiles. Other sell authentic 100% baby alpaca fur-made items, the softest you will touch! Ask around at a few shops before buying your item, compare prices and always haggle to get the price down. Depending on size and quality, you should expect to pay around 50 soles for smaller and mixed fur items, and 500 soles on the higher end and for larger items like blankets.