Leaving The Airport
Okay, you’ve disembarked your flight, passed through immigrations, and collected your bag. You have some leftover currency from home and a credit card, but no soles (the local currency of Peru). Your hostel is booked and you know the address, but that’s it. You know some basic Spanish, but not enough to feel confident. What do you do?
First, get some soles. In order to get a bus into the center or a taxi to your hotel, you’ll need soles. Soles are local currency in Peru. The exchange rate moves between 3.21 and 3.27 for USD, meaning for each dollar you get 3.24 soles. ATMs work well in Peru for foreign plastic, but be careful of the fees. They range from S/.13.50 (BCP, only one withdrawal per month) to S/.18 (Globalnet, CAJA CUSCO, BanBif) to S/20 (Scotiabank). Some ATMs allow maximum withdrawals of 700, but most cap it at 400.
Uber is present in Cusco, but very limited. Rates are competitive compared to the omnipresent taxi cab, and you can pay with your credit card through the app. Standard rates in Cusco are 4 soles per ride, regardless of distance. Some longer rides will cost 5, and the prices go up by 1 sol after 10pm. Be sure to confirm the price with the driver before you get in, especially at the airport.
Warning: This is a hotspot for scams! Airport prices cost a bit more, but if you are willing to walk a bit you should find a cab quickly for the price you want. Do not get caught in the “official taxi” trap at the airport, as rides can be as high as S/50!
The drivers are mostly career professionals who know the city inside and out. They might even know the place you are going, so feel free to ask. If not, the address or a google map will suffice just fine. The driver will likely help with your things. Tips are not expected, but are appreciated.
Hotel and Settling In
Once you arrive at your hotel or hostel, check-in should be easy. If the hotel has English-speaking staff, you might seek out some recommendations about what to do. If you plan to be in Peru for more than 2 weeks, it is worth it to get a local SIM card, or Chip, to use your phone in Peru. The four primary carriers are Claro, Movistar, Entel, and Bitel. They all have their own pricing structures and packages, so determine which works best for your needs. Chips are available in official stores and you’ll need to use these for the chip to work properly. Visit Calle Afligidos, off of Avenida Sol, to pick one up.
Now, obviously, find the Wi-Fi password. Once you’re connected and comfortable, relax. You don’t realize it, but you’re twice as high as the highest major city in North America, and while you might feel fine right now, you have a wave of fatigue headed your way. To combat altitude sickness, or soroche, visit a local farmacia to pick up some Diamox, a medicine that helps your lungs absorb more oxygen. You should also try (try) not to drink too much alcohol before going to sleep, as this makes it much harder on your body. Throughout the day, sip coca tea to reduce the symptoms. Most report being adjusted in 3-4 days, but others say it takes 2 weeks. It is highly recommended that travelers, especially those from near-sea level, maintain patience when visiting Peru as the altitude can be a real pain.
Now, make some friends, find a place to eat, and enjoy! You´ve made it! And don’t forget to stop by our office in the center to book your tour to Machu Picchu!