Peru on your bucket list? Aiming for that momentous coming-of-age Machu Picchu trek? My adventure in Peru ended a few days ago, so here are my two bits of wisdom for you guys – any questions, comment below!
Book right for you
Obvious right? But do your research and make sure you understand what distances / modes of transport are like, and most importantly, WHICH Machu Picchu trek you’ve got your eye on. TO give you an idea, Lima to Cusco is an hour-long flight, while Cusco to Puno is 6.5 hours by bus (they can be luxurious, trust me).
$$$ Get your Soles!
Carry enough cash with you, it comes in handy particularly when you’re shopping for souvenirs in the markets, as most stalls don’t accept cards. There are plenty of ATMs scattered around cities like Lima and Cusco but I’d say you probably want to carry enough (c.S80-100 per day if you aren’t overly extravagant excluding hotels) on the off chance there are no ATMs near you
… and lots of it. While at the high altitudes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley you won’t find any disease carrying bugs, there will still be plenty of harmless bugs and mosquitos that you might want to avoid. Of course, if you’re heading to the Amazon, you want to be extra careful, which brings me to my next point…
Malaria, yellow fever, tetanus – all shots you should be looking into. Look at government guidance online to figure out which areas need which vaccinations. We didn’t need any besides tetanus for the Cusco-Sacred Valley – Lago Titicaca – Machu Picchu region given the high altitude, but it’s always worth double-checking.
Altitude Sickness – Be Prepared
This is real. The high altitude (Cusco is 3400 metres) can seriously debilitate you on the hike, making you short of breath, dizzy, and even give you headaches. Avoid that with some prescription meds you can check with your doctor for. You ARE going to be breathless on the hike regardless, but this does help you acclimatize better (it worked miracles for me).
Pack the right gear
You’ll be hiking – whether the 2-day or 4-day trek – so bring hiking shoes as far as possible. You can make it work with a regular pair of trainers but for a greater amount of ankle and sole support, bring the right shoes. Pack light but pack layers and bring a backpack for your treks (pack them light, your back will thank me later). And of course, leave some room for souvenirs!
Visas, et al
The good ol’ admin stuff… check on what you need please, and don’t leave it until the last second!
Passport, passport, passport!
This is your golden ticket to EVERYTHING in Peru. They will ask you for this when you pay by card, board a bus or train, at airports, at hotels, on your trek… literally at least a couple of times everyday. Keep it with you all the time, and make sure you get them stamped at Machu Picchu and Lago Titicaca!
Don’t go flashing your camera around in Lima and some parts of Cusco – like San Pedro market – this is a pickpocket’s haven. In Lima, try and keep everything in a small bag that you hold close to you to avoid the motorcycle snatchers. It’s really safety 101 – stay inconspicuous and you will likely not draw attention to yourself.
Book BEFORE you go!
Finally, to prepare yourself to have the time of your life – book everything BEFORE you get to Peru. This isn’t the country to be backpacking through – and if you have, more power to you. Getting everything ready before your visit will give you the chance to make the most of your trip without having to sweat all the extra stuff! Make it easier on yourself so it can be the trip of a lifetime – trust me, it will be.