What to bring
In Lima and for the most part in Cusco one can buy most anything needed for traveling. Standard toiletries are available (shampoo, soap, toothpaste) virtually anywhere, even in the smaller villages. Female hygiene products are also easy to find.
Again, all the essentials can be easily found in Cusco and smaller towns. As far as important items to bring I recommend stuff not easy to replace, such as medicines or contact lenses for example.
The other important issue is camera equipment and accessories such as film, memory cards and batteries. Most types of camera equipment and especially memory cards can now be found in Cusco and sometimes in other areas but it is best to bring your own. Pay particular attention to the charging system of your camera. It is highly recommended to bring a camera that uses standard AA or AAA batteries due to their availability. The number one problem we see is travelers with cameras requiring separate, special charging units. Bringing a camera that operates on standard batteries will eliminate this problem.
When to go and weather
The best time to visit Peru is from May to September, particularly if you´re planning a trekking or mountain bike trip, during these months it is sunny nearly every day and it rarely rains. This is the high season for tourism, so hotels and attractions are naturally more crowded. However, it is a small price to pay for the right to be virtually guaranteed splendid weather every day. The rest of year is still quite hospitable, with warm and partly cloudy days mixed with rain. From December to March is the heavy rain season, it rains nearly every night and also in the late afternoons.
No matter what the season is, bringing along quality rain gear is essential. Most important is a rain jacket or poncho also head wear and footwear. Gore-tex type materials are very popular and with good reason. A quality water-resistant material with the ability to breathe can make all the difference between a pleasant outing and a miserable one. Cheap plastic rain ponchos are available on nearly every corner in the Sacred Valley in the event yours is lost or forgotten; however they tend to last less than a day or two before falling apart. A wide brimmed hat will help keep the rain off the face and body, the other option is to do as the local mountain people do, which is to use some type of rain poncho. Ponchos are an outstanding way to keep dry. Ponchos come in two varieties, rubber PVC-types such as those sold in military surplus and outdoor stores, and the heavy, local ponchos made of wool that are made and worn by the locals. The best choice is a rubber, PVC type poncho of singular construction with a hood. Otherwise, a good and previously tested quality rain jacket from back home should do the trick. Do not rely on buying in the Sacred Valley.
Everything you bring will most likely get dirty, so one option to consider is wearing the same hiking clothes every day – quality breathable ones can be easily washed each night at the campsite and will quickly dry out. Another good idea is to bring a comfortable set of cotton clothing for each night after washing up and keeping it clean and dry for every evening. If traveling during the rainy season, it is probable that everything on the body and in the packs will be wet anyway. One item that is highly recommended are socks, bring enough for everyday use.
Most travelers enjoy the food in the Sacred Valley, perhaps due to its freshness. Local food in general tends to be fairly bland by western standards, spicy foods can be found but are not common. Typical Andean foods include potatoes, chicken, and rice which is the base for nearly every meal in rural areas. While Peruvian cuisine is gaining international acclaim, particularly ceviche (a form of raw fish prepared with lemon juice) and other forms of seafood from the coastal regions, most local fare is pretty basic. In Cusco one can find international food of most types, and pizza restaurants can be found on nearly every corner as well as in Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.
Of course, no visit to the Sacred Valley would be complete without sampling the cuy, or guinea pig. Typically roasted or boiled with the skin still on, this dish is considered a local delicacy and is often consumed at large family gatherings and holidays. It can be found in many tourist restaurants in the area but is rarely served in local restaurants. Peruvians tend to eat a large and hardy breakfast with soup, chicken and rice being the most common. Every town, large or small has a locals market with fresh hot food served from 6am on, at astoundingly low prices. Additionally, street food is common in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and other larger towns with choclo (boiled cobs of giant Andean corn slathered in butter) a real treat.
I’d be lying if I said all food sold here is safe to eat but unfortunately that is not the case. Partly due to hygienic practices not up to western standards but also due to the simple fact that all areas of the world have different bacteria’s which the average travelers stomach is simply not accustomed to, stomach pain and diarrhea are common and appropriate caution should be taken.
Pre-Departure Health Matters
Many who are traveling to Peru for the first time wonder how the different diet and high altitude will affect them, and also if there is a risk of malaria. Unfortunately, many travelers do experience health problems when visiting Cusco, but by following the simple guidelines described here, one can significantly reduce their chances of becoming ill.
There are three primary factors that, alone or combined, are the cause of most of the health issues experienced by travelers when arriving in Cusco: the altitude, the food, and the rigors of travel. Most travelers arrive having not slept enough in the preceding days. Whether arriving by plane or by bus, it is a long and grueling trip that could cause anyone to feel a little under the weather. Thus, getting lots of sleep and drinking lots of water in the days before your trip are two of the best steps to take.
The altitude in the Sacred Valley where most travelers spend their time is generally between 3000 and 35000 meters. Machu Picchu itself is located at approximately 2400 meters above sea level. Depending on the altitude of where you live, arriving in Cusco can cause a mild case of ‘soroche’, (altitude sickness), though generally it is not serious and doesn’t last more than a few days. Most travelers find that descending to a lower altitude (like Ollantaytambo or Pisac) immediately upon arriving to Cusco minimizes the effects of the altitude. For example, Ollantaytambo is nearly five hundred meters lower than Cusco and that makes a big difference, especially on the first few days at high altitude. After a day or two at lower elevation, one will be much more adjusted to the altitude and less likely to have problems visiting and sleeping in Cusco.
There are a few pharmaceutical products available that claim to minimize the effects of the altitude, but reviews are mixed. More common is to chew coca leaf or drink the tea made from its leaves, an age old remedy for altitude sickness that is very effective. Very few people suffer any real problems after even a day or two of acclimatizing, and no special acclimatization program is necessary. This is true even for residents of sea level who travel up to high altitudes after even just a few days in the area.
Hepatitis A or B are always a possibility when traveling to remote areas that lack the normal hygienic practices of Western countries. However, cases are very rare here and we have seen only two in over a decade of assisting foreign travelers. Check with a medical professional about the pros and cons of the hepatitis vaccine. There 36 have been some recent cases of Typhoid fever in the valley, so it is advised to have a current vaccination. And of course, having an up to date tetanus vaccination is a good idea no matter where you live, and it is highly recommended to have this done before traveling to Peru. A tetanus shot provides immunization for between five to seven years; again, check with a doctor.
Rabies, though not common, does exist in Peru and is a valid concern. The most likely form of transmission is a dog bite, for this reason extreme caution is always recommended around dogs, whether in rural areas or in larger cities as animals are rarely vaccinated here. Avoid being bitten by a dog at all costs, and if bitten seek medical attention immediately. The dog owner should be located and asked for proof of rabies vaccination, and unfortunately the dog may need to be killed and tested for the disease. There is no known cure for rabies, there is a post-bite vaccination that can be administered but it’s very painful and carries its own set of risks, consult a doctor and as noted avoid being bitten in the first place.
Malaria is currently not prevalent in this part of Peru, if traveling on to the Amazon that is not the case and appropriate medicines and precautions should be taken. Currently, travel as low as 1000 meters, which covers all the routes in this book, is not at risk for malaria. The Espiritu Pampa and Pongo trips are more high risk for malaria than the other routes so if planning to travel there, check carefully with health professionals of your country and also locally.
The areas in and around Machu Picchu contain a wide variety of biting and stinging insects which can leave the skin irritated and itchy for quite some time, sometimes taking even months to heal. Bring strong insect repellent if planning to do any trekking.
There is different options of ATM, The only difference is that you each ATM charges a different commission
- Global Net
- Caja Cusco
- Banco Financiero