Lessons Learned in Cusco

By Farah Ahmad – Guest Blogger from Cusco SALUD
1. Try to plan your trip so you can be in Cusco for Inti Raymi and the week preceding the holiday. I found all the dances the week prior to be more exciting than the actual day of the holiday!
2. In all the rush of ruins and things to see don´t forget to take some time to sit in the Plaza or San Blas and enjoy meeting random new people!
3. Wear sun block! You´ll probably burn a little easier here.
4. Tipon was one of my favorite set of ruins but I felt like it got only tiny mentions in most guide books. I recommend going and also
climbing up the Inca staircases as they were awe-inspiring and the view was amazing!
5. There are PLENTY of ATMS everywhere in the city so this is probably the best way to get money at the best rate. I brought traveler´s checks as an emergency back up but I doubt I´ll end up using them. In general, the advice I´ve heard is to pay in dollars when quoted a price in dollars and in soles when given a price in soles. That way you avoid losing money in changing. In general, you´ll probably be paying in soles aside from some of your weekend travel agency bookings.
6. Hoard small change when you can! Also, after pulling money out of the ATM- you can go into a bank and exchange your 50 and 100 soles bills for smaller bills which makes life a lot easier. Another option is going to some of the bigger grocery stores and buying a small snack.
7. Internet cafes are really found every block or so. They are generally 50 centimos per half hour. Walk farther away from Ave del Sol and the Plaza as these tend to be more expensive.
8. Ask cab drivers how much they charge before getting in. Generally during the day cab rides are 2 to 2.5 soles depending on where you live. After 10 pm, they get more expensive.
9. Learn how to take combis (public bus or van) or ask your family to take one with you the first time you go to school. I know that taxis
themselves are not that expensive but combis are much cheaper (approx 60 centimos.) I really believe it´s all part of the experience of living here. What you really need to know (and you´ll learn) is what names of combis go in your destination and what the name of the stop you want is…then you should just be able to ask the person who opens the door of the combis if that combi goes to that stop. Say ¨baja¨when you hear your stop being called and pay. There are some stories of people getting fake five soles coins so just look at your money beforehand or try to have something closer to exact change.
10. If traveling out of Cusco, save some money by cutting out every middleman you possibly can. There are a lot of tourist companies in Cusco so while it saves some headache, it´s also cheaper if you buy a bus ticket to the destination you want (ex.Arequipa or Puno) and then book with a company ahead of time in one of those places. I actually ended up on the same tours as people who booked through Cusco agencies who ended up paying much more. Use the tour agencies listed in a guidebook or someone else has used to avoid any problems with being ripped off.
11. Take a bus company that´s recommended by your family. Some include Ormano, Cruz del Sur, Cromotex. Buy tickets from the bus station and compare prices. When you book (but especially when you go on the trip), you´ll need a form of ID but preferably a copy of your passport.
12. Ask your host family about boiling water or if you can do it. This can save plastic as you won´t have to keep buying new ones. Recycle them at your school.

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