April 11th, 2020
Since I moved to the Middle East (or what I like to think of as the middle of the world), Peru was at the top of my bucket list. As I started to make friends here, I quickly learned that I was not the only one, so we started putting our heads together and our money aside and in October last year we went to Peru!
As much as I like to wing it and see where the adventure takes me, I spent ample time on research for this trip. Traveling to South America is quite a stretch, so I reckoned best we do it properly for we may never get a chance to do it again. Good thing I did because it turned out there was A LOT we needed to know before going!
PLAN AHEAD OF TIME. To enter Machu Picchu you need a permit and these tend to sell out pretty fast. We booked everything three months before our trip. We went in off-season, but if you plan to go between March and September you probably want to book further in advance.
Unless you live on the same continent, Peru is FAR! While planning this trip I was too excited to pay attention to the length of the journey. The route we took from Doha to Cusco had two stops: Madrid and Lima. We made the mistake of taking a low cost carrier for the longest leg of the journey – I spent 11 hours in a seat unable to recline without WiFi, entertainment or refreshments. We completed the trip in 30 hours (transit included) and slept about 12 hours once we reached! If you’re pressed for time, this won’t be ideal, so pay a little more for a comfortable flight and get some sleep on the way.
Be prepared for – and I can’t stress this enough – HIGH ALTITUDE! Each and every YouTuber warned us about this, yet I was reluctant thinking “I’m young, I’m fit, it won’t get to me!”. It did. Luckily we had three days in Cusco to adjust before heading out to the mountains, but I remember not being able to walk ten steps without having to stop to catch a breath. I also woke up at night (in a fetus position) having to turn on my back so my chest could open up… not fun. Here are some hacks:
- Medication for high altitude – most effective if you start taking it a couple days before as a precaution and keep taking it throughout your trip.
- Coca leaves/tea. This is complimentary at hostels and available at most restaurants. Take it every chance you get!
- Coca gummies. We got these at one of the stores and chewed it along our hike to Machu Picchu. Were the views really that great or was it just the coca? 😉
- Don’t consume alcohol. I can’t remember at what stage I felt brave enough to have a beer, but a couple hours later I felt so dizzy I had to sit down while my friend explored a coca museum.
Another thing that’s important is to PACK FOR ALL KINDS OF WEATHER. Not that the weather here is very unpredictable, but if you plan on spending a few days outdoors you don’t want to ruin your trip because you didn’t bring enough socks or a jacket that’s warm enough. Same goes for hiking boots, make sure they’re comfortable – don’t mind if they’re ugly, no one’s gonna take their eyes off the views to look at your shoes. Also, if you go in the colder months I’d highly recommend a down jacket, a beanie, gloves and some wool socks. Rainbow Mountain trek was the coldest I’ve been in my entire life and I was stuffed like a sausage!
Did you know that you can get a FAKE STAMP in your passport to say “I was here”? I didn’t know this before, but they do offer these at Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain. Think it through though, because when you travel to strict countries this may be an issue at Immigration. Impulsive person that I am, I got it anyway. So far no one’s ever stopped me at any borders because of it – touch wood!
Speaking of passports and Immigration, most nationalities don’t need a VISA to travel to Peru. Always best to double check as it would be a real bummer if lack of documentation gets in the way of an adventure of this caliber!
Lastly (priorities), I’ll share a little about the COSTS. Because we had to come such a long way, flights were quite expensive. Try to book early or look for deals if you want to cut costs. Second most expensive was the hiking tours, which was absolutely worth every penny as this covered everything, including the admin of getting a permit! Otherwise, life in Cusco was pretty CHEAP. We stayed at a hostel in the center and explored the entire town by foot. And because of the altitude we saved a lot of money by not consuming alcohol!
If you haven’t read my previous post about my experiences in Peru, go check it out! If you have any questions regarding tour companies or accommodation, ask right away – I’d love for every person in the world to be able to go there, so I’m happy to help with any information that I have!
I hope you are eager to start planning your trip to Peru while you #stayhome and #staysafe.