What is altitude sickness?
Travelers feel the effects of altitude sickness when they experience a rapid change in elevation without having enough time to acclimatize. The air is less dense at higher elevations, so your body needs to work harder to obtain the same concentration of oxygen compared to sea level.
Cusco sits at 11,020 feet, an altitude that needs to be treated with respect, particularly if arriving by air from sea level. Common symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness in breath, lightheadedness and fatigue are to be expected. But every traveler’s body responds to the change in altitude differently and some may experience more serious symptoms.
To learn more about altitude sickness, common symptoms and concerns, and management strategies, read: Expert advice on how to avoid altitude sickness in Peru
What is the weather like in Cusco?
Cusco experiences two seasons: wet and dry. The rainy season is from October to March, with the heaviest rainfall in January and February. On a typical day in the wet season it’s rare for there to be all-day showers. Instead, you can expect scattered showers throughout the day, but heavier rainfall in the afternoon and evening. High season for Cusco travel is during the dry season, from June to August. Temperatures during the day can be quite warm, averaging about 70 degrees in the direct sun, but the Andean climate results in much cooler temperatures at night once the sun goes down.
What vaccinations are required before visiting Peru?
Talk with your healthcare provider before you travel, ideally 4-6 weeks in advance, to make sure your routine vaccinations are up-to-date and discuss additional options, such as Hepatitis A and Typhoid, that are recommended to many travelers.
Yellow fever is a risk in certain jungle regions of Peru, but is not necessary on a trip to Cusco.
What is the electricity voltage in Peru?
Electricity in Peru is provided at 220V. This is the same as Europe, but very different to the United States (110V). Most laptop, mobile phone chargers, and camera chargers can run on both 110V and 220V, but other appliances, such as hairdryers, are more likely to be limited to one of the two. Converters to charge a 110V appliance are available for purchase in Peru, but we’d advise doing this before you leave.
So I need a visa to enter Peru?
With few exceptions, a visa are not required for travelers entering Peru. Tourists are permitted stay in the country for up to 183 days on a tourist visa upon arrival: the actual length of stay is determined by the immigration officer at the point of entry. When you enter Peru your passport is stamped as well as a separate tourist card -called a Tarjeta Andina de Migración (Andean Immigration Card) – that you should keep safely tucked away in your passport during your trip because you’ll need it to leave the country. Be careful not to lose your tourist card, or you’ll have to stand in the line at the immigration office, also simply known as migraciónes, for a replacement card.
What are popular celebrations and festivals in Cusco?
These dates may vary year-to-year
Fiesta de San Sebastián – January 20
This is a feast to honor San Sebastian, the patron saint of Cusco. There are great festivities with folkloric dances, and feasts of local food and fruit.
Carnaval – February/March
Done in typical Andean fashion, solemn traditions and processions take center stage. You will also see parades with costumes and traditional dances. Children, and some adults, celebrate Carnival by partaking in city-wide water battles, so prepare to get wet!
Easter Monday & Celebration of El Señor de los Temblores – March/April
This celebration began in 1650 after a painting of Jesus entitled Cristo de la Buena suerte purportedly stopped an earthquake that was rocking Cusco to its foundations.
The vigil of the cross – May 2-3
This celebration takes place atop every mountain with a crucifix on it.
Corpus Christi- June
Cusco beer festival – May/June
The festival lasts for three days and kicks off a month of celebration in the city.
Qoyllur Rit’I (Snow Star Festival) – June
This festival is held annually in honor of Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i, an indigenous shepherd boy said to have been visited by the image of Jesus. Today the festivities are an enthralling tradition celebrating the blend of Catholicism and Andean religions.
Inti Raymi – June 24
The Inti Raymi festival is held every year to celebrate the most important god in the Inca World: Inti (the Sun). Occurring on the Winter Solstice of the Southern Hemisphere, the celebration brings together large numbers of worshipers throughout Peru and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
Huarachicoy Festival – last Sunday of August
Held at the Sacsayhuaman site, nearby Cusco, this is an authentic reenactment of the Inca manhood rite entitled “party in order to arm gentlemen” by the Spaniards.
Corpus of Almudena- September 8
Also known as “Day of the Virgin,” this is a colorful and vibrant procession taking place from the church of Almudena on the southwest of Cusco to the Plaza San Francisco.
Santuranticuy- December 24
Held on Christmas Eve, this “sale of saints” is one big celebration of Christmas shopping in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.
Is the water in Peru safe to drink?
Travelers shouldn’t drink water from the faucet or natural streams – most Peruvians don’t either! Filtered and boiled water is sufficient, but drinking bottled water is your best option on a trip to Peru. From popular tourist attractions to small stores, bottled water is sold throughout the country and should even be used to brush your teeth. Sometimes unfiltered water is used to make ice, so when in doubt, order your beverage without ice (‘sin hielo’).
How do I get to Machu Picchu from Cusco?
Most travelers get to Machu Picchu by a combination of train, bus and private transportation from the city of Cusco to the top of Machu Picchu. Though some many hike the Inca Trail, most prefer the comfort of the reliable train system. From Cusco, travelers board the train at the Poroy Station about 7 miles from the city’s main center and take the train all the way to Aguas Calientes – the small town that service as Machu Picchu’s entrance gate.
During the rainy season from November to April a section of train track to Machu Picchu Closes and bimodal service (bus + train) from Cusco to the train station in Aguas Calientes is offered. To learn more about this bimodal service, read: Travel know-how for bimodal service to Machu Picchu.
Once you reach the town of Aguas Calientes you’re within walking distance of Machu Picchu and some travelers choose to hike up for about two hours up to the citadel. But most travelers take the bus up to the Machu Picchu ruins. You’ll see a large fleet of buses nearby in the town of Aguas Calientes and a steady flow of tourists getting their tickets, making it impossible to miss.
What is the internet connection like in Cusco?
Peru is online and there’s wireless internet in Cusco. Most hotels, hostels, restaurants and coffee shops offer complimentary Wi-Fi, but connection speeds vary and may not be fast enough for Skype video chatting and other data-chewing applications.
Where can I exchange currency in Cusco?
Most banks in Cusco will exchange currency without a charge, at which time you’ll need to present your passport to do so. There are also several money exchange offices, or casa de cambio, around Cusco’s central square of Plaza de Armas and ask around for the best exchange rate.
How far away is Cusco from popular towns in the Sacred Valley?
20 miles / 50 minutes
48 miles / 1 hour 30 minutes
60 miles / 2 hours 30 minutes