Careful of what you do with your significant other in public. If you are caught Romancing the Stone and making out in public, you could find yourself in jail. This sign of public affection by Cuzquenian law is taboo regardless of the clothes you still have on. It shocked me to find that out and it cost me a nice amount to "buy" my way out of it in the form of "buying breakfast," and sweet talking the cops. It was a bit past three in the morning and I was walking a girl back to her hostel from the bars where we had been hanging out at earlier. As I was giving her a long goodbye kiss, an officer came up to me with his baton drawn and proceded to "arrest" me for being lewd in public. They actually drove me back to my hostel and I "bought" them breakfast by giving them a nice big note I had in my wallet. Technically, they never booked me but it did cost me a pretty penny (sol). Luckily I spoke Spanish and was able to charm my way out of being taken to the slammer. Of course nice cold hard cash was also pretty effective.
So my buddy Patrick wanted to get his haircut. Don't ask me why he didn't do it before or do it when we get back.
But here he is getting a haircut in Cuzco. It actually won't be a bad idea if someone really needed to get a haircut. But the problem was he went to a barber who didn't cut hair full time for a living, and the scissors were the multipurpose scissors you see on a desk or factory.
Hahaha. (oh just kidding Patrick, you still look good)
Check you are fit enough in Cuzco first, MACHU PICHU is 'only' 2,045m high
I didn't care, I knew it wasn't a ski resort, of course! but I had to find a chemist in Cuzco, before enjoying the Inca ruins... so learn your medical Spanish words or train hard to keep fit up to the top - I didn't.
Watch out when you first fly in, as the air is thin up here, take your time to acclimatise before moving on, symptons are headache,sickness, lightheadiness, if in doubt see a doctor if you have these symptons the golden rule is NOT to go any higher, untill the symptons have cleared up completly, different people acclimatise at different rates, so have no effects at all in mild cases just rest and drink lots of water untill symptons dissapear
Drugs have been getting more and more wide spead, and the more young tourists about the more drugs for sale!, But tourists do get set up, and stiff penalties including prison sentences can result, so stick to the Coca Cola
The ancient Paracas civilization that existed even prior to the Incas - and which was located primarily along the coastal areas of Nazca, Ica and so forth, produced sophisticated weavers of textiles. Even today, archaeologists are digging up tombs and finding well preserved samples of their expert craftsmanship. With these recent finds, comes exploitation in the form of "poachers" who actually go out in the middle of the night and excavate for the purpose of finding these beautiful, ancient textiles and then selling them on the black market or even more brazenly, as small souvenirs.
You may walk into a jewelry and artisanry shop in Cusco or elsewhere, and see a lovely necklace with a small piece of cloth encased in glass, as a pendant. Be sure to question the shopkeeper or the craftsman about where this textile comes from. How did he acquire it? How old is it? If it's pre-colonial, chances are he shouldn't be selling it - although this is so loosely regulated in Peru that many proprietors secretly get away with it. If they see a potential customer whom they think might be interested in such an item, they'll bring it out from the back of the store where it's not so obviously on display.
Many tourists unwittingly contribute to the perpetuation of these poachers....where there's a market, there's a business.
Don't worry, you're not "doing drugs" if you chew on coca leaves or drink coca tea! Sure, the cocaine is derived (after a lot of chemical processing) from coca leaves. But in their natural state, coca leaves are non-narcotic. Coca tea is probably the first thing you will be offered when you arrive at your hotel in Cusco. It's absolutely safe to drink, in fact, you SHOULD drink it as soon as possible, and continue drinking it throughout your acclimatization to the higher altitudes. It's great for treating mild altitude sickness - but it can also be a mood lifter, help with some gastrointestinal issues, cut fatigue and help with headaches. The Incas used it for medicinal purposes; the Quechua Indians today still use it as a homeopathic remedy for a multitude of ailments. So....DRINK COCA TEA - and lots of it!!!
Most people land in Lima, then catch a flight to Cusco. Lima is at sea level; Cusco is around 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) high. The air at this level holds less oxygen, and most people aren't accustomed to a lower ratio of oxygen. More red blood cells are required to compensate for the lower level of oxygen - but the body needs a minimum of 24 hours to produce these new red blood cells. It is during this important process called "acclimatizing" that you will need to be stationary and resting. It will be tempting to skip around the town of Cusco like I did - it seems such a waste of precious time to arrive and go directly to bed! But I cannot emphasize how important this is. For some, all that is needed are five hours of rest, and then they can engage in some light activity like riding in a bus or a taxi to the nearby sites. If you intend to visit Machu Picchu at some point, then for sure you will need to plan a minimum of 2 days in Cusco (not counting the day of arrival), engaging in activity that is not physically taxing, so that your body can produce the additional red blood cells needed to support the higher altitude and the trekking (or even the train ride, if that's the way you plan to visit Machu Picchu).
I did not rest when I first arrived in Cusco, and it took me over 24 hours to get my groove back. During those first five hours after arrival, I skipped around town and felt great. I soon tired, and then came the headache and nauseas. I couldn't eat for the first 2 days, which further weakened me. Yeah - I was a wimp! But more importantly, I was a fool. Had I JUST PAID ATTENTION to what I'd read and what I'd heard, and not been so arrogant as to think that my general good physical shape would see me through, then I would not have had to endure the altitude sickness that, while not deadly, was very uncomfortable and also kind of scary.
Most of the international flights will land in Lima, the capital of Peru, from which point you will then coordinate any interior flights throughout the country.
The Jorge Chavez airport is fairly modern, and comes with the type of chaos one would associate with a busy airport. What you need to be aware of are the hustlers coming up to you, asking if you need a ride to your hotel. These people are general individuals who don't have offical taxis - they're driving civilian vehicles. This is pretty standard behavior for Latin American countries, and Peru is no exception. As common sense dictates, you're better off going in a cab that is well marked and has fares posted or a meter that works.
I didn't notice this so much in the Cusco airport. Note that for those who are short on breath or otherwise feeling lightheaded when they land, there's oxygen available inside a Red Cross room in the airport in Cusco.
Between the Andean mountain range, the desert plains, and the Humbolt current, Peru has an interesting melange of weather and climates. Basically, the Andes create a kind of backbone for the country, breaking Peru into two parts: the desert Coast and the Amazon jungle. Then, this mountain range acts as a natural barrier between both, while simultaneously creating a new region by itself. Winds from the jungle are unable to reach the coast, keeping it dry. Up in the Andes mountains on the other hand, there is mostly cold and dry weather on an average.
So if you're going to Peru, your travel dates should be contingent upon where exactly in Peru it is that you plan to visit. In my case, I visited all three areas: the Coast, the Jungle, and the Mountains. I went in mid October, and things were a bit overcast in the Andes area, and it did rain (lightly) one day while we were hiking.
The climate basically goes like this:
Dry Season (May-Sep): Coast - cold wet days, cold wet nights / Jungle - hot wet days, crisp nights / Andes -warm dry days, cold nights
Rainy Season (Oct-Apr): Coast - hot days, cool nights / Jungle - rainy cool days, rainy crisp nights / Andes - rainy days, rainy cold nights
I was very worried about the altitude sickness in Cuzco. I did take Diamox with me, but in the end felt no reason to take it. This was because we spent two nights in Cuzco climatising, we took things slowly and relaxed. By the time we met up with our tour group we were fine, where as they all took Diamox because they did not have the time to climatise before the four day trek to Machu Picchu. If you can then spend a few days in Cuzco before you start your trek, you will feel better for it.
(Note: I have this posted in my Macchu Picchu area too, but thought it was important enough to include twice!)
I know, I know...it sounds more like the name of your favorite pet chihuahua. But it's not!
Every country has its own kind of "moonshine"...Peru is no exception.
Chicha is a drink more closely associated with the lower socio-economic classes of Andean nations, although it dates back to pre-Inca times. I recall seeing some locals drinking chicha as we hiked along the trail. I was eager to taste their home-made chicha - only to find I didn't like it!
Chicha is usually made from fermented corn, and it has a yellowish, frothy, bubbly look to it. Very strong stuff.
Pisco is a native drink, usually found in Peru (and in Chile too). Pisco is made by distilling grapes which can be found in the warm, dry regions of Peru. Watch out - the sugar content is high, which makes for some bad headaches if you overindulge. It's usually aged for several years in clay containers or oak barrels, and the acohol content is fairly high - 90 proof. "Pisco Sour" is the potent national drink, very tasty!
If you take a cab in Cuzco make sure it's got yellow and black cubes on the side. These cabs have permits. The others don't and you've got a big chance of being robbed. I haven't had any problems with the yellow and black cubes taxi's, but if you want to be perfectly safe take the cabs with phone numbers on top of them. You can also write down the numbers of the cab (yellow and black), then you also will be safe.
everyone must watch their drink when they go out in Cuzco. I was very nearly the victim of an elaborate set up presumably designed to rob me. It goes like this...In a bar a very attractive woman approaches you and asks you lots of questions, and it's alll very flattering. Then she introduces you to her friends and she tries to keep you distracted whilst her friends drug your drink. Then the girls suggests drinking up and moving onto another bar somehwere a little quieter...Luckily I saw something being dropped in my drink and walked away from the situation, but it may have turned very nasty...Also catch taxis around town at night, don't walk.