On this page you’ll find information on accommodation, restaurants, transport, wi-fi internet, tours and practical details that will help you travel around Peru. These travel tips are based on our own experience traveling through Peru in August-September 2009. Please add your own suggestions at the bottom of the post in the comments!
Articles about Peru:
- Peruvian Food: More Than Just Ceviche: a round-up of Peruvian food, from tiradito to causa to pisco sours.
- Fawlty Tours: 7 Games Tour Companies Play: the games tour companies play, from overcharging to lobbying to chiseling to funneling.
- Travel and Value: What Can You Buy For $0.66?: examples of three things we bought in Peru for $0.66, thinking about the concept of value and travel.
- The Salkantay Trek: From Glaciers to Machu Picchu: description, photos and panoramas of our trek to Machu Picchu along the Salkantay Trek.
- Machu Picchu? Not Yet. A Slideshow of the Other Peru: photographs and stories from a project with a microfinance organization in Huancavelica.
Skip Ahead to What You Need
- Cusco (Cuzco)
- Trek to Machu Picchu
- Chachapoyas and Kuelap
- Website resources for Peru
- Getting Visas to Bolivia and Paraguay in Lima
- Buying a SIM Card and Getting a Local Mobile Number
Note: Prices and schedules may have changed since our visit to Peru in August-September 2009.
Accommodation: Hostal Resbalosa – a sure way to test whether you’ve acclimatized to the altitude is by staying at this hotel and climbing the steps each day. Almost more strenuous than the Salkantay Trek. A double room with en suite bathroom is $17. Breakfast is extra. The view from the terrace is fantastic. Free wi-fi internet, although the owners have a tendency to turn it off at night. Get a room on the ground floor near the lobby to get wi-fi internet access. Address: Calle Resbalosa 494
Restaurants: There’s a lot of bad food in Cusco, especially compared with Lima. Restaurant owners seem to think that all foreigners want is pizza and pasta. Here’s the best of what we found.
- Los Perros: Good curry pumpkin soup, alpaca meatballs, sandwiches and pisco sours (14 Soles version). Address: Tecsecocha 426
- Two Nations: Tasty alpaca carpaccio and everything is cooked fresh to order. Friendly Australian owner. Address: corner of Huaynapata and Resbalosa Streets.
- Victor Victoria: This has the best value breakfast in all of Peru – big enough for two people. Our favorites included the French Toast or shakshuka. Good coffee, too. Address: Tecsecocha 466
- Jack’s Café: The best café lattes in Cusco. Good brunch, too. Address: corner of Choquechaka and Cuesta
- Israeli Place: This place probably does have a name, but we just forgot it. On the corner of Procuradores and Tecsecocha, a friendly owner will treat you to a free pisco sour and tell you about the local tradition of serving cuy (guinea pig). In addition, the hummus and falafel and shakshuka breakfasts are quite good.
- The Real McCoy: A typical British pub serving huge breakfasts and large portions of fish and chips. A good selection of beer and reliable wi-fi internet connection. Address: Calle Plateros 326 (upstairs)
- Central Market: We got fried fish with rice and lentils for around $2 in the food court. Not a spectacular meal, but not bad for the price.
Wi-fi Internet in Cusco: There are many options for wi-fi internet at cafes and hostels around Cusco. Here’s where we got online:
- Hostal Resbalosa: The wi-fi internet connection isn’t the strongest here, but it usually works in the lobby or in one of the lower level rooms near the lobby. For whatever reason, the staff tends to turn the router off at midnight.
- The Real McCoy: A friendly British restaurant and bar with a good wi-fi internet connection, inexpensive beer and huge servings. You’ll see some regular faces in there if you go back several times.
- Inca Trail: The traditional Inca Trail requires a permit and usually needs to be booked months in advance. From people we’ve spoken to, the price usually varies between $400 and $600. Hiring a porter to carry your stuff is an additional cost. Other travelers we met have recommended the following tour companies for the Inca Trail, but we cannot vouch first-hand: Q’ente Tour Operator, Andina Travel Company
- Salkantay Trek: As the Salkantay Trek does not require a permit like the Inca Trail, you can book this one to two days prior to departure and when you are in Cusco. The costs vary, but expect to pay between $160 (with student ID) to $300 if you book in Cusco. If you book in advance via the internet, expect to pay much more than this. The standard Salkanty Trek includes four nights/five days, tents/camping equipment, horses to carry your gear for the first 3 days (5-6 kilos), food, guide, Machu Picchu entrance tickets, 1 night accommodation in Aguas Calientes, and transport (including train). You can rent a sleeping bag for around $1-2/day (or negotiate it as part of your rate) and a pair of walking sticks for $1-2/day from most tour companies and trekking shops around Cusco. We also recommend that you pick up some coca leaves from the market for altitude sickness and a packet of water purification tablets from the local pharmacy. Scarves, hats and gloves can be bought on every corner from vendors. We booked our tour through Machu Picchu Trekking after arrival in Cusco. We negotiated a price of $180/person (including sleeping bag) for the Salkantay Trek. However, tour companies funnel all the tourists from several agencies into one group so our trek was actually run by another agency.
- For a full account of our Salkantay Trek, read this article and look at photos of the trek here and photos from Machu Picchu here.
- Taxis: There is no shortage of taxis in Cusco. Regular fares (in September 2009) were 8-10 Soles ($3-$3.50) for most locations in the center of town and to the bus station.
- Long Distance Buses: Most hotels and guest houses will sell you bus tickets for a slight commission. Alternatively, drop by the Tourist Office and they will give you a bus schedule with times and prices for where you want to go. We just went out to the bus station and bought our ticket to Puno (25 Soles/$8) on the spot. We took a Cruz del Sur bus from Lima for 140 Soles ($45) – 24-30 hours.
Accommodation: We highly recommend that you stay in the Barranco neighborhood instead of Miraflores or Central Lima. Barranco is an interesting neighborhood with independent restaurants, an artistic community, and a unique feel. We stayed at La Casa Barranco, a small guest house in the middle of Barranco. $20-$22 for a double room (external bathroom). Wi-fi internet. Good kitchen. Address: Avenida Miguel Grau 982, Barranco, Lima.
Restaurants and Bars:
Make sure you read our overview of Peruvian cuisine.
- El Muelle: Our favorite place to eat in Lima. Delicious ceviche, tiradito, causa, and conchitas a la parmesana. Location: At the corner of San Martin and Alfonso Ugarate Streets (one block away from Metro Supermarket) in Barranco, Lima.
- Edo: A great place for sushi with a line of Japanese sushi chefs behind a well-supplied counter dishing out inventive rolls and healthy cuts of sashimi. Address: Berlin 601, Miraflores, Lima.
- Huaringas Bar: The best pisco sours in Peru. If you want a serious, top-quality cocktail, this is the place. After tasting the original, try a maracuya (passionfruit) sour. Address: Calle Bolognesi 460, Miraflores, Lima.
- La Tapa Cafe: A cafe with a range of sandwiches, lunch specials and a large dessert display with alfajores, leche asada, and much more. Address: San Martin 101 (corner of Domeyer Avenue) in Barranco, Lima.
- Surquillo Market: Some of the best value ceviche in town is at the cevicherias in the covered market near the seafood vendors. Follow the crowds. A large tray of mixed ceviche was 14 S./ ($4.50). Location: just outside Miraflores past Avenida Angamos road bridge, on the side of the Paseo de la República freeway.
- San Antonio Cafe: This is the place to go for big, hearty salads and well-stuffed hot sandwiches. An amazing deli of desserts, quiches, and other nibbles. Address: Av. Vasco Núñez de Balboa 770 in Miraflores, Lima.
- La Pezquina Marina: A local restaurant serving good seafood two to three-course lunch menus for $3-$4. Try the seafood chaufa or pescado a lo macho. Address: Ovalo Balta, Pierola and Panama/Bolognesi Streets (caddy corner to Metro supermarket) in Barranco, Lima.
- Chocolate Cake Place: This is not a restaurant or cafe, but a corner Chinese grocer who serves up rich and delicious chocolate cake from the deli for less than $1. Address: On the corner of Avenida Miguel Grau and Miraflores Street in Barranco, Lima.
Wi-fi Internet in Lima: Many hostels and cafes in Miraflores offer free wi-fi internet. Here’s where we got online:
- La Casa Barranco: We spent most of our time online in Lima at our guest house. Address: Avenida Miguel Grau 982, Barranco, Lima.
- La Tapa Cafe: Get online and plug in while you chow down on alfajores and coffee. Address: San Martin 101 (corner of Domeyer Avenue) in Barranco, Lima.
- Starbucks and Local Cafe: On Parque Kennedy in the Miraflores neighborhood. If you are facing the Starbucks, go to the cafe 2-3 doors down on the right side with outdoor seating and three levels of seating. The tables near the front have access to plugs.
Transport around, to and from Lima
- Taxis: They are all over Lima and are usually reasonably priced. Choose one with a phone number or radio taxi sign for additional safety. When we visited in August 2009, sample fares were around 10-15 Soles to get around town. Negotiate with the taxi driver before you get in.
- Combis and local buses: These minibuses move at amazing pace and stop wherever. The ticket guy will yell out the door the names of upcoming streets or landmarks. Don’t be afraid to ask him for help – tell him where you’re going and he’ll let you know if you’re getting on right bus and will likely tell you when you get to your location. If it’s not the right bus, he’ll tell you which number to look for. A fast and cheap ($0.30) way to get around town.
- Long Distance Buses: For whatever reason, Lima does not have a central bus station. Each bus company has its own mini station. You can buy tickets online or at travel agents for the major bus companies like Cruz del Sur. Otherwise, you’ll have to go to the bus company or buy tickets through your hotel.
Accommodation: We stayed at Hostal Jusovi near the main square. Rooms were small, but did the trick. 40 Soles ($13) for a double room, including en suite bathroom. Free wi-fi internet in the lobby area. Address: Amazonas 637, Cajamarca.
Restaurants in Cajamarca:
- Don Paco: Although the menu is kind of expensive and touristy, we found the rocoto relleno (stuffed hot pepper) and saltado sandwich (stir-fried beef with potatoes, onion, pepper and tomato) to be reasonably priced ($5) and tasty. Address: Puga 726, Cajamarca.
- Bella’s Cafe (Bar & Lounge): Nice cafe serving breakfasts, sandwiches, tapas and some Mexican fare. Friendly owner who loves to talk about Peruvian food. Good coffees. Free wi-fi internet, too. Address: Junin 1184, Cajamarca.
- Spaghetti Om-Gri: A cafe owner in Chachapoyas recommended this place; we pass on the recommendation. This little Italian restaurant is run by Tito, a charismatic chef who has worked his way across Europe but decided to return to Peru and settle in Cajamarca and open an Italian restaurant. Good food and even better conversation. He’ll be glad to give you a lesson in both Italian and Peruvian cuisines. Address: San Martin 360, Cajamarca.
- Manjar Blanco and Cheese: Make sure you stop in one of the many majar blanco and cheese shops in Cajamarca to sample local dairy products. So fresh and delicious.
Cajamarca Wi-fi Internet
- Hostal Jusovi has free wi-fi internet in the lobby area. Address: Amazonas 637, Cajamarca.
- Bella’s Cafe (Bar & Lounge): Speedy wi-fi internet, strong coffee and comfortable chairs. Address: Junin 1184, Cajamarca.
Transport around, to and from Cajamarca
- Taxis: A taxi to or from the bus company will cost around 10 Soles ($3). Negotiate the price before getting in.
- Long Distance Bus: We arrived in Cajamarca from a combination of bus and shared taxi from Chachapoyas (14 hours) for 40 Soles ($14) per person. We chose Linea Bus Company for our bus journey to Lima. You can buy your ticket at their office on the main square. 90 Soles ($30) for an overnight bus journey (15 hours) including dinner and breakfast, movies and a bus that reclines 160 degrees. Very clean and comfortable.
Accommodation: We stayed at Hostal Amazonas on Chachapoyas’ main square. The first room we were shown had a broken toilet seat, so we asked for another and ending up getting a much bigger and better room for the same price. Don’t just take the first thing they give you. Cost: 40 Soles ($13) per double room with en suite bathroom. Address: Grau 565, Chachapoyas. Cel: 941 925959
Tour to Kuelap
Kuelap is a pre-Incan citadel atop a mountain a couple of hours away from Chachapoyas. We usually don’t get excited about ruins, but this was an interesting visit and we recommend taking a day to visit.
While you can get there by public transport (bus leaves from Chachapoyas at 4 AM), it’s easier and not that much more expensive to take a tour with one of the many tour companies on the main square. We went with Turismo Explorer (Grau 509, Tel: 041-478162) and were happy with their services and guide (who also spoke English). Cost: 40 Soles ($13.50). Most tours will run you about 40-60 Soles per person.
- Mini Market: It may not sound very pleasant to eat at a place called Mini Market, but this is where locals, Mormon missionaries and travelers gather for a quick and inexpensive meal. Fried chicken, sandwiches, or juanes (local dish of banana leaf-steamed chicken in yucca pocket). Address: On Chachapoyas’ main square.
- Cafe Fusiones: Good fair trade coffee, simple (but good) sandwiches and a very friendly owner who will tell you about eco tourism opportunities in the region. Free wi-fi internet, too. Address: Chincha Alta 445, Chachapoyas
- Central Market: A great place to pick up snacks – bread, cheese, olives, and fruit. Friendly vendors.
Chachapoyas Wi-fi Internet: The only place we found with wi-fi internet was Cafe Fusiones (Chincha Alta 445).
Transport to and from Chachapoyas
The best thing to do is go to the Tourism Office on Chachapoyas’ main square and get a list of all destinations, bus companies and schedules. Bus companies are in the streets around the central market. When we visited, landslides were a big problem and some roads were closed during the day for repairs. Check with the Tourism Office for the latest updates.
- From border with Ecuador: We arrived in Chachapoyas after two days of travel from Vilcabamba, Ecuador through the border at La Balsa. Shared taxi or truck from La Balsa to San Ignacio (3 hours, $3-4). Minivan or shared taxi to Jaen (3 hours, $3-4). Another shared taxi to Aguas Grades (3 hours, $8) with a final shared taxi to Chachapoyas (3 hours, $8).
- To Cajamarca: You have two options here. Take an overnight bus to Chiclayo and then a second bus to Cajamarca. The advantage of this route is that you will mostly be on paved roads. A more scenic and beautiful route is to take a bus to Celendin and then a shared taxi to Cajamarca. The company Virgen del Carmen sells tickets to Cajamarca for 40 Soles ($13.50) that include the bus and shared taxi. It’s a beautiful route, but full of switchbacks. Take motion sickness medicine in advance if you have a queasy stomach. The journey takes between 12-14 hours.
Accommodation: We stayed at La Portada. A double room with en suite bathroom and breakfast cost 50 Soles ($17). Take advantage of the coca tea offerings and get under the blankets to stay warm in the slightly damp rooms. Supposedly, you can pay 5 Soles/day and get wi-fi internet access, but it wasn’t working when we were there. Address: Virrey Toledo 252, Huancavelica. Tel: 067-368379
Restaurants in Huancavelica:
- El Meson: Good, hearty 2-3 course lunch menus for about $2-3. In the evening, return for a host of chifa (Peruvian-Chinese food) offerings. Address: Munoz 153
- Restaurant Joy: Another solid place for lunch specials (2-3 courses) for $2-3. Go hungry as the servings are large. Address: V Toledo 216
- Hamburger Joint: Along Munoz Street is a popular hamburger joint on the second floor. Follow the crowds and get a chicken or beef burger with fries for $2.
- Cafes and Desserts: The streets near the main square, including Munoz Street, are full of small cafes serving leche asada, an assortment of cakes and simple sandwiches. Very inexpensive and quite good, too.
Transport to and from Huancavelica
You can get to Huancavelica two ways from Lima.
- Lima to Huancayo to Huancavelica: Take an overnight bus from Lima to Huancayo. We went with Cruz del Sur. It’s certainly not cheap at 70 Soles ($25) for a 6-7 hour trip, but it’s a comfortable ride. Once you get to Huancayo, take a shared taxi (25 Soles/$8) or bus (10 Soles/$3) to Huancavelica (2-3 hours). The roads are windy; take motion sickness medicine if you’re prone to car sickness. We actually recommend the bus since it goes a bit slower and is easier on the stomach and nerves.
- Lima to Huancavelica: There are direct buses to and from Lima and Huancavelica. We didn’t take them, but the local women we worked with told us they cost around 40-50 Soles ($14-17) and take around 12 hours. The quality of the bus will be less than Cruz del Sur, but at least it’s a direct ride.
Unpaved South America: Great website to help you travel independently and off the beaten path in Peru (and the rest of South America). A comprehensive list of destinations covered in Peru.
Visa to Bolivia: The Bolivian Embassy in Lima is located at Castanos #235 in the San Isidro neighborhood. Opening hours are from 9 AM-1 PM (Monday-Friday). U.S. citizens need the following paperwork:
1. Application form – nothing crossed out – I had to fill it out twice because of this
2. Photocopy of passport
3. Photocopy of proof of yellow fever vaccination (e.g., yellow card)
4. Photocopy of credit card (or some proof of economic solvency)
5. Itinerary or proof of transport. When we explained we would be traveling by land, he told us to write a letter stating our expected route through the country.
6. Hotel reservation. Just reserve a room at the entry point through Hostelworld or one of these other hostel websites. You can always cancel it later if you want.
7. $135/person, paid at a bank 4 blocks away from the Embassy
The process was relatively painless and the consul was kind. If you arrive early enough in the morning, you could probably get the visa the same day. Since we arrived late morning, we had to return the next day to pick up the visa.
Visa to Paraguay: The Paraguay Embassy in Lima is located at: Alcanfores 1286 in Miraflores, Lima (very close to LarcoMar mall). Drop off the papers and pay one day, pick up the visa the next. Office hours are 9 AM – 1 PM, Monday-Friday.
1) Two signed copies of the visa application form. You can get this online at: http://www.embaparaguaype.com
2) Two photocopies your passport.
3) Two passport photos.
4) Two copies of your credit card or bank statement (proof of economic solvency).
5) Two copies of your entry card to Peru.
6) Two copies of your itinerary or transport tickets. Note: If you don’t have your flight booked to Paraguay, you can go to a travel agent in Lima and ask them to make and print out a reservation (but not pay anything) for a flight to/from Paraguay. Alternatively, you can show proof of a bus ticket.
7) $45 for single entry, $65 for multiple entry. Paid in cash (USD) at the Embassy.
The visa is valid for the validity of your passport.
Getting a local mobile phone number in Peru is relatively easy. The two companies recommended to us were Claro and MovieStar. We chose Claro. Purchase a SIM card for around $3-5 with about the same amount in credit, have the sales person register you in the system and then you’re on your way. One word of advice – check if there is a special deal going on prices and if you have to call to “register” for this special deal. We used up our credit very quickly because we didn’t realize at the beginning we had to opt-in to the special prices. You can buy cards (tarjetas) to recharge your account at most small shops and kiosks.