Lots of details - FAQs

FAQ's... lots of details

Drinking Water 

 

Do not drink the tap water in Peru. 

 

Drinking more water than usual is recommended at the altitude of the Sacred Valley.    At Chinchero we'll be staying at about 12,000 feet above sea level. Please pack a refillable water bottle. You can buy 2 liter bottles of filtered water throughout the Sacred Valley and use them to refill your bottle. Recycling projects are just beginning to be initiated in this Sacred Valley.  Therefore it is better to bring a refillable water bottle that you will fill from larger bottles than to purchase several smaller bottles of water each day.  A great alternative is to bring a small water-purifier with you. There are many of these available, usually from suppliers of backpacking gear. What we use is a small battery-powered device called a “SteriPEN”. It takes 90 seconds to sterilize a liter of water.

 

In addition is best to:

  • Brush your teeth with bottled water.
  • Avoid ice cubes
  • Avoid fresh fruit juices. Juices in Peru are often freshly made by blending fresh fruit and water.  Although delicious, the water used may not have been filtered.

 

Digestion

 

Avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables that you cannot peel unless you trust the source of raw produce to have been handled with proper hygiene

 

We recommend you bring charcoal capsules available in whole food stores.  At the first sign of digestive upset, take one of these capsules.  The charcoal changes the pH of your digestive tract and will frequently avert indigestion and diarrhea.

Consider packing digestive aids such as pro-biotics, digestive enzymes and diarrhea medication.

 

Altitude

The altitude in the Sacred Valley is about 8,000 feet above sea level.  Most people will notice the effects of this altitude with shortness of breath and possible headaches but more serious effects are rarely noticed at this altitude. At higher altitudes, such as Cusco or Chinchero, the effects of thinner air are more noticeable. The best way to be comfortable is to adjust gradually: plan to spend a 2-3 days in the valley before staying at higher altitude.

 

remedies

 

  • Two herbal teas that help with altitude are Mate de Coca and Mate de Munya. (pronounced “mah tay day co cah” and “mah tay day moon yah”)
  • Aspirin is an anti-inflammatory and as such helps to counteract some of the effects of altitude (please note: Tylenol does not offer this anti-inflammatory benefit.)
  • Caffeine also helps with the effects of altitude as it helps dilate and is also a diuretic and helps avoid water retention.
  • Sirochi Capules, available at pharmacies ("bodecas") in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Taken 2-3 times daily 8 hours apart. Approx. $13 for a box of 20 capsules.  Most bodecas will open a box and sell just a few capsules if you want to give them a try.
  • Cell Food.- This is the brand name of a liquid dietary supplement that you can purchase in health food stores in the US.   A small bottle costs about $25.  It can be used to supplement over 25 quarts of water. The dissolved oxygen that it contains helps deliver oxygen to the cells to counter act the effects of less oxygen at higher altitudes.
  • One of our friends who makes frequent trips to Peru, never goes without the following supplement to aid her in dealing with the high altitude: Cataplex E2,  available from www.NationalDiscountVitamins.com or 1-888-884-8845.
  • Mama coca. This is the indigenous response to altitude. The most potent way to get coca´s wonderful effects is by chewing the leaves. They are available at most public markets. Along with the leaves you would get a little chunk of "Ilipta", which helps with the release of the alkaloids into the bloodstream. I (Jeffrey) found that this allowed me to do hours of heavy labor at 11,500 feet!

 

Good physical condition is no guarantee against altitude sickness. Symptoms vary from dizziness, headaches, sleeplessness, lack of appetite, and shortness of breath, to the more severe and dangerous symptoms of high altitude -pulmonary or cerebral edema. Anyone with a history of lung or heart disease, other serious medical problems, or a history of severe reactions at high altitudes should consult his or her doctor for recommendations before departing.


Weather


Click here to see average weather conditions for this period.


What to bring

Peru is south of the equator so our summer is their winter but Peru is fairly close to the equator so there this not a big climate change from summer to winter.


Best to pack light.  Even if you have a wheeled suitcase, you will frequently end up picking it up as wheels don't work so well on cobblestones and stairs.

  • layered clothing is important.
  • a light weight yet warm fleece is a good idea.Long pants are recommended because when visit sacred sites we sit down to talk, it will be on the ground. 
  • sun screen, long sleeves and a cap are good protection from sun.
  • light weight rain jacket or even a disposable plastic rain poncho is a good idea
  • comfortable walking shoes with good traction.  Lots of cobblestone, stairs  and unpaved streets..  Hiking boots are not needed but comfortable shoes a must. 
  • small day pack to carry your water bottle, camera, sunglasses, rain poncho, etc highly recommended.
  • bug repellent - bugs are not an issue in the Sacred Valley but if you travels will take you to Machu Picchu, you will need it there
  • camera -optional but a great thing to bring
  • toiletries
  • personal dietary supplements and medicines
  • we always pack a bathing suit - in case we find some hot springs
  • notebook or journal
  • mesa or medicine tools
  •  
  • We also suggest that you bring gifts suitable for the children of Peru. We will give these to our spiritual guide, Puma, who will distribute them in his village. Things you might consider to bring are:
    • paper, pens, pencils, markers
    • One person asked her dentist to donate toothpaste and tooth brushes.

    Telephone service

    Unless you have an international plan with your cell phone, your US cell phone will not work in Peru If you do have an international cell phone, you will probably need to purchase a special Peruvian "chip" in order to make and receive calls to and from phones in Peru. These chips can be purchased at most cell phone stores in Lima or Cusco for less than $15.  


    If you do not have an international cell phone and need to make a call while in  Peru to a Peruvian number you will find that at many street corners are people wearing a lime green vest.  It is very easy to spot these green vests. This is a sign that this person has a cell phone that you can use for the equivalent of  30 cents to a dollar per call.  


    If you need to make a call back to the US, there are stores that offer "phone booths" for you to use to make calls back to the US. 


    If you have a Skype account, you will be able to log onto Skype at an internet cafe.  Every internet cafe we have been at in Peru in the last 2 years has downloaded Skype and has a head-set microphone to enable Skype calls.  Calling the US from Peru via Skype will incur a charge from Skype of less than 2 cents per minute.  Internet cafes in Peru charge  less than $1 per hour for use of the internet.  Some of the hotels we will stay at have internet access and a computer for quests to share. The computers at a hotels will not likely be Skype equipped.


    Electrical outlets

    Electricity in Peru is 220 Volts and 60 Hertz (cycles per second). If you plug in a 110-volt appliance, prepare yourself for a puff of smoke and a broken piece of equipment.

    If you want to use a 110-volt appliance in Peru, you may need to buy a power adapter. Always check before buying, as most  modern laptops and digital cameras can safely take both 110 and 220 volts.

     It is a good idea to bring a 3 prong to 2 prong adapter. These are readily available in hardware sections of discount stores in the US.  Some outlets in Peru only accept a plug with round prongs. We have purchased adapters for this situation in hardware stores in Peru for very little cost. 


    Travel Insurance

    You may want to purchase travel insurance before departure. It is perfect protection in case you have to cancel your trip, miss a flight, return home early or need to seek emergency medical treatment while traveling. It must be purchased before you leave for your trip.  I have purchased it in the past fromwww.travelguard.com


    Time zone

    Peru does not adjust for Daylight Savings. During the months that the US applies Daylight Savings Time (mid-March to early November), the time in Peru is the same as the Central Daylight Time in the US.  This is the time zone that Chicago is in.


    Money

    The Peruvian currency is the ‘Sol’. As of summer 2013, the exchange rate is  approx. 2.8 soles per 1 US dollar. There are many ‘cambios’ or money changing places in the Sacred Valley. You can also change money at the airport and sometimes at your hotel, but the hotel usually offers a little less advantageous rate.

     

    Expect to bargain the price of almost everything from cab rides to souvenir purchases.

     

    Options for exchanging Dollars into Soles

    ATM machines are found in most cities and are an easy way to obtain Soles. Exchange rate is generally good. No lines, 24 hour availability.  Clearly marked machines even sometimes available at open air markets. You will probably be charged the equivalent of $3-$4 per transaction. You will be able to withdraw either US dollars or Peruvian Soles from an ATM machine.  We recommend that you with draw Soles.

    Cash – Many but not all vendors accept US dollars as long a your bills are as new and unblemished as possible.  Many open air vendors will accept unblemished US bills. In addition to bargaining the price or something you buy from an open air vendor, you will also have to negotiate the exchange rate should you pay in US dollars.  Obviously this only becomes a major concern for fairly high-value purchases.


    Travelers checks – very safe but it can be difficult to find a place that excepts them. Generally only exchangeable at a bank. This is time consuming as there are often long lines at banks and banks are not always open. You will probably pay a 1% commission to your US bank to purchase travelers checks as well as a commission to exchange them. We do not recommend travelers checks as your primary means of funds.



    Language
    Peru's official languages are Spanish and in certain areas Quechua and Aymara. 

    Quechua is the language that is spoken in the areas that we will be visiting. Spanish is taught in the schools in these areas. So those that go to school, will know some Spanish too.  If you speak Spanish fluently, be sure to speak slowly and simply as Spanish is a second language for these people.

    The population of Lima is fluent in Spanish. In Cusco, the navel of the Sacred Valley, most people have gone to school and have a great grasp of Spanish.

    There are dozens of languages spoken in the Peruvian Amazon region.



    Tips

    It is true that Peruvians are not big tippers, however, tipping is a great way to show your appreciation to the people serving you and to have your dollars go straight into the pockets of the people that need it most. A 10% tip will be warmly accepted at any restaurant and will put a surprised smile on a person's face. Your meals are included on this trip. If you want to leave a tip at restaurants, you are welcome to do so.

    Tour bus driver. At the end of our trip, you are welcome to give the tour bus driver a tip.

    Taxi drivers do not expect tips. Fares are negotiated prior to initiating the trip.

    Hotel porters and bell boys expect a tip of $ 1 per bag.

    Clean unblemished dollar bills are readily accepted as tips - I generally bring 20 one dollar bills for this purpose.


    Photographing the People of Peru

    Ask permission first and give those you have photographed a tip following taking their photograph. 1 Sol per person is adequate.


    Public Restrooms

    There is generally a charge of 1 Sol to use public restrooms - even restrooms at sacred sites where there is an admission fee. Toilet paper is not always available. It is a good idea to bring some with you.

     

    Airport taxes:

    Sometimes airport taxes have been added to the price of your ticket. If this is the case, a stamp or sticker will be attached to your boarding pass when you check in. If airport taxes are not pre-paid then you will pay them at the airport. These taxes can be paid in Soles or US dollars

    Lima to Cusco –approx. $6

    Cusco to Lima – approx. $6

    Lima to US - $30.

     

    Fitness

    Our trip will include visiting many sacred sites. Although we will not do a lot of walking, your visit to Peru will be more enjoyable if you prepare for it by doing a little bit of walking each day.  Even 5-10 minutes per day in the weeks before your trip will be worth the investment.  When you have a choice, climb stairs daily in preparation for the inevitable stairs you will find here. Many of us drive to school or work and sit at a desk most of the day.  As you prepare for your trip, plan to park a few minutes farther from work or school than you usually do.  An extra 5 minute walk each day can make a big difference. The better shape you’re in, the better time you’ll have.


     
    Ground transportation to points outside Cusco
     

    Taxi
    Many taxi drivers will approach you at the airport to offer a ride. Expect to negotiate the price.  The current price should be 60-70
    soles ($22-25) from the airport to Pisac, probably a little more to Chincheo.  If you are not familiar with bargaining a price and this is your first chance to do so, be sure to stand your ground.  Your driver may pout, complain about the high cost of gas, etc., to try to persuade you to pay him more.  Best to start your negotiating at about 45-50 Soles so you have room to move up to 60-70. There is generally some back and forth expected to close the deal. If you start at 60, you may find it harder to get to the "real price". Tipping taxi drivers is not expected. The taxi should take you all the way to the hotel or hostal or at least very close to it. (Sometimes cars and buses park short-term on the one-way-at-a-time streets, preventing through traffic.)

    If you are on a tight budget, taxi is not the way to get  to Pisac or Chinchero from the airport. You can direct the taxi driver to take you to "station bus por Chinchero", wait there, and take the next bus, mini-bus, or shared car. Same with Chinchero. that airport taxi river will definitely argue with you that it is better, safer, whatever to have him take you all the way. But he is required by law to take you where you direct him to go.

     
    Bus
    There are also frequent 30-40 passenger buses. Fare is less than $2 within an hour of Cusco. You'll need to get a taxi to the bus station for your destination. On the bus you will be riding with the general population. Workers, students, moms with kids. We like it. One American we know says that when she took the whole Machu Picchu vacation, what stood out most was a bus ride with a local two-year-old on her lap.

    More questions?
    We invite you to direct your unanswered questions along these lines to us. Send them to jeffreyandcielle@gmail.com.
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