Planning a Trip to Peru
There are, of course, lots of travel companies that specialise in trips to Peru and South America. But for our trip I wanted to arrange everything myself.
This seems a bit daunting, and of course you worry about all the things that could go wrong. But it is really just a case of doing lots of research online to discover where you want to visit, how to get there using public transport, and where to stay.
I like to plan the full itinerary on a day by day basis well in advance. I like to have our hotel rooms booked, and if possible buy tickets for important internal journeys online before we travel. That way I know our rooms and seats are reserved. Many people prefer to be more flexible, and decide where they want to stay and visit when they get there. Really, it is a matter of personal choice – I just like planning things.
However you plan a trip it is important build in a bit of time at the final destination in case there are unexpected delays – you don’t want to miss your fight home. (Or perhaps you do….)
Flights to Peru from Europe
We flew from our local airport (in the UK) to Amsterdam Schiphol, and then from Amsterdam to Lima with KLM. There is a direct flight from Amsterdam to Lima daily. This worked really well – there are lots of flights to Amsterdam, so it is easy to arrange a convenient connection. The flight time (from Amsterdam) was approx. 12.5 hours, and the service and comfort during the flight were excellent.
It is also possible to fly direct from Madrid, or there are various options involving one or more changes. If you are interested in flights to Lima you can try using Skyscanner to see what is available.
Travelling within Peru
It is worth remembering that many hotels will arrange to pick you up from the local airport (or train station), sometimes free of charge. Check with your hotel if this is possible, and if so how the cost will compare to other means of transport.
Airport Bus from Lima Airport
From Lima Airport to the Miraflores area of Lima (where most hotels are situated), there is an excellent regular bus service. The Airport Express Lima website has details of the buses, timetables and advice on which stop you need for your hotel. You can buy your tickets at a counter at the airport, on the bus (cash only), or even online and just show your ticket on your phone.
Coach Travel in Peru
Cruz del Sur offer scheduled routes between most of the important tourist centres in Peru. They also run tours from the major centres. They have very comfortable coaches, with facilities on board. See their website for more details, and to check routes and timetables.
To travel between Cusco and Puno (for Lake Titicaca) we highly recommend the Inka Express service. This is more of an excursion than a regular bus journey. It stops at five interesting places en route with an English speaking guide, and includes a buffet lunch at Sicuani.
The Inka Express runs daily from Cusco and from Puno, leaving at 6.50 am from either location. See the website for full details, prices, and to check the latest times. When we used the service we thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
PeruHop offer an interesting way to travel around Peru. You choose which places you want to visit, and how many days you want to spend touring. You can then buy a pass which includes coach travel between the places you have selected with various overnight stops. Your pass allows you to stay as long as you like at each stop (the pass is valid for a whole year!), and you can easily change your itinerary online at any time.
You can start you tour at Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, Puno, Copacabana or La Paz. For full details of how the service works see the PeruHop website.
Train travel in Peru
Trains run from Cusco and the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, and between Cusco and Puno (for Lake Titicaca).
The train is the only way to reach Machu Picchu other than the Inca Trail. You can start from Poroy station just outside Cusco, or from Urubamba or Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. The services do not run all year, so please check the PeruRail website for timetables, routes and bookings.
The Cusco to Puno route takes approximately 10.5 hours through beautiful scenery. The train has an open observation car, musical entertainment and two dining cars.
There is also an Andean Explorer sleeper train which provides one or two night tours between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. Again check the PeruRail website for details of these services.
Flights within Peru
Of course the quickest way to travel within Peru is to fly. Besides Lima there are airports at Cusco, Arequipa and Juliaca (for Puno), as well as many others. You can check routes and timetables with Skyscanner.
Tours and Excursions
Viator are great for finding all sorts of local tours and excursions.
Just key in the location where you will be based, and the dates you will be there. You will then get a list of a huge variety of day trips, tours, experiences and excursions that are available. You can easily book online, and it’s a great way to plan a day out from a town or city.
Entrance to Inca sites
If you are staying in Cusco or the Sacred Valley and plan to visit several of the fantastic Inca sites in the area, your best option is to buy a full Cusco Tourist Ticket (the Boleto Turistico). This is valid for 10 days, and covers entrance to all of the following sites:
Saqsaywaman, Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moray, Tipon, Pikillacta, Qenko, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay, Chinchero, Pachacutec Monument, Cusco Cathedral, Church of San Blas, the Religious Art Museum and the Regional History Museum.
You can also buy more limited tickets if you do not have much time in the area. All tickets can be bought in Cusco, or at the entrance to any of the sites.
If you are visiting Machu Picchu you will need to obtain an entrance ticket in Cusco or Aguas Calientes before getting the bus up to the site – you cannot buy tickets at the site entrance.
We really splashed out on this trip, with it being a joint celebration (see Peru – A Trip to Celebrate a Joint Milestone). We stayed in some really excellent hotels, and everywhere we went the service was so friendly and efficient. As usual I used booking.com for the hotel bookings. I have listed the hotels we stayed in below, and for a vast range of other options see booking.com’s site.
- Lima – Sol de Oro hotel and suites
- Sacred Valley – Casa Andina Valle Sagrado
- Machu Picchu – Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (2 nights)
- Machu Picchu – Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (2 nights)
- Cusco – Casa Andina Cusco Plaza
- Puno – Casa Andina Premium Puno
- Arequipa – Casa Arequipa
- Colca Canyon – Belmond Las Casitas
Problems with the Altitude
Matt and I have spent a lot of time in the Alps, often walking at altitudes over 3000 m. Therefore I didn’t expect the altitude to be a problem. But I was wrong. In the Pisac area in the Sacred Valley (which is not particularly high) I had the worst headache I have ever experienced, accompanied by nausea and dizziness, and it took me quite a while to realise that this was due to the altitude. It did get better after a couple of days, but was quite frightening at the time.
We subsequently went much higher on the altiplano without any problems.
The secret is, of course, to acclimatise gradually. We flew from Lima to Cusco and then went into the Sacred Valley which is lower. I thought this would be fine. But on our first day in the Sacred Valley we visited Pisac and climbed quickly and steeply up to the explore the ruins. I think I just did too much too soon, and should have taken it more slowly for the first couple of days. I think I also got rather dehydrated, which made the problem worse. Of course, Matt was fine…..
For travel advice from the UK Government see https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/peru. Or check for official advice from you own country.
Use official taxis, and check the price before you travel. We were only ripped off once, in Cusco. We travelled up to the ruins at Saqsaywaman in a taxi we found in the centre of Cusco. It was so old we were worried that the door might drop off, and when we thought about the cost later we realised that we had paid at least three times as much as in other taxis we had used.
Use bottled or boiled water – even for brushing your teeth. Traveller’s diarrhoea and food poisoning are very common. And be careful with ice in drinks (which may not be made from clean water).
Another common cause of food poisoning is salad or fruit which has been washed in unclean water. Cooked food is safest.
Always take note of local safety advice. We found the people in Peru to be incredibly hard-working, friendly and helpful. But we did hear reports of tourists being mugged and robbed, so of course it is always best to be cautious and use common sense.
Two other things that are very important.
Make sure you have adequate travel insurance in case anything does go wrong.
And check well in advance (at least 6 weeks) what vaccinations you will need (particularly if you are visiting the Amazon).
Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.