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Planning trip in September - Lima and Machu Picchu

Planning trip in September - Lima and Machu Picchu

Old Jun 7, 2016, 7:34 am
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by downinit
...but be warned that the hotel is uphill...
Name one place in Cuzco that is not uphill! And by the way, all of Cuzco is safe...
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 10:46 am
  #17  
 
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Originally Posted by downinit
I feel like one day and one evening in Cusco is adequate. I found Ollantaytambo to be much more charming, but it is very small.
I think you should do at least 5 days in Cusco before you can form an opinion of how long to stay there. With one day and one evening you are missing out on a lot. There are some really fantastic places to eat in Cusco and the city tour is also great. I've done MP twice now and preferred using Cusco as my base vs Urubamba. I was with my mom (first timer), my girlfriend (4th time), and my girlfriend's mom (5th time). This time around we were blessed with sunny skies and warm weather in the day (late May).

On an interesting note we did the opposite of what most people advise. We went to MP after 1pm. The ticket prices are 1/2 price and there was almost no line taking the bus up and down (the line to go back down when we arrived at 1pm was enormous!). I wouldn't say that MP was completely empty at 1pm but there weren't many people there.
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 11:18 am
  #18  
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Originally Posted by lhgreengrd1
FYI, Cuzco is 11,100-11,400 feet,
Aguas Calientes is 6700 feet,
and Machu Picchu itself is 7900-8300 feet.
The best way to do your trip would be:

1. Fly into Cuzco and immediately make your way to Aguas Calientes. You can arrange for a private driver ($50-$100) from the airport to the train station in Olly. From there, take the fancy train to Aguas Calientes. Much nicer, not much more money.
2. The next morning, rise early and get up to Machu Picchu. The earlier the better. You will beat the insane crowds and catch the cooler (=nicer) part of the day.
3. Get a guide. It will be MUCH more interesting.
4. Stay overnight in AC and the next morning take the train back to Cuzco.
5. Spend 2 days in Cuzco. Plenty to see.
6. Return to Lima.
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 4:23 pm
  #19  
 
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Originally Posted by KLouis
Name one place in Cuzco that is not uphill! And by the way, all of Cuzco is safe...
Actually, the city center and mercado are all quite flat, and there are some hotels in that area.

Regarding the food, I found the alpaca meat to be quite tasty, but that seemed to be the limit of interesting food offerings among the many restaurants I surveyed.

Due to a tragic dearth of vacation time as an American, I have the propensity of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, so I probably cover as much ground in one day as most sane people do in three. I found Cusco to be enjoyable at nighttime, but far less interesting during daylight. 5 days tends to be close to the length of my entire vacation time, not counting transit time. So I do not have the luxury of spending 5 whole days in a small town. Of course, given time and money, I would gladly spend a few weeks in every town I visit. Unfortunately, until I win the lotto, I will need to be a little bit less relaxed.

BTW, from the UK Gov't travel advice:

"Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Be vigilant in public places and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night.

There have been a number of cases of rape, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas. Be alert to the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. If you’re in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Unscrupulous tour agents have targeted lone young female travellers in the Cusco area. Bogus taxi drivers have also targeted groups with young female foreign travellers in the route Huanchaco-Trujillo in Northern Peru. Criminals have targeted tourists and local people in the San Blas neighbourhood in Cusco including incidents of violent robberies and rapes."

https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-ad...y-and-security

I never found myself in any direct danger, despite walking well beyond the tourist zones in Lima and Cusco. However, my tolerance for wandering aimlessly throughout areas that most people would regard as a ghetto or slum is a bit higher than average, and probably a bit higher than it should be, especially for a single female. But to claim the entirety of Cusco as universally safe suggests ignorance.

Last edited by downinit; Jun 7, 2016 at 4:37 pm
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 6:58 pm
  #20  
 
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Originally Posted by downinit
...But to claim the entirety of Cusco as universally safe suggests ignorance.
Sorry, it does not suggest ignorance but a much higher threshold of worrying and/or panicking than you, etc. The only place in the world where I was on the alert was for my first trip to Nairobi (luckily far away from Cuzco ) where I had been given detailed instructions by the intern. organization I was travelling for on how to behave in case of kidnapping.

By the way, when you walk around in a US city, where do you get your instructions on safe areas from?
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 9:41 pm
  #21  
 
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I found the areas around Plaza D'Armas in CUZ to be as safe as can be. Standard rules apply though - don't do anything monumentally stupid and you'll be fine.

A trip to Machu Picchu obviously is a must. What time you go there depends entirely on what you want to accomplish. The die hard photographers amongst us will insist on being there at the crack of dawn to catch the very best lighting conditions. The more relaxed will say that going after 13h00 is best to avoid the crush of the crowds. Whenever you go, you're sure to have a good time seeing one of the most iconic places on the planet. Some things I would recommend (no particular order):

- Camera lens: I used a 24-85mm but barely got past 50mm. The vast majority of my shots were at 24mm. I did take my trusty 28-300mm but never used it. I think the ideal lens to shoot MP would be a 14-24mm.

- Water: take lots. I have a 3 litre Camelbak and I pretty much drank the whole thing. Taking a single 500mL bottle is, IMHO, woefully inadequate.

- Food: officially there's a no food policy in MP. This is quite understandable since efforts must be made to preserve the place; leaving a literal trail of crumbs would serve no one. Unofficially I saw many people quietly having a picnic but quite sensibly packing their garbage out with them. I would suggest taking a few hard-boiled eggs and a few pieces of bread to keep you going. If you take granola bars and stuff like that, just be sure to take the wrapper with you. Most people seem to leave MP around 13h00 simply because it's lunch time. Taking some food with you will enable you to take things at a much more leisurely pace.

- Food2: There's a decent snack bar at the gate along with a full buffet in the Belmond hotel. The snack bar is actually run by the Belmond. I had a quiche there and it was quite tasty.

- Huayna Picchu as others have mentioned, is accessible only once you've entered MP itself. Picture MP in your head; there's a tall hill in the background right? That's Huayna Picchu. So you enter MP, walk through it, then get to the entrance to Huayna Picchu, then you start walking up. I did not do this, but I imagine the view from the top would be at least somewhat worth the effort.

- When you enter MP, you have a choice of going straight ahead (toward Huayna Picchu) where it's more or less flat. Or you can turn sharply to your left and start walking up. If you want to take the iconic shot of MP, walk up. IMHO, it's silly to not do this. Personally I didn't find the climb to be to too onerous but YMMV. Take it slow and you'll get there. It's worth the effort!

- I took the train from Urubamba (we were staying at the very nice Tambo del Inka). The train tickets really do sell out so buy them as early as possible. I took the Vistadome which really was just a normal rail car with some smallish windows up top as opposed to a dome of glass. Seating on the train was foursomes - two facing front two facing rear with a small table in between. Both of my trains (going to MP and coming back) were completely full. So even though we were a party of 3 pax, there was always someone else in the 4th seat. Not biggie as we had interesting people there, but if you really, desperately value your privacy, you'll likely have to buy the extra seats (at fairly hefty prices) to block them.

- A great advantage to staying at Tambo del Inka is that the train station is on property. You just walk down a short path and you're at the train.

- On board the train you'll get a small snack and a drink. F service this is not but it's at least civilized.

- Bus: In Aguas Calientes you'll need to pay for the bus ride up to MP and then back again. It's entirely possible to walk up there (for free) and back again and I did see some intrepid soles doing this. But it's a long, dusty walk and you have to walk on the same road the buses use. I've been told the walk takes about an hour. The bus is bone-shaking but it does get you there a whole lot faster. The bus costs $12 USD each way. You can pay in Soles but you'll have to pay at whatever the prevailing exchange rate is that day. Save yourself some effort and just pay in USD using exact change and using only very new very crisp bills.

Last edited by RCyyz; Jun 7, 2016 at 9:51 pm
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Old Jun 7, 2016, 9:58 pm
  #22  
 
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Originally Posted by downinit
BTW, from the UK Gov't travel advice:

"Street crime, including muggings and thefts, is a significant problem in Lima, Cusco, Arequipa and other major cities. Be vigilant in public places and when withdrawing cash from ATMs. Avoid walking alone in quiet areas or at night.

There have been a number of cases of rape, mostly in the Cusco and Arequipa areas. Be alert to the use of ‘date rape’ and other drugs. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times. If you’re in a bar and don’t feel well, try to seek help from people you know. Unscrupulous tour agents have targeted lone young female travellers in the Cusco area. Bogus taxi drivers have also targeted groups with young female foreign travellers in the route Huanchaco-Trujillo in Northern Peru. Criminals have targeted tourists and local people in the San Blas neighbourhood in Cusco including incidents of violent robberies and rapes."

With all due respect, I find State Dept. information to be flawed, over exaggerated/generalized, and downright worthless...much like WebMD for medicine. The above can be applied to any city in the world, if it is not already being used as simple copy/paste. As a tourist, I will not be telling you to go to La Victoria, San Juan de Lurigancho, or Villa El Salvador because you will encounter problems. Much like in a favela in Rio, Once or Constitucion in Buenos Aires, or the notoriously dangerous places near your own community. As always, the rule of thumb applies of exercising caution much as you would at home.
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Old Jun 8, 2016, 10:17 am
  #23  
 
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Originally Posted by Astrophsx

On an interesting note we did the opposite of what most people advise. We went to MP after 1pm. The ticket prices are 1/2 price and there was almost no line taking the bus up and down (the line to go back down when we arrived at 1pm was enormous!). I wouldn't say that MP was completely empty at 1pm but there weren't many people there.
This. Excellently stated.

I just returned from MP. Unless you are going specifically to catch the sunrise at Inti Punku (Sun Gate) don't go early in the morning with the rest of the 2,500 people per day allowed in MP. For most tourists MP only takes about 5 hours to see everything (depending upon fitness level and not counting Huayna Picchu). If you try to leave in the early afternoon (as most people do) you WILL wait in line at least 45 minutes in the sun (or rain) for the buses - there is only a tiny covered waiting/queue area. Not pleasant when you are hungry and tired after a day of hiking at altitude.

Note that separate tickets are required for hiking Huayna Picchu and are limited to 400 per day in two timed entry groups of 200. Order early.

Organized tour groups are very good about giving each other space in the close confines of the main areas and on trails but tourists on their own frequently are not: they are frequently disruptive to your enjoyment by being loud, glomming on to your group, cutting through your group, blocking the trail or passageways, etc.

I think for most tourists of average physical condition MP is best done in two days: arrive early afternoon on Day 1 and see the main areas in a leisurely manner with minimal crowds; leave around closing at 5pm and the wait for buses will be 5 - 10 minutes. Day Two - go early for Inti Punku (2-3 hours) and the Inka Bridge (40 minutes) and leave around 11am.

Last edited by Section 107; Jun 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm Reason: typo
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Old Jun 8, 2016, 11:43 am
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by Section 107
I think for most tourists of average physical condition MP is best done in two days: arrive early afternoon on Day 1 and see the main areas in a leisurely manner with minimal crowds; leave around closing at 5pm and the wait for buses will be 5 - 1- minutes. Day Two - go early for Inti Punku (2-3 hours) and the Inka Bridge (40 minutes) and leave around 11am.
I've heard it is also easier to negotiate a much lower rate with the tour guides that sit outside the entrance after 1pm. I will say that the heat of the sun was pretty strong at 1pm.. so make sure you bring water and maybe a snack. Also, once you depart have some change on hand as they charge for the toilet next to where you board the bus for the trip back down.
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Old Jun 8, 2016, 12:45 pm
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Originally Posted by Astrophsx
I've heard it is also easier to negotiate a much lower rate with the tour guides that sit outside the entrance after 1pm. I will say that the heat of the sun was pretty strong at 1pm.. so make sure you bring water and maybe a snack. Also, once you depart have some change on hand as they charge for the toilet next to where you board the bus for the trip back down.
I went with tour group so I don't know about the guides but that makes sense as most people leave around 1.

Excellent advice on the water/snacks: there are no shops and no vending inside of MP. Be aware that food is technically not permitted so do not plan on having a picnic inside. However, they do not check bags so bringing snacks is "okay" - but be sure to take everything out with you - there are no trash receptacles either.

The restrooms at the entrance to MP are, believe it or not, excellent - super clean and they cost only 1 sole (about US$0.30). There is no other public bathroom inside MP (but some are in the café/hotel just outside the main entrance).
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Old Jun 23, 2016, 3:37 pm
  #26  
 
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Subscribe to this thread - with very helpful and useful info about Peru and MP. We are going there in October. Thanks to all contributors. Keep the thread going.
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Old Jun 28, 2016, 5:21 pm
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I will second the comment that Olly is quite charming -- we enjoyed MP, but the tour we did at the Olly ruins was more enjoyable, as our guide was more engaged and less worried about rushing to get another tour in before the end of the day. Like the TdI in Urubamba, the El Albergue in Olly sits within the grounds of the train station, which makes for an easy morning departure.

We took an early train up to AC, checked out the Inka Bridge before our 10AM HP hike, and then ate lunch before getting a guide in the early afternoon as others have suggested. A full day, but we didn't feel rushed.
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Old Jun 29, 2016, 4:55 pm
  #28  
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Originally Posted by RCyyz
The train tickets really do sell out so buy them as early as possible.
I'm wondering if I need to follow this advice or if I can buy my train tickets on the spot.

I am scheduled to arrive CUZ on a flight from LIM on a Saturday in September at 9:20 a.m. and need to get to Aguas Calientes to overnight at Tierra Viva Machu Picchu before touring Machu Picchu the next day. So, that's too late to catch one of the usual tourist trains out of Poroy. However, I want to get out of Cusco as quickly as possible on the front end of the trip and get to a lower elevation stat because I've had problems acclimatizing to 10,000+ foot altitudes in the past. I think starting my acclimatization at Aguas Calientes and then working my way back up to Ollanytaytambo and then Cusco over the next few days will be my best bet. Ergo, how I've ordered my trip.

Since starting at Poroy is out, I think my only real option is to get a taxi or driver to Ollantaytambo and then catch one of the trains from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. It doesn't have to be one of the fancy tourist trains. Should I expect the afternoon trains from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes to be full if I don't book in advance? Will the price of those trains go up closer to the date of departure if they start to fill up (like an airline seat likely would) or will they stay fixed? And, seeing as how I won't be able to fully control when I get to Ollantaytambo to catch a train -- all of which depends on when my flight from LIM-CUZ arrives and how long it takes for me to get from CUZ to Ollantaytambo -- wouldn't I be making a mistake to book a particular train? Or are the train tickets fully changeable, subject to availability, if I get to Ollantaytambo in time to catch an earlier train or get there after my booked train has departed?

My plan on Sunday, after I've visited Machu Picchu, is to take a train from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo, where I'll overnight at El Albergue. Then, on Monday, after I've done some sightseeing in/around Ollantaytambo, I'll take a taxi or private ride form Ollantaytambo to my hotel in Cusco. Again, any reason/need to book this in advance, or, for the sake of maximum flexibility, will I be okay to do this on the spot? I like the idea of touring Machu Picchu and even Ollantaytambo at a leisurely pace, leaving when I'm finished seeing what I want to see, rather than rushing to catch a particular train.

Lastly, regarding ground transportation between Cusco and Ollantaytambo, should I just grab a taxi on the spot at CUZ or should I line up a private driver beforehand?

Last edited by SAT Lawyer; Jun 29, 2016 at 5:10 pm
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Old Jun 30, 2016, 5:47 pm
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Originally Posted by SAT Lawyer
Lastly, regarding ground transportation between Cusco and Ollantaytambo, should I just grab a taxi on the spot at CUZ or should I line up a private driver beforehand?
Do you speak Spanish?
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Old Jun 30, 2016, 7:19 pm
  #30  
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Originally Posted by linglingfool
Do you speak Spanish?
Poquito.
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