Going to a foreign place always presents different obstacles. For many travelers, it’s figuring out how to get from Point A to Point B, with a stop at Point C and D and where to stay.
For many of you travelers out there, I can almost guarantee you’ve have days where you can’t seem to get from one place to the other without hitting every obstacle on the way.
Here’s an example of one of the most frustrating experiences I have had personally of getting from one place to another.
The setting is San Sebastian, Spain. After spending several days enjoying the sun and relaxed beach life, my travel partner and I decided to move on to Barcelona. Knowing the rail station was in the old town, about 10-15 minutes away from our AirBnB, we weren’t worried about getting there. The next 8 hours or so were spent in the following way; taking the wrong bus in the wrong direction to get to the train station, walking for an hour in the wretched heat to try to find a train station to take us to the main train station (we found one, but not the right one), finally arriving to the correct train station only to discover that all the trains to Barcelona were sold out for the rest of the day and we’d have to wait until tomorrow.
Not only did this have an affect on that day, but now we were stuck with nowhere to stay and exhausted from spending half of a day trying to get from one place to the next. Finding somewhere to stay was our next challenge, every hostel we came upon was full or only had room for one of us. And each hostel would tell us to try a different specific hostel, and point it out on the map for us. But, each one we got to was the same story….full or unable to accommodate both of us.
At one point, we were so desperate for a place to stay that we nearly paid 10x what we normally would for a fancy hotel in their last ocean view room. Around dusk, after this disastrous day, we stumbled upon a hostel with a room available, threw down our bags and raced to the showers to wash off our bad moral.
The point of this story is that while accommodation and transportation can seem simple, there are plenty of situations that travelers run into getting from Point A to Point B that can ruin your day and your travel plans.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to get to Cusco from your home country. In most cases, you’ll be flying into Lima and then making your way over to Cusco. And, I don’t wish upon you a day like I had in San Sebastian…so read on, friend.
Getting yer wandering butt to Cusco from Lima:
Here we have two fairly obvious options — bus it or fly it. My advice…fly it. The tickets are fairly inexpensive. The best selling point is that you’ll be there in about an hour, versus a 21 hour bus ride. Maybe you need to go back and read that…twenty-one hours.
If you’d like to be to Cusco in about one hour:
There are frequent flights (about 40 or more) between Lima and Cusco everyday. Airlines LATAM and Avianca have decent prices as well as several departures throughout the day. But, be sure to book these a few days in advance — especially during peak tourist season (May – September). Another tip — a roundtrip ticket will cost the same, or less than a one way ticket. So, if you know when you’ll be heading back to Lima from Cusco, do yourself a favor and buy the round trip ticket. I use Google Flights to check pretty much all my flights!
If you’re choosing the bus option:
It can save you a bit of money and the scenery for twenty-one hours is pretty nice. While there are several bus companies in Peru, I’ll recommended the one I took because I heard some horror stories from fellow travelers, and every bus I took was great.
But, quickly, a bus horror story…I met two girls from the UK whose bus broke down. They were stranded for upwards of 8 hours. During this time their bus driver left them there because he had had enough of it, I reckon. The girls, along with the rest of the bus were left to wait until a random bus drove by and picked them up. Let’s not have this misfortune and spend the day in the Peruvian desert, shall we?
So, which bus companies should I use?
The only bus company I used while I was there was Cruz del Sur. There were spacious, had reclining over-sized seats, entertainment screens on each seat back, meals, snacks and gave each passenger a pillow and blanket. Also, on long journeys like the ones I took from Cusco to Arequipa, I would spring for the VIP seats. They weren’t very much more money and the seats reclined more. I took six looooooong bus rides (8-12 hours) during my month in Peru. All of those rides were with Cruz del Sur and they didn’t leave me stranded in the Peruvian desert once — which is pretty cool.
Another tip…apparently leaving a 8pm warrants a dinner on the bus ride and leaving at 9pm does not. Even if that bus ride is still 10 hours long. So, my travel buddy and I always picked up a bit of food at the market before hopping on the bus. You know, just in case.
If you want to check out the bus schedules and prices for Cruz del Sur here
Where to Stay in Cusco
For those first few days that you may possibly be feeling ill, I recommend something a bit quieter! I’m all about hostels and meeting new people from all over the world, but if you’ve ever been in a hostel when you’re not feeling great — it’s not an enjoyable experience. The first two days in Cusco I opted for an Airbnb just a little ways outside of the main area. It was a great way to stay in a local home and have the entire room to myself — and just a short walk into town! If you love using Airbnb as much as I do — or want to try it out for the first time, you can use this link: AIRBNB to get $40 towards your first stay!
I also used an Airbnb when I got back from the 5 Day Salkantay Trek, a nice quiet place was perfect for recovering and catching up on some sleep!
There are so, so many hostels in Cusco. It is a tourist and party city after all. If you’re looking specifically to party, there are certainly hostels for that, or if you just want a fun, friendly, backpacker environment there’s plenty to choose from there too. Here’s a few I stayed in while I was there!
This hostel has been voted in the top hostels in Peru, and there’s a huge courtyard surrounded by the rooms with a relaxed atmosphere. Here you can find a small bar, ping-pong and plenty of chairs and bean bag chairs to plop down in and enjoy a beer and the sunshine.
The staff is super friendly and let me store my backpack in their storage room — after I had checked out, and during my tour to the Amazon, and after I had returned back to Cusco, and just needed a place to put it and hangout for the day. Upstairs, you’ll find a kitchen, bar and restaurant, internet and reading room and plenty of bathrooms and showers. The internet room has five or so computers, so if you’re needing to do research on where you’re going next, book bus tickets or flights, these will work out just fine!
- The bathrooms are very, very clean and there’s no waiting around for showers to open up in the morning. You’ll see staff cleaning these bathrooms constantly.
- The beds are comfy, and a popular point of conversation among backpackers — they give you TWO pillows!
- They have a travel company in the downstairs area where you can book all kinds of tours. This is where I booked my tour to Puerto Maldonado to see the rainforest.
- Great atmosphere, friendly backpacking crowd, and in-hostel bar.
- Wifi is everywhere but in the rooms. But, the common areas are nice and cozy, so it’s not bad popping into those to catch up with friends and family!
- The food is okay, nothing great. It’s fine when you’re too lazy to go get something, but definitely don’t just eat here during your stay!
This certainly falls into the party hostel category. But, not the dirty and filthy party hostel variety.
- Spacious dorm rooms, comfortable beds and blankets.
- Loki is located at the top of a road, so the balconies look out over Cusco and are quite nice.
- There are multiple bars and their activity calendar is loaded up with fun stuff every night
- The bathrooms and showers are nice and clean
- Great atmosphere and, as always, fun crowd!
- The only complaint I had here was that the wifi is terrrrrrible. So bad that they shouldn’t even be able to advertise that they have wifi. I don’t care if you’re in the common room, the lobby, or sitting right next to the router. Good luck getting anything you want to done. I had to get a work email out here one night and left the bar area (which is also supposed to have wifi) and sat in the lobby for about 30 minutes just trying to get a one sentence email out. So, don’t rely on it here.
Getting around in Cusco
The city of Cusco is very walkable. So, get on your sneakers and have a walk about town. It is located in the Andes Mountains and so naturally, the city is fairly hilly. The only time you’ll need other transportation in Cusco is if you’re going on an excursion, or to the airport or bus station.
This would be anything such as a day trip to the Sacred Valley, Rainbow Mountain, or any other tour booked through a company. They will pick up and take you there, as well as bring you back.
To the bus station:
The bus station (long distance and overnight busses) is just a little ways out of the main part of the city and can easily be reached with a quick cab ride. You can even walk to it if you’re feeling particularly spry, or want to save a couple bucks.
You won’t have any problem getting a cab. Laughably so. You’ll be approached by cab drivers constantly. You can read my post about all the odd things about Cusco here, including the persistent cab drivers. CUSCO POST HERE
If you are feeling wary about picking up a cab, your hostel or hotel can always arrange one for you!
Getting your own cab
If you’re going to get your own cab, be sure to have the address ready and if you don’t speak much Spanish, just show your driver where you need to go. After they let you know that they can take you there, DON’T just hop in. Ask them how much…in Spanish, “Cuanto?” This is where knowing some basic numbers in Spanish comes in handy. If you don’t, you can always get by with non-verbals…showing the amount on your fingers or typing the amount into your phone to show the driver, etc.
From central Cusco to the Cruz del Sur bus station, it’s only a 10 minute drive. You shouldn’t pay more than 1o soles, but you can probably haggle down to 7 or 8.
There is only one airport in Cusco and it’s located 20 minutes by car from the main area of town.
From the airport:
You will be overwhelmed with cab drivers….there are soooooooo many of them waiting outside the terminal, and many are very persistent. I contacted the hostel before arriving and they arranged a pick up. So when I arrived there was a driver holding a sign, and I could bypass all that nonsense.
If you want to pick one up when you get to the airport, say no thank you to the cab drivers right outside and walk a minute or so out of the airport, and pick one up there. You’ll likely be charged way, way more if you grab one as soon as you get out of the door.
If you’re going to your hostel, have the address ready. And ask how much to get there before getting in the cab. From the airport to your accommodation should not cost more than 12 soles. But you should be able to agree upon 9 or 10 to anywhere in central Cusco.
To the airport:
You can ask the front desk at your accommodation to request a cab for you, it is generally a few soles more. But, you know that they’ll call a reliable taxi service.
As soon as you walk outside with your bags, cab drivers will hop all over it. You won’t have any trouble getting one. The price to the airport should be the same as from the airport, about 12 soles. Again, be sure to ask how much before hand and agree to a reasonable price up to 12 soles.
Tip: If you have found a cab that’s asking way too much, simply tell them no thank you and move on to another cab. Many times, if you show the driver that you know how much a ride should cost and that you’ll just move on, they will start negotiating with you.
Cusco is a unique city, full of color and life. Be sure to walk around the city as much as possible, don’t be afraid to venture outside the main square. You’ll find this is where you’ll really get an authentic feel for the city!
Looking for things to do in Cusco next? Check out this post.