Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog

Part I: Traveling Peru, Lonely Planet Style

Traveling South America can be overwhelming because you have to be ready for anything. Flexibility is key. Prepare yourself for broken down buses with no heat, no means of communication, shady bargain prices, and cross your fingers for relatively smooth, low hassle travel.

I flew one-way from Santiago to Arica, in the North of Chile, through Sky Airlines. It cost 88,759 pesos, including all taxes and fees. (The conversion rate is 516 pesos to the dollar.) It was double the price to fly round trip. I had to go directly to the office located here in Santiago because their website wouldn’t accept my foreign credit card. It was kind of an annoying hassle but nothing too dramatic. From Arica I took a colectivo to Tacna, to cross the Chile-Peru border, which I highly recommend. It took about an hour and the cost is a flat fee of 24,000 Chilean pesos shared among however many passengers were riding. Obviously, if possible, ask around on your flight or in the airport for others going to the same destination as you. The driver provides the visa paperwork, drops you directly at the door of your destination, and helps with your bags as well.

I was dropped off at the bus terminal in Tacna and there are tons of bus companies to choose from. As soon as you walk in you hear strained voices screaming the names of destinations they think you may be headed to. “Arequipa, Arequipa, Arequipa! Lima, Lima, Lima! Cuzco, Cuzco, Cuzco!” It’s best to go with a company recommended by someone because you never know what you’re going to get when you do the guesswork yourself. Our taxi driver recommended Flores bus company and so do I. They had comfortable seats, heat, and they served a snack. It was a six hour trip to Arequipa and the cost was only about 30 soles. (Exchange rate is 2.8 soles to the dollar.)

Bus travel

I stayed in two different hostels while visiting Arequipa, Bothe Hostel and the Home Pro Palestinian Backpackers Hostel. Bothe Hostel cost 23 soles a night for a room with six beds, and a portion of the money goes to children in need in Peru. The Backpackers hostel cost only 15 soles per night for a room with six beds. It’s super nice and brand spanking new so the price will likely increase as they become more established.

Taking money out in Peru can be difficult depending on what card you have. Visas are accepted virtually everywhere. Scotia Bank is an international bank and you can withdraw money from Scotia ATM’s with almost any card, no matter where you are from.

Food in Arequipa has a wide range of costs. I ate a couple really typical meals for only three soles and I ate tourist pizza for 30. I definitely recommend eating with the locals a couple times. You may stick out like a sore thumb but it’s worth the experience.

I went out to “the nightclub” in Arequipa, called Déjà vu. There is no cover if you go before midnight and it costs 10 soles for a mojito or a piña colada. Don’t expect to experience true night life anytime before about 1:30 a.m. The real partying doesn’t start until 2 a.m. and the bars close at 6 a.m.

It takes about one full day to tour Arequipa and really get a feel for the town. There are numerous museums and cathedrals to visit and a couple markets with Peruvians selling their handmade goods.  A lot of people also visit the Colca Canyon, which is about 100 miles northwest of Arequipa. Tours range from about 40 to 80 USD depending on the company, and if you go for one day or two.

From Arequipa to Cuzco, I used Flores bus company again, and the cost was 40 soles for about a 10 hour bus ride for semi-cama seats. I stayed at the Loki Hostel in Cuzco which was 28 soles for a room with five beds. It is really big and has really nice bedding but is a party hostel, so if you want to sleep, I recommend getting a room away from the bar if possible. Loki is also a very busy hostel so making a reservation is important when possible. I strongly suggest having a name and address of a hostel in hand when you arrive to your destination as well, so that you can just tell the taxi driver where you need to go. Ask someone in the bus terminal how much the taxi should cost so the taxi drivers don’t over charge you. Either way the taxis in Peru are so cheap it will always be cheaper than catching a cab in the states. It was between 3-5 soles to make it all the way across town, which is slightly over a dollar. Food in Cuzco had a wide range of prices as well so it depends on what you are looking for. I ate for about 10-15 soles per meal.

The attraction for visiting Cuzco is Machu Picchu.  Trains and treks to Machu Picchu all leave from Cuzco. I booked the two day/one night Sunrise tour with SAS travel for $270 USD. It was a great experience and the cost wasn’t much more than the total of everything that was included. The train ride alone costs 80 USD, and it’s about 50 USD to enter Machu Picchu. One night in a hostel, food for two days, a two hour tour, and a bus ride are also included. I found it to be well worth the price, especially if it’s your first time visiting.  Please come visit!


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