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Peru trip

We have a small group planning on traveling to Peru. Looking at the packages it doesn't appear that we can do everything that we want. We want to spend about a week in Lima and a week in Cusco. There will be between 2 and 6 of us. I speak very little spanish but will buy one of those pocket translators that does not need wifi. I am trying to keep the cost low to enable more people to go. We wish to:

Spend a day in Lima at the plaza and nearby attractions
Hike to laguna 69. I know a bus goes there and its about 8 hours
another day in Lima to visit the art museum of gold, art museum and park of love
maybe another day in Lima
Spend a day in Cusco at the plaza and nearby attractions
take the 2-3 day hike to machu picchu by the hydro electric dam
check out the saqsaywaman
Go to the rainbow mountains
maybe another day in Cusco

I plan on going in April or May
Does anyone have any recommendations?
Can I find local guides?
Someone told me making hotel reservations cost twice as much. Are reservations necessary?
Does anyone know the 2-3 route to hike to Machu Picchu?
I believe I can get a guide at Machu Picchu. Or should I get one for the 2-3 day hike?

Is this too ambitious? Should we forget about our ideal trip and settler for a package?
I don't mind doing the work to plan it.

Posted by
902 posts

A little info about you and your group might be helpful: Is this your first trip abroad? Age ranges? Fitness levels? Priorities (cost over comfort/convenience)?

If you feel like doing a package is settling, don’t do it. Either find a package that meets your needs, find a company that will customize a trip to your needs (and be Ok paying for this service), do a package for just the Cusco/Machu Picchu portion, or plan it all yourself. I prefer independent travel. But I’m researching a Peru trip I’m finding it logistically more complicated than Europe trips that I’ve planned. I can see the benefits of having some of these logistical issues taken care of by a local company. Or maybe I’m just getting old!

Posted by
6 posts

@travel4fun, perhaps you can explain why you need to pry for personal information to provide facts about a country? None of the questions I asked were relevant to that information. Resale of personal information or targeted advertising would surely benefit.

Posted by
242 posts

I don't think that @travel4fun was prying for personal information at all. You asked about Machu Picchu and whether your plans for a 2-3 day hike would be too ambitious. How is anyone supposed to know if it is "too ambitious" without knowing a bit about you, such as a general age range and fitness level? The questions that @travel4fun asked were very reasonable. You can see how many posts someone has commented on or originated by looking under their name. @travel4fun has almost 500 posts and I very much doubt that she is trying to do anything inappropriate with the general information that she asked for.

Posted by
902 posts

Good grief. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. You will find that most on this forum have a sincere love for travel and want you to have a great trip. Knowing more about your interests, abilities, priorities, etc helps us provide more specific and detailed responses.

If you are a group of 2 people in your twenties who do CrossFit 3 times a week, your trip is going to look much different from a group of 2 people in their sixties with so-so knees, especially at Machu Picchu. That same trip for a family of 6 ranging in age from 8-70 is going to look even more different. Knowing more about your travel experience is helpful because Peru is logistically challenging for many reasons. If you are an inexperienced traveler, you may not even know what questions to ask to make the most of your trip. If this is your first international trip, you may benefit from more resources that I or others can direct you to.

Posted by
6 posts

@slws2137 Thanks for your reply. It appears I wasn't clear. We are a hiking group, so we can hike. My question about being too ambitious was in reference to planning the trip and finding guides without knowing where to look.

Posted by
6 posts

@travel4fun Thanks for your reply. I don't know if youre aware, but strangers on the internet can be as dangerous as strangers on the street. And even if a stranger is good a bad person can use information provided to the good person.

To answer your questions:
We know what we can do so we don't need help with that. There may be someone who traveled internationally with us, so assume that no one has. The only places outside the US I've been is the Bahamas and Tijuana and to me those don't count as foreign countries.

My biggest concerns are
1) finding a guide to laguna 69
2) finding a guide for the 2-3 trek to Machu Piccu
3) determining if hotel reservations are required in April or May

If there are other things

Posted by
6876 posts

Start with a Lonely Planet book or Footprint Guide to Peru, l bet a good book with lots of resources and tips can clarify all your questions. I have never heard hotel reservations costing twice as much and you may need them if you want to all stay together as a group, especially in small establishments.

Posted by
6 posts

@Agnes. I was told that to make reservations it would have to be in us dollars and getting rooms when we arrive we could get them cheaper with soles. This was from a guy from Peru who wanted to charge us $300 each. I really don't know tgats why I'm asking.

Posted by
5630 posts

We didn't hike like you plan to do but we had a wonderful tour with PeruAgency.com

Four days, most meals and lodging included, as well as a private guide for tours. Included two nights in Cusco, one near Machu Picchu and all transportation and tours. Total cost $799 each. That was in 2019.

We did a day in Lima at two different times, while on a cruise. Lots to see there.

Posted by
4147 posts

We did Peru as a tour with National Geographic. I don’t think I’d go without hotel reservations. Stay abreast of the political situation as it’s been tenuous recently. Because of the instability, consider registering your trip via the State Department’s STEP program to get updates. When there, avoid any protests or demonstrations as they can get ugly very quickly. Finally, rather than buy a translator install the Google translate app to your phone and download the Spanish dictionary. That way you won’t need cell service to use it. A couple full days each in Lima and Cusco should be sufficient.

At Machu Picchu, if you want to climb Waynapicchu, I was told you now need to sign up in advance. When we went, you just needed to stand in line and hope you weren’t too far back. It is very much worth climbing with spectacular views. It is steep and the path to the top is narrow.

Since you don’t say how long the trip is, it’s hard to know if your plan is to ambitious.

Posted by
2212 posts

I haven’t been to Peru, but just got back from Egypt. We did not want a packaged tour to Egypt, we wanted a private tour with a driver and Egyptologist guide which we could customize. Which we did and had a wonderful time.
I’m betting you can also find a guide for just your group. It’s just figuring out where to find this guide and frankly, this may not be the best place, as this is a Europe centered forum.
I would check out guidebooks, Trip Advisor forum and this agency Peru for Less ( have not used, but heard good things). Good luck!

Posted by
6876 posts

It's always best to pay in local currency no matter what country you're in. Anyone who wants to charge you something in dollars or euros is out to make quite a margin on the exchange rate because they can add in whatever profit they want and it won't be transparent to you. I'm sure you can pay less by getting local guides whenon the ground in Peru as opposed to reserving on the internet but you're going to spend precious time finding them and making sure they can accommodate your group that day (plus I don't know what you do about travel insurance, which I don't normally take but would for any semi-risky activity). You should only need guides for the hikes, and the cities can be done on your own. Lonely Planet will be of good help to you in planning.

Try www.booking.com for hotels just for fun. Just plug in some randowm dates for April and May for Cusco and you'll see plenty of affordable, nice clean hotels and hostels that cost $25-55 USD nightly/ double room, and of course there are hotels at higher ranges too. Even though they are shown in USD, you'll actually be charged in Peruvian soles at the exchange rate of the date of your checkin or more likely checkout, so make sure you have a credit card that doesn't tack on huge foreign exchange fees.

Posted by
902 posts

You’ve received some good advice so far. You probably already know that you cannot hike the Inca trail without a guide. Personally, I would have this guide arranged in advance, since you must reserve your entry tickets for Machu Picchu far in advance.

I’ve been researching a trip to Peru for some time, including reading lots of trip reports and talking with friends and family who have been there. You should know that if you do it (or even just parts of it) without a tour, it will involve some situations that may seem sketchy or make you uncomfortable. Taxi drivers hounding you at train stations, rickety buses, gross toilet situations (or lack there of). I’ve experienced all of the above in many locations, but it’s more prevalent in 3rd world countries. Depending on your views, and the views of everyone in your group, this can be an adventure or a nightmare experience.

My travel planning philosophy is to avoid the worst case scenario when possible. In this case, if you get your Machu Picchu tickets in advance but don’t arrange for a guide for the hike, what’s the worst that will happen? You’re stuck somewhere with no hotel reservations, no transportation reservations. Everybody looking at each other like “Now what?” And you could potentially miss your timed reservation for MP, which is probably the main reason for the trip. Maybe you’re fine living spontaneously, but that would stress me out and potentially waste a ton of money.

Will you be able to find a local guide once you get there? Yes. Will they be “official?” Maybe. Could they be a fake? Yes. Will they speak English? Probably. Will you run into someone who tries to rip you off? Quite possibly. Americans traveling in 3rd world countries attract attention. We are all seen as wealthy, and we are by the mere fact that we can travel half way around the world. That $10 you spend on lunch could be a week’s wages there, so don’t be surprised if you get some attention from locals offering their services, legit or not.

You mention hiking Laguna 69 and a bus going there in 8 hours. The bus goes to Huarez, where you would spend the night, do the hike the next day, spend the night in Huarez again, then 8 hour bus back to Lima. Then 2 more days in Lima and continue to Cusco. When planning an itinerary, I map it out by where I’m going to sleep, for example:

Day 1: sleep in Lima
Day 2: bus to Huarez
Day3: hike Laguna, sleep in Huarez
Day 4-5: sleep in Lima
Day 6-7: sleep in Cusco
Day 8-10: sleep on Inca trail
Day 9: Machu Picchu, sleep in?

Then I start filling in specifics for each day: where are you going to sleep, what are you going to do in specific days, when are you moving from place to place, how are you getting from place to place.

With a group of 6, I would make hotel reservations regardless of the time of year so you all get rooms at the same place. It’s hard enough to get 6 people out the door on any schedule, let alone if your spread out across multiple hotels with spotty WiFi.

I would look at booking.com for hotels. Then if you find one you like, check to see if they have their own website and (if you’re comfortable) book directly through them. You might save some $ booking directly, but booking.com provides some convenience and security that your payment is safe. Not fool-proof, of course. Again, it’s all about priorities: convenience/ cost/comfort level. Always choose the option to pay onsite in local currency, if possible. Get a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

I agree with using a translation app on your phone. Have one person in your group designated as the one who pays to use data every day. I think Verizon is the most expensive plan and it’s $10/day. Then you can use all kinds of resources as you need them: alltrails, tripadvisor, translation apps, etc.

Posted by
1677 posts

I have not hiked the Inca Trail, but echo the comments of others to use a reputable guide service. The permitting process is not easy to do on your own, if you want to get the full experience and not miss out on the hike I'd arrange a guide ahead of time. I have a friend that tried to book the permits on his own and didn't get to hike as planned because the permits fell through. For a bucket list item (and Machu Picchu was indeed a bucket list item for me), this is something I would not skimp on. I used G Adventures for a tour of Ecuador and Peru and they are well known in Peru for their guide services. Check them out as an option. Note that several websites report that permits/capacity for the Inca Trail are limited due to COVID. I believe a guide is technically required at the UNESCO site proper, though there are ways to get around it.

Cusco is higher than Machu Picchu. The elevation change from Lima is substantial. I recommend, as my tour did, to leave Cusco and go downhill to other lower elevation towns, then to Machu Picchu, then return to Cusco. I had been in Ecuador at higher elevations for a full week ahead of time and Cusco still kicked my rear. IMHO, some of the lower elevation sites in the Sacred Valley like Ollantaytambo, Moray ruins, and Maras salt flats were way better than Cusco. Your results may vary.

In Lima it is easy to put together day trips with reputable guides that cover the things you want to see. I used Haku Tours and found them easy to work with and the guide (the same for the two days I scheduled) was good quality and spoke good English. I speak some Spanish but in Peru they speak so quickly I was lost. You can download the Spanish for Google Translate that works without internet. Consider learning a bit of polite Spanish before you go (Babbel can help), people appreciate the effort.

I traveled in May and it was shoulder rainy season. I'm from the Pacific Northwest so the dreary conditions didn't bother me, but keep that in mind. Also most return flights to the USA leave in the middle of the night (1 or 2 a.m.) so keep that in mind for planning. As far as I know you'll have to return to US from Lima (no international flights from Cusco). If you decide to stay in Lima the night before departure, keep in mind the long travel time from central Lima to the airport as traffic is awful even in middle of the night. I paid for an extra night for my hotel so I'd have a place to hang out while waiting to go to the airport - nice to shower and pack and be ready for a long travel night ahead. I stayed in a charming little hotel in the center of Lima that was a few blocks from an airport shuttle stop (Hotel Boutique Casa San Martin). If you fly back from Cusco and don't stay in Lima, check out a hotel near the airport as an option.

Good luck to you in your planning, it is worth the effort.

Posted by
5630 posts

Many people recommend using booking.com for booking lodging. Nothing wrong with that site, but kayak.com does a far wider search that INCLUDES booking.com as well as many other sites.

Also, before we did MP and Cusco, my doctor prescribed altitude sickness pills for us. It make a difference.