Cusco, Cusco Region, Peru
Machu Picchu for less than $80 dollars.
Going to South America? Or travelling Peru? No trip is complete without a visit to the lost city of the Inca's, Machu Picchu. But what if you're backpacking and trying to live on less than a minimum a day? The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu can cost up to $130 for a return (which is a big chunk out of your budget) and that doesn't even include things like accommodation, food or other transport. But as always, there's a way around (literally this time). I have to admit, it takes a bit longer but that doesn't mean a day wasted. It takes you over mountain roads and through lush green valleys, you'll pass scenic villages and sandy lost towns, you'll encounter some landslides and very steep cliffs. Even that would be worth the trip.
First, take an (early) bus to Ollantaytambo, 1.5 hours. Here you'll find the best remaining example of the planning of an Inca town. A little walk outside the town will bring you to ruins, a nice first stop. From the main square you'll need to catch the (big red) bus to Santa Maria. This ride takes about 3,5 hours and brings you up to about 4000 meters and then back down into the heat. During rain season (oct-apr) there are many landslides on the road. It's safe to drive there, though it might take a little longer because the men on the bus need to jump off to take away the rocks. In Santa Maria you haggle over a taxi that takes you through Santa Teresa, all the way up to the Hydroelectrica. This shouldn't cost more than 3-5 dollar. The road follows the river and goes along some really steep cliffs, don't sit at the window if you suffer from vertigo. You'll be dropped off at the Hydroelectrica, which is, apart from being a hydroelectrica, the train station at the end of the train track. The part from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectrica wasn't in use for a couple of years but is used again. Here you can choose whether you want to take the train or walk along the train tracks. If you decide to walk, be careful and listen if you can hear the train coming. You'll hear it from quite a distance though. Don't forget to bring a flashlight since you'll have to go through a tunnel. It will take about 4 hours to walk, the train will get you there in about 30 minutes and costs $8. Either way, you'll end up in Aguas Calientes where you spend the night. It's best to buy your entrance ticket that day in Aguas Calientes to skip the queue at Machu Picchu ($20/$40 student/adult). There's two ways of getting to the archaeological site, by bus or by foot. The walk is quite tough, all uphill for about an hour. I would say, save your energy and take the bus so you can climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the lost city. The bus costs $7 and takes 40 minutes.
For the way back, you can take exactly the same way. Unfortunately the train to Hydroelectrica only leaves at 7.00 and 12.00 am. This would mean a short visit to Machu Picchu if you want to climb the mountain as well. Though the site opens at 6.00 am so you should be able to catch the 12.00 am train (allow 2 hours for the mountain). Otherwise you can stay an extra day or take the train directly to Cusco or Ollantaytambo. If you're in the train to the Hydroelectrica, try to find some tour guides that go back to Cusco. They'll take you for about $15.
Adding up all the costs will leave you spending:
1. Cusco - Ollantaytambo: $4
2. Ollantaytambo - Santa Maria: $5
3. Santa Maria - Hydroelectrica: $4
4. Train to Aguas Calientes (x2): $16
5. Hydroelectrica - Cusco : $15
6. Bus to Machu Picchu : $14
7. Accommodation: $6
8. Food: $15
You can skip numbers 4 and 6, saving you another 30 dollars.
Welcome to Machu Picchu poor backpackers!
Nazca, Southern Coast, Peru
When you plan to visit Nazca lines ...don't forget that it's forbidden to walk alone in the desert without authorization and beeing with an official guide ...The best way to see everything there is to take a little plane flying upon the line ....not too expensive ...the other thing to do around Nazca is going into an orange Hacienda and taste there orange juices they're wonderfull and really cheap !
Machupicchu, Cusco Region, Peru
The train is inoperable right not between Cusco and Piscacucho due to the flooding from two months ago. Be sure to purchase your train ticket from Perurails for transit into Machu Picchu well ahead of your time of arrival in Cusco to insure your passage to Machu Picchu.
Amazon Basin, Peru
I did a trip up the amazon river right from the start in Peru when it still is river Urubamba. Tip: Don't book a guide, you don't need them. Bring your hammock for sleeping on the boats and the strongest insect repellent, maybe even a moskito net. Bring time... some days you are waiting for the next boat on the river bank but its not coming, and sometimes they tell you the boat is leaving but it leaves the next day... Bring enough cash - there are no ATM in the amazon. If you want you can bring little gifts for the village kids...
Pisac, Cusco Region, Peru
The Alpaca blankets sold there are beautiful and soft, but have a tendancy to pull easily. It is possible to take public transit there much more cheaply than doing a tour- the earlier you go the longer you will have before the tour buses show but it doesn't really matter. If it is covered in tourists every week than it isn't any more authentic if you see it without the tourists- that is what everything is there for anyways.
Lima, Lima & Surrounding Region, Peru
If you hate sun, go to Lima! You'll hardly ever see it due to persistent fog, especially in districts near to the sea (exceptions are the months from December to February).
Public transport in Lima sucks. But if you're not in a hurry, a ride with la micro/combi can be an interesting experience (but you should know your destination and the fare).
The good thing about Lima's traffic chaos is that the number of taxis is probably the highest in the world, so that you'll find one anywhere at 3 o'clock in the morning within less than 2 minutes (as with la combi you should know your destination and the approximate fare).
Lima offers a variety of bars and discotheques. My favorites are Mochileros and Sargento Pimienta in Barranco. If you're feeling lonely go to Bierhaus in Barranco or Miraflores (But beware of the bricheras, don't let yourself getting ripped off!)
Well, on the face of it Lima is a rather ugly city, but it has a lot of inner beauty to discover! (for instance the malecón (quay) in Miraflores in the evening)
Mancora, Northern Coast, Peru
Virtually no transportation needed! Mancora is basically a one-street town. However, for safety at night or if you have to lug some bottled water back to camp, you can catch a moto-taxi for just one sol!
Miraflores, Lima & Surrounding Region, Peru
Stay at the Original Casa del Mochilero backpackers! It is on the second floor, and so popular that it has many not-so-good copy cats. 14 Soles per night (less than $5) for a dorm room. Hot Water Showers, shared kitchen, dining area, tv room with dvd selection. Amazingly friendly owners make you feel it is your home away from home, and the beds are very warm and comfy. Walking distance to the Vivanda supermarket which bottles its own fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. YUM. Walking distance to buses for Barranco and for Central Lima. Walking distance to the beautiful waterfront. They also have a bulletin board full of volunteer opportunities and have internet which you can pay to use. Miraflores is considered one of the safer areas in Lima, but I have heard stories of people being robbed at night, so still be careful. The hostel is so welcoming, if you are concerned about safety, you don't need to go out at night. Basically it is in my Top 5 hostels of everywhere I have ever been.
Arequipa, Southern Coast, Peru
When staying in Arequipa and you want to go to canyon colca, it might be better to book a room in Chivay for two nights. Then you can go to see the condors early in the morning (around 7) and afterwards you can continue the road to a next busstop where you can go all the way down into the canyon. Beware also that it takes at least 4 hours to make the way back up so I your still in it, wait for some local people to join then or make your way on a donkey. From chivay you can't take a direct bus to puno but you can take it partways and then jump on the one which comes from arequipa to save you some more hours. When it's full, for a few dollars you can have the place next to the driver which gives you some really marvellous views on the straight roads in front of you on the altiplano.
Nazca, Southern Coast, Peru
After you have seen the lines, the old irrigation system and the old cemetry (both a little outside the city) are really great but preferrable is to do them with a guide with can you explain a lot about them or the nasca lines too. Before taking a next bus, it can also be intresting to have a look at the plain prices from Nasca. For example a plain flight to arequipa was even less then a first class night bus towards it and saves you a lot of time and a rough night in a bus