What You Need to Know Before You Go to Peru (and Why You’ll Want to See More than Machu Picchu)

The following post is written by Kristin from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. She traveled to Peru in August 2018 on a G Adventures tour booked through Boscov’s Travel and shares her experiences.

Machu Picchu, Is it Really Worth Going to Peru for This?
Yep, it’s everything you’ve seen and more. Photos don’t do this majestic place justice. Built by the Incans in the 1400’s, this citadel boasts 200 structures created without the use of mortar – just expertly cut stone which has stood the test of time (think Legos). Lovers of nature and astrology, the Incans constructed the city between two mountain ranges and venerated the gods with temples, compasses, sundials, and more astrological marvels.

You need to see Machu Picchu NOW. The government continues to increase restrictions on and around the Seventh Wonder of the World (in fact, only 500 permits are permitted per day on the Inca trail making the trek to Machu Picchu). There are 2500 visitors per day allowed at the site and you need a bus ticket and ticket to enter before you go (G Adventures  handled this and we had no problem). As the popularity of adventure travel flourishes and Machu Picchu is appreciated by more and more tourists, our guide predicted that it will eventually be closed to the public.

But There’s More than Machu Picchu
The Incans didn’t Netflix and chill. It seemed that every few miles we would see evidence of Incan architecture. We toured the ruins of Moray, the agricultural center where the Incans deployed terraces to conduct agricultural tests and relay the results to their civilization. While in Moray, don’t miss the salt mines where the Incans devised a system to capture mountain springs and extract the salt through a pooled system. The ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo are architectural wonders considering the Incans had no use of a writing system and managed to construct structures that have stood for more than five centuries.

You Need A Tour Operator/Guide (Trust Me)
Without a guide, you’ll miss out on the local culture and cuisine. You’ll experience a communications barrier (most of the country does not speak English), wait in lines for hours, pay too much for souvenirs, and be confined to the touristy areas without really experiencing this spectacular country.
I highly, highly recommend G Adventures for your Peru trip. They take care of the details, tours, permits, tickets accommodations, and your own Peruvian CEO – Chief Experience Officer – who will be with you every step of the way. Our guide was Yuri.

A Foodie’s Delight
You’ll be a-maized by the food and flavors of Peru (sorry, hanging out with my dad too much). Being a pescaterian (no meat, yes to fish and dairy), I was concerned that my diet may consist of potatoes and corn but I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of vegetables, fruits, fish dishes, cheeses, breads, and dishes that offered something for everyone. This is due to the country’s 84 ecosystems (there are 104 known in the entire world) that allow diverse crops to grow. Don’t leave Peru without trying an empanada and the ceviche.

 

  Altitude Sickness Is Real
Coming from a part of PA where our highest peaks are shy of 1700 feet, it’s a shock to the system to reach altitudes north of 11,000 feet. The first night, our tour guide Yuri advised our group to get a specific type of altitude pills. Even with the medication, my hands and feet felt tingly and my head heavy for the first two days. By day 4, I didn’t need the medication as my body adjusted.
G Adventures takes this into account for their travelers. Their itineraries gradually work you to high altitudes to minimize the negative effects and they always have water available.

Weather
Their weather is opposite of ours in North America. In August, prime tourist season, they experience their winter. We encountered highs of 68F and lows of 35F at night. Bring layers and research the weather when you’re hoping to go.

Be Prepared to Check an Additional Bag on Your Flight Home
Peru has the best souvenirs! You won’t be able to leave this country without some llama swag, Machu Picchu t-shirts, scarves, textiles, Peruvian salt, Alpaca dolls, and more. Your money goes further in Peru. When I traveled in August 2018, the exchange rate was approximately $1USD to 3 Soles. A t-shirt was 10 Soles or approximately $3 and change… I bought ALL. OF. THE. STUFF. In fact, one of my fellow travelers said her airline allowed 2 checked bags free of charge when flying to Peru… and 7 free when departing Peru.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate! Many things are unlabeled and the price verbally quoted is not necessarily the lowest price.

And the Best Thing You Will Experience In Peru…
The people. These people are hardworking, strong, tough, and prideful. They have very little compared to Americans but these people could not have been more joyful. They are very proud of their Incan heritage and many women still wear traditional dress. Everyone works – whether it is selling souvenirs, guiding tourists, weaving, farming, or caring for the alpaca, from kids to adults these people hustle. And they could not have been more kind or gracious.

 

Other quick facts:
– Don’t drink the tap water. Purchase bottled water as soon as you get to your hotel from the local market. On a G Adventures tour, your guide will collect a few dollars (for us it was approximately 10 soles each or less than $4) and will purchase boxed water for you to refill continuously throughout the trip.

– Get your passport stamped at Machu Picchu (after the exit before the bus line).

– You need to throw toilet paper in the waste can. Don’t flush it down the toilet or you’ll learn the hard way (like I did…).

– Don’t think you can rent your own car and figure out how to navigate this country. The drivers are aggressive! A fellow traveler compared the hectic driving to India.

– If you’re an avid hiker and love the outdoors, hike the Inca trail! As stated, you will need to obtain permits months in advance. G Adventures can assist you with this – whether you want to do the four-day hike or an efficient one-day hike. Just note – the Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance due to the rainy season (Jan – March).

– You should be in fairly good shape if you plan to go to Peru. Not only will the amount of walking and steps of the ruins affect you, the altitude makes the air thinner and tourists can lose their breath fast. It’s not just for 18 to 30-somethings… in fact, the average age of people who do the tour are in their 40’s and 50’s.

– Most places do not take Mastercard, but they will take Visa.

– Safety is key… but I never felt unsafe in this country. Our guide Yuri gave advice where/when to go when we had free time to explore. As long as you are smart about protecting your valuables and passport, you shouldn’t have a problem.

– Brush up on your grade school Spanish before you go!
Donde esta el bano – Where is the bathroom?
Si por favor – Yes, please.
Lo siento – I’m sorry.
Habla usted Inglés – Do you speak English?
Cuánto cuesta – How much is it?
Dos cervezas, por favor – Two beers please.

Peru will leave your mouth watering, your feet tired, camera full, suitcase bursting, your heart fulfilled, and your bucket list shattered.

Why book your G Adventures Peru trip with Boscov’s Travel?
– We are one of G Adventures recommended agencies.

– Book your bucket list trip… and receive special financing offers.

– When you’re on your trip, we’re available 24/7 with our emergency service line.

– You’ll pay the exact same price you see on GAdventures.com

If you’re ready to start planning your Peru vacation, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Tour information: G Adventures Explore Machu Picchu

 

Exploring the Best of Europe via Cruise Ship

Lori - title photo gelato

The following post is written by Laurie from the Boscov’s Travel Operations Department at the company’s headquarters.  Laurie recently sailed aboard the Norwegian Epic on a European tour and shares her travel adventures that she booked through Boscov’s Travel. 

I am very excited to share my “European Family Adventure” with all of you.  My parents are avid cruisers and were eager to share a trip to Europe with both my of children and myself while they were active enough to really enjoy it.  To be honest I was a bit nervous that my kids were too young to really appreciate all this amazing experience had to offer. Alexa is 12 and Zachary had just turned 9. We left Philadelphia on a direct flight to Barcelona Thursday evening. Much to my surprise the flight went remarkably fast after a movie and a few hours of sleep we were ready to land. My nervousness subsided the moment we met our driver at the Barcelona airport to take us to the hotel. Zachary became instantly engrossed in the Spanish language and was trying to learn every Spanish word possible from him in the 20 minute drive. Despite the language barrier he did everything to make us feel welcome and was very excited to share his country with us.

Our vacation began with a 2-night pre-cruise stay in a hotel located right on Las Ramblas which is the most famous main street, located in the heart of Barcelona with more restaurants, cafes, and shops than you can imagine. We loved walking around this area soaking up the architecture and local culture by trying tapas, paella, gelato and of course you can’t forget the sangria. During our stay we did a Double Decker Bus tour of the city as well as a trip to the local aquarium. We booked a Flamenco dinner show which was really fantastic as well. I highly encourage the pre-night stay to enjoy this beautiful city and I also think it helps to adjust to the time change.

Norwegian Epic

Sunday morning arrived and it was time to board the Norwegian Cruise Line Ship, Epic.  Check in was flawless and easy to do. I really enjoyed the layout of this ship as it was a bit different than others I have cruised on. It was raining so the water slides would have to wait until the sun came out. The kids managed to occupy their time at the bowling alley and the arcade located in the O’Sheehan’s Sports Bar which would come to be one of our favorite spots. We did make reservations to do the Cirque Dreams Show which was one of the ships highlights. Although the dinner portion wasn’t rave worthy the show was really fantastic!

Norwegian Epic Bowling Alley
Monday was a day at sea to relax before we arrived in Italy. My Dad and I had to check out the Epic’s Ice Bar, where they graciously gave you parkas and gloves so you are able to enjoy your cocktails in a balmy 11 degrees. You tend to drink faster than normal because it’s a little chilly, but to see a bar and chairs all made out of ice was really cool. We both were glad we took the time to try it out and it was worth the cover charge!

Norwegian Epic Ice Bar

Tuesday morning we arrived in Naples, Italy where we had our first shore excursion to the spectacular Sorrento and Amalfi coast by land and sea. The boat ride was picturesque and walking around the villages was so neat. Of course we got to learn a bit of Italian from our tour guide too.

Cannes

Lunch was located in a greenhouse filled with beautiful flowers and lemon trees that I couldn’t get enough of.

Lemon Trees

Wednesday we arrived in Rome, Italy, where we had a full day excursion with sightseeing at the Colosseum and throughout Vatican City. The expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” is an understatement. This tour was pretty intense, as it was hours of walking, sightseeing and learning.  Alexa studied the Colisseum in 6th grade Social Studies so this was a once in a lifetime field trip to say the least. I am not sure who was more excited, her or the tour guide, as she was asking a million questions. Once arriving at the Vatican, we learned we had missed the Pope speaking earlier that morning as he does a service every Wednesday morning for the public. Seeing the inside of the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking and my favorite part was looking around to see the different emotions of everyone there. There were people praying, singing, crying, and those that were just in pure awe of the beauty.

Coliseum

Thursday brought us to our final day in Italy where we toured Florence and Pisa. This was my favorite port of the trip. The bus ride through the scenic Tuscan countryside on the way to Florence was unlike anything I have ever experienced. The green hillside vineyards with tall Cypress trees were just beautiful. Once arriving in Florence I instantly fell in love with the cobblestone streets lined with cafes and tiny shops. The walk along the Arno River (photo below) was also the highlight as the scenery was just beautiful. We had a traditional Italian lunch followed by the most delicious espresso.

Pisa

Next we were off again, for a bus ride and a tour of Pisa. Pisa – in my opinion – should be no more than a few hour stop but it was certainly something I am happy we had the opportunity to see. You arrive in what looks like a residential neighborhood and you see this immense leaning tower. Pretty surreal!

Pisa tower

Thursday we arrived in Cannes, France, my second favorite port. My family has a love of boats and water so to see this beautiful French city on the water with yachts and sailboats, we were in paradise. We were lucky enough to be there during the Cannes Film Festival which was very exciting. We did a city tram tour which enabled us to see so much of this area. For lunch we enjoyed the best pizza we have ever eaten, which seemed ironic being in France versus Italy.

Pizza

Our final day was in Marseilles, France, which again is a beautiful seaside port. We took another tram type tour which allowed us to get a taste and feel of this picturesque little town. Of course we couldn’t leave France without enjoying our last cone of gelato.

Marsailles

I truly believe that a cruise was the best way to experience all of these unbelievable destinations. As much as we loved our time spent on the ship we truly used it as a floating hotel. I don’t believe there is any better way that you can explore 3 different countries, cultures and languages all in 10 days. The shore excursions tend to add up but they are truly worth it for the experience. We thoroughly enjoyed each one. I also don’t recommend traveling to Europe on a diet, as the culinary experience alone is amazing. Now that we have had a taste of Spain, Italy, and France we can’t wait to go back.

Coast and boats

If you’re ready to book your Mediterranean adventure, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, call 800-755-8020 or direct message us.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.