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