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

 

Seven Ways to Get Upgraded to First Class (For Free)

The following post is written by Jen from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department. Jen’s an avid traveler and shares tips for getting upgraded. 

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Picking up my stuffed and heavy rolling carry-on and glancing at my seat assignment on my boarding pass and then the long, unmoving line of people ahead of me, my excitement about vacation immediately dwindles: The first leg of my journey is to the back of the plane, and judging by the already-filled overhead bins and the slow shuffle of people ahead, it feels like it’ll take just as long to get to my seat as it would take to walk to my vacation destination. Immediately, taking a look at the few front rows of people already comfortably seated, buckled in, and relaxing with a drink in hand and their valuables comfortably stored directly overhead, I start to think that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad investment to pay the extra, well, paycheck, it would have cost to fly first class.

If you’re like me, and flying as inexpensively as you can is as much of a goal as flying first class, and you’re trying to figure out whether it’s better to be financially practical or cave into your indulgent #YOLOfirstclassbaby!!! whims on your next flight, here are a few tips to try to do both and get upgraded to first class for free.

1. Join your airline’s rewards program and secure their credit card. In truth, most upgrades are now done arbitrarily at check in, not at the counter, often rewarding those who show elite status and loyalty to an airline. Additionally, seasoned travelers who are recognized by their home airport’s gate crew as being a frequent flyer are more likely to be handed an complimentary golden ticket to the front of the plane over someone who may be traveling with that airline for the first time.

2. Dress neatly.  As much as we want to travel in comfy clothes, airlines are more prone to put people who look like they belong in first class in first class.

3. Arrive or check in early—and sometimes late. Being among the first to check in online may increase your chances of being upgraded when it’s done electronically. It also helps to be the first to the counter to put in a request—especially when the staff isn’t stressed or rushed and is able to consider your request in calm circumstances. But in some cases, those types of decisions aren’t made until closer to the time of departure when the airline knows that they’re likely not selling any additional seats, which is when it’s sometimes beneficial to check in and arrive late for your flight.

4. Ask. While most upgrades are now done by computer, it never hurts to ask the counter staff in a very polite and nice manner without demanding one, and without badgering them. Be willing to nicely accept their answer, and accept the seat you originally paid for. Additionally, if you ask about the availability of getting upgraded, you may find the airline presenting you with an offer to pay for the upgrade with cash or airline miles at a greatly reduced rate over what you would have paid had you bought the seat outright.

5. Have a problem and be a good sport about it. While no one wants to deal with travel delays or overbooking issues, if you’re willing to give up your seat to another traveler in distress on an overbooked flight or if you encounter issues on the plane, such as a faulty armrest or tray table, you’re more likely to be compensated by receiving a complimentary upgrade on your next flight. While the hassle may be maddening, do your best to be kind and nice about the issues to the airline staff, who may not have any control over the situation, but have control over how to compensate you when you do finally get on your way.

6. Celebrate something. Airlines want to earn your repeat business and want you to associate happy memories with your event and their service. It certainly doesn’t hurt to slip into conversation with your gate or flight attendant that it’s your birthday, honeymoon or milestone anniversary if the opportunity arises.

7. Use a travel agent. Our Travel Specialists have established relationships with the airlines and can view upgrade availability. Airlines are also more likely to reward those who paid full-price (e.g., a refundable fare) and paid them directly, rather than booked through a discount travel site like Orbitz or Expedia, who take a cut of the fare. Travel Specialists may also be able to make comments on your reservation noting your special celebration or needs.

To temper expectations, know that free upgrades to first class are now very infrequent, and it’s always best to select and pay for a seat that you’ll know you’ll be happy with rather than expect you’ll receive something for free.

If you’re ready to start planning your next 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