Cusco

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Cusco Money-Saving Tips

Spanish

It’s a good idea to bring a Spanish dictionary in case you get tongue tied, but if learning another language isn’t your strongest asset, book a more upscale hotel (where the concierge is more likely to speak English) and be sure to take guided tours with English speaking guides.

Quechua

The native tongue of the Inca empire is spoken by some 10 million South Americans in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Soroche

Don't let the thought of soroche (altitude sickness) hold you back from this Andean eden. The worse symptoms – fatigue, headaches, and dizziness – are best cured with water and one or two cups of hot mate de coca (coca tea).

Getting into Cusco

Taxis and private hotel cars are best for traveling to/from the airport (20 minutes). Standard rates range from 3 soles (by day) to 5 soles (at night), so definitely bargain. No local would ever pay 10 soles for taxi fare.

Money

The exchange rate fluctuates daily, but the rate per 1 Nuevo Sol is approximately US$3. Banks give the lowest rates. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere and credit cards are accepted at the more expensive places. Due to counterfeit fears, however, most places refuse large bills (and won’t make change either), and with ATMs dispensing mostly large bills, be sure to stock up on small bills.

Call Home on a Pay Phone

Telefonica cards are sold in denominations of 2, 5, 10 and 30 soles. Follow dialing directions and enter 001 + area code + number. Chat fast though; even a 30-soles card is easily spent in 15-20 minutes.

Cusco City Tours

To uncover the best of Cusco, opt for a city tour offered by almost every tour operator around the Plaza de Armas. Try Peru Treks ( www.perutreks.com) or Andean Life Adventure ( www.andeanlife.com). Most tours include hotel pick-up, transport, and English-speaking guides for about $10.

Boleto Turistico

Entrance to most sites in and around Cusco and the Sacred Valley is granted with the boleto turístico (tourist ticket). Opt for the full ticket (70 soles; valid for 10 days) that grants access to 16 sites and is sold at the Oficina Ejecutiva del Comite (OFEC; Av. Sol 103; 011-51-84-227-037), the Oficina de Informacion Turistica (Mantas 117-A; 011-51-84-263-176), and Saqsayhuaman.

Sacred Valley Tours

Most visitors opt for a simple one-day tour of the Sacred Valley (9 hours, $15-20 per person), departing on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays to coincide with some of the villages' market days, where you can buy handicrafts from actual craft makers, not resellers, and experience mesmerizing ruins. Try Peru Treks (www.perutreks.com) or Andean Life Adventures (www.andeanlife.com).

Touring by Bus

Buses to the Sacred Valley are popular and cheap – though terminals are tricky to find (ask around), buses depart when full, and speed limits don’t exist. Still, buses are generally safe. Look for stations at Av. Grau 525, with service to Urubamba, and Calle Puputi 208, with service via Pisac to Urubamba. For buses enroute to Ollantaytambo, take a ride to Urubamba and transfer onward from there.

Inca Trail

Since government regulations permit only 500 visitors along the trail per day, excursions are relegated to specific departure days and you must be accompanied by official guides. It’s also entirely closed to the public each February for maintenance, so book well in advance with a recognized tour operator.

Inca Trail/Machu Picchu Passes

Tickets to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu are sold separately: the Inca Trail pass alone costs $88/day; entrance to Machu Picchu is $44/day. Tour operators will include rates/tickets in the overall price (cash is preferred). Remember to bring your passport to the entrance gates of Machu Picchu for an official stamp.

Leaving Peru

Upon leaving the country, you must present the Customs document you receive upon entering. You’ll have to pay a small fee to replace it if lost. You also have to pay, in cash, a departure tax of $25 and a $5 airport departure tax on domestic flights (Cusco to Lima). Prices subject to change.

Low-cost Meals and Souvenirs

The offbeat Mercado Central sells produce, household items, excellent alpaca goods, and colorful Andean foods. Expect some of the best and cheapest street meals, fruit and vegetable stalls, and even a few kiosks displaying lucky charms and jungle medicines.

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