We’re compiling some of our favorite tips for new travelers and veterans who could use a reminder, based on more than a decade providing budget lodging for travelers throughout Peru & Bolivia- and of course, our own travels!
If you’re a budget-minded traveler or backpacker, the largest portion of your travel budget is probably allotted to international fares. Despite the falling dollar and local inflation, the exchange rate still goes in your favor, making daily expenses in Peru and Bolivia pretty cheap. If you’re splashing out on the trip, try and stretch it out a little- the most frequent regret by travelers is not having scheduled enough time.
Enjoy Cheap Eats
Avoid tourist-oriented restaurants and choose a moderately-priced menú. 5 to 10 soles, or 10 to 20 bolivianos, is enough for a quality lunch (you can find even cheaper options, but cleanliness is often sacrificed at the cheapest locales). Staying at hostels with guest kitchens is smart. Consider budgeting for one great meal in each city (ceviche in Lima, alpaca in Arequipa, etc) and eating on the cheap otherwise. 9 times out of ten, you can get away with eating street food…the tenth time can be a real downer however, as you have to forgo planned excursions and endure bus trips. If you’re going for it, try anticuchos (shish kabobs) but avoid fried food like papas rellenas, which become bacterial magnets when left to sit after frying.
Demonstrate Money Smarts
Traveling internationally without informing your bank beforehand is just begging for them to freeze your account at the most inconvenient moment- don’t risk it. Avoid getting scammed by getting average prices before arriving in the airport, learning to spot counterfeit bills, and studying your money before handing it over (so that an unscrupulous vendor or taxi driver can’t switch it and then return it saying its false). Never accept American dollars with nicks, tears, or excessive folding, because not even the banks will accept them from you while in Bolivia or Peru. Negotiate with both vendors and taxi drivers, because the first price offered is almost never the fair one. If you bring your iphone with you, tap into free hostel wi-fi to contact family back home through messengers rather than more expensive telephone calls….but never let it out of your sight because it will be the first thing stolen. If you don’t want to take the risk, stick to the internet cafés at a sol an hour.
Save on Lodging
If you’d like to spend more than week in a city of your choice, one of the best ways to save on lodging is to work shifts at the hostel in exchange for your stay. This lets you spend more time in a city and actually get to know it beyond the tourists’ quarters. If you’re looking to shave a night or two off your budget, night buses have the triple advantage of traveling cheaper while saving a night’s lodging and also allowing you to sleep through an uncomfortably long ride.
Leave the curling iron behind, and use that space for the things you actually need. During your trip to Bolivia or Peru you are likely to encounter cobblestone streets and dirt roads, oppressively sunny afternoons coupled inexplicably frigid mornings and nights, and during the November through March rainy season, frequent rains and mud. Bringing lightweight layers is wise, and decide on your altitude sickness plan ahead of time.Bathrooms are not often stocked with soap/disinfectant or toilet paper, so if possible keep some on hand.
Have any tips to share? Add them in the comments!
There’s no better time to visit Cusco than during Inti Raymi, the Sun Festival, still the year’s most important festival ever since the time of the Inca empire, when Inti Raymi honored the supreme deity, the sun, and celebrated the end of one agricultural year and the beginning of the next. Two weeks of concerts, dancing, and fairs kick off each June 21st during the Andean Winter Solstice, in what has become South America’s 2nd largest festival. During this time Cusco honors its history through elaborate and massive reenactments and colorful celebrations that attract 50,000 spectators.
- If you plan on joining in, it’s best to make plans as far in advance as possible- availability for lodging in Cusco, transport, and Machu Picchu can go quickly, and prices rise in response to the increased demand.
Although the complete schedule for the two weeks of celebrating has not yet been announced, we do have the details for the most important day, June 24th, when reenactments take place at Cusco’s most significant sites. This is also the date of the Day of the Farmer (formerly Day of the Indian) and of Cusco’s Anniversary, which is part of the reason why the city explodes with activity and color during this time, with free concerts, street fairs, and a seemingly endless parade of vibrantly dressed dancers.
Part I: Qorikancha, 9am
It all begins with the Sun Greeting at Qorikancha at 9:00. This temple’s name means Golden Enclosure but it is better known as the Temple of the Sun. It’s importance as the religious center of Cusco before the arrival of the Conquistadores was marked by the golden band which surrounded it. The ceremony lasts 30 minutes and you can watch for free as characters representing the nobility of a bygone age (the royal entourage, the Chosen Women, and the Sapa Inca himself) salute the sun, arriving along flower-strewn steets amidst the sounds of conch shell.
- Remember to be wary of pickpockets in the crowds- keep a close watch on your pockets, bags, and especially small electronics.
Part II: Plaza de Armas, 11am
The second part of the reenactments is also free to watch, lasts about 45 minutes and takes place at 11am in Cusco’s main square, the Plaza de Armas (once known as Auqaypata, Warrior’s Square). Climbing atop a ceremonial platform called an ushnu, the Inka formally addresses the mayor of Cusco in what is known as the Meeting of the Times.
- If you go independently, you must arrive quite early and be willing to deal with intense crowding at times. Otherwise, agency packages normally include a private balcony from which to watch the celebrations.
- Pirwa Posada del Corregidor, our hostel in the Plaza de Armas, has its own restaurant with a balcony from which to watch the proceedings.
- Taxis will not enter the city center during this time, so if you’re staying in a hostel in the city center, your mobility will be compromised from the early morning through late afternoon (at least), and you will do better on foot.
- Despite June being wintertime in Cusco, the weather is very variable. Mornings and evenings are very cold, but from approximately 11am to 3pm it can get very hot in the afternoon sun, so dressing in layers is recommendable.
Part III: Sacsayhuamán, 1:30pm
The central ceremony takes place at Sacsayhuamán, the fortress of massive stones which overlooks the city of Cusco, and lasts an hour and a half. The 4 suyos, or regions of the empire, issue their reports, and the Chicha, Sankhu, and Sacred Fire rituals take place. There’s the Llama Sacrifice (which is simulated) and the divining from its entrails. It all ends with Q’ochurikuy, the explosion of popular exhaltation.
Although tickets have not yet been made available, ticket prices range from US$90 (Green Zone) to US$130 (Orange Zone) and include the official program and explanation in three languages and a commemorative DVD. To buy tickets for the Sacsayhuaman ceremonies from EMUFEC, the managing government agency, one has to pay in advance through bank transfer, although their purchasing system is usually not activated very long before the celebrations.
- Rather than pay the ticket price, locals choose to simply gather in the surrounding area and hope to catch a glimpse of proceedings while picnicking along the hills, although visibility can be elusive in the crowds.
- Sun protection is crucial; medical & safety personnel will be on hand in case of emergency
Pirwa Travel Service offers two packages inspired by the festival. The one-day tour which includes tickets, balcony access overlooking the Plaza de Armas, a packed lunch, and a knowledgeable guide. Meanwhile, the 6-day tour includes the main festival day alongside guided tours of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu.
The specialists of Pirwa Travel Service have ten years experience providing affordable excursions thorughout Peru and Bolivia. If you need help planning your itinerary, or arranging transportation, excursions, entrances, etc, feel free to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll be glad to help!
Last month’s renovations were not the only changes that have been taking place at Pirwa Colonial Backpackers in Cusco.
- The Colonial Bar will now be open all day long. So while you can just relax in the daytime while checking your emails and updating your travel blog, you can also order up snacks or drinks if you’d like.
- Speaking of the bar, the drink list now includes a greater variety of beers and cocktails, so while Peruvian classics like Pisco Sours, Chilcanos de Pisco, y Cusqueño beer are always staples, there’ll now be more options for those of you who want a more international.
- We have largely extended menus for optional additions to the included continental breakfast- those of you with an appetite can order up everything from banana smoothies, panoply of hot breakfast sandwiches, French toasts, huevos rancheros and every other egg dish one can think of.
We hope that the increased rooming options created by the renovations, more private bathrooms, more bar and food offerings, and increased serving hours will mean more comfort and better service for all of our guests and friends. Thanks to all of you who’ve been a part of the Pirwa family over the years and whose feedback and support has helped us hone our services!
We’re currently looking for 4 helpers for Pirwa Colonial Backpackers, in the area of bar / food / events in the evenings (6pm-12am, 7pm-1am…something in that neighborhood). If you can pour drinks and are planning on spending at least a week in Cusco, we hope you’ll come lend a hand! Basically, if you work 7 days, you get lodging for an additional 3 days to accomodate your excursions.
In return, you get a free bed in one of the shared dorms, breakfast, and a little money for lunch. If you’re interested, please send us your info and travel plans to email@example.com. We hope to hear from you!!
in Cusco, has successfully undergone renovations in various rooms, to provide more private ensuite rooms alongside a variety of dormitories.
We’re now fully operational again, and ready to meet new friends and guests from around the world.
The interior patios and the fully stocked TV & movie lounge remain unchanged, and at the moment we’ve only one more portion to complete: the 24hr guest kitchen.
Pirwa Colonial’s Bar continues to boast a fast food stand, 2 for 1 cocktails during our “Happy Hour Every Hour”, and activities from yesterday’s Patriotic Party (where guests donned the colors of their respective countries) to today’s BBQ. Table games and instruments are always available, not to mention a pool table and ping pong table!