In the group of 6, I was the only fluent Spanish speaker. Although Daniel’s Spanish is okay. He has been practicing, and being around my family definitely helps.
We stood out as a group of tourists, of course, but I was surprised and glad that none of the merchants we passed were too pushy. Honestly, it was the kids that were in people’s faces the most. I remember two different occasions where children were following either one of the men in our group around, or Daniel’s mother. Luckily I looked young enough to NOT be in charge of any of our money or something…and they stayed away 🙂
The ratio of Dollars to Soles was roughly 1:3 while we were visiting. Most places were cool about you using American money or credit cards, but obviously it was harder in outdoor markets. The ATM machines gave you the option of delivering your money in Dollars or Soles – which was quite convenient.
During one of our first days in Cuzco, our tour guide took us to am amazing shop where loads and loads of Alpaca goods were sold. One of the employees gave us a brief lesson on Alpaca furs, and how to tell the difference between real and fake. It was pretty simple. Baby Alpaca fur [not FROM a baby, but the first sheer when the Alpaca is 2 years old] is soft inside and out. Alpaca fur is soft on the outside and a tad rough on the inside. Fake/Mixed fur is rough on the outside and the inside. And a lot of times the outside is brushed to make it softer…but on fake goods you can tell.
I bought yarn for scarves and some SUPER soft baby alpaca socks [as well as gifts for my family].
Our tour guides were glad we visited during the off season. December is the transition between Spring and Summer in Peru. It was a bit chilly sometimes, but usually it was pretty nice weather. I definitely recommend a windbreaker with a hood, or a rain poncho [for Machu Picchu at least]. If you are planning a trip to Peru, the off season is your best bet. Less tourists = better photographs and shorter lines. That’s how I feel 🙂
In regards to the altitude:
Traveling into and out of Peru….lots of lines. And I use the term “line” quite loosely…When we arrived, there was a MOB trying to make it’s way through customs. It took us 2 hours to make our way from the terminal into baggage claim and out of the airport. The driver who picked us up was in shock. Our flight from Lima to Machu Picchu wasn’t too bad at all. There was a bit of turbulence on the plane, but nothing too scary. Our tour guide in Lima warned us of the different side effects we might experience once we arrived at Cuzco. I think we were pretty lucky. Daniel and I were a bit feverish the first day, and 3 others were dealing with allergies. The pharmacies in the cities we visited were extremely helpful in dealings with whatever was needed. It was interesting to me that you could buy individual pills rather than a whole box. We all took a nap on the first day, which I found extremely beneficial. Another side effect was breathlessness. Going up a simple flight of stairs left me gasping for air. I felt like I was extremely out of shape! But one also grows accustomed to the thinner air – as I proved to myself during my magical endurance hike. Magical in the sense of my endurance, not in that it was just so amazing and sparkly. haha 😉 Also? Don’t eat too late at night…digestion is a lot slower up high and you wake up feeling yucky… A lot of people recommend drinking Coca tea to keep your tummy settled. I drank loads because it was good.
Okay, here is a list of recommendations I made while flying back:
General Peru Travel:
Leave enough time between flights in case of a strike
Carry Advil/Tylenol with you
Make sure to keep anti-nausea meds with you if you need them [also available at pharms]
Eat light the first day you are experiencing high altitudes
Get ready for LOTS of waiting [bring a book or game!]
Hoard your bottled water
Sneakers or Hiking boots
Shorts and Tights
Massages are cheap
“No gracias” comes in handy
Know SOME Spanish
Watch out for random pee-ers [public urination is quite popular!]
Seafood is DELISH [ceviche…mmm!]
Pisco Sours are the traditional alcoholic beverage
So is ChiCha – but i think some don’t have alcohol in them…
Guinea Pigs and Alpaca are popular dishes
Passion Fruit = YUM
Coca Tea is your friend!
Dogs are everywhere – seem well taken care of…don’t think they are totally stray.
Carry small bills [some cost 1 sole to use]
Keep a pack of tissues in your bag – you must pay for TP or it is unavailable
Practice your squats before you leave for Peru [some don’t have seats!]
That’s all I can think of. I also posted a ton of travel tips a while back when Daniel and I hit up Europe.
I hope some of this was helpful to you 🙂