Frequently Asked Questions:
For questions on Machu Picchu, getting there and other details, please see our section on Machu Picchu.
We receive a lot of questions about Peru, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, etc and we are here to help. Below are some common questions we receive, which we are always updating so keep scrolling down for more helpful information. If you are taking a hiking or biking trip with us, click HERE for more information on weather, what to bring, etc.
Money in Peru
1. What is the deal with money? Well, the basics are that Peru’s currency is the Nuevo Sol, but mostly just called the Sol. (“sun” in Spanish) or soles (prounounced “sol-ees”). The Sol has been strengthening steadily against most major currencies the last few years, with the US Dollar being hit the hardest. While a US dollar used to buy 3.3 soles, it now only buys 2.5. In other words, if you change $100 you will receive about 255 soles.
2. Where can I exchange or withdrawal money? Anywhere, though the further you go from Lima or Cusco the worse the exchange rate will be. Try to avoid changing money in Aguas Calientes at Machu Picchu as the rate is very poor there. There are ATM’s in good supply in Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes. Expect to pay a lot of exchange and withdrawal fees, so try to bring a decent supply of cash from home also.
3. What about using my credit card? Some but not all places in Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes accept credit cards. Many that do accept them charge a fee (which they themselves have to pay to the peruvian banks) of between 5% and 10%.
Getting To Peru
4. What is the best way to get to Peru? The best way to get to Machu Picchu, Peru is to first fly to Lima. Airlines to check include LAN airlines (www.LAN.com), Delta (www.Delta.com), TACA (www.TACA.com), Spirit Airlines (www.SpiritAir.com) or Copa Air (www.copaair.com). Each have their advantages such as departure cities, fare sales, etc. . Use aggregate sites such as Orbitz or TripAdvisor to notify you when fares drop. Consider that the difference between an inexpensive vs expensive plane fare can be quickly and easily compensated for by skipping a few nights out, or a lower hotel category, etc. Our opinion is that although fares are going higher, the best time to go is this year because we do not believe they will ever go down in the future. For what to do after arrival, see below:
5. What about flying from Lima to Cusco? There are several different airlines that fly from Lima to Cusco. All of the companies are reputable and use modern planes. The best run company, LAN Airlines, (website above) has the most flights, but they are also the most expensive. Star Peru (www.StarPeru.com) and Taca Airlines (www.Taca.com) are two others, but with only a few flights a day and usually very early in the morning. Finally there is a newer company, PeruvianAirlines.com.pe also now operating. They have new planes but it should be noted they were briefly shut down by the government in 2011 for 90 days for safety violations.
Whomever you fly with, the flight takes about one hour and flies over spectacular terrain. Be sure to ask for seat on the left (“izquierda“, in Spanish) side of the plane when checking for flight to Cusco. Most flights arrive to Lima late at night. There aren’t many decent hotels close to the airport. Miraflores is a 30 minute drive from the airpport.Many people sleep in the airport and take a 5 or 6am flight to Cusco. Since most travelers clear customs around midnight and early morning check-ins began at 4am, this is certainly an option for the budget minded. After a long flight, however, we recommend going the 30 minutes to Miraflores and getting a hotel and decent nights sleep, then getting a late morning flight to Cusco. Always avoid booking an airlines’ last flight of the day in case you miss it or it is cancelled. Avoid flights after 2pm for the same reason; winds increase in the afternoons and lead to more cancellations.
7. How do we get there from Cusco? There are two main options. One is to take a private taxi from the airport, (or anywhere in Cusco, to Ollantaytambo). We can send a known and trusted driver who will take you on the two hour drive from the airport to Ollantaytambo for $55, stopping along the way for photo and/or bathroom stops.
The 2nd option is to find your own taxi at the airport. This will cost between $45 to $55, or around 110 to 120 soles but it depends a bit on your Spanish, negotiating skill, availability, time of day, etc. And be sure to buckle up and keep the driver to a reasonable rate of speed on the two hour drive to Ollantaytambo.
The final option is to take a taxi for 3 soles to a street corner everyone knows called “Pavitos” From there, they have shared taxis for 10 soles a person that go straight to Ollantaytambo. For this reason, we dont recommend a bus, as they charge around 6 or 7 soles for the same route, but it takes twice as long. We recommend a shared taxi if you want a bus: They put three or four people in the back seat for that price, but you can buy an additional seat so you have room. At that point, unless you are alone or with one other person, it is probably better to just get a private taxi who will stop for photos, bathroom, etc. The shared taxis do not stop. To take a shared taxi, have any taxi take you to a street corner called “Pavitos”. From there the taxis leave every 20 minutes for Ollantaytambo.
8. What kind of electricity does Peru use? Peru uses 220 volt, 60 cycle electricity. Most modern hotels use either the standard US double vertical prong outlet or another type which accepts those US plug along with the Peruvian plug style, which is two round prongs. You can probably get by without an adaptor but if you can find one before your trip it is probably worth buying?
9. What about ATMS? They are very plentiful in Cusco, and there are also three or four in both Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo. However both those towns often see power and telephone outages, both of which shut down ATMs. Cusco is a good place to pull out a sizeable chunk of cash for Machu Picchu in case the ATMS are down elsewhere. It is better to have soles than dollars for this portion of your trip. Some hotels and restaurants accept credit cards but not the majority. Travelers checks are very hard to cash and are not recommended. The current exchange rate is 2.7 soles per US Dollar.
10. How about internet? Internet and Wi-Fi service is expanding rapidly throughout Peru and is available in Cusco as well as Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. Please be aware this is a remote part of a developing country and Internet speed is not what you are probably used to. Outside of Cusco, the internet is not high speed but rather dial-up and that includes all of Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes.At KB Tambo, we now have free wi-fi in the hotel. It now reaches all the rooms due to new access points we have installed, and it also works great in the reception and restaurant area. There are several Internet cafes in town also that charge about $1 an hour.
11. What about cell phone service? There is pretty good cell phone coverage in all of Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes. Most travelers are able to use their smart phone without any problem. Roaming access and rates will vary with company so check with your own service provider for details. It is also easy to rent a Peruvian cellphone for your stay at the Lima airport upon arrival.
12. How about camera stuff? We recommend you bring everything you need with you. Memory cards and such are easily purchased in Peru should you run out. They are available in Cusco along with chargers, blank CDs and DVDs, etc.
Electricity is sometimes questionable in Peru, so we strongly recommend bringing cameras that work on batteries. We have seen many travelers unable to use their cameras at times they need it the most, usually because their rechargeable camera battery broke, was lost, or didn’t charge. For this reason, we recommend cameras and other accessories that run on AA and AAA batteries, which are easily purchased anywhere. Hair dryers can short out the electricity in your hotel. Our hotel has safe electricity and you can plug most appliances right into the wall, but with caution and preferably an adapter and surge protector made for your device. Due to the 220 volt Peruvian electric system, bad things can occasionally happen so always use caution and have backups. Generally small things like alarm clocks and chargers are ok. Anything that generates heat like a hair dryer, etc. can cause problems.
13. Do I need a special visa to enter Peru ? No, you do not. You will be automatically given a visa when you enter the country. You are technically allowed 183 days, but they will just stamp your passport for 30 or 60 days, so if you plan to stay more than that be sure to ask them before they stamp it.
14. Do I need any special shots or vaccinations to enter Peru ? It depends on where you plan to travel. Generally speaking (always check with your own doctor) you do not need a vaccination or special shot for travel to Peru, EXCEPT if you are going to the Amazon region or anywhere below 500 meters in altitude, where you may need or want a yellow fever or malaria vaccination. Check with your doctor. Machu Picchu is at an altitude of 2500 meters and does not require a yellow fever or malaria vaccination. Hepatitis shots are sometimes taken, but this is more of a personal decision as to whether the pros outweight the cons, again – check with your doctor. Overall, most travelers come to Peru without getting any special shots.
15. Can I get medicine in Peru? What about doctors and hospitals? There are pharmacies (“boticas”) on nearly every street corner in Peru. There is no prescription system, you can buy literally anything over the counter. The staff are genuinely quite knowledgeable about the medicines. You will not find any name brand medicines from back home, these are going to be strictly Peruvian medicines, they usually have very similar sounding names to english. As for doctors and hospitals, the short answer is: In Lima, yes no problem. In Cusco, yes…. but quality of health care is generally pretty poor. Outside of Cusco including Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes/Machu Piccu, etc there are clinics but quality is very low.
Our Favorites Things To Do In and Around Ollantaytambo:(Here we mention only the names and a very brief description if any. All details on each trip listed can be found further below.)We always first recommend a stroll around the Old Town of Ollantaytambo and/or the ruins on the mountain of Pinkulluna.
The palace of Manco Inca was recently excavated and restored, and is a great way to spend an hour or two close to town.
For a stiffer and steeper adventure, you can hike up to the spectacular Incan lookout site of IntiPunku which is a full day roundtrip from Ollantaytambo.
And while they are not free (unless you already have the Tourist Ticket), no visit to Ollantaytambo would be complete without visiting the amazing Fortress (“Fortaleza”) that dominates the town.
The pass of Abra Malaga (14,400 ft) is stunning with glaciers, an Inca road, and views in all directions. You go up in taxi and come down in the same taxi, or better yet cruise the 2 hour downhill on a bike !
You can also get to Pumamarka, (a lovely little visited Incan ruin near town) in a variety of ways. We highly recommend this half day excursion, which can be done free walking, but there are better options.
The Salt Mines of Maras and the site of Moray are truly a Don’t Miss, you can visit them either by taxi, a taxi/hike combination, or an awesome mountain bike ride. (Moray/Salt Mines is one of our Top 2 bike rides).
If you are going to Machu Picchu but don’t want to take the train, we can help you get there on bike or bus through beautiful scenery. But not a trip for the faint hearted !A guided trip on horseback or bicycle is the best way to get out and experience the Incan Andes, more ‘off the beaten path’ safely but with a touch of the adventure Peru is famous for.
If you enjoy horseback riding, we recommend either a half day to Pumamarka or a full, adventurous day to IntiPunku.
If you enjoy mountain biking, we highly recommend biking either to the pre-Incan ruins of Pumamarka, the giant road descent all downhill from Abra Malaga, to Ollantaytambo, or the fantastic combo of the Salt Mines and Moray.Just write us for more information. Hope to see you soon !