Travel in a new country is a steep learning curve. Cultural nuances take shape before your eyes. Local dialects sort themselves out within a matter of days. What you found in a guidebook is good to the extent that it exists as a two-dimensional depiction of a place.
Though I only spent eight days in Peru—three days in Cusco, one day in Aguas Caliente and four days on the Inca Trail—I did pick up a few nuggets of wisdom. If you’re traveling to Peru, here are four things I learned that might help you … and one extra thought worth considering as you venture forth into the heart of the Incan Empire.
1. Under Armour and SmartWool are indespensible. If you hike the Inca Trail, it will most likely rain somewhere along your journey. If you aren’t drenched from the rain (and even if you are), you will also sweat … a lot. Your body has little choice when it’s climbing that high at such a steep incline. Moisture-wicking clothing will keep you dry and warm on your trek. Look into purchasing good-quality Under Armour and SmartWool products before you leave for your trip.
2. In conjunction with the first tip, no matter the durability, cotton is bad. It will stay damp and it will smell … and chances are you will have to put it on day in and day out. Even if you bring clean cotton clothes to wear every single day of your trip, your dirty, day-old, soggy cotton wear will sit in its own stench, turning into its own creative form of fungus as it festers in the bottom of your bag. There is a lot of humidity in the Cusco area and in the Andes. Clothing will not dry on its own accord.
3. Yes, it rains a lot. But it’s also sunny. And cool. And hot. And foggy. And … Well, chances are the weather will change. If you can’t get the perfect picture because of cloud cover, wait five minutes and it is very possible that the sky will clear. As you’re getting ready for your day on the town, does it look sunny and warm? Don’t forget to pack a rain jacket or sweater because you’re probably going to need one.
4. Exchanging money is a given. But in Peru, the condition of the money is key. Here, broken money is worthless. Don’t expect to exchange any paper money that is worn, torn or otherwise in imperfect condition. Come prepared with crisp, new dollar bills to exchange for the local currency.
Something is up with the LAN Airlines scheduling situation. On all LAN Air flights we were on, we were asked to bump to the next available flight, which was always the same time on the next day. If you are flying LAN Air, arrive extra early to ensure you receive your seat. Otherwise, play the flex game and earn flight vouchers for additional travel to, from and in South America.