Newbie's guide to Peru? Lima + Cusco + possibly Puerto Maldonado
July 13, 2014 12:44 AM   Subscribe

First time to South America and trying to not get anxious about it, says the person with GAD.

Hi everyone,

It's going to be my first time travelling to Peru or South America, or doing any adventurous travelling in general. I've done some travelling, but usually had it organized by someone else, or it was just by myself exploring highly developed cities where everything could be Googled.

I'm travelling to Peru in January, and I'll be accompanied by a Spanish-speaking friend. I'm hitting up Lima, Cusco (+ Machu Picchu of course), and possibly Puerto Maldonado (+Lake Sandoval). And here comes the questions!

1. I plan to do the 2 day Inca Trail in Machu Picchu. What are reliable tour agencies to deal with? And booking the package with them means that they will procure the necessary individual permits from the government, right?

2. How long does it take to get from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado by air? And is going to Lake Sandoval accessible enough from Puerto Maldonado? Is it possible to do Puerto Maldonado as an overnight trip?

3. What are other cool things to check out in the general vicinity of Lima, Cusco, and Puerto Maldonado?

4. Do you have any general tips for a first time to Peru/South America traveller?

5. If you have any anecdotes and experiences regarding travelling while managing GAD, those are welcomed too.
posted by Hawk V to Travel & Transportation around Peru (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It is my understanding that you still have to purchase a ticket to Macchu Picchu fro the Tourism office in Cusco before you go, it is often not included in the package with the trail hike, especially if you want to visit the mountain top temple Huayna Picchu -- they have limited tickets for this and tend to sell out.

The flight to Puerto Maldonado is less than an hour.

You should check out Pisac while you're in the Sacred Valley area also! It's a very cool town with lots of interesting people.

Don't buy endangered animal products while you're down there, I know the condor feathers and eagle claw necklaces are cool, but please don't support that trade. Bring earplugs and an inflatable neck pillow for long bus rides. And try to learn at least a little Spanish, it will make the trip lots more fun :) Get some altitude sickness pills at the Lima airport or a pharmacy down there -- Cusco is over 11,000 feet and can be pretty intense if you are not used to it, especially if you are going to hike. There are other local natural remedies for this that work pretty well, and I'm sure you will hear all about them when you are there ;)

Keep in mind there are a lot more options out there than you will find online. Once you are in country, leave some room to go with the flow and talk to the fellow travelers you will meet that can key you into the lesser-known spots, cool hostels to stay at, and places to explore.

Happy travels!
posted by ananci at 1:09 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I spent just a little bit of time in Lima, but I stayed at Youth Hostel Malka, which is close to Miraflores. They picked me up from the airport, and the driver drove me around the next morning and took me and a friend to one of his friends' homes for breakfast - she sells tamales and cuy from her living room. He also made a lot of jokes about testicles and tried to set me up with his son, but he was nice.

What are you interested in doing in Puerto Maldonado, exactly? Something like a boatride up river to a lodge in the forest will probably take enough time that it wouldn't be worth just an overnight - by the time you got there, you'd barely have any time to see anything in the forest before hopping on a boat to go back to Puerto Maldonado the next day. Puerto itself wasn't all that great, though it was interesting. My impression of it was a boom town full of sleazy minors selling their illegally mined gold and silver (with occasional bushmeat or wild animal pets), with a really nice market, a pretty good town square, and easy access to the rainforest. I don't know how the Interoceanic Highway has affected the town, though. We went dancing at one of the diskotekas in which the entrance hall had been painted with giant sperm, and the door that you went through to get to the actual dancing was painted with a giant egg being fertilized, which, you know. Was a thing. You can also get some pretty delicious brazil nut (castaƱa) or passion fruit (maracuya) ice cream at the heladeria. There are some cool wildlife things in Puerto itself, but you really want to be in Puerto because it provides an easy jumping off point to visit one of the ecolodges in the Amazon. Tambopata is one of the big operators in the area; I was a research assistant at CICRA, which had occasional tourists visit.

In Puerto, Peru Amazonico is a really nice hotel, but more expensive than some of the hostels around town. I stayed there instead of at one of the other hostels because of the internet access, but I was in Peru for about 6 months doing research, so the internet was important. When I stayed there in 2010, it was something like $20-30/day, but it's owned by a really amazing and sweet family who went out of their way to help us during one of the mining strikes where we were confined to the hotel for nearly two weeks (they'd do things like go out and get food at the mercado for us since it wasn't really safe for gringos to wander around), and let us cook in their kitchen. I have a good friend doing his dissertation research there now; they also had some problems with the most recent set of mining strikes that got kind of violent. I felt kind of uncomfortable in Puerto as a woman wandering around by myself because of some pretty intense street harassment. But the ecolodges you can get to are really very beautiful.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:40 AM on July 13, 2014

Best answer: As someone who travelled around Peru with GAD, I highly recommend spending a few days at Lake Sandoval - it was the most relaxing part of my trip. I stayed here and it was gorgeous They pick you up from Puerto Maldonado and take you up river to the lake. Puerto Maldonado by itself isn't worth the trip - you don't get to see much of the wildlife from the town.

I stayed at this hotel in Lima:

Pension Yolanda
Address: Domingo Elias 230, Lima
Tel: +51 445 7565

The owner was so friendly and really made me feel comfortable being in Lima. This was in 2006 though so worth checking it's still there!

My advice to avoid anxiety is to take things slow. I didn't find Peru itself to be anxiety-inducing at all, but my anxiety did flare up because I was out there for two months and missed my family and then-boyfriend horribly, and was with a tour group who really didn't 'get' me. I still see it as a massive achievement that I managed to do it even with my anxiety issues! Having a friend with you (and one that speaks Spanish!) will help massively. Have an amazing time x
posted by Dorothea_in_Rome at 7:58 AM on July 13, 2014

Response by poster: Sorry for the late response, my area has been hit by a typhoon and I've only had internet as of a few hours ago.

@ChuraChura "We went dancing at one of the diskotekas in which the entrance hall had been painted with giant sperm, and the door that you went through to get to the actual dancing was painted with a giant egg being fertilized, which, you know. Was a thing."

Yuck. Okay. Very good to know. Yes I pretty much wanted to go to Puerto Maldonado to check off being in the forest, but I was hoping for a more rustic and serene ambiance rather than sleazy.

@Dorothea_in-Rome: "My advice to avoid anxiety is to take things slow."
Thanks for the Lake Sandoval lodge link. Unfortunately it seems like I don't have enough time to take Lima + Cusco/Machu Picchu + Lake Sandoval slowly, so I might have to visit Lake Sandoval in another trip. I have the temptation to do ALL THE THINGS but I know a balance must be struck, lest the anxiety infinite feedback loop is triggered again.

Thanks everyone for your advice!
posted by Hawk V at 10:11 AM on July 18, 2014

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