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  The Chatter Box : Travel
Messages 1 2 

Calling any Peru travellers by PHILSON on 14 July 2004 8:11pm
Hi guys

Am finally getting round to planning a trip next September to Peru (keep putting it off to do other trips) doing the Inca trail and trekking up Machu Picchu. Would appreciate any advice on whether just to do this one independently or go with a tour company like 'explore worldwide'.

I have looked into separate flights which are coming out about £600-£700 return etc, and not really sure If I can do it any cheaper/much differently on our own in the 2 weeks I was looking to allocate to this trip.

The escorted trip with Explore takes in the normal sights and is coming out at about £1,450 including flights and 2 meals a day plus lodgings etc (plus a local charge)

Would welcome any tips on this one folks, on how costs have varied with your trips to Peru.

muccccho graccccias in advance
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by Godfather on 14 July 2004 8:53pm

Congratulations on choosing Peru,Philson. It's a beautiful country. My info on Peru is a little out of date now,as i was last there in 1997. But i've been following the situation now and again,since. In that year (and up to 2001 or so) you could go with any of the multiple cheap agencys that acted as a hub for independent travellers to go on the trail (you could also trek totally independently too,camping and cooking your own food,etc). You could go on the trail for a cheap price then with agencys. They arranged the permit,provided food on the trek,transport to the trail head/train back from Aguas Calientes,and porters who went way ahead and set up your tents so they were ready when you arrived. Sounds plush. But trust me,after 8-9 hours trekking at altitude,you appreciate that little help when it's nearly dark when you arrive. They also prepare food (although on cheaper groups it was very sparse). Agency is a good move.

Since 2001,the rules have changed considerably in Peru. In an attempt to minimize the impact caused by so many visitors on the trail, the Peruvian government has banned about 90% (yes,really) of the agencys involved. Now you can only choose from about 6 (could be less now) and nearly all the ones left are mid range to expensive ones. The really budget ones are long gone. But i'm sure there are ways around it somehow (always is there).

The positive side of this move by the government, is that it regulates it all. It has to be said that the cheaper agencys did cut corners in all areas to make it so cheap. One side effect,was little regard for conditions on the trail when it came to camping etc. There were just so many people doing it,that it was getting out of hand and impacting on the environment. Explore is a good company (did a trip to Egypt with them in 1995), but i think you'll find you'll be paying a "lot" more to go with them to Peru nowadays. It will restrict your freedom immensly (and Peru is somewhere where it's nice to take your time and chill out on a Plaza verrandah occasionally, instead of having to go and see this and that all the time. Explore likes to keep on the move all the time,and Peru is very laid back). The downside of the move,is that the few agencys involved can raise their prices and also means you may have to wait a while until you can trek. But it does'nt matter in Cusco,as there is so much to see and do in the Sacred valley around,etc.

The very latest i'd heard about Peru,was that they were even considering getting very "Bhutan" in regard to the Inca Trail. Even suggestions of making visitors have to reserve a place on a trip 2 weeks in advance of actually setting off on it. IMO,this is totally unworkable,so i dont think that will be a problem for you. They're too over ambitious with that idea. It would lead to a massive backlog of people,who will not take kindly to being kept waiting so long.

Flights to Peru are cheaper thesedays. But,only if you book quite far in advance. One good company which specializes in Latin american flights, is "Journey Latin America" (they must have a website thesedays). If you book with them early,then you can get good deals. Airlines like Iberia or KLM are good for flights to LIMA. You should be able to find a return flight for about £530 apppx. You can order a brochure from JLA with flight info.

P.S : If you go independently,then learn some basic Latin american spanish to get around.
You'll need it as there is very little English spoken.

Hope some of that will be of help.

Regards :)

P.S : What i will say,is that 2 weeks is quite short for a Peru visit. If you're going overland from Lima to Cusco,then it's a fair old way. Lima-Nasca-Arequipa-Puno-Cusco is a mammoth trip of a few days (allowing for acclimatization). It would be a shame to miss all those areas. But if you're short on time,then consider getting an internal flight from Lima to Cusco direct. You can find cheapish flights. Although i still had lots of time after Cusco,i opted to fly back to Lima internally,because i did'nt want to backtrack the immense distance from Cusco-Lima. My parents went there around 2000,with about 3 weeks to spare. They even found they were quite rushed. In Cusco,it's very wise to leave about 3 days to acclimatize before going on the Inca Trail (add more time on this if you're flying direct from Lima). Use Coca leaves :)

Re: Calling any Peru travellers by justdna on 15 July 2004 1:19am
Buenas Noches! Yes, the issue about acclimatisation should not be underestimated. I had plenty of time when I was there last year, as I had travelled overland through the Andes from Bolivia and Chile. Cusco is quite high and even though I had accimatised through the Bolivian Altiplano, it still wears you out in a way I had never experienced before in my life. It really surprised me. Just walking around the hotel can be tiresome! I think it's important therefore, just to allow some time for that. The route which Godfather mentioned above in the final paragraph took me four weeks, and I was not going slowly either. However, it is absolutely stunning. If you get a chance, I would recommend Colca Canyon, one of the worlds deepest, and the chance to get a close up view of huge Andean Condors soaring on the thermals - an amazing sight.

I totally agree with the p.s. above about learning some Spanish. I would say it's essential, as few people seem to speak anything but the very basic English. In any case, the ability to converse with the locals in their language made my time there much more enjoyable. Buena seurte!!
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by PHILSON on 15 July 2004 2:23am
Thanks for the info Godfather & paulc, sounds like good advice. I think I'lI probably go for 3 weeks and go independently, though perhaps just book the trek to Machu Piccu in the UK before I get out there, if this is possible?. I had heard that the government are restricting access to this wonderful site and that certain months are off limits.

The trek with Explore takes 5 days to climb the route, and going by their itinery would agree they like to 'keep you on the move'. With regards to acclimaitizing, I must admit I had not thought about it that much so appreciate your advice. I will be learning some Spanish this coming September (evening college class) as I'll need some basic for my trip to Costa Rica in Jan 05.

Re: Calling any Peru travellers by Godfather on 15 July 2004 2:24pm
Hi Philson,

Sounds good. Sometimes with Explore,you can arrange to meet up when you're in the country and do a section of a trip. Cheaper that way. Perhaps their Inca Trail section is available as seperate option? I think that if you book an Inca Trail trip through an agency in this country,you can see a enormous ripoff on the horizon though.

I'd say your best bet would be to get it arranged in Cusco. Some of the best know and licensed companies were always around the Plaza Del Armas anyway. If you start enquiring about this immediately when you arrive in Cusco,then if there is a wait of 3-4 days, there is so much to see in the Sacred Valley such as Pisac,Ollytantambo,etc.

Those places will get you ready for trekking,as they're a little steep. Or,you can just chill out and take in the atmosphere of Cusco. Cusco is a favourite destination of mine,and it's easy to spend weeks just living there. Markets,Spanish lessons,sightseeing,or just being lazy. Wonderful place.

Paulc. Yeah the altitude has weird effects on you does'nt it. I remember staggering up the steep streets of La Paz feeling like i was about 75 years old or something. Strange feeling. LOL

Re: Calling any Peru travellers by justdna on 16 July 2004 8:21pm
Ha ha ha!! It's all coming back to me now, 32 going on 72 in La Paz as I was struggling around those streets. There was always something interesting to look at though, which was good, as I kept stopping to catch my breath so much!! Living close to London, I'm used to a frenetic pace which cannot occur in La Paz.

Cuszco, wow, what a lovely place. I used to just sit in the main square for ages just watching the goings on.
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by Godfather on 17 July 2004 1:06am
Remember all the shoe shine boys in the Plaza who had a bit of a "fashion" thing going on with towels over their heads as they worked? Also,they always offered to brush up your white trainers with brown shoe polish..hehe. Oh the old days. Popsicles at half time,jumpers for goal posts, etc :) Btw,did you try the freshly squeezed Orange juice in La Paz? Down in the markets, they'd squeeze it fresh with one of those presses. Oh, it was gorgeous..slurp!
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by justdna on 17 July 2004 1:44am
Yeah, the shoe shine boys in La Paz and Cuszo, ha ha ha!! They were so funny, my walking boots were almost ruined by a kid who insisted on coating them in a variety of strange looking liquids. I must have been feeling sorry for one of them on one occasion - the boots were never the same again! I remember the towels over their heads, wasn't quite sure why. In La Paz it was like they didn't want to be recognised. Took the most amazing train journey back from Cuszco through the Andes to Puno on Lake Titicaca - the scenery was absolutely stunning.
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by justdna on 17 July 2004 1:45am
Oh and yes, the orange juice was lovely!! If only that sort of thing was readily available in England!
Re: Calling any Peru travellers by justdna on 17 July 2004 1:47am
Oh and yes, the orange juice was lovely!! If only that sort of thing was readily available in England!
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