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Peru Travel Notes
June-July, 2009
In Progress!!

Our Peru Adventure Log

Cordillera Blanca (N Peru)              Arequipa, Puno, Cusco   

Books and Reference Material

South America on a Shoestring

Another good pub from Lonely Planet.

Peru
(Lonely Planet)

The latest edition is 2007, but we heard there was a new one coming out.
If you are 'in country' without the guide, you can still download it from LonelyPlanet.com, chapter by chapter, as a PDF.  Some sections are free, others cost $3-$5 US.

Ecuador Cruiser's Guide

This is a small informal cruising guide, for sailboats visiting Ecuador.  It is centered on the Bahia de Caraquez area of Ecuador, but has a bunch of very good budget travel information for Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.  See especially the sections on Land Travel in Ecuador and Land Travel in South America.  Section 8.1 has a good description of a less-known path from Ecuador into northern Peru via the La Balsa border crossing, and a trip to Kuelap, the recently uncovered ruins in Northern Peru.
http://svsoggypaws.com/files/EcuadorCruisers2009.pdf
Peru Forum on Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/forum.jspa?forumID=22&keywordid=234
You can search this forum and post your own questions.

HostalWorld
Website

http://www.hostalworld.com  A reasonably good site with reviews and ability to book hostals in Chile.  However, we found that hostels that were on HostalWorld were slightly more expensive, and as it got further into low season, we quit booking ahead and just let ourselves be hustled from the bus station.

Hostel Trail
Website

http://www.hosteltrail.com  The Hostel Trail maintains a great website for finding backpacker places all over South America, and some ’to do’ information once you get to a place.  Not as good in Chile as it was in Colombia.

Poor But Happy Website

http://www.poorbuthappy.com/peru/  This website was a good resource for Colombia, not sure how good for Peru.
Tips on Finding a Hotel & Things to Do in a New Town
We found that almost every town in South America that is a tourist destination has a staffed tourist office near the central square and/or the bus station.  They usually have a book listing all the hostals/hotels, prices, locations, and *sometimes* will recommend one.  They also usually have town and region maps, and advice on what the average tourist will want to do (both paid tours and self tours)
Tips on Communicating via the Internet
Many 1st World people do not realize that anti-spam filters on your email might be filtering out emails from foreign locations, without telling you.  So if you've emailed someone in Peru and not gotten a response, try it again from another email address (Gmail, Yahoo, your work address, whatever) before you give up. 
Finally, when all else fails, use Skype, and ask "Hay un persona aqui que habla Ingles?"  (Aye oona persona kay ab-la ing-lace)  Usually they can dig up someone who can communicate with you.

Money

Note:  Peru uses Soles as its currency.   What is it now?:  Yahoo's Exchange Rate Site

English News of Peru

We often overhear news on the TV or radio that we don't completely understand.  Here are sites that cover the major news stories in English. 
Living In Peru       Peruvian Times

Weather

Though Peru is in the tropical belt, between   and    degrees south, it's weather is modified by the very cool Humboldt Current offshore to the west and the high mountains to the east.  Much of Peru is IN the mountains, and so the weather ranges from cool to freezing.

Internet

Good, fairly fast, internet is available all over Peru.  Most (but not all) hostals have at least some kind of internet.  Internet cafes are all over the place where tourists hang out.
Note that if you have an internet-capable open cell phone, Movistar cellular provides GSM 'data' on a prepaid account, and it's not that expensive, for limited send/recieve email access.  (We bought $20 worth of minutes and used it for 6 weeks, making a few phone calls and a few internet accesses, and only used about $10 worth of our time).

Telephones

Cell phone numbers are 9-digit numbers that (usually) start with '9'. Local numbers are 6-digit numbers.  If you are calling locally, you can use the local 6-digit number with no prefix, but calling into another town, you need the 2 or 3-digit prefix.  For example, Lima is '01', the mountains around Huaraz are '043'.  The Lonely Planet has the prefix for each town listed in parentheses at the beginning of each section.  Dialing from outside the coutry, you prefix the country code, which is 051.  See the Cell Phones in Peru section for more info on cell phones.  If you don't have a cell phone, you can buy prepaid cards to use at public phones, or go to a 'Locutorio'.


Buses

Peru has a really nice bus system, especially on long-haul trips.  You can even book buses with full reclining beds.  ('cama' and 'semi-cama' buses).  For best sightseeing while on the bus, if the bus is a double-decker, ask for the upstairs front seats.  The downstairs front seats are often blocked by a curtain behind the driver.

Cruz del Sur - Good bus company covering most of Peru.  Can book and pay online.
 


Air Travel

LAN

LAN Peru is THE airline for Peru.  But there are also a couple of other small airlines that fly within Peru.  Lima is a transportation hub for South America, so many many airlines fly into Lima.
http://www.lan.com

CostaMar Travel in Peru We have used Costamar Travel's website for booking flights within South America for sometimes cheaper than we could find anywhere else.  They also have a large selection of tours, etc.  (But we never used them for booking tours).  They do accept US credit cards, so if you are on a tight schedule and want to reserve everything in advance, they might be a good option, as many local travel operators DO NOT accept credit cards via the internet.
http://www.costamar.com/switchLanguage.costamar?lang=en


Lima

Name

Address

Phone

Description

Hotel      
Eating  
To Do  
Getting Around  


Cordillera Blanca Area

We went to the Cordillera Blanca from Lima with some Peruvian friends via private car, we did about 2 weeks worth of travel (by bus) in 5 days by car.  We don't have a lot of info on buses, other than to say that we saw public transportation going from town to town even in the remotest areas. 

Huaraz

Getting There

Sorry, we took a private car here, no advice.  But we know it is accessible by good buses from other parts of Peru, no problem.

Hotel Albergue Churup
(in Lonely Planet)
Jr. Amadeo Figueroa #1257
  Very nice hostal with a variety of rooms and nice common area.  Very clean.
Hotel Alojamiento "Soledad"
Right next to Churup
  We met someone who stayed here because Churup was full.  They said it was good too.

To Do:

We only stayed two nights, but met other travelers that had been here for 3 weeks.  Churup is a good place to be based out of... there are day trips, 3-4 day trips, and the 10 day Huawash trek all being organized out of there.  It's also possible to get Spanish lessons here.  Churup has an in house travel agent, so it's easy to organize trips (and share the cost with other travelers)

Eating El Fogon - recommended by Churup, was very good and very reasonable prices.  On the same street were several chicken places and at least 3 chinese (Chifa) places.
Creperie Patrick - also recommended by Churup. Nice place, very good Coco Sours (make sure you look for a 'free drink coupon' at Churup before you go.  Upscale (and pricey) dishes, but some more reasonable dishes as well.  Excellent Lomo Fino.
Conococho On the road between Huaraz and Lima, we stopped at Conococho, a small town with many roadside stores and restaurants, selling local honey, cheese, butter, etc.  Good stuff and cheaper prices than Lima.  (note, I didn't like the cheese or butter we bought) :P
 

Chavin de Huantar

Getting There

Sorry, we took a private car here, no advice, but we did see intracity buses coming and going from the town.

Hotel Hotel Inca
(in Lonely Planet)
Jr Wiracocha #170
www.huaraz.com/hotelinca
  OK hotel, nice location on the square.  Hot water. $17 double/private
No tourist services (where to go, etc).  Breakfast extra
Hotel Hotel La Casona
(next to Inca)
  Under renovation.

To Do:

We only stayed one night.  The town is pretty small... about 4 blocks by 4 blocks.
There is a museum that no one told us about until after closing time.
The ruinas and the museum open 9am-5pm.  Suggest museum first (free), then ruins ($3.60 for adult, discounts for students).

Eating Lunch and breakfast at the Rest. Turistica Chavin, 3 blocks off the square
Cafeteria Remata on the square was closed.
 

Chacas

Getting There

We went by private car, via Huari, on a bad road.  With stops, we were 12 hours on the road, and arrived in Chacas about 9pm.  The road was terrible.  Did see any regular buses, but mini buses were around.

 Hotel:

Hotel El Pilar.  To reserve, we had to call and then make a payment in the bank per their instructions.  $40/night double, private bath.  Very nice place 1 block off the square.  An alternate hotel is the Monastery, some other travelers told us they stayed there, for a 'donation'.

To Do:

The adventure was getting here.  Via a mountain pass at 13,000 feet, past a beautiful mountain lake.  The town is beautiful, and if here on the weekend is very lively, especially in the beautiful square.  The town is also well know for it's wood-working shops.

Eating: Pollos a Las Brasas seemed to be the best looking, and we got them to open up for us even after they had closed.  About 2 blocks down the hill from the square, on the street on the right side of the square (back to the church)
 

Carhuaz

Getting There

Carhuaz is on a good paved road that you can reach from Lima, no problem.  We saw several nice looking buses come through the square.  From Lima, turn right at Paramonga, and this paved road takes you into the valley that has Carhuaz and Huaraz, etc.

 Hotel:

Hostel El Abuelo.  We had reservations in another town, but stopped in Carhuaz mainly to go to the bathroom.  Restaurante El Abuelo is on the Plaza de Armas, very clean and nice, and has a wealth of tourist and hiker information.  The owner is Felipe Diaz, a well-known Peruvian mapmaker.  While here, purchase the EXCELLENT map/guide called Cordilleras Blanca & Huayhuash ($6)

The hotel is top quality, very nice rooms, good hot water, wifi, American breakfast included, d/p $40/night.  The hotel is 2 blocks off the square in a quiet neighborhood, has enclosed parking.

To Do:

This town could be a good base for exploring the Cordillera Blanca.  Felipe Diaz (see Hotel section) is a wealth of information about what to do and see.  Stop in the restaurant for an ice cream cone or a beer, and pick his brain.

Eating: On the square, a little pricey but very very nice, El Abuelo.  Right next door is a locals restaurant that was full when we walked past, probably good food at lesser prices.
 

Caraz

Getting There

Caraz is on a good paved road that you can reach from Lima, no problem.  We saw several nice looking buses come through the square.  From Lima, turn right at Paramonga, and this paved road takes you into the valley that has Caraz and Huaraz, etc.

 Hotel:

We were going to stay at Hostal Perla de Los Andes, but ended up in Carhuaz instead.  We did stop in the Plaza de Armas (central square) in Caraz and checked out this hotel.  It looked nice, good value at $19 double with private bath (no breakfast?), cable TV, wifi, restaurant on premises. hostalperladelosandes@gmail.com  Can help arrange trips into the Cordillera Blanca and Parque Nacional Huascaran (663 glaciers and 256 lagoons)

To Do:

This town could be a good base for exploring the Cordillera Blanca (663 glaciers and 256 lagoons).  Nice square, etc.  This town might also be the base for the tourist bus we saw going back and forth through the pass 'Punta Olympica' to Chacas. (we have pics of this bus as it flew past, and if we get a good name for it, will add here.  I think it had El Veloz on the side--ask at hotel)
Summit Peru - Trekking company we saw driving thru town.

 

Arequipa, Puno, Cusco

Arequipa

Getting There

We took the overnight Cruz del Sur bus from Lima.  Very nice bus, relatively painless 16 hr trip, and we were able to sleep some. $41 U.S. per person.

Hotel

La Casa de Los Pinguinos
Av Parra # 110 Cercado
http://www.lacasadelospinguinos.com/

054 223851

One of the best hotels we've stayed in.  A little pricey for Peru at $30 per night, but well worth it.  Great (true queen) bed, very very clean and well run.  Breakfast and great wifi included.  Alex is a wealth of information about this part of Peru and bends over backward to be helpful.

To Do:

2 Day Colca Canon bus tour for $22 USD including hotel (no meals or entry ticket).  Our tour operator for the Colca Canyon tour was Colonial Tours at Santa Catalina #106. colonialtours02@hotmail.com  Ph# 286868

Other things: 3-4 day hikes.  Bicycle day trip.  Half day city tour (or do it yourself).  Museum with Andean ice mummy girl.  Hang out in the square.

Eating:

We ate most of the time at one of the places off the square.  The Menu al Dia runs from about 7.50 soles to 15 soles, sometimes with pisco sours thrown in (you have to negotiate).  The balcony restaurants give a great view of the square.  A block up the side street from the Radio Shack on the square is a nice Chinese Restaurant. (Chifa Mandarin Mercaderes #310A)  Also, the hotel staff at Pinguinos can order in Chinese food or Dominos Pizza.
Best Alpaca we ate was at El Meson del Virrey (upstairs at San Francisco #305)
 

Puno

Getting There

Most major bus companies service Puno as well.  We went on Cial (no website that I can find), because Cruz del Sur was full.  This was recommended as the #3 company behind Cruz del Sur and Moreno.  This turned out to be the trip from hell, since the Cial bus broke down (radiator), and later got stuck crossing through a bad patch of road.  It took 3 hrs for them to send a replacement bus.  We finally made it to Puno about 8pm (we were supposed to be there about 2pm).

Hotel Kusillo's Posada
Federico more 162, Town center
Have email, but we called.

051 364579

Only stayed one night here, but would recommend it as basic clean accomodations.  Friendly people, good breakfast.

To Do:

The big attraction in Puno is it's nearness to Lake Titicaca, the Bolivian border, and the fact that it breaks a long trip from Arequipa to Cusco up into 2 day trips.  There are several trips available out on Lake Titicaca. The people at Kusillo's can help book.  Plus you will be accosted in the bus station with hotel and tour options.

   

Cusco (Cuzco)

Getting There

We took the Inka Express luxury tour bus from Puno to Cusco.  This trip cost us $50 pp but included entry to 3-4 different places and lunch.  The bus was really nice, they had a good English-speaking guide, and bathroom and refreshments on the bus.  Leaves Puno from the central bus station at 7:30 and arrives in Cusco 5:30.  Book this trip ahead, as our bus was turning away people trying to get on the morning of the trip.  They have an office in town that's open in the evening.  (We reserved via email using the address on InkaExpress.com.  There is at least one other bus company in Puno doing the same thing, but don't remember the name.

Hotel

Walk On Inn
Calle Suecia 504
http://walkoninn.com

cusco@walkoninn.com

084 235065 We booked via HostelWorld.com.  Run by 2 Dutch guys who have been in Peru for awhile.  Reasonable place for $24/night (double, private bath, hot water, wifi).  Breakfast extra.

To Do:

Ruins, ruins, ruins.  Spanish churches, hiking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding.  Cusco is VERY touristy, you will be accosted 100 times per day for trinkets, tours, etc.  During high season (July-Aug), you should book ahead for hotel.  If on a tight schedule, you should book your trips ahead too, but you will pay extra for your trips.  If you have time, wait til you get to Cusco, and shop around.

Landscape Tours Cusco - Calle Procuradores #341-A.  Jimmy speaks great English and arranged our customized 4 day trip ($212 USD pp) to see the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.  Isn't completely truthful (unless pressed) about the size of the groups (implied a group size of 10-12 when we were actually in a 20-30 sized group).  But good guy, good value. Their brochure says their email address is landscape_@hotmail.com, but we never used email.

Pachamama Explorer: Calle Suecia #368.  Booked our 'City Tour'.  $7pp not including the entry fees to the various sites we visited.

Whitewater Rafting - Apurimac River 3 days / 2 nights - Class 3-4-5 rapids
Mayoc Rafting - http://perurafting.com   Current 'walk in' promotion $160 USD pp

Antiques/Coin/Gift Shop - There are many places selling old Spanish coins in Cusco, but this one has the biggest selection.  Artesanias Merida Triunfo #366

Eating:

Winay Huayna - Down the street from Walk On Inn (Calle Suecia #350A)
2 Nations - Great Aussie (burgers) and Peruvian food in nice atmosphere
Chef and Barman - Upstairs in the alley (Procuradores #341)
We never had a bad meal in Cusco, and a full Menu al Dia could be had for 10-15 soles (about $3-5), but these were the places we went more than once.
Al Grano - If you are tired of Peruvian fare, this place has Asian food.  Santa Catalina Ancha #398
   

Ollantaytambo

Getting There

We booked a 'Sacred Valley' Tour in Cusco, that ends up in Ollanta.

Hotel

Hospadaje Pampahuasi
Right close to ruins

50147 Booked by our tour operator.  Nice small hostel nice room, hot water. $25/double with b'fast
   

Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town)

Getting There

Our travel agent (Landscape Tours) booked us on the backpacker train from Ollanta to Aguas Calientes (and back)

Hotel

Adela's
On the Railroad Tracks

  Booked by our tour operator.  Nice small hostel nice room, hot water. $25/double with b'fast
 
 

 Prepaid Cell Phones in Peru
Here's what we know about cell phones in Peru.

 
There are two main prepaid cell providers, Claro and Movistar. 
We chose Movistar because we are familiar with them from Guatemala, Panama, and Colombia.  And as in those other places, you can hook up your laptop to internet on a Movistar prepaid plan, if you have the right phone and software (Motorola).

1.  U.S. GSM phones from Cingular/ATT, if 'opened' can be used in Peru.  Most phones can be opened, but the cost and effort to do so varies.  If you don't already have a GSM phone, you can buy one on eBay, already opened, or 'in country'.  If you have a cell phone with you that is not opened, you can usually find a guy in the downtown area of the bigger cities, who can liberate your phone for you.

2.  Once your phone is open, you can buy a prepaid sim card for about $5 (Movistar, in Peru)

3.  Then you can 'add minutes' from many places, including online.  Note that minutes expire eventually.  When they expire usually depends on how big an increment you buy.

4.  Cell phone numbers are 9-digit numbers that (usually) start with '9'. Local numbers are 6-digit numbers.  If you are in a town with your cell phone, you can use the local 6-digit number with no prefix, but calling into another town, you need the 2 or 3-digit prefix.  For example, Lima is '01', the mountains around Huaraz are '043'.  The Lonely Planet has the prefix for each town listed in parentheses at the beginning of each section.  Dialing from outside the coutry, you prefix the country code, which is 051.

6.  To call internationally... (tbd)

7.  To check your minutes, dial 300, it is a free call the first time you call each day

8.  To get voicemail, call 500 (I think)

9.  If you do not have a cell phone, you can still make calls.  Look for the sign 'Cabinas Telefonica' or 'Locutorio' on the sidewalk.  These are 'call anywhere' places.

10.  Internet Access with Your Phone.  With Movistar prepaid service, a Motorola, internet capable cell phone (like a V3), a USB cable for your phone, and Motorola Phone Tools, you can do internet very easily with cell phone.  Motorola Phone Tools figures out the configuration needed for your phone and network, it's fairly idiot proof to set up.  The connection is not THAT expensive.  It costs us about $1 US to go online, send/receive email with Outlook, and get offline.  You can web surf, but the cost adds up.  Speed is like 19.2 dialup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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