UNESCO World Heritage site, Cusco, is a charming city, a getaway to all the trails to the most famous Inca site, Machu Picchu, and a hub for many other amazing hikes and tours. Traveling to Cusco is among the first in the bucket list of things to do in Peru. It has an interesting story, rooted culture and incredible traditions, charming cobblestone roads, and spectacular architecture. In this post, we will go through a few important information that it’s better to know before traveling to Cusco to be well prepared and informed.
If you have limited time, make sure you don’t miss this beautiful city. There are so many things to do in Cusco that you can stay a month. I always love to spend more time in one place and live like a local rather than rushing around and see a little bit of everything. But obviously, that’s because I am living on the road and I have all the time in the world. If you have only two or three weeks only, this practical itinerary from Peru and Bolivia with the best of both worlds will help you organize your trip.
But for now, let’s go back to our charming Cusco.
Cusco at a glance
The origin of the name Cusco
An estimated population of about 435,000.
Where is Cusco located?
Situated in the south-east region of Peru, Cusco is the capital city of the Region and the province of Cusco.
Language in Cusco
The original dialect is Quechua but the official and spoken language is Spanish.
The local currency is the SOL
1 USD equals 3.30 Sol at the time of writing.
As in every touristic place, the best and safest place to exchange money is in banks.
Altitude in Cusco
Altitude in Cusco is about 3.600 mt (12.000 feet). It takes time to get used to it. I remember panting while exploring Cuzco through the steep and cobbled stoned roads. All worth the efforts though. They would sell you coca leaves to chew or to make tea to drink. They even have chocolates made with coca.
In my case, it didn’t help and I had to get to my old friend Paracetamol. But altitude sickness affects every individual in different ways. Just be mindful and listen to your body.
Suggestion to fight altitude sickness:
- They suggest spending a couple of days in Cusco before visiting the Machu Pichu so that you can use to the altitude. In fact, Machu Pichu is at a lower altitude so by the time you get there you will be fine.
- drink a lot of water
- avoid alcohol, at least the first couple of days until you feel better
- during the hike they say not to get any medicament so that in case of sickness the guide would be able to interpret the symptoms and advise accordingly.
Temperature in Cusco
Temperatures go from 4º to 17º (39F to 63F) all year round except winter, in June and July from -3 to 17 (27Fº to63Fº).
In the night the temperature drops significantly.
Rainy season is from December to March and the rainiest month is normally January whereas the driest months are June and July.
Best time to visit Cusco
According to the weather, it would be June and July which would be colder but sunnier. However, those are the months with more tourism and more expensive rates. I went in March and although I got some good rain during my hike to Machu Picchu I enjoyed that it was relatively less crowded and warm temperatures during the day.
Safety in Cusco
I didn’t actually perceive any particular danger in Cusco.
However, unfortunately, there is a lot of poverty and lots of beggars on the roads, sadly the majority are kids who are sent by parents to beg for money.
Who doesn’t melt at the pleading of those sweet pretty faces?
It’s hard to resist handing them some coins but I discourage you from doing it as you would support kids’ exploitation. It’s a huge problem.
Also, as in all places with a high poverty rate street crime, including muggings and thefts are quite common. Use some common-sense rules like the ones I listed in this post and you will definitely prevent some unpleasant situations.
How to get from Lima to Cusco
As all international flights get to Lima (although Cusco is considered an international airport but only flights from Bolivia gets there, all the others are domestic flights) you will need to find the best transportation option from Lima to Cuzco. You can opt for a longer but definitely more scenic Bus ride or jump on a plane and get to Cuzco in a blink of an eye. There is no better or worse it is totally up to you depending on how much time you have and what you prefer.
How to get from Lima to Cusco by bus
If you have time on your side and decide to take advantage of a bus ride to see the beautiful Peruvian landscapes you can opt for the comfortable buses. There are a lot of bus company and different routes that take you to Cuzco from Lima and I have found a great guide to help you made up your mind. Click here to read it.
How to get from Lima to Cusco by plane
The city’s international airport code is CUZ. It normally connects with Lima, Juliaca, Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa in Peru, and La Paz (Bolivia) and Santiago de Chile (Chile) internationally.
Cheap flight from Lima to Cusco
You have a lot of options and chose from many different local airlines LATAM, TACA, StarPerú, and Peruvian Airlines, all have regular flights from Lima to Cusco and vice versa. As usual, I suggest you should check them all and chose what suits you best for their schedule and price. Prices range from 90 USD to 110 or more depending on time and airline. You can either click on the different airlines and check out prices or check an aggregator such as Skyscanner to compare prices. I would do both.
TIP – Taxis from Cusco Airport to the city can be expensive. You can pre-book your transfer here, for only 7 USD.
What is the tourist ticket?
The touristic ticket ( Boleto Turistico) it’ a way to save money if you are planning to visit many places that imply an entry fee, including archeological sites and museums. As you could see there a lot of interesting places to explore and if you buy each ticket it would be much more expensive. On this site that I have found, you can check the price options and the sites included, and where to buy it.
Fun Fact about Cusco
Did you know that the city of Cusco has been designed in the shape of a Puma? Somebody took the time to do some research about and here you can read what he has found.
More Cusco Guides
Your Basic Travel Resources
- Book your transfers between destinations on the trusted booking platform Bookaway
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com
- Compare car rental prices at Auto Europe, Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed