Cusco Do’s

  • Do take it slowly. Cusco is completely walkable but it’s also 3,399 metres (11,151 feet) above sea level so take it easy on your first day there.
  • Do visit the surrounding ruins. If you have time, hike to the ruins of Sacsahuaman and Qenko on the hill above Cusco for great views over the town.
  • Do buy a Boleto Turistico if you plan to visit most of the sites in Cusco and Sacred Valley. It costs 155 PEN ($47 USD) and grants access to 16 attractions over a 10-day period. Buy it at your hostel or the tourist information point on Avenida El Sol 103.
  • Do try the local food. Whether it guinea pig (cuy), alpaca or a less adventurous lomo saltado (steak sautéed with spicy peppers and onions), Cusco has some delicious dining options.
  • Do stay at a local hospedaje. These are usually run by locals and offer comfy accommodation at excellent prices. We stayed at Hostal Nueva Alta.It got a bit chilly in the evenings but the lovely family more than made up for it.
  • Do people watch on Plaza de Armas. There’s something deeply relaxing about sitting in the afternoon sun, lazily watching tourists and Peruvians bustling by Catedral del Cuzco.
  • Do haggle. Like in many other tourist towns, prices are hiked up so don’t be scared to ask for a discount. Naturally, bear in mind that Peru is relatively poor so offer what you think is fair but no less.
  • Do expect rain, common from December to March. April to November offers better weather but do pack layers as high altitude means chilly evenings.
  • Do learn about the town’s history. Once the capital of the Incan empire, Cusco has a rich and intriguing past.
  • Do buy your onward bus ticket from town centre. Our host pointed us to a bus station out of town but there are ticket vendors in the centre. Look out for Cruz del Sur which offers a reliable service.

Cusco Don’ts

  • Don’t buy your outdoor gear in town. If you’re leaving for a trek, buy all your gear beforehand. Fake labels are common and the real deal usually costs more than the recommended retail price.
  • Don’t ignore the international food. The falafels at Paloma Imbis are just delicious. Order a portion with the spicy sauce and dare yourself to finish it all.
  • Don’t take pictures of people without asking. This should be standard procedure anywhere you go but Cusco locals are particularly sensitive to this. Be respectful.
  • Don’t buy alpaca wool. “Baby alpaca? More like ‘maybe alpaca!’” the guides in Cusco are fond of joking. Don’t shop for bargain knits as these are likely fake.
  • Don’t visit Pisac… unless you’re a shopper. The Sunday market at Pisac, 35km from Cusco, offers an array of sights, smells and colours but it’s not a must-do for the less-keen shopper.