What the guidebook doesn’t tell you…
- Any taxi ride in the centre of town should cost S/.3.
- Pick up a free map of Cusco – look out for the Non Touristic Map Cusco (usually blue, yellow, pink and green cover) and the Cusco Centre Map by dayandnightmaps.com (also both offering discounts on services in town), usually you can find them in bars, hostels and tourist information centres.
- As in anywhere in the world, dress respectfully to the local culture, and climate. I have seen traveller girls in Cusco wearing denim hotpants the size of knickers – it’s just not on – have you seen the local women dress like that? Also, Cusco is on top of a 3400m (11,152ft) mountain, and gets pretty chilly, so I have no idea what they’re thinking.
- You don’t need to pay the Sacsayhuamen entrance fee to visit the Cristo Blanco (White Christ) statue, nor the Temples of the Moon, Monkeys and Water – just keep walking up Tandapata from San Blas Plaza then turn right at Atocsaycuchi up a long flight of steps until you reach at the top the main road to Sacsayhuamen, turn left along this. Any local will point you the way.
- There are brilliant vegetarian restaurants in Cusco – El Encuentro (Choquechaca 136) was the first, just up the road from Jack’s Café. It’s so popular, two other branches have opened – on Santa Catalina and on Tigre. See my favourite vegetarian restaurants in South America for more (coming soon).
- Fancy a curry? Head to Cusco’s only genuine Indian restaurant – Maikhana (on the first floor of Galerias La Merced, Av El Sol 106), which does a fantastic value all-you-can-eat buffet of chicken, lamb and vegetarian curries for just S./15 (£3.70/US$5.70). There is also an excellent British-run Indian restaurant in San Blas – Korma Sutra (Calle Tandapata 909).
- Bembos (Plaza de Armas) is Peru’s answer to fast food, but don’t let that put you off – the food is tasty and good quality unlike certain global chains.
- For the best ice cream in town, head to El Hada (Arequipa (Qhapchikijllu) 167), a cute artisanal parlour offering such delightful flavours as pie de limon, and choose from lemon or vanilla flavoured handmade cone.
- If you’ve been travelling a while and need some decent new clothes, or, like me, hadn’t come with enough, head to TopiTop (Heladeros 119) – Peru’s equivalent of H&M, with cheap, fashionable clothes. I bought a few decent tops, t-shirts, pair of trousers, leggings and underwear here.
- Find cheap toiletries in the pharmacies (boticas or farmacias) on Ayacucho. I’ve found the cheapest is Tito’s Perfumeria (Calle Matara 278-A; just off Ayacucho).
- There are two main chains of supermarket in Cusco – Orion (Calle Union 117) and Mega (Av La Cultura). Supermarkets seem to be better value even than the markets, sadly.
- If you need non-urgent medical advice in Cusco, you can organize a consultation with a doctor through any of the Arcángel pharmacies in town, for S/.8 (£2/US$3) – considerably cheaper than some quotes I got from other doctors (S/.100?!). You then head to their branch in the Wanchaq district (Avenida Garcilazo 416; walkable, or a short taxi ride) that has a surgery above it. You will see a proper GP. If you are given a prescription for medication, be aware that it will not necessarily be the cheapest prices in Arcángel. You are under no obligation to buy from them. I ended up getting mine for half the price from InkaFarma (many branches in town).
Hostel Apu Wasi, Calle Concepcion 1, San Cristobal
I stumbled into this hostel on a weekend stay in Cusco purely because other hostels wouldn’t let me in without my passport. I landed on my feet and came to stay here again another time – Apu Wasi is cheap and friendly. Its heyday must’ve passed since the big party hostels opened in town, because I had a big dorm room all to myself. In fact, it seemed I had the whole place to myself as I creaked around the lovely old wooden verandas with their brilliant views over the city.
What I paid: S/.20 (£5/US$8) for a dorm bed; shared bathroom; breakfast included.
Showers: Electric; good; very hot.
Other amenities: Lounge; pool table and other games; travel agency.
Read my guide on apartment-hunting in Cusco if you’re hanging round town for a while (coming soon).