November 1, 2014

Penny-Pinching Ways to See Peru

Sights like the ancient city of Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley and the floating islands of the Uros tribe are just some of the reasons Peru makes a picture-perfect vacation destination. Other hot attractions include the world-famous Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, the ruins at Pachacamac and the Peruvian National Museum in Lima. While it can be tempting to overspend at such a sought-after tourist destination, there are in fact several ways to pinch pennies in Peru. Here are some of my top tips.

Accommodations: Numerous boutique hotels and hostel hybrids are available in Peru at affordable rates. For example, at the Inkawasi hostel in Lima, we paid roughly $30 for a private room which included a private marble tub with air jets. The downstairs common areas were full of art, carved dining room furniture and comfy chairs surrounding a large fireplace. At this same establishment, dorm-style beds were also available for $10 each. Similarly, at the Colonial Palace in Cuzco, $20 scored us private accommodations in a several-hundred-year-old formal home with large interior courtyard and helpful staff.

Timing: Getting up at four to catch the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, followed by a delayed hotel check-in had us entering Machu Picchu in the early afternoon, just three short hours before closing time. With a $40 entry ticket allowing only one entry no matter what time you arrive, we felt short-changed on an experience we had waited a lifetime for. In hindsight, heading up first thing the next morning would have been our best bet.

Groups: While skipping the packaged tours with large crowds for a more independent travel experience provided greater flexibility, paying for private tours everywhere we wanted to go wasn’t exactly in the travel budget. By joining tour groups that were capable of fitting into small busses the size of minivans, we got great prices without missing out on the more personal cultural experiences we were hoping for.

Food: Dining at international restaurants in Peru will cost you markedly more than traditional local fare. So if you can find a way to get comfortable with guinea pig surprise, you’ll save a great deal on your meals. Many hotels include breakfast with their overnight rates, making them an even greater value.