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Getting To and Away

 

For the sake of convenience, most people fly to Cusco. A bus from Lima costs between $37.50-70, but it's a lengthy journey-up to 26 hours. By contrast, a round-trip flight takes just 1.25 hrs, and will set you back between $150-350 (depending on the time of year and the airline). The train stations, Estación de Poroy and Estación Wanchaq, connect to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), Ollantaytambo and Puno. There are also numerous bus services between Cusco and locations in southern Peru, as well as La Paz, Bolivia.

By Air

If you plan on going to Cusco from an international city, be aware that all international flights enter Peru through Jorge Chávez Airport in Lima and you must then make a connecting flight to Cusco. Nearly all airlines have several flights a day between Lima and Cusco, mostly in the morning and early afternoon in order to avoid weather-related closures at Cusco airport. Note that international flights to Lima often arrive late at night, and connecting flights to Cusco don’t leave until the next morning. This means a night in a nearby hotel, or at the airport; many people simply crash at the airport-it's uncomfortable, but you certainly won't be alone, as there are always people milling around all night long. It's relatively safe, but be sure to guard your valuables. There's 24-hour restaurants and internet terminals, as well as luggage storage.

 

Note that all domestic flights have a departure tax of $8.72.

Airlines servicing Cusco have offices in Miraflores, Lima (Phone Code: 5-11). It is also possible to buy tickets online for all of the following airlines:

 

Aerolíneas Star Peru: Av. Comandante Espinar 331. Tel: 213-8813. E-mail: atencionalcliente@starperu.com, URL: www.starperu.com

LAN: Av. José Pardo 513. Tel: 213-8300, URL: www.lan.com.

 

Peruvian Airlines: Av. José Pardo 495. Tel: 716-6000/715-6122, Email: counter.pardo@peruvian.pe., URL: www.peruvianairlines.pe.

 

Taca Airlines: Av. José Pardo 811, 4th floor. Tel: 511-8222, URL: www.taca.com.

 

Cusco’s Aeropuerto Teniente Alejandro Velasco Astete is about three miles (5 kilometers) southeast of the city. The airport has ATMs which accept most cards. A cab to the city center should cost no more than $2-4 (about five to ten soles) but the taxi drivers often try to charge more. A bus will cost around one sol ($0.35).

 

The following airlines fly between Lima and Cusco (1.25-1.5 hrs):

 

LAN (5-10 daily); Taca (5 daily) Peruvian Airlines (2 daily) Star Peru (3 daily). Prices vary from $150-350 round-trip. Peruvian Airlines and Star Peru tend to be cheaper, they don't offer all of the amenities of the international carriers such as LAN or Taca.

 

Domestic flights from Cusco go to:

 

Puerto Maldonado: LAN (2 daily, 1 hr, $250 one-way)

Juliaca: LAN (1 daily, 1 hr, $250 one-way)

Arequipa: Taca (1 daily, 1.5 hr, $50-240 one-way)

 

By Bus

Traveling by bus is the most inexpensive way to get to and from Cusco, though certainly not the smoothest: winding roads, bad weather, landslides, mechanical trouble and traffic can and often affect the length and quality of your journey. Another factor that will affect how comfortable your trip is is the bus company you choose. More expensive buses will have toilets, meals, and spacious and comfortable seats. Seats on cheaper buses can be cramped, and the buses will often not have an on-board bathroom (or if they do, it may well be out of use) and will instead stop every few hours for bathroom breaks and to allow passengers to buy food. Regardless of which bus company you choose, try to get a seat on the first floor of the bus. It’s more expensive, but the drive will be more comfortable. It's always wise to bring toilet paper, hand sanitizer, snacks, water, and a blanket, as it can get very cold at night. If you are carrying a large bag, it is best to stow it under the bus and bring a smaller carry-on with your valuables in it (try and keep your carry-on bag on your lap, or if its too big, put it between your feet and loop the handles around your ankles for safety).

 

Buses between major tourist destinations usually leave in the afternoon or night due to the incredible distances that they have to cover. Tickets often sell out, so it’s best to reserve in advance. Cusco's main Terminal Terrestre can be found on Av. Vía de Evitamiento 429, Tel: 224-471. A taxi to or from the bus terminal to the city center should cost no more than around $1.20-1.50 (3-4 soles). The Terminal is open from 5 a.m.- 11 p.m.

 

The following are a few of the better-if more expensive-bus companies:

 

Civa: In Lima - Javier Prado 1155, Tel: 223-0873, in Cusco - Terminal de Terrestre, Tel: 249-961, URL: www.civa.com.pe/www.excluciva.pe. Civa is one of the cheaper high-quality options. Newer Civa buses have 180-degree reclining seats, personal televisions, meals (including vegetarian options), heating and air-conditioning. You can buy tickets online.

 

Cruz del Sur: In Lima - Av. Javier Prado 1109, Tel: 311-5050, in Cusco - Av. Pachacutec 510, Tel: 221-909, URL: www.cruzdelsur.com.pe. Note that Cruz del Sur has its own private depots in both Lima and Cusco, rather than being stationed at the normal bus terminals. Cruz del Sur is usually the most expensive company, but also one of the most luxurious. They offer two-storey buses equipped with air conditioning, 180-degree reclining seats, meals, heating, two bathrooms, movies, and after-dinner bingo. Tickets are available to buy online.

 

Other quality bus companies include Flores, Línea, Oltursa and Movil Tour. Try to avoid bus companies that have a reputation among travelers of having safety problems and lacking quality, such as Transportes Ronco Peru, Cueva, Molina Union and Expreso Huamanga.

 

 

Buses leave Cusco at the following times:

 

To Lima (21-25 hrs): A CIVA superior class bus ($37.50-49) leaves at 6 p.m. daily. Cruz del Sur buses ($70) leave at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

To Arequipa (9 hrs): CIVA buses leave at 8 p.m. daily ($17-28). Cruz del Sur buses leave at 8 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. daily ($22-27).

From Lima to Cusco: A CIVA superior class bus leaves at 4.30 p.m. daily. Cruz del Sur buses leave at 2 p.m., 3.30 p.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

 

Buses also go daily from Cusco to Nazca (15-21 hrs, $30-70) and Puno (6-9 hrs, $10-45).

 

Buses also leave nightly (departures between 8 and 11 p.m.) to La Paz, Bolivia (12 hrs, $30-40). Transporte Internacional Litoral is a reliable company to use (it won't provide you with the kind of luxury that companies such as Cruz del Sur will, but its comfortable enough). Litoral runs a direct service via the border crossing Desaguadero; many other companies go to La Paz via the border crossing at Copacabana on Lake Titicaca, but this is a longer route. Note that at either border crossing, you may arrive before the border opens (at around 6-7 a.m.) and may then have to wait. You will then be required to walk through the border controls, and meet your bus on the other side.

 

If you are traveling to the Sacred Valley, several companies depart from the Terminal Terrestre. Most companies, though, have their own depots. See under specific destinations for more details.

 

By Train

PeruRail (Tel: 5-11-581414 in Lima, E-mail: reservas@perurail.com, URL: www.perurail.com) runs trains between Cusco and Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes) and also Puno. For more information on getting a train to Machu Picchu, see Getting to and away from Aguas Calientes.

 

PeruRail's luxury train service to Puno, the Andean Explorer, is rated as one of the world's 25 great rail journeys and features beautiful dining cars, on-board entertainment, a bar, and an outdoor observatory. At $220, its certainly not a cheap way to get to Puno; but the purpose of the trip isn't simply to arrive at the destination, rather it's to relax, be pampered and admire the scenery. It's a slow, 10-hour journey, with a couple of short stops along the way. A three-course lunch and snacks are included. The Andean Explorer runs on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday between April-October and on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from November-March, departing at 8 a.m and leaving from Wanchaq Station (Avenida Pachacuteq).

 

You can purchase tickets for PeruRail online or at the main office at Wanchaq station (open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, Sunday, holidays 7 a.m.-noon). Tickets can also be bought in Lima airport and from ticketing offices in Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and PeruRail's store on Portal de Carnes 214 on Cusco's Plaza de Armas (the store is open daily 8 a.m.-10 p.m.).

 

All-inclusive Tours

If time is an issue but money isn't, there are several international travel agencies that can organize all-inclusive tours to Peru. A standard eight to ten-day tour of Peru's main attractions, including Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, starts at around $1,200 per person. The advantage of such tours is that everything is included and organized for you; the disadvantage of course is that they can be rather rushed, as they incorporate the sights of a whole country in just a few days.

 










By Ricardo Segreda
Growing up in New York, Rick Segreda used to cut out of high school in order to hang out at the Museum of Modern Art and catch foreign-language...
13 Jun 2012




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