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Cusco (Cuzco): Tourist information

Arrival - tourist offices - tickets - mountain sickness - crime in Cusco and the poverty conditions for the natives
Arrival, information and city transport

[Telephone dialing code for Cusco is 084, international 0051-84].

Taxi or colectivo from the airport to the center of Cusco

Cusco's [international airport] Aeropuerto Internacional Velasso Astete (T. 222611) is 4km south of the city center. You can either take a taxi from outside the arrivals hall ($2-3 to the city center) or a colectivo combi from outside the airport car park (frequent departures 50 cents), which goes to Plaza San Francisco via Avenida Sol and Plaza de Armas. Note that the airport is full of tour touts, who should be avoided.

Coming from the Huanchac train station

If you're coming in by train from Juliaca, Puno or Arequipa, you'll arrive at the Huanchac train station in the southeast of the city; you can hail a taxi on the street outside (around $1 to the center), or turn left out of the station and walk about a hundred meters to Avenida Sol, from where you can either catch a colectivo (30 cents, including the airport one if it has space, see above), or walk the eight or nine blocks up a gentle hill to the Plaza de Armas, essentially the city center.[Since two years the natives are prohibited to sell their products on the Plaza de Armas because tourists feel too molested].

Coming by bus from the bus terminals of Cusco

Apart from Cruz del Sur, who have their own independent depot at Avenida Pachacutec, a few blocks east of Huanchac railway station and Avenida Sol, inter-regional and international buses (see Listings, p. 272, for details) arrive and depart from the rather scruffy Terminal Terrestre at Avenida Vallegos Santoni, block 2 (T. 224471) southeast of the center, close to the Pachacutec monument and roundabout (ovalo) and roughly halfway between the Plaza de Armas and the airport. Taxis from here to the city center cost $1-2, or you can walk to the Pachacutec ovalo and catch a colectivo uphill to either the Plaza San Francisco or the Plaza de Armas - otherwise, it's about a half-hour walk.

Local buses to regional centers

Regional buses from the Sicuani, Urcos and Paucartambo areas stop around blocks 15 and 16 of Avenida de la Cultura, from where it's a bit of a hike, so you'll almost certainly want to take a taxi ($1-2) or bus or combi colectivo (30 cents) to the center.

Almost all Sacred Valley buses come and go from Avenida Grau 525 (for Pisac, Urubamba, Chincheros, Ollantaytambo), near Puente Grau, or Tullumayu 207 (for Pisac). Another bus stop for Urubamba via Pisac can be found in block 2 of Calle Puputi.

To get up to Sacsayhuaman [Inca fortress 2km on a hill near Cusco] without the breathtaking experience of walking up there before you've really acclimatized to the altitude, take the Tranvia Cusco woodenbus (T. 224377 or 740640; $2 or less, small children, free) which takes a scenic ride through the historic center up to Sacsayhuaman and back most days; it's usually found parked outside the Hostal Familiar on Calle Saphi.

Free tourist information offices

The main tourist office, operated by the Dirección Regional de Industria y Turismo (DRIT ["Local department of industry and tourism"]) at Portal de Mantas 117-A (Mon-Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 8am-2.30pm; T. 263176 or 222032), is a short block from the Plaza de Armas with information kiosks at the airport and the Terminal Terrestre. Another small municipal tourist-information kiosk is in the pedestrian area outside San Pedro market (Mon-Fri 9am-noon and 3-6pm).

The downtown tourist information office is well-staffed, spacious and offers a friendly service with sound advice on where to go and how to get there, as well as maps and brochures. Some tourist information is also provided by i-Peru Tourist Assistance from from their office at Avenida Sol 103 (Rom 203; daily 9am-7pm; T. 252974, Fax 234498, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), as well as from a booth at the airport (daily 6am-4pm, sometimes later; t. 237364). There's also an information kiosk with very limited information (irregular hours between 8am and 6pm) at the Terminal Terrestre bus terminal.

Other sources are tour agencies around the Plaza de Armas or along calles Plateros and Procuradores, running uphill from the plaza. They provide leaflets promoting their own tours, but many also offer customized generic plans of the city and simple maps of the Sacred Valley and nearby regions. The Cuscoperu website is a good source of information about Cusco: www.ukukushostelperu.com

City transport – walking

[Maps of the town are hardly to have. Ask in the tourist offices. The bus system is never indicated. Tourists have no chance to get the bus lines out in only one or two weeks].

Cusco's center is small enough to walk around. Taxis can be waved down on any street [they are attacking the white tourists with honking as much as they can, you cannot walk on a street without being attacked because poverty is so hard and the taxi driver wants some Soles by a service for a white tourist]. (p.249)

Cusco Tourist Tickets (Boleto Turistico - Cusco)

The Cusco Tourist Ticket (130 soles for 10 days, students 70 soles; a one-day ticket costs 70 soles, no discounts) is a vital purchase for most visitors. It's the only way to get into most of the city's and region's main attractions and comes with useful maps and other information, including opening times. It does not give entry to the Catedral, Iglesia San Blas or Museo de Arte Religioso ["museum of religious art"], which each cost a separate $5 entry.

The ticket is, in theory, available from all of the sites on the ticket, but in practice it's best to buy from the Tourist Information office in Calle Mantas, the i-Peru office at Avenida Sol 103 (Galerias Turisticas, room 2; T. 227037) or the office at Casa Garcilaso on the corner of Garcilaso and Heladeros (Mon-Fri 7.45am-6pm, Sat 8.30am-4pm, Sun 8am-noon) (p.249).

Mountain sickness "soroche"

Soroche, or mountain sickness, is a reality for most people arriving in Cusco by plane from sea level and needs to be treated with respect. It's vital to take it easy not eating or drinking much on arrival, even sleeping a whole day just to assist acclimatization (coca tea is a good local remedy). After three days at this height most people have adjusted sufficiently to tackle moderate hikes at similar or lesser altitudes. Anyone considering tackling the major mountains around Cusco will need time to adjust again to their higher base camps (p.248)
[When you come by bus from Lima it can be some passengers have soroche in the bus. One is chewing coca leafs against soroche in the bus].

Crime in Cusco by extreme poverty

[Poverty is so strong in Cusco - and the upper class of Peru is not giving any cent of the big profits of Machu Picchu to the Cusco population, so there is crime against tourists in Cusco. When the window glass cannot be repaired and people are freezing in the night there will be criminality to have money for the window glass etc. Tourist companies are also instigating a hatred against the tourists e.g. when tourists have the better buses than the population, and tourist restaurants give pizzas for 30 soles what is 3 times a daily income for a native, and tourist hotels have always water, the population in the suburbs only 2 hours every 2 days. At the same time the government of Peru maintains that tourism would be "important". Yes, for the money bag of the government, tourism is important, not to for the natives! By this the government of Peru and it's corrupt industry are giving conditions that criminality and envy will not stop].

Cusco police have made a real effort to clean up the city's poor reputation for pickpocketing, bag snatching and street muggings. However, in recent years there have been several reports of "strangle muggings", whereby tourists are jumped and strangled to the point of fainting before being robbed. Although crimes in general are rare, it's still best to avoid walking along empty streets late at night, especially if alone. The police claim that robberies are virtually non-existent around the Plaza de Armas or Avenida Sol, but admit that incidents are still possible in the Central Market and the area downhill from here. The train stations tend to be well policed by private security, and inside the railway compounds problems are almost non-existent.

If you are unlucky enough to have anything stolen, report it to the Tourist Police. On the other hand, if you need help or advice to make a claim against a local tourism operator or service provider who has seriously failed to deliver what they promised (it's always a good idea to get this written down and signed as agreed by the operator before paying) you'll get better results by going to the i-peru Tourist Assistance office, or contact your consulate

TAXI.

You should be particularly careful when arriving at Lima’s Jorge Chavez international airport. Unwary passengers are often approached by thieves masquerading as tour operators, people who pretend to know them or bogus taxi drivers. There have been frequent cases of rogue taxis being used at the information kiosk next to the airport exit.

Tourists have also been targeted and robbed by bogus taxi drivers elsewhere, especially at night. The safest way to travel by taxi is to always call a licensed taxi company, which may be marginally more expensive, but it is much safer than hailing a taxi on the street. If possible you should always book a taxi in advance from a reputable company, hotels and tour guides will be able to chances with unlicensed taxis.

If you cannot avoid taking a taxi from the street, try to use a taxi that is licensed. It is not always easy to determine this as taxis vary greatly in different areas of Peru. Generally licensed taxis will have their registration number on the side of the vehicle and a drive's identification card prominently displayed in the vehicle. But in all cases be sure to take a conspicuous note of the registration number before getting into the vehicle.

OPPORTUNISTIC THEFT

Most theft is opportunistic - limit this by walking around with valuable items hidden- i.e. cameras, wallets. And do not visibly wear expensive watches, jewellery or sunglasses. Do not hang valuables or bags on the backs of chairs.

GENERAL THEFT TECHNIQUES

There are several different techniques which are used to steal from unsuspecting tourists:

THE SPIT TRICK

Usually carried out by a group of 3 or 4, in very busy streets. One will walk behind you and spit or splash liquid on the back of your neck when you then turn around in disgust loosening your grip on anything that you have in your hands. An accomplice walking the other way will grab your possessions and disappear behind you before you have time to work out what is going on, or who took your bag. If you feel a liquid hit the back of your neck, just keep walking without turning around and hold on to your possessions. Variations on this technique include distracting you by spilling things on your clothes, or street children begging or fighting in front of you.

BAG OPENING / SLASHING

In crowded streets, thieves will walk behind you and carefully undo pockets on your backpack, taking out your belongings. Others carry a small knife, with which slit open the bottom of your bag or backpack (sometimes even trouser leg) to take things out without you noticing. You still have a hold on your bag and so do not realise that there is a hole in it. This type of robbery can take place anywhere crowded - be particularly vigilant when waiting to cross the street; where people pushing behind you might not just be in a hurry to cross. Also, be aware if you take local transport, especially combis or buses and in and around bus stations. People will often work together. As you sit between 2 people whilst one talks to you. The other is carefully slitting open your pockets and looking for your wallet.

STRANGLE ROBBERY

A group of at least 4 work together, one comes from behind and holds your head while another pushes your head down - you lose consciousness for up to 20 seconds. When you awake you have been stripped of everything, including clothes in some cases. This type of attack is not very common and tends to take place after dark in relatively quiet areas.

Areas to avoid

Try not to walk alone after dark. Walk in a group when possible, and always walk with direction and purpose. Take a registered taxi after an evening out and avoid areas that are particularly known for opportunistic crime. Check with local and professional guides or HCCS, and SAE for more information.

CASHPOINTS /ATMs

When withdrawing money from an ATM ,check to ensure that no additional card reading devices are attached to the machine. Make sure no-one is looking over your shoulder, and remember to remove your card as well as your cash. If you have a problem with your card, don't accept assistance from anyone except bank staff. Many of the banks have security guards by the ATMs at all times when leaving the bank do not go down isolated side streets, as you may be being followed. If you are going on somewhere walk a short distance away from the ATM and take a taxi. It is not advisable to take a taxi from directly outside the ATM.

STREET CHILDREN

Although the children who approach you in the street may be cute, be aware that many work in groups to rob tourists. While several distract you, one is searching your pockets backpack etc. Whilst not true of all children, please also remember that giving money to them only encourages begging. A more productive way of helping is to make a donation (or do some voluntary work if you have the time) in one of the many drop-in centres for street children which aims to support them and encourage them to go to school.

DRINKS

Generally free drinks are made with the cheapest alcohol available which is not necessarily of high quality. Also, in any of the discotheques be sure to watch the barman make your drink and the keep an eye on it. Do not leave it unattended at any time. If you do, throw it away and purchase a new one.

TOUR GUIDES AND TRAVEL COMPANIES

We recommend that you use reputable and recognised tour guides at all the times. Beware of any people who befriend you (day or night) offering tours and trips to unknown areas. It is often a trick to lure you to an isolated area. If you want to go, do not go alone.

When you want book any tour here in Cusco, do so with official travel companies (where they have to show different licenses or permissions of the Peruvian ministry of tourism, such as AUTORIZACION from INRENA to do the Inka trail.