Advice for Peru

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  • May 8th, 2019 8:24 am
User avatar
Jun 21, 2016
243 posts

Advice for Peru

Hey RFDers!

My girlfriend and I are going on a 2 week trip to Peru in 2 weeks and I wanted to ask a few questions, perhaps people who've been to Peru could answer some and probably other more experienced travelers as well. We plan on going to Machu Picchu and some of the other very popular destinations such as Arequipa, Huacachina, Paracas and obviously Lima!

  1. I've been doing some research and it looks like we need to book tickets for Machu Picchu from an official vendor/agent. My question is, could we purchase those tickets when we land? Perhaps a few days beforehand? Or should I book them ahead of time? And if so, anyone have any recommendations on vendors/agents to book through? We're only looking to do Machu Picchu as a daytrip due to time constraints, we have booked only 1 night in Aguas Clientes and plan on seeing the sunrise at Machu Picchu, and also hike above Machu Picchu (which I was recommended and I believe that requires another, separate ticket).
  2. This is regarding money. I am planning on withdrawing cash at the ATM in Cusco, I bank with Tangerine so I can take advantage of using Scotiabank's ATMs in Peru. But recently I was reading that I should withdraw cash with my STACK Mastercard since they don't have any forex fees. My question is does anyone know definitively which one is going to be saving me more money?
  3. This is also regarding money. Should I withdraw cash and spend Peruvian Soles or should I use my Tangerine Mastercard/Amex. My I currently have 2% cashback on my Mastercard for Restaurants, Drugstores and Groceries, while I typically use my Amex for everything else because it's got 1.25% cashback.

Thanks for reading and the advice in advance!
5 replies
Deal Addict
User avatar
Oct 26, 2007
2239 posts
1. Honestly i would be booking tickets for machu picchu asap. Theres a ticket to get to the main area where you see the ruins, but there are VERY limited tickets to climb the stairs up to the other peak. Apparently someone died taking a selfie up top, so the Peruvian government limited the amount of people they let up at once. If you want to do sunrise, you have to book for that time slot to be on machu picchu. I would recommend NOT hiking up the first ascend to where the ruins are, because the 2nd hike up is NOT easy. It's literally just uneven stairs, it took me about 2 hours to hike up. (mind you i was also quite beaten up from hiking the Salkantay trail the previous 4 days).

in terms of having only one day there, its fine as long as you book your tickets for the train back to cusco, or arrange a ride back. Tickets for the train can get pricey if you're on a budget.

2. Its hard to say what's going to save you money. I'm not sure of scotias policies regarding withdrawing foreign currency. Stack charges you the mastercard exchange rate. If tangerine offers you 0% FX, i would just use your debit. TBH the idea of having to reload my card to use it doesn't seem convenient to me. I would never use the card back here in Canada since I get way better perks with my CC compared to STACK. If I overloaded the card, its potential money i'm losing from my rewards cards.

3. Honestly you kinda lose a bit anyway. If you exchange to soles, you lose some money in the exchange. With CC, you get hit with a FX fee and the exchange rate. I honestly wouldn't want to carry around too much cash on me, so most restaurant purchases were done with my CC. Street food, and smaller vendors I paid with soles. Theres a bunch of FX exchange people walking around Miraflores (which is probably where you're going to go in Lima).

Just make sure you're factoring in travel times between the areas you want to go to. I ended up flying to cusco, since the bus takes something like 10 hours? Also driving to Ica to see the oasis also takes a few hours.

Good luck, and have fun. Peru was absolutely AMAZING.
Licensed Full Service Realtor
Sr. Member
Dec 13, 2004
952 posts
I bank with Scotia, and I had no problem finding a Scotiabank atm to withdraw money. In fact, they were easily located in Lima and Cusco. I have withdrawn money from them, and at fx rate. If you travel cheap, the local places you have to pay in cash, so I would keep some money with me. If you plan to see the sunrise in macchu picchu, book with the tour. The last thing you want is to navigate in the wee hours and not know the language/culture. To travel all the way there and not be able to get in. A few bucks spent, is not worth the time you invested. Its still worth the money.
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Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
I can't answer the banking questions but I highly recommend you immediately book both the transportation to Machu Pichu and the admission ticket itself. Indeed there are limits per day.

If you fail to secure the train tickets, an alternative way is to take a dedicated bus which will be pretty ghetto. There are dedicated "tour" buses that go from Cusco to a random rail checkpoint. These go through mountain paths and it is going to be a bumpy ride. So you better secure your train tickets. Those mountain paths I heard can be deadly. Narrow passages meant for "two-way" and no guard rails. I went with a friend and the rail workers were on strike so we were forced to take the mountain buses or let our MP tickets go to waste. Once you reach a certain check point, the bus will drop you off and you have to WALK a couple hours to reach AC. I am no joking...this happened to us.

As for MP itself, we paid extra to go up to one of the peaks. It's not a hike for the weak. IMO 1 day is enough if you want to see the main parts and also the peak. Extra days are only for those who want to do some serious hiking.
Jul 22, 2011
38 posts
I was in Peru for 5 weeks, Scotiabank is pretty common and we didn't pay any fees when we used my Scotia card or my Tangerine card which was really convenient.

You likely won't have a choice but to pay cash for a lot of things. If you have a forex free card use that where you can but like I said, you might not have the choice as often as you do here.

P.S. Machu Picchu is worth it (if you had more time I would suggest a hike there but 2 weeks is pretty tight) and Arequipa was one of our favourite cities!

Here's a blog post I wrote about some of the best things to do in Arequipa;
Dec 4, 2011
10 posts
Like one of the posters said, take the train if you can from cusco to aguas calientes(base of Machu Picchu). My wife and I took the bus and it was a crazy experience. The drivers drive as if they are on a highway, except they're on a narrow road on the side of the mountain with a very steep drop. We booked with a tour group once we got to cusco from Arequipa, it was $90 US each person for hotel, bus ride round trip, 2 dinners,1 breakfast and tickets to Macchu Picchu. The bus ride each way is roughly 6-7 hours, plus you factor in the 3 hour hike you have to do both ways once you get to the drop off point where you follow the train tracks. And the ride back into cusco is a adventure in itself, we left around 5 pm and it gets dark pretty quick, also there is heavy fog and you wonder how these drivers can see as they are going a good 80 k/h. Overall as crazy as it seems, it was a awesome trip to see Macchu Picchu. On another note, drink Coca Leaf Tea when you get to Peru, it helps with the altitude. Thankfully we didn't get sick but if you do, the natural teas helps calm it down a bit.