Browsing Posts tagged Peru travel

It’s time for another collection of the best travel stories from wandering book authors. This month’s issue of Perceptive Travel (just crowned with another “best travel writing” award), journeys to Japan, the Maldives, and the Peruvian Amazon.

We’re happy to have Edward Readicker-Henderson back, spinning a tale that’s strange even by our off-kilter standards, looking back through a warped lens on his time teaching English in Japan. See Osaka in the End.

Michael Buckley has swam with whale sharks and gone paragliding with hawks in Nepal. This time he goes Freediving with Manta Rays. At the top is a video he shot with a GoPro.

James Dorsey has visited all kinds of people who find ways to connect to the world beyond ours. This time he visits a remote village in the Amazon jungle to find the female Shaman of San Regis.

As usual we run down some interesting new travel books you might want to put on your wish list (via William Caverlee) and some notable new world music albums you might find intriguing (via Graham Reid).

Tifosi travel sunglasses

Our regular readers always have a chance to win some cool travel gear and last month a reader from Ohio took home a Goal Zero Guide 10 solar charging kit that folds up and packs easily. This month we’re giving away some sporty sunglasses from Tifosi Optics. If you’re on the newsletter list, check your bulk folder if you didn’t see the message. If not, go follow us on Facebook and you’ll see the contest announcement with how to enter.

Get in on the action next time around by hitting that newsletter sign-up button on the right side of the home page.


New 7 Wonders Mexico

So I was just at both Chichen Itza and Uxmal in the Yucatan state of Mexico this past weekend and noticed that the price had gone up since last time I was there. There were actually new numbers pasted over the old ones.

Getting into either—the first one of the “new 7 wonders of the world,” the latter a more interesting and authentic experience (in my opinion)—will now cost you 182 pesos. At current exchange rates that’s less than $15. In the big scheme of admission prices to famous tourism sites around the world, you could actually call that a bargain. If you spend the night nearby Chichen Itza and go to the sound and light show, you only pay about $6 and you can still see most of the structures. Without all those Cancun day-trippers and all the vendors.

How does this compare to other “new 7 wonders?”

Entrance fee Machu PIcchu Peru

Well let’s look at Machu Picchu, the other major historic site from a grand civilization in Latin America. This transaction gets more complicated each year, with the site taking its cues from the U.S. airline industry. The base rate is around $46 now, paid in advance when reserving, but you’ll pay more to climb an adjoining mountain or visit the museum.

Across the ocean to Asia, Ankor Wat in Cambodia is a better deal, though you could argue it’s capable of hosting a lot more visitors each day than fragile Machu Picchu perched on a mountain. Admission is $20 for one day, $40 for three days, or $60 for a week. Considering how extensive the Angkor complex is and how many sites there are to see, it’s worth going for more time and $40 is a bargain for a place so stupendous.

Angkor Cambodia

To put Angkor in perspective, it’s about the same price for one day as the Colosseum in Rome. I don’t think you’ll want to spend eight hours there…

The Taj Mahal costs Indians next to nothing, but foreigners brave the touts of Agra to get to the entrance gate and pay 750 rupees. Due to a falling rupee though, that’s currently only about $12. A lot in Indian terms, but still a screaming bargain on the international tourism stage.

SePetra admission price Jordaneing the Great Wall of China in the most popular section will set you back about $20 if you take the cable car both ways. Less in other sections.

Which brings us to the most expensive site: Petra. I’ve talked before about how a one-day visit to Petra can end up costing more than Disney World. It’s also out of whack compared to the other sites on this list. Or really any site I can think of on the planet if you remove transportation costs. A one-day pass starts at $70 and goes up substantially if you add on a second and third day. They really sucker-punch the visitors who don’t spend the night though, penalizing them to the point where it’s $127. No, that’s not a typo! Anyone coming on a tour from Israel or a Red Sea cruise ship is paying that amount for a few hours in the ruins.

Jordan is a good travel value—but not this part. The experience is not as good as it used to be either, with part of that admission including a mandatory horse ride that’s just silly for able-bodied people who want to arrive on their own two feet.

How much is it to visit the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio? Who cares. It should have never made the list.

Beyond the 7 new wonders, what sites have you found to be a bargain or a terrible value?

travel surprises festivals

“I like going on group tours because there are no surprises,” a traveler I met once told me. “I know the whole travel itinerary in advance and someone else is taking care of all the arrangements.”

Oh, but how many things does she miss by aiming for a trip with no surprises?

Travel surprises can be negative things if it’s your flight getting delayed or a bus breaking down. But travel surprises can be beautiful, wonderful things if you stumble upon something great you were not expecting.

Here’s a photo of a surprise in Cusco the first time I visited. We had no plans for the morning and were just wandering. Thank goodness, or we never would have discovered this.

festival Cusco Peru

Or this.

Peru festival

Coming back from the Colca Canyon on another trip to Peru, I had thankfully left enough wiggle room in the schedule that I didn’t have to whiz by Chivay where this festival was going on. The whole town was decked out. And dancing.

Colca Canyon festival

Speaking of dancing, a semi-organized biking trip I did in the Czech Republic had a nothing-to-do day tacked onto the end. Some vacation-time-starved people would have probably nixed that and gotten back to their jobs faster. I stayed and saw this couple and many others in traditional festival clothes dancing in the street.

Moravia tour

In Puerto Vallarta one day I had absolutely nothing on the agenda. So I discovered this—people dressed like Aztec royalty, on their way to the city’s main Catholic church. (?!?!)

Mexican parade

Just a few days ago, wandering around Guanajuato with no set plans, I followed the sound of a tin whistle and stumbled upon these kids.

Guanajuato street festival kids

There’s a video from a similar one when I was living there a few years ago, a block from our apartment.

Here’s a 23-second video from Guanajuato that makes me smile every time I see it.

No surprises? Why aim for that?

If you want color in your photos and color in your experiences, leave time in the travel schedule to find the surprises.

traveling on a budget

Southern Bolivia

A few years back I wrote an article for Transitions Abroad that I updated this month: Budget Travel in South America.

It’s not meant to be a comprehensive country-by-country rundown, but rather a strategy guide to where your money will stretch and what you can expect to pay in general terms. Then at the end there are some resources to turn to for more specifics.

Traveling on a budget in this region has gotten a lot more complicated since I did the first version of that article five years ago. Argentina has become a fiscal basket case again and on top of that they added a reciprocal visa fee that’s payback for what we charge them to enter our own countries. A family of four would now pay around $560 before exiting the airport. This same fee is in place in Chile, Bolivia, and Brazil, which is probably part of the reason those countries get far fewer visitors than Peru, Ecuador, and now Colombia.

travel Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

If you watch financial news regularly, you’ll know that the resource-based economies around the world have been on a roll. Those that have lots of things to extract from the ground have seen their economies boom. In the developed world that means places like Canada and Australia. In South America it means Peru, Chile, and Brazil. Those latter two have gotten far more expensive when their currencies appreciate and Brazilians are now the free-spending travelers of the Americas, buying up a storm wherever they go. (And saving Argentina’s tourism industry in the process.) Colombia has been on a roll—too much of one actually. The government is frantically buying dollars to slow down the appreciation of its currency.

So where would I say you should go if you wanted to backpack through South America for a few months or more? I’d say you should fly to Central America first, because you can do it more cheaply with money or miles, then make your way through Panama and either fly or take a boat to Colombia. Spend a few weeks in semi-expensive Colombia, then go overland to Ecuador and watch your money instantly buy twice as much. (Except liquor and wine, which just doubled in price there this year.)

travelling South America on a budget

Chivay, Peru

You’d then continue down to Peru, hitting the highlights in a leisurely fashion from north to south, then enter Bolivia via Lake Titicaca. You’d make your way overland down to the Salar de Uyuni, spend some time around there, then bus it over to Salta in Argentina. Go overland to Iguazu Falls and then Buenos Aires, taking a detour to Uruguay somewhere along the way by land or ferry. Then take a series of very long bus rides down to Bariloche. Explore Patagonia there and in Chile, then fly up to Santiago. From there if you still have money left, you could spend some time in wine country and Valparaiso in Chile or fly to Brazil for some coastal time. Or head home, or back to Central America, or Mexico.

They key in all of this is to take your time! Distances between many of these locations are vast. Chile end-to-end is the distance of the west coast of the U.S. to the east coast, to give you an idea. These bus trips are so long you get a sleeping berth. You can cut off a lot of time flying, but domestic flights are no bargain except for a few routes like La Paz to Sucre. Trying to be a box-checking, bucket-listing, country-counting flashpacker is going to cost you far more money and part of your sanity.

For a country-by-country breakdown of these destinations and others around the globe, pick up a copy of the new 4th edition of The World’s Cheapest Destinations.

Peru travel

That’s been a common question in Peru and on message boards for the past year, often voiced in frustration after finding out the the answer is…yes.

You see, ever since I wrote this Saving Machu Picchu article in Transitions Abroad’s print magazine back in 2005, local officials and the private sector have been trying to nail down a limit on the daily number of visitors to South America’s most famous attraction. It was the typical “responsible tourism” vs. “profit above all else” interests battle and after six years, the former finally won. The number thrown out in the beginning—2,500 visitors a day—is what stuck.

Despite all the time to plan, the implementation was a mess and a year later it’s still a mess. In a sensible world you’d be able to go online, buy a limited number of tickets with a credit card, and print them out or show a UPC on a smart phone to pick them up. Alas, they forgot to set up a fraud prevention system and got burned. So you need a whole article on how to actually get these tickets. Thanks to the BBC for laying it all out here:

Securing Tickets to Machu Picchu

If you’re going on an organized tour, including an Inca Trek hike, you probably don’t have to worry about this as it’ll be folded into the cost. If you’re an independent traveler arriving in high season (May through September) however, stop 1 should be the Instituto de Cultural Nacional de Cusco located off the Plaza de Armas in Cusco or the Machu Picchu Cultural Center in Aguas Calientes. See the article for links.

In the low season, there are many days they don’t hit that 2,500 limit, so you can relax a bit and even get them the day of sometimes. Otherwise, plan ahead.

This bucket list wonder of the world is going to cost you, so set aside the bucks. It’s 128 soles, which at current exchange rates is around $49.