Things to Know Before Going to Cusco

1. Stray dogs are everywhere. Overall, most seem in relatively good shape besides long-haired ones needing a grooming. In many countries, stray dogs are seen as pests because they crap on the sidewalk, go through everyone’s trash, or beg at markets or restaurants with outdoor seating. However, here, it seems they are just a part of normal, everyday life. Similar to my Florida life in how we have deer, squirrels, and Sandhill cranes everywhere and we don’t pay much attention to them because we see them daily and they don’t harm anyone. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to feed every one I see because doggos are my best friends.

Therefore, if you don’t like or are scared of dogs, or have allergies. Don’t come to Cusco because they are unavoidable.

2. HAGGLE! First off, everything in the local markets in Cusco is dirt cheap, it’s very realistic and easy for a person to buy a week’s worth of groceries for $20USD or less depending on your eating habits. That being said, haggling is still the first language in local markets and older local women are the pros of it. Don’t treat it like you are trying not to get ripped off or that you are in a pawn shop. Treat it like you’re trying to reach an agreement so that everyone is happy.

The simplest and my personal favorite strategy is to ask for a discount for buying in bulk, especially if it’s something you know you’re going to use or eat regularly. For me, I often do this with meat and eggs. Eggs last a long time, so I’ll buy an entire carton of thirty and ask for a small discount. I’ll do the same with my meats, because every week I normally buy several pounds of chicken or lean pork since I rely on it for my daily protein. If I don’t finish it all within a week I just put it in the freezer.

3. No one wears shorts or tank tops no matter the weather. I myself prefer wearing jeans because it’s a biker habit. Crashing your bike while wearing jeans helps prevent road rash and I drove only bikes while I lived in Taiwan and Vietnam so it just became a habit. However, I still can’t figure it out. Everyone dresses like it’s freezing cold when it’s scorching hot during the day when the sun is out.

4. You will realize how much you take for granted. Cusco has regular, random water shut-offs, for example. So, using a toilet, washing dishes, and taking a shower will not be something you get to do at your convenience. Since they are sporadic, it’s always best to check if your water is running and then simply do the chores you need to do right then and there.

5. Modern conveniences are luxuries here. It’s not common at all to see a home fully equipped with an electric stove, oven, bathtub, washer, dryer, or even a heater. People learn to live without them. We use a gas stove, we hand wash and dry our dishes and laundry, we have a bucket filled with water ever day in case we need to manually flush our toilets, and we take quick showers because the hot water is limited and the higher you turn the water pressure up, the colder the water will be – the lower the pressure, the hotter the water. It’s not even uncommon for a household not to have a TV. Data is so cheap in Peru, $10 for 3GB, that everyone uses their cellphones for entertainment and most expats have a laptop that they rely on as well, in combination with a streaming app such as Netflix or YouTube TV.

6. WiFi. Cusco is nestled in the Andes Mountains, therefore, WiFi can be inconsistent. The only issues I’ve had with my WiFi in my AirBNB is video chatting as that is how I currently teach online. Once in a while, I”ll get disconnected or the signal won’t be strong enough that I’ll have to just have an audio call instead.

7. Altitude sickness is a real thing. The simplest measure is to just take an altitude sickness remedy which you can easily find online shopping on a website such as Amazon.com. What does altitude sickness feel like? Like a really bad hangover. A headache that won’t go away, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and an overall feeling of lethargy. It generally goes away though within a few days unless you are hiking, for example, and you are climbing to higher and higher altitudes, especially if you are camping overnight because then you are staying in a new, even higher altitude.

8. English isn’t common in Peru. I have been in Peru for nearly four weeks and have only seen three people who could hold a conversation with me. Two tour guides and one bartender. Therefore, it’s helpful to learn a few simple phrases before going to Peru. I use the mobile apps Simply Learn and Google Translate.

Cuanto cuesta = How much

Que tal/paso= What’s new/up

Chao = Bye

De donde es = Where is the

No entiendo = I don’t know

Me gusta = I like

No me gusta = I don’t like

Tienes = Do you have

Lo siento = I’m sorry

Desculpe = Excuse me

Y un plastico bolso por favor = And a plastic bag please

Sin = Without

Con = With

Perdon – Pardon

Soy Americano = I’m American

Soy bien = I’m good

No mas = No more

Un pequeno mas = A little more

Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you

Hermosa = Beautiful

Hay que rico = It feels good

Que es en Espanol? = What is it in Spanish?

9. The weather is bipolar. Cool to warm mornings, scalding afternoons, and chilly to frigid nights on top of sporadic rain that comes without warning. Therefore, it’s not a terrible idea to always have a light jacket and carry an umbrella around.

10. Trash and recycling is done differently. If you want to take your trash out in the morning there are trucks driving around in a route playing loud, classical music, just like in Taiwan ironically, that you have to run up to and give them your sorted trash – one for regular trash and another for recyclables.

Furthermore, you will not see trash cans often. In my apartment complex, we have only two that are intended for recyclables like glass and plastic. At night, our street medians are where we put our trash for the trash pickers who come around 8 or 9pm nightly. No spot is actually designated but people naturally make one for general trash and another for paper and cardboard recyclables.

At Lima’s international airport heading to my flight from Lima to Cusco the day the quarantine and borders were set to be closed. Thankfully, no one was panicking albeit distressed. My domestic flight was maybe a third full at best and my entire row was completely empty.

Arriving in Cusco, my apartment’s street in the city center.

Peruvian soles!

Quarantine life isn’t that hard as a foreigner because I have peace of mind financially. Locals, however, live day to day, so if they can’t work they don’t eat and that’s who I worry for. However, to try to support them I tend to look for small businesses and spend my money there. For example, I took a cooking class in Lima and learned how to make fresh ceviche so I decided to play with the recipe while in Cusco.

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