10 Things That May Surprise You When You Arrive in Cusco
10 things that may surpise you when you arrive in Cusco for the first time when traveling in Peru. Cusco is a great destination, a not-to-be-missed and with the following tips you will be prepared for your stay in Cusco, the gateway for the Inca Trail, Sacred Valley and treks and tours to Machu Picchu.
1. Alpacas and baby sheep
There are alpacas and llamas everywhere, grazing in the fields at Saqsaywaman – an archeological site above Cusco – and walking the streets in Cusco´s historical center. They also pose for photos along with women and children carrying baby sheep, all with traditional dress (including the baby sheep).
2. Guinea pigs are not pets
Guinea pigs – known here as cuy – are a cheap and nutritional food source for the local people and a must try for adventurous travelers. In the mountains homes are simple usually consisting of a single room for sleeping, eating and raising cuy. They are most commonly cooked in the oven and served whole.
3. Electric showers
Mostly surprising when they give you an electric shock, it doesn’t happen all the time but definitely something to be aware of. Many low-budget or middle class hotels have those electric showers. Most important rule: don’t touch them with a wet hand.
4. No toilet paper in the toilet
You are never allowed to flush toilet paper down the toilet, you will always see signs kindly requesting you use the bin provided. It can badly block the system so it´s best to follow the instructions.
5. You will be called “mami”/”papi” by strangers
It is a friendly way of referring to people very common in Cusco. You will probably hear it most from street vendors, people in the markets of Cusco, and taxi drivers.
6. The cold
Cusco is located 3400 meters above sea level, because of this unless you are in direct sunshine, the air is cold. The temperature difference between the shade and the sun is huge so each day you should be prepared for all seasons. Also inside the buildings it can get chilly.
7. No heaters
Despite the cold mountain air, it is very uncommon to find heaters in homes or offices or anywhere but the more expensive hotels. Cusquenans prefer the idea that you just wear more clothes, that way your body doesn’t have to deal with large temperature changes between inside and outside.
Fireworks and loud bangers can go off at any time of the day or night in any location. It can take a while for the nerves to get used to it, but they do.
9. Drinks served in plastic bags
If you want to buy chicha or a typical Peruvian warm drink from a street vendor in Cusco you can either drink it there (on the street), in which case you will be given a glass. But if you prefer to take it away it will be served in a plastic bag with a straw and tied at the top. It is great for warming your hands on a cold night.
10. The number of people trying to sell you massages
But not only massages, also silver jewelry and hats and scarfs. Sitting in any Plaza is usually not very relaxing, and “no gracias” becomes an automatic response. Of course the benefit of this is that if you are looking for a massage or some gifts you don´t have to look far for a good deal.
What was the most surprising to you, when you first arrived to Cusco? Let us all know by posting it here below.