Tourist Services in Cusco
Cuzco is one of the cities in Peru with the greatest number of hotels and lodgings. Its accommodations have improved noticeably in the last few years, in terms of both quantity and quality. This does not mean accommodations will be optimum in all towns in the department, as they vary considerably the farther they are from the city of Cuzco and the main tourist attractions. For example, areas that are strategic crossroads and economic hubs for the department, such as Yauri-Espinar, have considerably inferior accommodations for tourists than do towns such as tiny Yucay, located near Cuzco, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The city of Cuzco and some towns in the Vilcanota river valley have five-star hotels with rates ranging from US$ 100 to US$ 250 per night. The main tourist towns (Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Pisac) also have clean, safe hotels with good service, for rates ranging from US$ 25 to US$ 65; hostels with dining rooms and laundry services (and often complimentary breakfast) ranging in price from US$ 25 to US$ 55; and pensio- nes (generally private homes adapted to provide lodging for tourists) offering room and board for US$ 5 to US$ 20.
However, the quality of accommodations in the more rural regions varies greatly and depends largely on the experience and skills of the proprietors (rather than on the number of stars appearing over the door of the establishment). In these cases, we strongly recommend asking in detail about the services the establishment offers before taking a room. Many towns in the interior offer no lodging at all. Do let your hosts in local establishments know of any shortcomings in the service. This will help them gradually improve their services.
The last few years, the government has been encouraging the construction of community or municipal hostels (alber- Hues), administered by the community and offering lodging .ind meals at very reasonable prices. Some good examples are the albergues in Tinta, Ccolcha and Paucartambo.
We suggest making reservations before you travel and, if possible, requesting that your reservation be confirmed by fax. lake into account that during local and national holidays or long weekends the demand for rooms rises, as do the rates.
Although Cuzco is not well known for its traditional cuisine, it is famous for the diversity of the fare it offers (because of the large numbers of tourists it receives). The city has a wide variety of restaurants, from elegant, five-fork dining establishments (we highly recommend the Casa Orihuela in the Sacred Valley and the Inka’s Grill on Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas), to more modest ones that are well frequented for their high quality food. The average cost per person in a first-class restaurant in Cuzco is US$ 20 to US$ 40, while the costs in lower priced establishments range from US$ 15 to US$ 25. Outside the city and in the towns of the interior there are also many roadside eateries. Some are excellent and others allow you to eat well for incredibly low prices, although you should be alert for a possible lack of hygiene.
Eating in Cuzco and its provinces is generally very economical. You will often find that, despite the general appearance of the place (plastic tablecloths, dirt floor and loud music), it serves first-rate food at great prices (under US$ 5 per person.).
We must not neglect to mention the pasta restaurants (pizzerias and trattorias that cook over a wood fire and in clay ovens) and the restaurants specializing in chicken roasted over an open fire (polio a la brasa), which have become the city’s main economical eateries.
Almost every restaurant in Cuzco offers a menu (a three course meal of the day, consisting of soup or salad, a main dish and dessert or hot tea). These meals are highly popular as they are much cheaper (averaging US$ 2 to US$ 5 per person) than items ordered a la carte (or “extras”).
Urban Transport Taxis
Taxis are abundant in Cuzco and are very cheap. You can find one anywhere, at any time. Fares vary from S/ 4 for rides within the city center and neighboring areas to S/ 8 or S / 10 for a ride to the airport. The price can be higher at night, ranging from S/. 3 to S/15, respectively. There are also several radio taxi services that will pick you up on phone-call demand. They have slightly higher rates but offer much more security and use vehicles in better condition.
You can also contract taxi service by the hour or for the whole day, to visit out-of-the-way places or to plan the itinerary as you wish. The approximate charge per hour is US$ 10, and US$ 50 for the day. If you are taking a taxi out of Cuzco to neighboring areas, be sure to check that the taxi has a spare tire, a jack and all its documents up to date. You will avoid unpleasant difficulties.
These have a capacity for 20 to 40 passengers and have almost disappeared from Cuzco and the main cities of Peru due to the proliferation of the small vans (called combis or colectivos), which are faster and more economical. Microbuses have no fixed bus stops, so when you want to get off you must shout “Baja en la esquina!” (Getting off at the next corner!).
Colectivos or combis
These vans have invaded the main cities of Peru and Cuzco is no exception. They are vans with a capacity for about 10 passengers, but are often filled with as many as 15. Their low cost and speed have made them one of the most popular methods of city transport. Nonetheless, they have a reputation for driving dangerously and we do not recommend using them.
Another system of unconventional public transport popular in warmer cities of the interior (such as Quillabamba) is the motocar, a motorcycle adapted to transport up to 3 passengers. They are inexpensive, but their drivers can be speed enthusiasts. We recommend telling the driver that you wish to reach your destination in one piece. A similarly unorthodox service is the taxi cholo, a three-wheeled cart that is pedaled like a bicycle and has been adapted to carry 2 passengers. These are abundant in towns in the interior such as Sicuani and Yauri. They are not dangerous, but can be somewhat slow.