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First time to South America, specifically Peru and Bolivia. Any hints, tips, do's and don'ts, please. Thanks.
Hi fellow Essex girl!
I'm just back from my fifth trip to Peru and second to Bolivia so I think I can help. I've written Kindle guides on Arequipa and the Cusco area which you might find useful; look for Unanchor on Amazon to find them. There's also plenty on my blog that will help, including a beginner's guide to Peru:
The north is covered here:
Peruvian food is covered here in an article I wrote for this website:
I'm adding a few bits on Bolivia at the moment and there'll be something on the salt flats near Uyuni very soon.
As you're based in Leigh on Sea, I'd also invite you to the Leigh Travel Club, first Wednesday of every month. I'm the speaker for May (on Puerto Rico) but if you can come along I'll fill you in on anything you need to know about Peru and Bolivia afterwards. Leave a comment here if you're interested and I'll send you more info.
A few things to think about:
- Take a few basic Spanish lessons, it will help you connect better with the local people and be very much appreciated.
- Think carefully about the time of year you plan to be in different parts of the two countries. I've just done a wet season trip to enjoy the salt flat reflections in southern Bolivia but people I met along the way were planning to walk the Inca trail and visit Machu Picchu right afterwards - yet even as they spoke it was being evacuated after landslides caused by seasonal flooding.
- Pay attention to crime warnings. Use the FCO website to check the current situation but don't let it put you off. A bit of common sense goes a long way. Read up on express kidnappings, taxi crime and petty theft. Be aware but don't be paranoid.
- Get off the beaten track. The area around Cusco deservedly receives many visitors but I found the Chachapoyas area in the north equally rewarding - and crowd free. There's an incredible fortress - Kuelap - sarcophagi up a cliff, a waterfall that was only discovered by tourists a decade ago and plenty more.
- Don't be worried about travelling independently. It's incredibly easy to join day excursions and multi-day trips locally - chat to people in your hotel/hostel and ask for recommendations about good operators. There's plenty of choice and aside from the Inca Trail permits, not necessary to reserve in advance.
- Incorporate a bit of money into your budget for the occasional splurge. The salt hotels near Colchani in Bolivia are worth a night for the experience and likewise there are some fantastic restaurants in Peru (especially Lima) if you're hoping to experience the foodie scene at the luxury end. Whatever you do, eat lucuma ice cream.
- Don't be too stressed about the altitude. Take the time to acclimatise, travelling overland helps as you ascend slowly. There are plenty of places to buy coca leaves in both countries - they're legal and they work.
If there are any specific questions you have, please feel free to ask. It's my favourite part of the world and I'm sure you'll have an amazing time! Happy planning!
This area of the world is truly inspirational - prepare to have your mind blown. My personal favourite is Bolivia which is a country often (undeservedly) overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour, Peru. Your money will go a lot further in Bolivia and things like rainforest trips will be much cheaper with the added bonus of fewer people too.
In Bolivia don't miss Isla del Sol, Coroico, Rurrenabaque (where you can do some fantastic rainforest exploration in the Madidi National Park), Sucre, Potosí and the Salt flats of Uyuni and the surrounding area full of volcanoes and flamingo inhabited lakes. If you've got time and you're flexible, my advice would be to book trips when you're there as it'll work out a lot cheaper than pre-booking from the UK. You can also get a good feel for the company you go with and all your cash will stay local...
If you're interested, I've written a few articles on Bolivia that are on this site (the first one was also published in Wanderlust Magazine a couple of years ago).
Finally, be sure to learn some Spanish! It'll add so much to your experience. Happy planning!!
Thank you Julia and Danny. Appreciate you both taking the time to reply. I'd better get reading!! :))
I set off in October, and really it can't come too soon, so excited!!
I'm not a traveller but I've been in Peru. Aside from the famous Machu Picchu please don't forget to visit Huayna Picchu, Plaza Manco Capac, as well as sacred Valley. I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy that place.
Lonely planet will guide you there. https://www.lonelyplanet.com/peru
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I'm a huge Bolivia fan, a truly fascinating place, the star of all South America for me and one of my favourite countres in the World. There are some amazing sights and experiences...... examples include Salar de Uyuni, Potosi, Sucre, Amazon adventure, downhill bike ride to Coroico, Isla del Sol/Titicaca (stay a night on the island for the most stunning starry skies). Like others have said, arrange things at low cost when you're there and choose time to visit carefully.
I've found Peru both over touristy and expensive in comparison. Locals in Bolivia wear traditional dress most of the time; in Peru it is normally to make money from tourists! Overnight buses in Peru are really excellent however; Bolivia's buses are antiquated and slow in comparison, and this should be factored into travel planning.
One strong Peru tip. Before visiting Macchu Picchu stay at the little station hostel in Ollantaytambo. Take the very first train from there in the morning and you'll get to MP about an hour before the hordes from Cusco arrive. You can then get right up Huanya Picchu early too (ensuring you have entry).
Interesting that your post is headed up 'Peru'!??
Lots of good info here, many thanks to those that have responded.
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