Machu Picchu: What I’m glad we did do

In our last blog post, we loaned you our scar tissue from our trip to Machu Picchu with our young kids. This time around, you’ll learn about what we’re glad we did do:

1) We’re glad we saw more than just Machu Picchu. There are loads more archeological sites all over Peru, and all of them are fascinating.

2) We’re thankful we hired a Peruvian guide one of my co-workers recommended.

Yes, you could see Machu Picchu and travel the country on your own for cheaper, seeing the sites. But you wouldn’t get as much out of it. I listened to a few of the guides people hired on the spot outside archeology spots. Those tourists weren’t getting as good of a learning experience as we did with our guide. I’d highly recommend him. He studied archeology and lived in Ohio during part of his studies. Not only is his English excellent, but he really knows his country’s history.

He was worth his price. All we had to do was make our hotel reservations (more on that in our next post), pay for our food, and show up at the airport. He also provided transportation throughout the entire trip with an excellent driver who could navigate the narrow roads—and once, a mostly wooden bridge (!) we had to traverse to get to some fantastic Incan terraces.

3)We’re glad we wore casual clothes and old sneakers. We weren’t exactly GQ models in our photos, but our clothes kept us warm, and we didn’t care that sometimes we ended the day a bit dusty and dirty.

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4) We bought a camp cot. With the advent of FIRE in our lives, we’re focusing on relational travel now. We invited some people to come to visit us in Medellín and wanted an extra cot in case they made the trek down to Latin America to see us. This cot came in handy when I slept in it after hiking Machu Picchu (we could only get a hotel room with three twin beds). That cot was the most comfortable one I’ve ever slept in. But then again, hiking 7 miles and up 79 flights of stairs might have had something to do with the amazing quality of sleep I got… 😉

I will say though, this cot started to have issues with creaking whenever you rolled over, so we got rid of it and bought a higher quality, Yahill cot my geologist cousin in Alaska (who knows her camping gear) recommended.

5) We’re thankful we visited in June. Machu Picchu was relatively “empty” because it was still considered offseason. Apparently, it’s packed in July, so avoid it during that month.

6) We used the frequent travelers in our life as a font of knowledge. I consult my sister (a nurse who lives in the U.K.) often about travel. She told me the best place to exchange money is at our local International Mall. And it’s true. They only charge $2.50 to exchange money (and that one fee is all-inclusive, in case you need to exchange for Euros and Pounds at the same time).

I’ve found their rates be better than the ones offered at airports, etc. The mall exchange place (located at the concierge’s desk) will also print out an exchange spreadsheet for you to carry. It’s great to have this as we just look at the US dollars area, then look over at the local currency to get a gauge on how much something costs.

7) We’re thankful we used Spirit Airlines to fly to Medellín. Their rep in Tampa kindly printed out our return itinerary. He told us we should keep it with our passports as it might prove useful while we traveled. Was he ever right! Only after we were in South America did I learn airlines can turn you away from flying into a country if you don’t have proof you plan to leave it. I saw this happen to an American couple attempting to fly from Lima into Colombia.

And while reading in an expat Facebook group over the summer, I encountered a post from an American woman who had her 90-day visa for a certain country revoked because she left for a week to travel to a nearby country with family visiting from America. When she tried to renter the country where she was staying for 90 days, they revoked her visa because she didn’t have a flight reservation to leave the country in 90 days.

Thankfully Colombia merely marked our passports that we were allowed a 5-day extension on our 90-day visa since we’d been gone to Peru for 5 days.

8) We brought International converters. Ok, so I have to admit it: I’m mostly a pantser when it comes to traveling. I didn’t look the Peruvian electric currency up ahead of time. You don’t need converters for Colombia, but you do need them for Peru.

9) While traveling, we asked other Americans we encountered for travel advice. This is how we found out about Peru Hop, a truly neat travel concept where you can cheaply travel the entire country via bus and use their system of hostels. One American teacher we met would take an overnight bus and arrive in a new city to explore every morning.

One of my friends traveled via bus throughout Peru for a month for $200 after he graduated from high school. He visited Cusco, the Indian baths, Machu Picchu, etc. However, my friend is a retired teacher now, so prices have probably gone up since then. 😉

I asked a fellow traveler: guinea pig doesn’t taste like chicken.

I’ll leave this blog wrap up with some neat facts about Peru: a river runs under Cusco. It’s a super neat city that was originally built in the shape of a puma—jagged teeth and all! And Peru celebrated its independence from Spain in 1824 by making beautiful, ornate balconies. The wealthy imported their wood to make their balconies from South Africa.

Cusco has the most amazingly, intricate balconies I’ve ever seen!

The next blog will detail our expenditures and the hotels we stayed in (they.were.incredible!). I hope to see you back here for then, and if you haven’t already, please consider signing up as a subscriber so you don’t miss a blog. In the meantime, figure out what one thing is you could do to improve your finances and go do it. You got this!

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