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Getting Around Cusco

The best way to get around Cusco is on foot. Colorful cobbled pedestrian-only streets extend out of the vibrant Plaza de Armas in the historic center, and many of the city's top attractions are within a 25-minute walk of the plaza. That said, at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, exploring Cusco requires stamina. Should you need to catch your breath, it's easy to flag down a taxi. Buses, often called colectivos or combis, are an affordable means of getting around, but relying on their time schedules and limited routes can be less convenient than hailing a cab. For longer journeys to the Sacred Valley, you'll want to pick up a rental car; however, driving in Cusco proper is not recommended, as heavy pedestrian traffic clogs the narrow streets. When you're ready to journey to Machu Picchu, you'll want to snag a seat on one of PeruRail's daily trains from Estación Poroy station (15 minutes from downtown Cusco) to Aguas Calientes, a station located at the base of Machu Picchu.

Most visitors fly into Cusco's Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport (CUZ)—located about 10 minutes from the downtown area—via the one-hour flight from Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM). Peruvian Airlines and LAN offer daily flights between Lima and Cusco. From CUZ, it's best to hop in a cab, which costs approximately 10 PEN (about $3.75 USD).

Foot

Because most hotels are based in the city center and must-see attractions sit within minutes of Plaza de Armas, walking is the best mode of transportation within Cusco. However, uphill climbs to sites like Sacsayhuamán can be challenging, so bring bottled water and wear sturdy walking shoes. For spots farther from the city, you'll want to book a seat on the PeruRail.

Tram

The tranvía is a popular tram service that circulates throughout Cusco, shuttling visitors on a brief 90-minute tour through town. It passes top attractions, like the Cathedral, La Compañia, and Plaza de San Francisco. Trams start running from the Plaza de Armas at 8:30 a.m. with the last departure time at 6:30 p.m. Fares cost 20 PEN (roughly $7.50 USD) for adults.

Bus

For short distances, it's easy to hop on one of the city's colectivos that run along El Sol Avenue, a major city thoroughfare. You may also consider taking the bus from Plaza San Francisco (stationed to the southwest of Plaza de Armas) to Terminal Terrestre (adjacent to the airport). You may also want to take the bus to charming towns tucked away in the Sacred Valley, like Urubamaba or Pisac. Buses depart from terminals located in the center of town, just off of Puputi Street. Fares vary according to the desired destination. Cruz del Sur is a reliable company offering service from Cusco to Lima and the Sacred Valley.

Car

Cars are the ideal option for those looking to explore the Sacred Valley. With a set of wheels, you'll have the freedom to build your own itinerary and take off whenever you wish. But avoid driving in the congested inner city, which has many pedestrian-only streets and few parking spots. You'll find familiar car rental companies, like Hertz, located at the airport. Rates vary from about $50 to $100 USD daily, depending on the two-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle selection.

Taxi

Official taxis are unmistakable thanks to the black and gold sticker featured on each side of the car and their illuminated company number on the roofs. Although cabs are not metered, they have a standard starting rate of 2 PEN (about $0.75 USD) that increases to 3 PEN (approximately $1 USD) after 10 p.m. Taxis are relatively easy to come by in Cusco city, but at night, ask your hotel to call a taxi for you from a dependable company, like Aló Taxi. It's important to stay vigilant when entering a taxi, and, for safety reasons, do not enter an unmarked taxi. If you're planning to explore the Sacred Valley, consider making a reservation with Honda Motokar taxis, a compact three-wheel car agency offering shuttle service to and tours of the Sacred Valley for about $50 USD per day.

Train

To reach Machu Picchu without spending four days on the Inca Trail, you'll need to take a four-hour train ride from Cusco. Trains operate from San Pedro station to Aguas Calientes, the town resting at the base of the mountains where the ruins perch. From there, a shuttle can bring you from the train station to the historic site. There are a variety of trains running between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Backpacker, Vistadome, and Hiram Bingham are all reliable trains that are operated by PeruRail. They run to and from Cusco daily, departing in the early morning and returning in the late evening. One-way train fares vary between approximately $70 to $400 USD, depending on the season and the company. You'll want to make your train reservations several weeks in advance, especially during Peru's peak winter season.

Entry & Exit Requirements

A valid passport is required for entry into Peru. U.S. travelers can stay for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa as long as they possess documentation of return or continued travel. Staying beyond 90 days is prohibited without applying for a special visa prior to arrival. Peru requires an international departure tax of $30.25 USD per person, which is either included in the cost of your plane ticket or must be paid in cash upon departure from the airport. Although Peru does not require immunizations before entry, vaccination against yellow fever is highly recommended. For more information, check out the U.S. Department of State's website.

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