Travel Comments (updated 1-19-08)
ARGENTINA – General Comment: Like Peru, money can be a challenge in Argentina, but for different reasons. ATM´s usually distribute 100 Peso bills, but store owners rarely have more than a few Pesos on hand. Breaking 100 bills and keeping small change can be difficult. At ATM´s instead of withdrawing 300 Pesos, withdraw 290 so that you get 90 in small change. Always pay with your largest bill at restaurants in the hopes that they can make change. We found Buenos Aires generally safe and were able to walk around the city at all hours. The only crime we saw were two pickpocket attempts on Florida street, which is an area of town packed with tourists. Taxis can also be a bit of a challenge because they will drive you around town to increase their fare. We started using Buenos Aires subway system and found that it got us to most places in town. If you´re new to Buenos Aires and don´t speak Spanish try using the subway, it´s cheap and safe.
Hotel: N/A – We rented a friends apartment in the San Telmo district for $60 US a night. The location was perfect and I can´t think of a better location to stay at in Buenos Aires. San Telmo is the historical center of the town and is home to all the Tango clubs and night life. The buildings are old and worn down compared to the Palarmo district, but we liked it because there was no doubt we were in Latin America. It´s also close to the subway, which makes getting around town much easier. Other nice areas to stay would be Palermo and Recoleta.
Comments: We stayed 12 days in Buenos Aires, which is probably too much time. 4-5 days would have been better with 2 excursions outside the city. We did take a day trip to Uruguay to see Colonia del Sacramento. If you do this you only need a half day to see Colonia. I think another side trip to Iguazu Falls or to the Mendoza wine region would have improved our stay. Both of these excursions take about 12 – 14 hours by bus or a short flight to reach so it´s definitely a 2 – 3 day trip. In the city, the highlights of our trip were: Tango show at Las Ventana, Recoleta Cemetery (there´s a free tour every Thursday at 11 a.m.), dinner at Cabana Las Lilas, and shopping in Palermo. Things we could have missed were the Sunday antique show at San Telmo and touring La Boca. Both are very touristy and we only spent an hour at each before we were tired and bored.
PERU – General Comment: Bring US$ if you plan on visiting Peru. You can use a credit or debit card, but most vendors charge an 8% premium on all purchases, this is in addition to any fees your card company may assess. Save money by using cash. Also, the Lima and Cusco airports charge an airport tax when you board your flights. This can range from $6 (domestic) to $30 (international) for each flight and must be paid in US$.
Hotel: La Paz Apart Hotel – $85/day – Hotel was great value for the money. It´s located in the Miraflores district, which is probably the best area for travelers to stay. It´s within walking distance of restaurants, shopping, and banks. Our room had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and small living room. We felt safe and the staff was friendly. Also included free breakfast.
Hotel: Torre Dorado Hotel – $75/day – The best service we´ve ever received at a hotel. Family run and very service oriented. The rooms are small but perfect for a stay in Cusco. The staff drove us around town for 3 days, arranged our tour of Machu Picchu, and took care of all of our needs. I cannot say enough about what a great find this was.
Aguas Calientes,Peru (Machu Picchu):
Hotel: Hatuchay Tower – $205/day – Marginal hotel in a marginal town. Everything in Aguas Calientes is expensive because of Machu Picchu. Don´t expect much when staying in Aguas and just remember that you´re there to see Machu Picchu and not stay in a nice hotel nor receive good service. I definitely would not recommend the Sanctuary Lodge or the other $600 a night hotel. They are overrun with people eating at their restaurants so they lack the privacy you´d expect. Stay in a moderate hotel and try to spend as little time as possible in the room. Just sleep and take a shower in the room… spend the rest of your time at Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu Comments: All you need is 1 night in Aguas and 1 day to see Machu Picchu. Take the Backpacker train round-trip to Aguas. It´s clean and as nice as most trains in the U.S. We took this train from Cusco to Aguas. We took the Vistadome train from Aguas to Cusco. I would not recommend this train as it´s more expensive and offers less value than the Backpacker train. The train staff performs shows on the train and you feel obligated to tip. The Backpacker is quiet, comfortable, and cheap… don´t let the Backpacker name fool you, it´s a way better deal.