Peru in 9 Days: The Logistics

Peru in 9 days

So you wanna do Peru in nine days and see as much as possible? Well, boy howdy do I have the plan for you!

This trip is very aggressive, and in some points, seemingly impossible. If you do not function well on little sleep, you may want to omit some of these tours or add a couple of days… ’cause you’re going to be very, very tired if you do what we did.

Below is our schedule with links to each of the tour companies we used.

  • Day Zero – Leave LAX at 8:30 p.m.
  • Day One – Arrive in Cusco at 11:00 a.m.; check into AirBnB
  • Day Two – Tour to Lake Titicaca (2.5 day trek)
  • Day Three – Uros Islands and Taquile Island; overnight bus back to Cusco
  • Day Four – Hike to Rainbow Mountain 
  • Day Five –  Sacred Valley tour to  Machu Picchu 
  • Day Six –  Machu Picchu
  • Day Seven – Walk across Inca Bridge 
  • Day Eight – Climb to Sky Lodge; zipline down; return flight home
  • Day Nine – Arrive at LAX at 7:30 a.m. 

Some tours were great. One? Actively conspired to give us Covid. Which one? Well, you’ll have to actually read to find out.

Ah, the suspense! This is also how I force people to read it all.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost:

  • Flight to Lima: $696
  • Hopper Flight to Cusco: $103
  • Travel Insurance: $50
  • AirBnB (per person): $129
  • Lake Titicaca: $277
  • Rainbow Mountain: $79
  • Machu Picchu: $465
    • Sacred Valley: $17.50
    • Lunch Buffet: $11.25
  • Inca Bridge $69
    • Bridge Entrance: $2.5
  • Via Ferrata (Sky Lodge) $139
    • Photo package: $20

Total per person: $2058.25

Other costs:

  • Gratuities for tour guides: See suggestion for tipping. BTW tour guides aren’t like ours in the US where anyone can do it… In Peru tour guides study at university for FIVE YEARS. They are extremely knowledgeable and tours are definitely worth booking.
  • Food: most of our food was included in the tours; however food is very inexpensive in Peru, so you can easily get by with $10-15 per day, depending on how much you eat/drink. This daily price would include the cost of bottled water. Also we weren’t in Peru for the food so if you want restaurant suggestions… I can’t help you. 
  • Souvenirs: Varies. You can get high quality, beautiful items very inexpensively. We got some gorgeous baby alpaca blankets for less than $20. They would have cost $100 here. If I had brought bigger luggage I’d have bought more.
  • Luggage fees: $75-100.  On your hopper flight you will have to check your carry on bag (personal bags are fine). On the way to Cusco we “volunteered” to check our bags at the gate prior to boarding, so there was no cost (if you check ahead of time or if they stop you while you’re boarding, you will have to pay $40). On the way back our fee was $36. This was for a small bag, larger bags will cost more. 

Other Notes:

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That engagement pic where they’re side by side looking at one another, except with an Alpaca

In Peru

  • Don’t drink the water. Or eat fresh veggies washed in the water. This is the one time where salads are not good for you. Also, stay away from ice. You will have a very bad time if you have the water. 
  • Download Whatsapp. They love it there. I used it to communicate with tour guides and with our AirBnB hosts
  • Public Restrooms. Some are free, public toilets like we have in the US. Some have toilet paper but it’s outside the stalls and you don’t know until you’re sitting down. Some you have to pay for and you get two squares of toilet paper with your purchase. Some don’t have toilet seats. Some are flushed by someone dumping water in the toilet after you go. You’re just not going to know until you get there. It’s always a surprise. One thing that IS consistent though, is…
  • Do not put your toilet paper in the toilet–it goes in the trashcan. I was successful in remembering this a solid 60% of the time 
  • Uber works and is probably better than using taxis. Taxi drivers are known to quote you a price and then start adding on fees you didn’t agree to
  • Bartering is a thing here. If you’re like me and you hate bartering, just remember everything is so inexpensive you’d really only be saving a couple of dollars, anyway. Also, if you and a traveling companion double up, you may get a better deal. For example Sharee and I both bought two blankets each which got us a better deal because together we were buying four total. 
  • Baby alpaca wool is so soft! The best way to tell if it’s real baby alpaca is to place your hand in the stack. If it’s cool it’s real. If it’s warm, it’s synthetic. 
  • Tipping: aside from guides, you do not need to tip servers and taxi drivers
  • Animals: Get used to seeing dogs roaming everywhere. Packs of dogs. Dogs in pairs. Dogs wearing sweaters but who do not have owners. Dogs dogs dogs. Also, sheep, alpacas, llamas, cows… we saw a giant pig once… it’s wild, man.
  • Driving is bonkers and people are constantly honking at one another, and pedestrians. Even so we saw no accidents and experienced zero road rage.
  • Bring a bottle of aspirin. Cusco is at over 11,000 feet so you are likely to suffer altitude sickness and we found it hard to get pain killers. Also, they ask you how many you want because they only sell them in packs of two because IDK
  • Coco leaf tea and candies also help with altitude sickness, which can include headaches and nausea. Be careful taking the leaves back, though. Apparently it’s illegal to bring into the US because anyone bringing it back is planning to make cocaine OBVIOUSLY.

A note about phones: I would not rely on Whatsapp only. If you don’t have data, you will need Wifi to use it, which Sharee, my traveling companion, found out about the hard way when she had no way to communicate with people back home unless there was free wifi. Also, many phone carriers don’t work in Peru, even if you were to pay.

I have Google Fi (YES, Google is a provider, just like Verizon or T-Mobile, AT&T, etc.) as my carrier and I have texting and data (not voice but I’m an elder millennial and we don’t call people anyway) in every country I’ve gone to without having to pay extra. I tell people about Google Fi all the time and they just ignore me and I’m like “Have fun having crappy, expensive coverage you dummies.” 

Anyway, click here  for my referral code and $20 off if you switch. Google supports Android and iPhone so there’s honestly no reason not to… unless you really DO enjoy your crappy, expensive coverage. 

Flying Notes:

  • Bring paper copies of your tickets because they won’t let you into the airport in Cusco without it
  • You have to go through passport control both coming and going to/from Peru (this confused everyone on the way out)
  • You will have to claim your baggage and go back through airport security in flights to and from Cusco
  • Your baggage will be hand searched in both Cusco and Lima, right in front of you.
  • You can bring water into the airports
  • You cannot bring water on the plane from Lima to LAX, as US customs will not allow even bottled water because of… reasons??? Wish we’d known that before spending $12 on water to have it thrown out 10 min later. Peru is cheap but airports in Peru are like airports anywhere… expensive. So you better savor your thimble-sized cup of water you get every six hours from Latam, because that’s all the hydration you’re getting
  • Download the passport app for customs. Gone are the days of the paper form and trying to borrow a pen from someone. Also gone are the days of going through customs at all, which was pretty rad. You still have to go through passport control, though.

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for… COVID

If you’re post Covid:
Hey, man… what’s it like? Is it rainbows and butterflies? Is your skin soft now that you don’t have to bathe in bleach every day? How is it seeing more than ⅓ of people’s faces? I bet it’s real nice over there ::stares off into distance::

If you’re not post-Covid:
Whoa, me too! Here’s what you have to worry about:

  • Double masks on planes!
  • Mask and face shield on buses like the one from Lake Titicaca AND the train to get to Machu Picchu. We used these ones. Fun fact, there are TWO sets of film on these bad boys which we figured out after suffering through two trips of looking through a perpetual fog. 


  • Testing:
    • To get into the country: at the time of this writing, you need a PCR test to get into Peru. Keep your eye on this page because requirements change a lot. For example, at first a vaccination was fine (I’m fully vaccinated), then three days before we left it wasn’t fine, you needed a PCR test, antigens weren’t good enough. And don’t expect your airline, Latam, to keep you up to date, because they literally could not care less about you (more on that later).

      You also have to fill out this declaration form which is buggy and is in half Spanish, half English. Can’t find the United States on the drop down? That’s because it’s listed as EE.US (abbreviation for Los Estados Unidos in Spanish). Also it’ll require phone numbers that are eight digits even though ours are seven digits, so we added a random number because IDK what’s happening RN. Get used to that feeling because you’re going to IDK what’s happening RN a lot when it comes to traveling and Peru in general.
  • To get out of the country: Remember when I said “More on that later” with Latam? Well, guess what, it’s later.

    First, domestically they do not care about testing, so our flight from Cusco to Lima was fine.

    However getting on the plane in Lima was a WHOLE THING.

    At the time of this writing the US requires antigen or PCR tests. We used the Ellume at home test which is an antigen test done by nasal swab. It’s super easy to use and only takes 15 minutes to get the results. But because it does not have the word “antigen” in the results they email you, the staff at Latam would not let us board the flight. It didn’t matter how many times we showed them the FAQ page that explained it was an antigen test–they did not care. And I really mean they DID NOT CARE about us.

    We spent TWO HOURS being bounced from person to person while they all took pictures of the results, sent it to some supervisor we never saw, and then played on their phone or talked to their friends and ignored us as we stood tired and afraid we’d never make it out of South America. After about an hour and a half, we asked if there was an in-airport testing facility and the Latam ticket agent said yes, but it had closed at 10 p.m. It was 10:30. 

    Out of desperation, we went to the United Airlines desk and asked them if they would accept the Ellume test. They said they would absolutely accept it, and did not understand what Latam’s problem was. But United does not have direct flights to LAX United also told us the on-site testing facility was actually open until 11:00 p.m. but it was 10:56 by the time we learned this fact. If Latam had told us at the beginning the on-site testing was an option, we would have had it resolved in 30 min. and had enough time to have a birthday drink and meal. United was more helpful than our own airline. Great. 

    Meanwhile, back at Latam, asked to talk to a supervisor and stood for 20 minutes while no one ever came over. We were treated as if we were just a bother and  not one of the customer service people even TRIED to come up with a solution for us. In fact, when we asked for a refund, we were told “We’re the only ones that fly from Lima to LAX, you do not have any options.” 

    Yet, they did nothing to help us. 

    When I say Latam does not care about you I really, truly mean they do not care. At all. Not even a little bit. 

    Finally, I was able to get in front of an actual supervisor who had just come on shift. I politely showed her my results and clicked on the part that said it was an antigen test. She said “oh yes, this works, I don’t know what the problem is” and took us to the counter where we were able to check in for our flight. 

    I could have cried. I wish I’d gotten her name but we were in such a frazzle we just wanted to get on the plane. Thank you, female supervisor. I love you, and you’re my for forever and ever.

    So my advice? Just get a test at a clinic. Apparently there are multiple ones that are 24 hrs in Cusco. If we hadn’t had four hours for our layover we’d never have made the flight and I would probably just have given up and accepted my life perpetually living in an airport. 

    P.s. It was my 40th birthday that day. Great job Latam.

    Also, to enter the US you need to sign a health declaration form. Not having access to a printer, we’d actually begged a local hotel to print them for us, only to find that they had the forms in the airport ready to go. 

Okay, so I think that’s all I have about getting to and from Cusco. What do you do while you’re there? Check out Part 2 and Part 3.

Peru Part 2: Lake Titicaca & Rainbow Mountain

Okay, so now that we’ve gotten to Peru somehow, here is a breakdown of the tours and activities.

A note about tours: It appears that the tours being organized are subcontracted out to other tour companies so you will not be with the same group for the duration of the tour. For example, on the Lake Titicaca tour, we had the tour agency we booked with pick us up in a taxi and then pass us off to the tour company who would take us on a tour to Puno (the town next to Lake Titicaca). That tour company took us to a bus station where an agent met us, took us in a cab to our hotel. In the morning, we ended up with a different tour guide who picked us up in a shuttle and took us to the boat where we met a different group of people, etc. 

What I’m saying here is that with these overnight tours you will not likely have the same group of people OR the same tour guide; however, we were always taken care of every step of the way. This was not explained to us ahead of time but the communication from the first company on WhatsApp was great and after the first tour we knew what to expect.

Day One: Cusco

Sharee and I arrived in Cusco around 11:00 a.m., tired from our red eye. We checked into our AirBnB, an adorable little place that is in a great location, very close to the main square in Cusco, Plaza de Armas. Check in was at 2:00 p.m. but our host’s sister let us into the apartment early which was very kind. While we had two overnight trips, the apartment was only $35/night so we kept it the entire time because it was easier that way. Plus, our host, Gabi, was very accommodating and responsive. If you need a small place to stay, I highly recommend it.

This was the only day we did not have a tour scheduled so we wandered around Cusco and huffed and puffed up the streets as we breathed in the thin air at over 11,000 ft. 

Day Two: Journey to Lake Titicaca

We were picked up in a taxi by our tour guide at the Palacio De Nazarenas (most tours will not pick up at an AirBnB so we chose the fancy schmantzy hotel nearby) which was a short two minute walk from the apartment.

One of our first stops was San Pedro Apóstol, the “Sistine Chapel of the Andes” which is a church built over a ceremonial site for the Incans. (Note: you cannot take pictures inside the church)

Spaniards were real jerks, and just went building over sacred sites all the time. Like this church which was built over a temple. The church has frescoes painted by the Jesuits that were used to indoctrinate the indigenous populations; however then the Dominicans came over and were like “Your frescos are trash, Jesuits, we’re putting big ol’ gold altars and paintings over them” so I guess they now know how it feels to have your stuff destroyed.

After this stop,  we continued along Sun Route, visiting several different archeological sites and got our first glimpse of the famous “Incan Road” which was a road system that went from Chile to Ecuador. We ended the night in Puno, right next to Lake Titicaca.

Day Three: Lake Titicaca
After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by our guide to go on our boat tour. The first stop was the Uros Islands which are floating islands made of compressed reeds. Families can join other islands but if they do not pull their weight, can be cut off and pushed out into the lake. I would like to implement this practice here in America.

On this island they sell hand-crafted goods and speak Aymara as well as a bit of Spanish. Sharee and I were invited to the Island President’s hut for a tour where I leaned realllll hard on my basic Spanish skills from high school to communicate. He sold us some of his wife’s hand-woven tapestries. We then took a ride on one of the traditional boats where Sharee and I were attacked by four adorable little girls who braided our hair. One of the girls working on my hair finished early and then snagged my phone from me, looking at all my pictures and opening every app. She held it hostage the entire boat ride and I’m pretty sure I’m going to have some weird delivery from Amazon as a result.

The other girl didn’t like how the one girl did my braid so she took it out and redid it. I was slightly worried the first girl would have her part of the island cut off and pushed into the lake, but I think everything is going to be fine.

After this we headed over to Taquile Island where we hiked a way steep hill and had a traditionally cooked lunch while listening to stories about their culture, including how they use hats to determine who is single and who is not and man, is it wild. Learning about these very different cultures that lived on islands very close to one another was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.

After this, we headed back to Puno. We had the option of paying 50 soles for access to a room before our bus ride home in four hours. Since that equated to about $12.50 total we took them up on that. A representative from the tour agency then met us at the hotel and took us to the bus station for an overnight ride back to Cusco. The seats on the bus were comfortable and leaned all the way back to help with sleeping, but the ride was… rough. Roads in Peru are a hodge podge of asphalt, pebbles, dirt, and rocks from the before times. At the bus station we were met by a taxi driver who took us back to our AirBnB

This tour was extremely well organized and I would highly recommend. There was a guide at every step of the way to take us to the next location. Lake Titicaca is 7.5 hrs from Cusco without stops which is why people usually don’t do it but if you’re looking to learn about the culture, you really should do it ::whispers:: it’s better than Machu Picchu

Worth it: Yes.

Day Four:Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain)

Alright so this is where it gets VERY METAL.

Our overnight bus ride got us back to our apartment at 5:00 a.m. and after 2.5 hrs of sleep we were back down to meet our next tour guide at 8:30 a.m.

I told y’all… METAL.

Because no one else booked the tour, Sharee and I had a private car with just us. It was a three hour drive from Cusco to Vinicunca, going the same direction as you head toward for Lake Titicaca. The last part of the drive is BEAUTIFUL, full of nature and trees and alpacas.

The hike is about 2 miles one way and starts at 14,500 ft. and ends at 16,500 feet, which was the highest that Sharee and I had ever hiked. We almost died, but still made it to the top in just over an hour–our tour guide said that was a great time, but he may have just been humoring us.

You can also rent a horse to get you most of the way up, but not up the steepest part, so you still have to walk it.

One sad note about Vinicunca is that the reason it was revealed was due to global warming– previously, snow and ice covered the very colorful mountain.

Due to social media it has taken off in popularity and has brought tourism to the rural area which has started an entirely different economy for the indingenous population. 

After a quick history lesson, we headed back down and went to a restaurant for a buffet lunch (a 3 p.m. lunch…?)… a restaurant we would visit a total of THREE TIMES on the trip. Then, it was back to Cusco.

Worth it:  Yes!

Next up, Part 3!

Or go back to Part 1