+ How do I contact Kusa Treks with questions?
If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can e-mail us, Skype us, call us, text us, IM us, heck you can even send us a letter if you really want to. The point is we’re here to help answer any of your questions and make your trip easier to book and more accessible than ever. Please visit our Contact Us page to learn all of the ways we can be reached.
+ Which trek is right for me?
This all depends on a few things:
- What you want to see (Machu Picchu, rain forests, archeological sites, etc.)
- How many days you want to spend with us
- Your budget
- Your party composition (older, younger, hiking experience, etc.)
+ What do I need to pack?
This will depend on which trek/tour you decide to go on. You will receive a detailed packing list via email after you book your tour (as the list will change depending on which tour you book).
+ Is there a student discount?
Kusa Treks is happy to offer a $30.00 discount to students of all ages! A valid ISIC card or University issued ID is required, – you can apply for an ISIC card at “www.isic.org”. Please let us know at the time of booking that you are a student, we’ll ask for a scanned copy of your ID or ISIC Card and you’re good to go!
+ When do most people go?
The busiest season on the Inca Trail is June – September, which corresponds with the dry season here in Cusco and the summer holidays in North America. You will encounter tourists from all over the globe. Low season is November through mid-April, the trails (particularly the Inca trail) are less crowded. However, be prepared for rain and potential snow/hail.
+ Is there an age limit?
We have had travelers of all ages, between 6-90, on our tours, and we’ll remind of you the 90 year olds when you complain! However, we often encourage families traveling with young children (4-11) to book private tours so we can take our time and provide extra attention to the little ones. The most common age is between 20 and 50. But again, we get a wide variety of ages on most of our departures and Kusa Treks is more than capable of providing everyone willing to hike with an unforgettable experience.
+ Are trips a good choice for solo travelers?
Absolutely!! Our tours tend to attract a great mix of travelers; from those riding solo, to families and groups of friends; we welcome everyone to enjoy a life changing adventures. For those traveling solo, we can match you with a roommate if desired, which will help you save money, or you can request a private room (or tent) if you prefer. (Or, if you're traveling on the cheap, we can bunk you up with the Porter’s if you have no sense of smell and you’re feeling brave).
+ How far in advance should I book my trip?
You can book your tour at any time but generally the earlier you book, the better. For those wanting to hike the Inca Trail we recommend that you book as early as your schedule allows (at least 4 months in advance) especially for travelers hoping to visit during the height of the dry season (June – August). Travelers visiting outside of these busy months can book a bit more last minute, though 1-2 months notice is still recommended.
Further, we recommend that you wait to book your international flights until your tour is confirmed. For Alternative Treks, or off-season Inca Trail treks, we are able to accommodate last minute travelers (some even departing in less than one week!), so give us a call and we will do our best! Your first choice may not be available for your selected dates, but we will recommend similar options.
*The Peruvian government limits the amount of travelers that can go on the Inca Trail throughout the year to help persevere the trail and prevent further erosion. Once Kusa Treks receives a request to hike the Inca Trail, we have to apply for a permit, which are oftentimes booked 4-6 months in advance.
+ Are tour dates flexible?
YES. Please Contact Us if you are not able to travel on the set departure dates. Most tours can be arranged on alternative departure dates for a minimum of three travelers. If you’ve learned anything from our site, I hope you’ve learned that we’re accommodating and will gladly work with you to “make it work”.
+ Do I need any vaccines?
We recommend having all of your boosters up to date (MMR, tetanus, etc.). If you plan on only traveling to Lima, Cusco or Machu Picchu you will not need any vaccinations. If you plan on venturing into the jungle or other high risk areas you may need: yellow fever vaccine, medicine for malaria, typhoid vaccine, etc. Click here for updated info: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/peru.aspx
The greatest risk in Cusco is Altitude Sickness, for more information see more at “Altitude…?” below. The main health issues travelers have experienced is an upset stomach, and in rare cases travelers' diarrhea. All of the food and water we provide on the trek will be safe for you to eat (and insanely delicious), but please be careful what you eat around Cusco and only drink bottled or boiled/filtered water.
+ Where is Cusco and how do I get to it?
Cusco is a city located in the South-East part of Peru (closer to Brazil than the ocean). Peru might seem like an exotic destination, but it is closer than you think! Lima is only a 5-hour flight from Miami, 7.5 hours from NYC and 8.5 hours from Los Angeles! Currently there are no direct flights from foreign countries into Cusco City; so to get to our neck of the woods you’ll have to connect from a major hub (typically Lima or Buenos Aires), take a bus or chase down a donkey. There are four airlines that fly to Cusco from Lima: Lan Peru, Taca, Peruvian Airlines, and Star Peru.
Customs: You'll hand over your passport to be stamped, along with the immigration paperwork you received on the airplane. You do need not declare anything unless you are traveling with something weird like livestock or weapons. Explain that you are a tourist visiting for 30-90 days and they will stamp your passport accordingly. DO NOT lose your little white immigration slip, keep it with your passport, tape it to your chest, or tattoo it to your forehead, just don’t lose it! (Or else you will have to pay a fine when you leave).
Oh and a knowing a little bit of Spanish goes a long way with Peruvian government officials and the locals. Check out this link to learn travel Spanish phrases: http://www.travelphrase.com/EnglishSpanish.htm
+ Do tour rates include international flights?
Tour rates do not include international flight prices (shocker!). Again, due to the altitude please plan on spending a few days in Cusco before you complete any of our treks to acclimatize. If you’d like, we are more than happy to help you plan your trip and assist in booking your travel arrangements (including flights).
+ Do I need a visa?
Travelers will all need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after they depart. Currently, citizens from the following countries do not need a visa: The U.S., Canada, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Japan, Latin America, South Africa, South Korea, and the Caribbean (except Cuba). Our friends from Australia and New Zealand will need a visa. Travelers from other nationalities should check with the Peruvian Embassy for visa information. Entry requirements change with surprising frequency (darn government). It is each traveler’s responsibility to check with the consulate for the most up-to-date visa information.
+ Can I extend or change my stay?
Absolutely! You can arrange this on your own or we can help you book extra days in Cusco. Let us know how you would like to customize your trip and we will do our best to accommodate you. If you really love Peru and want to be a tour guide, we’re always hiring and can arrange for your stay to be extended indefinitely!
+ How safe is Peru?
Peru has a stable government and tourism has boomed in recent years. With the added tourist dollars, the government has made a concerted effort to keep travelers safe. There have been no terrorist attacks in a Peruvian tourist destination for over a decade.
As with any international travel, travelers should take the same precautions that they would use in a major U.S. city. Pay attention to the advice of your tour leader and hotel reception and use common-sense, such as not going into unfamiliar areas alone, especially at night. Petty theft is common in busy tourist areas such as airports, markets, and other tourist sites so be aware of your valuables and don’t leave them unattended. Monetary scams also sprout up occasionally so beware of any offers that sound too good to be true (they usually are). All of our tour leaders are "locals" and are an excellent sources of information and advice. Check out the US State Department travel advisories for the latest information at: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_998.html
+ What’s the money situation in Peru?
The currency in Peru is Nuevo Sol. US Dollars and the Euro are widely exchanged. Travelers checks are less prevalent these days. Also, avoid bringing dollar notes that have tears (no matter how small they are), fold marks, and ink marks. Businesses will reject them because the Banks do not accept them.
Exchange rates vary with the market and banks. Certain areas are known for better rates, for example the Avenida el Sol by the Plaza de Armas in Cusco is a great place to go. Do not change money with individuals on the street, they could have counterfeit bills. Check the going rate first as one store might offer a better exchange rate. Taking money out of ATMs in Peru usually results in a $3-5 surcharge in addition to conversion fees. Credit cards often have a 3% charge added by the Credit Card company, in addition to any commission charged by the store. Ask first! Most major credit cards are accepted, Visa being the most widely used.
+ What is Cusco's time zone?
Peru is five hours behind GMT (same as EST). They do not observe daylight-savings time so during the winter months (April-October), Peru is on Central standard time. So no jet lag from the U.S.!
+ Are public restrooms available?
Interestingly, most businesses in Cusco will not allow you to use their restrooms. Keep this in mind as you are walking around. You must buy something at a restaurant if you want to use their bathroom. There are a few public toilets in local markets, on the streets, however most of these require a small fee (.50 Soles) and some give you toilet paper but others do not.
It is best to bring some toilet paper and Kleenex with you at all times. Be advised that many toilets in Peru do not have toilet paper, soap, or paper towels available (mostly in local places). Please carry hand sanitizer or wipes with you at all times as well. Your hotel and more touristy places will have these items, as will fancier restaurants.
+ Is travel insurance recommended?
Absolutely! There are many companies that provide reasonably priced insurance for trip cancellations, medical expenses, medical evacuation, lost bags, etc. Please be sure to arrange for trip cancellation/medical insurance coverage as Kusa Treks is not responsible for these issues or the costs incurred. Be aware that many insurance companies only cover trips before you have left and they only cover trips where you are returning to your country of residence within a specified time frame. Check their policy prior to purchase. Once you have this insurance please email us a copy of the policy and coverage.
+ Can I drink the water in Peru?
The tap water is generally not safe to drink in Peru. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. Don’t forget to use bottled water when brushing your teeth as well. Ice is not always made with boiled/bottled water. Order your beverages without ice (“sin hielo”) or ask your tour leader if the ice is safe in a particular restaurant.
Altitude affects each traveler differently and until you have visited an area with high altitude, it is impossible to predict how your body will react. Travelers commonly report mild altitude symptoms such as fatigue, headache, or light-headedness during their first day or two at Cusco’s elevation. Many Cusco hotels have oxygen available for travelers feeling the effects of the elevation.
Severe altitude sickness is rare, however if it does happen, the best treatment is to get down to lower elevation as soon as possible. We have never had a traveler that had to be evacuated as a result of Altitude sickness.
Cusco’s altitude is (11,089ft / 3,380m), The Big Apple (New York) is at 33ft…odds are you’ll be susceptible to minor altitude sickness. Minor to moderate altitude sickness is very real and can really put a damper on your whole trip. Therefore, please be sure to take it seriously. For ~95% of our trekkers the following preparation has helped prevent altitude sickness: Arrive to Cusco at least 2-3 full days before your trek, drink plenty of water, take it easy (it’s vacation after all), eat lots of carbohydrates and chug coca tea (it’s a local remedy and it’s amazing, 2-3 cups/day for the first couple of days is plenty). Many severe cases of altitude sickness are the result of a pre-existing condition that is aggravated by the altitude. If you are concerned, please ask your doctor whether traveling to high altitude is advised, especially if you have a pre-existing heart or lung condition such as high blood pressure, asthma, angina, etc. You might also want to ask your doctor about “Diuretics”, a medicine that many travelers swear by to help them adjust to the altitude.
Fun Fact! Machu Picchu actually has lower elevation (8,000ft / 2,430m), but if you choose to trek there, the mountain passes go up to 15,000ft / 4,572m.
The Following Questions and Answers are specific to the 4 Day, 3 Night Hike to Machu Picchu
+ Porters...Men or superheroes? (And Should I hire a one?)
Porter’s are incredible specisms of human strength and agility! Kusa Treks hires local individuals who specialize in hiking the Andes. These wonderful people get paid to carry our tents, cooking materials (propane, tables, chairs, etc.), and your stuff, if you want them to. Most of our Porter’s have been hiking the Inca Trail since they were children. They love sharing this experience with visitors and are grateful for an opportunity to earn extra money for their families.
As to whether or not you should hire one, like everything else in life, this answer is “it depends”. If you are an “advanced” hiker and have experience carrying all of your camping gear on previous treks, you may not need a Porter. However, the elevation we will be hiking at is much more extreme than most people have experienced and having a Porter carry most of your belongings goes a long in way in helping you enjoy your trip. You do have the option to "split" a Porter should you require one.
For the Classic 4 Day, 3 Night trek on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, we almost always suggest using or splitting a Porter. This allows you to walk more freely and really enjoy the scenery and history of the beautiful areas that will surround you (rather than huffing and puffing your way up the mountain).
All of the Porters hired by Kusa Treks are fairly compensated and treated with the respect they deserve as our fellow brothers on this earth. We do not allow any of our Porters to carry over 20lbs. (9kg). If you choose to use a Porter, you’ll carry a daypack full of the things you’ll need during the day (water, camera, selfie stick, snacks, small first aid kit, teddy bear, etc.) and the Porter will (literally) run ahead of us with the rest of your belongings (sleeping bag, Thermarest, spare teddy bear, clothes, etc.).
+ What’s the water situation on the Inca trail?
Every morning, when you wake up to world, bleary eyed and tousle haired, you’ll be greeted by a smiling Porter or Trek guide, which is terrifying at first, but you’ll receive a hot beverage and instructions on how to fill your bladders and canteens for the day. You’ll want to fill up one to two liters of water in the morning (whatever you need to last until lunch). Every day at breakfast, lunch and dinner you will be provided with new boiled water to refresh your bottles or hydrations packs.
During the first day we’ll pass several “outposts” (for lack of a better term), where local inhabitants will have all sorts of things for you to buy (including water bottles, Gatorade, candy and even sunscreen!) We recommend that you bring at least two liters to start on the first day, and then supplement as needed. The water we will provide you is safe for “American stomachs”. However, feel free to bring additional water purification methods (pumps, iodine tablets or filters) to set your mind at ease.
+ Will I get to see the sunrise from the Sun Gate?
During our winter months (May – September), the sun rises around 7:20AM; so depending on the weather and speed of the group, we should be able to see the sunrise! However, during our summer months (October-April), the sunrise is a lot earlier, around 5:30AM, so we will not be able to see it from the Sun Gate, but you will be able to see it on the trail.
+ How long will we stay at Machu Picchu?
We typically get to the Sun Gate around 6:30-7:00AM, then we’ll walk one more hour to Machu Picchu. Once we reach the ruins you’ll enjoy a 2-hour guided tour of the Sacred City. After the official tour ends, you’ll have another three hours to nap, hike Huayna Picchu (see “What will I do at Machu Picchu?), take pictures, or explore the ruins on your own.
+ What will I do at Machu Picchu?
When we get to Machu Picchu your guide will show you around and tell you some interesting historical features of the incredible lost city. We’ll walk through the ruins and towards the middle of the tour, those who want to, can climb Huayna Picchu.
Huayna Picchu is the mountain located directly behind the ruins of Machu Picchu (it’s the pointy one you see in all the pictures). It rises approximately 300 meters above than the ruins, which means AWESOME pictures, and takes 2 hours (roundtrip) to hike up and down (Usually 45 minutes up, 15 minutes to high five and take some selfies, then 30 minutes back down).
In order to do this climb you’ll need to book it in advance. The tickets are $65 per person, but only 400 people can climb it per day (darn government). The 400 tickets are divided into two groups: 200 hikers are allowed to begin early (7AM) and 200 more at 10AM. For both start times, the tickets are provided at the Inca Road Check Point. Please let us know if you’re interested in this hike when you book, or for those of you who are “more spur of moment”, speak with your guide the night before you arrive to Machu Picchu and we’ll try to do some wheeling and dealing.
If you opt not to climb Huayna Picchu, you will continue with the guides and get an “extended tour” of Machu Picchu.
+ Do I need to tip my guides, porters and chefs?
The tips for the guides, cooks and porters are not included in the price you paid for your tour. However, a tip provides our crew with a “thank you” for making your trip special. If your trip wasn’t special, don’t tip! If you had an incredible time and made some great memories (which we’re confident you will), then please show your gratitude by contributing extra money to our crew.
The typical tip amount for the Porter’s and Chefs is $35-40 per hiker, which will cover the entire crew, each hiker will add their contribution to a “pot” which will be distributed to the crew. For a bit of perspective, a group of 10-15 hikers will have a crew of ~18-20 Porters and chefs (your $35 will cover tips for all of the crew members). You can offer an additional tip to your tour guides (2-3) and trek leader (1) if you feel their service warrants it.
+ How much cash should I bring on the trail?
We recommend carrying no less than $150-200 USD in cash (most of which should be converted to Peruvian Soles). The cash will allow you to purchase last minute supplies on the first and second days if you’ve forgotten anything. This amount is also more than enough to cover any tips you may wish to give, and will leave you with “emergency cash” that you should always have when traveling abroad.
+ When will we get back to Cusco?
As an example: For a 4 Day, 3 Night hike to Machu Picchu that leaves on Monday, our group will get to the Sun Gate early Thursday morning. After touring Machu Picchu we’ll catch a bus down to Aguas Calientes, where we’ll enjoy a final lunch together, take some pictures, enjoy some bro-hugs and leave each other forever! (Unless you come back to share another incredible adventure with us).
After a tearful goodbye, hikers will take a 2-hour train ride along the Sacred Valley and arrive in Ollantaytambo. From here, a warm Kusa Trek bus will be waiting, once everyone is on the bus it’s another two hours to Cusco. Depending on what time the train leaves Aguascalientes, the group will return to Cusco between 7:00-11:00PM Thursday night (Again, for a trek that starts Monday morning).
+ Why do you need my Passport # and other info?
The foot traffic on the Inca Trail and in Machu Picchu is highly regulated to help preserve and maintain these sites for future generations. As a result, when you book a trek with Kusa Treks we then have to request for a “spot” to be reserved for each member of your party. If you book far enough in advance, securing the spots is usually not an issue. However, in order to officially claim the spot the government requires your Name, Date of Birth and Passport number as unique identifiers. When we begin our trek there is a government gate at the start of the trail where officials will check your passport against a list of people “allowed” on the trail that day.