I have been to Cusco 4 times in the last six years and it is really my favorite place in the whole wide world!! Since 2012 Cusco has a very special place in my heart and I come here to recharge and enjoy the unique energy of the city. I am happy that you are considering to come and pay Cusco a visit. I’m sure you will love it here. It is my great pleasure to share my knowledge about Cusco with you on this blog. So let me start by telling you how to travel to Cusco Peru.
Where is Cusco located
Cusco is located in the middle of the Peruvian Andes, a great big mountainous area which is not easy to navigate through. There are some really nice trekkings. Machu Picchu, the Salkantay trek and Ausangate are the most famous. And all those trecks can be done from Cusco. But like I said it is a very mountainous area, so it’s not advisable to go wandering off on your own, without a guide or without anyone knowing where you are. The Andes is big and it can be confusing to know exactly where you are. Plus a guide can show you so much more and tell you all about Andean traditions and culture.
The exact location of Cusco I can show you best on this map.
As you can see Cusco is quite far from Lima and is located in the middle of the mountains, so it will be very hard to travel there by bus. Some people do it, because of their budget, but it takes about 24-26 hours to get from Cusco to Lima by bus.
I know I don’t want to be cramped up in a bus for that long… and probably so won’t you.
Arriving in Lima Peru
When you arrive at International airport Jorge Javez in Lima, it is about 30-40 minutes drive with a taxi to the nicest parts of Lima – Barranco (40 minutes), Miraflores (35) and Historical center (30). You can just walk out of the airport, take a GREEN Taxi, who is the most trustworthy company and take you to the center 50-60 soles. You sometimes have to negotiate a little when they ask for more, but all taxi prices are the same. It’s a very good price for the driver and worth it. After a long flight, there is nothing you want more than a smooth journey to a hostel/ hotel.
Lima is humid and it is a busy city. But there are some areas where it’s peaceful in the streets – San Miguel and Magdalena del Mar. Both situated more on the coast side of town. Good to know if you don’t want to go into the city and want a good nights’ rest without any noises of the city center.
The day you are leaving for Cusco (after sightseeing Lima of course) you can call TAXI GREEN – probably the driver will give you his card or you can look up the phone number or ask the reception to call you a taxi. For the same price, the driver is going to take you to the airport again.
How to travel to Cusco from Lima
The best advice I have for you is to book a flight with a local airline. I will post the names here, so you can click directly to their pages to book with them. LAN Peru, Peruvian Airlines and LATAM. If you don’t speak any Spanish though, I recommend that you book at a site from your own country. The prices are just a little bit higher but only $10-15.
My preferred pages to book with are expedia.com and wtc.nl. You can look at one-way tickets, so you can be flexible with the date of your return. Or you fix yourself up with a return ticket that will bring you back to Lima in time for your International Flight. I will tell you a little bit about this later – how to be on the safe side. Learned that from my own experience.
Lima airport (LIM – Jorge Javez International)
Cusco airport (CUZ-Alejandro Velasco Astete Intl.)
A one-way ticket usually costs around $67 – $80.
A return flight LIM – CUS – LIM you will probably find a flight around $100 – $125
If you would like to know the different prices and best times to come to Cusco, read my other blog on this subject.
When you arrive in Cusco
The airport in Cusco is very small, so there is no chance you will get lost there. Just wait for bags and walk through the entrance. There will be taxi drivers there calling you, wanting to take you to your ho(s)tel. But they often charge you 20 soles. Which is ridiculous for a 10-minute drive into the center.
The best way is to make arrangements before you arrive in Cusco and pay a fixed price of 12 soles.
Or you can do it the adventurous way and walk with your bags to the right side of the parking lot and out to the main street. There you will find taxis stopping to pick you up. Be confident and ask for a ride into town, exact location – street name would be best – and say that you’ll pay 5-6 soles. They might let you pay 10. But hey, that is still half of what you would have paid if you stayed in the airport, right? And it’s fun to negotiate.
On average the taxi prices in Cusco will take you anywhere between 3 – 5 soles. Only when you want to go outside of town you might pay a little more. It is best to know this upfront because drivers all try to make you pay more. You don’t want to know what they let the locals pay for the same ride… but I think that is only fair.
You learn from every experience
Now let me tell you a little story about the last time I was in Cusco and wanted to travel back to Holland the same day. I arrive at the airport 3 hours prior to get an easy day of traveling… but the counter desk wasn’t open yet. So I take a walk outside and sit around for a bit and return half an hour later. It was a lot busier at the counters and I couldn’t hear what was going on. People walking back and forth. I was still my relaxed self and just waited in line.
UNTIL the woman at the desk told me they had to cancel my flight, due to extreme winds. What wind, I thought? But there I was… stranded on the airport in Cusco (only 1 hour from Lima) but no other way of transportation. The only thing I (and 100 other people) could do is wait for better news.
The afternoon flights were up and leaving around 3 pm. So at least there were possibilities. But of course everyone wanted a ticket out – so the line at the desk was enormous. I stood in line, waited my turn and asked for the price. 190 dollars per seat, I have a few left, she said. Desperate as I was I took out my credit card, but it was declined. And no other way to pay for my ticket, because my bank card got eaten by an ATM the weekend before. What could I do… OMG Only 6 hours till my flight to Holland was leaving and I was still stranded in Cusco.
By the time I found someone to lend me the money, the tickets at the desk were all sold out. The only and LAST OPTION I had, was buying my ticket from a shady sales rep at the airport (black market dealer in airplane tickets – I didn’t know existed) and ask a friend to bring me the cash to pay for my ticket. I was lucky… I had made such good friends that trusted me enough to lend me 560 soles ($150) that I could pay back once I was back home. Thanks to those angels and a bit of persistence and luck I got there …. 3 hours before my flight left, safe and a little crazier than before … What a stressful situation – I hope I never have to go through that again.
Make sure that you book your return flight when you have a fixed date to travel back home with a 1-2 days layover in Lima. It takes away the stress of missing your connecting flight. You never know what the Mountains are gonna play at you. (winds… I still can’t believe it – it was a perfectly sunny day, yet 5 different flights got canceled that day)
I wouldn’t recommend booking your national flight directly with your international ticket, because that usually costs more. But that way you are safe that the airline will provide you with another seat when these things happen. When due to the weather conditions you can’t make your connecting flight…. this way you are secure. The travel insurance doesn’t cover this either, only when you book the whole flight package at once. Just so you know and are well prepared.
If you would like to know more about how to travel to Cusco or want my personal favorite places to eat and visit, please drop me a line in the comments. I am here to share as much as I can, to make your vacation as smooth as possible.
Good luck to you!