Destination: Peru: Cusco
Chance of Rain
On our second day in Cusco, in July 2011, it rained for the first time. This made viewing the sights on the outskirts of town unpleasant and uncomfortable. It reminded us how critical it is for tourists to visit Peru in the dry winter season (May – October) versus the rainy summer seasons (November-April).
Dealing with Altitude Sickness
Among the pieces of sage advice that I heeded on my trip:
-Reserve an oxygenated room at the Hotel Monasterio, Casa Cartagena or Casa Andina Private Collection in Cusco.
-Since I’d suffered severely from altitude sickness in the past, I started on prescription Diamox (acetazolamide) forty-eight hours before I left for Cusco.
-Buy a canister of oxygen for $15 at the OxiShot counter in the airport. It will deliver an instant shot of natural oxygen should you start to feel bad.
-Take it very easy the first day. Do not exert yourself.
-Make sure to drink enough water to keep hydrated a day before departure. But don’t overdo it, as the Institute for Altitude Medicine warns that too much water can dilute your sodium levels.
-Stick to fluids if possible the first day; some people also find lemon drops helpful.
-Do not drink alcohol or too much coffee, both of which are dehydrating.
-Take aspirin or ibuprofen, instead of acetaminophen. The Institute for Altitude Medicine notes that there is some evidence that these are effective on high-altitude headaches and may help prevent AMS. Ibuprofen may be easier on the stomach than aspirin.
-Drink coca tea, the local cure, which has been used for centuries. (It also purportedly helps arthritis, rheumatism and digestion.)
-If you do experience symptoms (vomiting, dizziness, mental confusion or, most important, a cough), seek medical advice promptly. Many of the better hotels have a doctor on the premises or on standby.
Currency Cautions: Not all of the ATMs in Peru are safe to use; it’s best to use those only in the top hotels or at the airports. There is also a lot of counterfeit currency circulating, so pay attention to the change you are given, if it looks illegitimate or homemade, it probably is worthless.
Tipping: Our favorite local contact recommends ten percent at restaurants; $20 per guide per day and $10 per driver per day.
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