Some of you might be planning your own Peru trip, now. If that is the case, I have a few suggestions of things that worked for me.
1. Buy your plane tickets far in advance. LAN was my favorite airline, although it is more expensive than the other ones. Also, if you are going to Machu Picchu (and you better if you are going to Peru! Why wouldn’t you?), you need to book those tickets long in advance (for example, to go the famous Waynu Picchu mountain, you have to book those tickets 6 months in advance).
2. The following items were GREAT to bring along: My Keen hiking sandals (best investment ever! Leather, waterproof, comfortable for all terrains), my day bag (MountainSide; it has a belt, which puts the weight on your hips and not your shoulder), polarized sunglasses, floppy sun hat, hand sanitizer (with the cool holder from Bath and Body Works), altitude sickness medicine (talk to your doctor; it has to be prescribed), money/passport belt, baby wipes, Chapstick (the stuff in Peru just doesn’t compare), Neutrogena facial cleansing cloths (no water necessary; perfect for camping), Lindt truffles (great gifts for host families), a bath towel (towels are hard to find and are very expensive in Peru), bug spray, sunscreen, a nice camera, etc. Those are just a few recommendations, especially if you are going hiking/camping. Also, Bequis brought along these “Breakfast on the Go” granola packs, which were really good, too. They have flavors such as apple cinnamon, maple brown sugar, peanut butter chocolate, blueberry and yogurt, etc. They are delicious and came in handy as snacks.
3. Buy your souvenirs in Cusco. They have a lot of markets there, and the prices are pretty reasonable. The selection is great, too. I recommend going around and finding out how much things cost and then buying (it is okay to barter for lower prices, just keep in mind that this is how they make their living, so don’t be aggressive about it). The souvenirs in Lima were much more expensive.
4. Ask locals to know how much you should expect to pay for taxis from the airport. Some cab drivers take advantage of the fact that you are unfamiliar with the prices and price gouge. It is usually cheaper to take a cab just outside of the airport than it is inside the airport (although they will tell you that it is unsafe to do so).
5. If you are going to do a hike, do Machu Picchu FIRST and THEN hike. Otherwise, you will be tired, sore, and covered in blisters (and it will be harder to enjoy the Machu Picchu experience). If you are going to do a multiple-day hike, BE IN SHAPE and DON’T BE SICK! Enough said on that. Yes, I recommend getting to Cusco for a few days to acclimate to the altitude before trying any major trekking expedition. Also, get the altitude sickness medicine from your doctor as a preventative measure. Bequis and I didn’t have any problems due to altitude.
6. Check out the Lonely Planet website for other tips. Also, remember to always keep your bag (even backpack) in front of you at all times, to avoid theft (you can always tell the locals from the tourists…the locals carry the backpack in front and the tourists in the back).