Travel Agencies in Cusco: Welcome to the Jungle
Travel Agencies in Cusco are, I guess, around the thousand. Some tours can be booked for the day after, others require to be booked a bit in advance.
The Inca Trail must be seriously booked months in advance, better if in Cusco. Prices online are up to four times higher. I have read reviews of people coming in Cusco a few days before to book the Inca Trail. I didn’t want to do it (too expensive and packed full with tourists who probably never walked in their life), but asking around it was apparently sold out. This happens because a maximum of 500 people per day are allowed to step in, of which 300 are guides and porters. It leaves room for 200 people a day. Different story for the Machu Picchu: it’s visited on average by 2500 people a day in peak season, so will almost surely be able to book your spot to visit the famous archeological site.
Before listing the travel agencies in Cusco I have inquired, I must warn you about more than a couple of stuff.
- Prices are different for low season (November – April) and high season (May – October)
- Prices are different for groups. It would be excellent to find other people beforehand who want to do your same trek; buying together will result in a juicy discount. Even better if you are booking multiple tours with the same agency.
- It depends on the mood of the seller: sometimes they are very annoyed to explain everything for the 45th time in few hours.
- It depends on you. Try to smile and be fun, don’t ask too many questions at the beginning and don’t let them understand you have already been to a plethora of tour agencies.
- Ask to see the equipment (if any) and for additional or hidden costs. These additional expenses (optional activities, transport, non-included meals) will make the tour much more expensive. Ask for an all-inclusive, no hidden fees tour. Some agencies really don’t mind to provide you with rubbish equipment and having cold butts at more than 4000 m above sea level is not a good feeling.
- Many agencies appear with different names or work together with other agencies. This results in a big mess when you ask ‘What’s the name of your agency? Because on the wall there’s a name, on the window another one, on the flyer you just gave me another one’
- Expect to be aggregated with other people who booked with different agencies. This is common practice: there are tour agencies, and there are tour operators. The latter are those who make the tour, the first are just intermediaries.
- Book with the agency you have felt more comfortable with.
The best period to do stuff and see things around Cusco is around April-May, at the end of the rainy season: prices are sustainable even when on a backpacker tight budget, and you will enjoy the treks (with the exclusion of the Inca trail) as there won’t be a plethora of tourist.
I personally asked the prices for the Salkantay 5 days 4 nights, for the Rainbow Mountains (also known as Vinicunca) and, where available the Choquequirao trail 5 days 4 nights. I think these price may serve as a guideline for other tours, but this has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
The prices for Rainbow Mountains (RM) are inclusive of transport, breakfast, lunch, guide and entrance to the site (10 PEN, Peruvian New Soles).
The prices for the Salkantay Trail 5D/4N (S) include transport with the bus, lodging (3 nights in camping, 1 night in hostel in Aguas Calientes), all meals with exception for the first-day breakfast and the last day lunch and dinner, porters, tents, mattress (usually the non-inflatable ones), sleeping bag, guide (English or Spanish, just ask. Many times you will be told that the guide speaks English, although everything he can say is ‘The tip is up to you’), entrance to Machu Picchu and transport back to Cusco from Hidroelectrica. It doesn’t include the hot springs and the zipline in Santa Teresa, as well as train transportation.
IMPORTANT: The master tip I can sincerely give you is to contact people who have done what you are going to do directly. Try to find them in forums (Lonely Planet Thorn Tree, Trip Advisor, Couchsurfing) and ask, ask, ask. Also, Facebook has good groups where you can solve your riddles (first of all, I suggest Backpacking South America). Moreover, on these platforms, you might find people to join in the same quest.
DO NOT TRUST Trip Advisor, Facebook or Google reviews. Many times reviews are biased, and there are people complaining about the least things, like pick up 20 minutes late or not enough green vegetables on meals. Many people blame the tour companies because the activities are too difficult. Of course, these are not promenades along the seaside. Preparation is almost essential and acclimatization is a must. Altitude sickness is not a joke.
Travel Agencies in Cusco (Personally Inquired)
S 180 USD
S 165 USD
S 450 USD
S 180 USD
Choquequirao 320 USD
Inka Jungle 4D/3N 170 USD
Inca Jungle Eco trek 210 USD
S 400 USD
S 220 USD
S 180 USD
Choquequirao 320 USD
S 155 USD
The BBVA Bank in Avenida Sol lets you withdraw American dollars. Do your math and see whether it is convenient to pay in USD or PEN.
If you have read till the end, you have surely realized prices vary widely among travel agencies in Cusco. There are hundreds of them, but tour operators are not many, probably a few dozens.
I hope you find this article useful: It was conceived to help travelers doing the best choice. I really struggled and found myself stuck on this big circus, and I know many were, are and will be in my same boat. If you have experienced other companies or you just have asked the price, please comment here to contribute! I’ll add it as soon as possible.