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My post from earlier this year on “How much a Disney cruise really costs” has been quite popular so I thought I would do a second one on a now favorite destination of mine, and one that many people have at the top of their bucket lists-Peru.
I believe a large number of people think that Peru is a destination they could never afford. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not as expensive as you would think, especially if you compare the numbers I list below with a week’s stay at Walt Disney World, for instance (depending on personal preferences, it probably is cheaper than a week at Disney World).
Peru is by all accounts an extremely inexpensive destination. And if you want to go the really cheap route (i.e. the backpacker), you would be amazed at how low cost your trip would be. However, if you’re like me and have no interest in going “that” route (not saying there’s anything wrong with it, it’s simply not for me) and would still like a bit of luxury with your travel, then follow my planning!
Note: I’m not by any means saying that $5,000 isn’t a lot of money. It’s a huge amount of money. But as you know, D and I both have full-time jobs and work hard to travel comfortably, without pinching pennies and having to strictly adhere to a budget or else. However, I have looked at numerous tours to Peru over the years and many are around this figure or even more for just one person. So this post is more to reflect that you don’t have to “break the bank” or not visit until you’re retired in order to cross off this once in a lifetime destination.
If you’re in need of a refresher of my Peru itinerary here it is (the only thing I would have changed was having more time in the capital city of Lima)
Day 1-Arrive late…crash at Lima Airport hotel (unfortunately, most flights to Lima from the United States arrive late in the evening and if you have an early flight out the next morning, it’s not at all worth it trying to stay in Lima’s downtown…the traffic between the airport and there will do you in…trust me.
Day 2-Fly to Cusco, transfer to Ollantaytambo
Day 3-Based in Ollantaytambo, full day tour of Sacred Valley sites
Day 4-Based in Ollantaytambo, visit to Machu Picchu
Day 5-Transfer to Cusco.
Day 7-Fly back to Lima
Day 8-Full day tour of Lima, flight back to the United States at midnight
~The following prices are in American dollars~
International Airfare- $1600 r/t (estimate anywhere between $600 and $1200 per person depending on where you’re flying from)
I think that unless your local airport happens to be Miami, your international airfare is going to be the most expensive item for you. I was flying from Pittsburgh, which is not home to any hubs and is a smaller airport to begin with, so airfares are generally more expensive than in other larger cities. I ended up booking when I did because for the first time in months, the airfare from Pittsburgh to Lima had dropped below $1000 per ticket. I would definitely recommend setting up a fare watch on a site like Kayak, which is what I did as it was what alerted me to the drop in price.
Domestic Airfare-$685 on LAN Airlines
While there are a couple of airlines that fly the route between Lima and Cusco, I decided to go with the biggest and most well-known, LAN Airlines. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the others (Star Peru for instance). In fact, the smaller and more newer airlines were actually a lot cheaper than LAN. However, LAN had the most flights a day between these two cities and one thing I read and heard from other travelers is that flights are chronically delayed in Peru, especially coming or going from high altitude cities, due to fog (Cusco sits at over 11,000 feet), and even worse, are regularly canceled. I figured that if the worst were to happen and our flight was canceled, it would be easier to rebook for a flight later that day on an airline that offered numerous flights all day versus going on one that only had five flights the entire day. So yes, I spent a bit more money on our domestic flight tickets but this was more a personal preference due to wanting peace of mind.
1 night at the Costa del Sol Ramada Lima Airport-$212
As I mentioned above, most flights from the United States (annoyingly) arrive late in the evening. And if your flight is delayed, you’ll probably arrive in the overnight hours. I figured that since our flight to Cusco the next day was in the morning, it wouldn’t be worth it to go into the city center late at night only to make the return trip back to the airport less than 12 hours later (this was especially warranted after our two hour drive to the Lima Airport from our Lima hotel). So that’s where the Costa del Sol Ramada Lima Airport hotel comes in. Yes, it’s horrifically overpriced but unless you want to sleep at the airport (umm, no) or you want to take a gamble with some sketchy airport motel, your best bet is staying here. Nothing was greater than exiting customs, walking across the street and entering the hotel; it’s literally that close. Same rinse and repeat the very next morning. Yes, it was an expensive shower and night’s sleep, but after traveling x amount of hours, sometimes that’s all you need, right?
Round-trip transfers between Cusco and the Sacred Valley-$100
These I had arranged through our hotel, private transfers in a sedan, although it seems the private transfers business in Peru is quite booming (i.e. this can be easily taken care of). $50 between Cusco and Sacred Valley destinations seemed to be a pretty standard rate (I was quoted $65 if a minivan size vehicle was needed).
3 nights in the Sacred Valley (El Albergue)-$275
El Albergue was more of a bed and breakfast style hotel and it was simply lovely. You can read my full review of it here, but it offered a great price, especially since I opted for the more deluxe rooms, and its location right next to the station where we caught the train to Machu Picchu couldn’t be beat.
Private tour of the Sacred Valley-$190 (this cost was for 2-6 people)
Just as with the private transfers, there are also a ton of tourist outfitters that offer private tours of sites in the Sacred Valley. Prices do vary drastically for the “private tour” experience; I didn’t go with the cheapest one but I also didn’t do any of the expensive ones (i.e. $200 per person). Having had too many mediocre “group” tour experiences in other countries, I wanted my time in Peru to be how I decided, so splurging for a private tour definitely seemed the way to go.
Peru Rail train tickets-$238
There exists three levels of train service between Cusco/Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Hiram Bingham is the most expensive level, then there is the Vistadome (second class), and finally the Expedition (third class, or backpacker if you will). Logistically, the H.B. level was out since it didn’t go through Ollantaytambo (our base in the Sacred Valley), and while I had always thought I would do the Vistadome, due to times being better with the Expedition level, that’s what I ended up booking. And honestly? There was nothing “third class” about it. It’s a 90 minute journey through some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll ever see. Forgo the train niceness and spend your soles elsewhere.
Machu Picchu tickets-$100
While it was nightmare to purchase these tickets (due to Peru’s rather crappy Internet/credit card fraud issues), the tickets themselves were inexpensive. $50 USD is the approximate rate for all adult foreign visitors to Machu Picchu. It is the best $50 you will probably ever spend.
2 nights at the JW Marriott Cusco-$534
I wish we could have used some of our Marriott points to stay here, but thankfully, the JW Marriott IS one of those hotels where if you can splurge, I feel it is worth it. Sure, there are countless less expensive places to stay in Cusco, but this is one hotel that will truly offer you a luxurious experience. For my full review, click here.
1 night Casa Andina Private Collection Lima-$200
I wasn’t overly impressed with the Casa Andina Private Collection. The unfortunate thing is that $200 is a more inexpensive hotel rate in a major city like Lima. However, it did include a full American style buffet breakfast, so that is something. For my full review click here.
Private tour in Lima-$250 (for 2 people)
Since we had such limited time in Lima at the end of our trip, I wanted to see as much of the city as possible, meaning, I didn’t want to take public transportation or haggle with taxi drivers over fares. I wanted the comfort and convenience of knowing that we would be going to XY and Z spots and all I would have to do was sit back. Unfortunately, what I thought was a private guide was really just a private driver. I’m not really sure the $250 was worth it. But just as with private tours in the Sacred Valley, there are many in Lima as well, just do your research
Round-trip transfers between Lima Airport and city center-$50
The abysmal Lima traffic was no fault at all of our drivers, and with that said, I can’t recommend the company Lima Cabs enough.
At most of the places we visited with our private tours the attractions were included, but for the ones that weren’t, I’m using the above figure as a rough number. Attractions generally were a couple of dollars.
Average cost of meal-$30
Once again, food was extremely inexpensive. Our most expensive meal was $100 at Huaca Pucllana and actually included three people; our next expensive meal was at Chicha por Gaston Acurio which was around $50. Honestly, you could get a good meal (i.e. at an actual restaurant/cafe) for anywhere between $15 and $35 USD.
Obviously, if you scrimp in areas like food and lodging, your costs will be much lower and the reverse is true if you spend a ton on food and lodging. But if you’re someone like me who doesn’t like to rough it, appreciates a bit of luxury and just wants to enjoy themselves, then these figures should give you a good starting point on how much a trip to this amazing country costs.