It was one of my last days in Cusco, and another volunteer and I decided to explore the San Blas neighbourhood. On our way up the steep Cuesta de San Blas, we walked past a stray dog with shaggy red hair sat patiently outside a grand blue door.
Terrible quality, but what the heck…
Since Peru I’ve had a fair few people asking me for advice about travelling (especially travelling solo), and although I am certainly no travelling guru and am definitely still an amateur, I thought it’d be easier for me to write all my advice in one post, rather than repeat it over and over again. So, in my experience…
- Go for the lower (not lowest) rated hostels, and always say Hello.
This may sound a bit counter-productive but honestly, in my experience it’s the hostels that haven’t got 5 stars that you’ll have the most fun in. Sure, the shower may not be sparkling, you’ll have to share a bunk bed with a total stranger, and the only entertainment will be a small bar (if you’re lucky), sofa, and tv, but the lack of provisions forces people to socialise. Most people in hostels are there for the exact same reason you are, so never feel silly saying hello to a complete stranger. The English language dominates the world, and even if said person doesn’t speak English the chances are they’ll understand that you are greeting them. You’ll meet the most interesting people this way; in the 2 nights I spent in Lima I met people from 5 different countries, and each of them had their own wisdom and crazy travelling stories to pass down to me. Just check the Hostel’s ‘Safety’ is rated highly, keep a secure padlock on all your stuff, and you should be dandy.
- GET INSURANCE.
No, seriously, GET INSURANCE. It may seem like wasted money, but I for one ended up in hospital with a virus whilst I was in Peru. I got a hospital bed for the night, about 3 IV drips, antibiotics & various other concoctions to make me feel better, breakfast, lunch, and an ambulance ride to and from my hotel (which was a pathetic two blocks, but they insisted…). Had I not had insurance the whole ordeal would have cost at least £300, and my insurance cost only £90. The first thing the doctors asked for was whether I was insured, and they pounced on my insurance details straight away. If I didn’t have the money to pay them, I may have ended up not being seen at all. You may have to pay a small fee (I paid roughly £30) on the spot regardless of whether you’re insured or not, but this should be agreed with your insurer.
- Don’t flash your cash, SLR, or iPhone around the place.
This may seem obvious, but I was stunned by the amount of
idiotstourists I’ve seen wandering around bustling city centres, taking pictures with their flipping iPads, sitting in city squares on their laptops with their bags next to them wide open. Not only does it display a total lack of common sense, but it’s pretty arrogant especially if you’re travelling through a country where your camera costs more than the average joe’s yearly income. And let’s face it, if your bag is wide open next to you, even he least skilled pick pocket will know you’re the perfect target.
- Avoid cash machines at all costs.
And if you must use them, take out as much money as you can, and beware that the charge may not come off as you go. I aimlessly withdrew money over the month I spent in Peru, thinking the charge was coming of and therefore thinking I had more money than I did. I landed back in England to find a whopping £250 came out of my account all at once, leaving me penniless. Not the end of the world, but it’s pretty annoying. make sure you research those travel cards as well. Most of them have terrible reviews, and I know people who went cashless for days abroad because their card wouldn’t work in certain towns – not something you want when you need to feed yourself.
- Store your money in several different places.
Don’t put all your money in one bank account, for which you only have one card. I have two bank accounts, with two different debit cards, that I brought with me to Peru. I kept one locked in my room at all times, and the other on my person. When you’re travelling with large amounts of cash, do not put it in your suitcase! Suitcases frequently get lost, especially if your journey includes changing airline part way. Again, spread it out; some in your room, your pockets, your belt wallet, and your bag/purse should be enough. If you have your bag stolen, or your room burgled, at least you’ll have money somewhere.Try and get a purse/wallet that you can clip into your bag so it can’t be taken out easily, and do the same for your camera. It gets a bit tedious after a while, but think: would you rather have to spend a few extra minutes getting ready, or would you rather lose all your money? I’m not suggesting that this will protect you from getting mugged, or you losing your stuff, but it’ll just mean if you lose or have one thing stolen, it won’t result in you losing everything.
- Bring photocopies of all your I.D and important documents.
You don’t want to bring your passport around with you (keep that in your room or the hostel safe), but do bring a photocopy around with you instead. I tend to go a bit mad with bringing multiple photocopies of every important document, email, bank cards, and I.D. Again, I had a copy of these is all different places: my suitcase, my hand luggage, in my room, and in my bag.
I’m hesitant to make this post too wordy, so I’ll post the rest of my advice in a follow-up post! Also, this isn’t just advice based on my experience from visiting Peru; I learnt to keep a lock on all my belongings after my sandals were stolen from the end of my bed in Barcelona (tragedy).Disclaimer: By posting this advice I am in no way suggesting if you follow all the above, you will be fine. This is just how I have stayed fine, in my experience…