Cusco Airport Tips

Often times while waiting to pick guests up at the Cusco airport, I notice people exiting and looking confused as to where to go, we always try to send arrival information to our guests, but for those that might not be staying here at GringoWasi, here is some information to help you navigate the Cusco or Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport.

Confused

When people arrive, I believe they are doing one of three things, either transferring to another flight, looking for someone that is picking them up, or they are going to get their own transportation, so the following is information grouped by each activity.

You Have a Ride

man standing with sign 5

If you are expecting someone to pick you up upon arrival, then first thing to do is to collect your bags and then exit the building, once you exit the building turn to your left, here you will see many people standing around, some with signs and some without. Look for your name on one of the signs, now if you don’t see a sign with your name, it is best to stay inside the arrival (roped and railed) area and not exit through the crowed, keep in mind that the driver will be looking for you inside the arrival area and not outside in the crowd.

NOTE: While waiting for your luggage you may hear a porter calling your name, while some drivers give names to the porters, the porters also just read names off of the signs outside. In most cases the porter will be expecting a tip, so if one is calling your name ask them how much (quanto?) for the assistance, if they say tip or propina, then you will know that they expect a tip and can decide if you want their assistance, if they just say free or gratis then the driver is likely going to pay them. For reference there are luggage carts that are free to use, if you do not see any inside, look along the wall just outside the building.

You Need a Ride

Taxi

If you have not arranged transportation in advance then you will have a few options when you arrive at the airport. Again collect your bags and exit the building, once you exit you will likely encounter the “official” airport taxis. These taxis are the only ones allowed inside the railed arrival area, and are going to be one of the more expensive options. These taxis are regulated a bit in what they can charge and how they are supposed to conduct themselves, as they are controlled a bit more I do not know if you can negotiate price.

A cheaper option would be to turn left and head towards the large crowed, this is a mix of drivers picking up people, as well as regular taxi drivers, these taxi’s will be cheaper than the “official” taxis and you can negotiate with them. Additionally you can just pass through the large crowed and go to the curb where departing passengers are being dropped off, here you can also get a taxi and they tend to be even slightly cheaper as they have already been paid to get there, and will not have to pay for parking.

The third option is to exit the building and turn right, follow the sidewalk that will curve around to the left and then exit the airport. Turn right and you will find taxis as well, and if there are none along the curb, then you can just flag one down. These tend to be the cheapest option, and one many locals will use, but there are those that also believe this to be the least safe option as well. As we either have a driver arranged or get one that had dropped off a passenger, I can not say how safe I feel this option is, but with all of your luggage you may want to stick with the taxis inside the airport.

Making a Connection

Flight

If you are making a connection, you will likely have to collect your bags (check with the airline), after this exit the building and turn to the left where you will have to go through the crowd of drivers and then re-enter the building, now you should be on the departures side and can either go the the check in counter (if needed) or just proceeded upstairs through security to the gates.

 

General information

Desk

While inside the arrival area you will see many booths for hotels and other services, keep in mind that these companies are paying a premium to be there and are not likely to be the cheapest options. If you need tours or tickets, look around the main plaza or ask your accommodation to assist you. If you need an accommodation, you will likely do much better with asking your taxi to recommend one, but even here, the driver will be receiving a commission, so having accommodation booked before you arrive is really the best option. If you would like some tips on getting the best price on your accommodation, check out my blog on “Getting the Best Hotel Rate”.

Well I hope you found this information useful and that I won’t see you outside the building scratching your head, and if you are still in the research phase of planning, I invite you to consider GringoWasi as a possible accommodation. Thank you for reading and I hope that you enjoy your trip.

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Iquitos on a Budget (part 2)

Pic 1

Day 5 – We woke up at 04:30 and departed the lodge at 05:00 to go to where the Amazon and Nanay rivers come together as this is where the pink dolphins feed in the morning. We did see many of the dolphins, but mainly at a distance, and most of them were mostly gray and not that pink. After drifting around a watching the dolphins for a while we crossed to the opposite bank of the Amazon where the guide showed us a large area of rice growing, after which we returned to the lodge for breakfast. Breakfast was good and filling, with eggs, ham, cheese, toast, and margarine, but I would have liked a little fruit as well. After breakfast we were off to see animals, and our first stop was Fundo Pedrito where we saw and learned about piranha, cayman, paiche and the giant Victoria water lily

After visiting the Fundo Pedrito we were off to visit an animal sanctuary that was really more like a zoo, but was still interesting as you learn about the animals and get some interaction with them as well. The first interaction you get is with monkeys, they have about a dozen or more free roaming monkeys and these hang around at the entrance, this is because they sell bags of a small fruit to feed them, and I learned quick that if you buy a bag, you are likely to get mugged. I bought a bag and no sooner had the kid given it too me, I had a monkey trying to take the whole bag, fortunately my hands are big and I was able to cover most of the bag, but the monkey did manage to tear the bag open and get a few berries before I had a chance to hide them. Aside from the entertaining monkeys they also had birds, sloths, cats and a small anaconda (about 10 or 12 feet long), many of which you could hold.

After visiting the sanctuary we returned to the lodge for lunch and enjoyed a lunch of cecina, fish, juanes, tacacho, rice and salad, we then had some time to take another dip in the pool before having to clear out our room so that it could be cleaned for the next guests that had arrived that day. Our last activity was a walk to the nearby village of the Boras, here we were again treated to song and dance before being offered the opportunity to purchase some hand made crafts. After the village visit we walked back to the lodge, pick up our bags and boarded the boat that returned us to the port and then a bus took us back to the plaza.

Day 6 After breakfast this morning we got a motto-taxi to take us to Quistococha for S/13.00 Soles, Quistococha is a large zoo or animal sanctuary located on a lake with a nice beach for swimming, and entry was S/4.00 Soles for residents and S/9.00 Soles for tourists. When we arrived we first spent time walking around the areas where the animals were located, they have a large variety of animals there from monkeys and birds, to a pink dolphin and jaguars. I did not actually keep track but I believe that we easily spent a couple of hours doing this before making our way down to the beach. The one down side for me was the lack of shade around the lake, and not being from the area we did not have the ability to bring umbrellas with us, fortunately though there were a few restaurants so we just got a table and ordered a beer.

Something that we had not taken into consideration when we decided to do this on this day, was that it was Sunday, so the place was really quite busy, this really was not a big problem as there is lots of space, but it may have been more relaxing had we waited a day. Lily did enjoy the water while we were there and we had a few beers, fried yuca and split a juanes for lunch (S/45.00 Soles). We probably sat around people watching there for a few hours and then went up to the dolphin tank to watch a training/exercise session, which the trainer stressed was for the benefit of the dolphin and not those of us watching. After this it was another motto-taxi back to the house and dinner before calling it a day.

Day 7 So today was my day in a sense, as we went fishing and this is not something that Lily is interested in. After breakfast we took a bus to the port and hired a boat for S/40.00 Soles and about 3 hours of fishing, the boat took us up the Nanay river and stopped at several spots. Most of the locations tended to be loaded with smaller piranha as they would just pick the hook clean, we did make one stop where I actually lost two good sized piranha due to not enough steel, when I was packing my fishing gear for the trip I brought all long shanked hooks, but was not thinking that they might get the whole hook in their mouth, so my first two I lost due to them just biting through the line. After loosing the second one I went through my gear and remembered I had a spinner attachment for jigs with me and I used that to give me a little more steel, this did the trick and I landed the next fish, not the typical red piranha, but a larger silvery/blue colored variety.

Unfortunately after catching this fish our time was coming to an end and we had to head back to the port, so while I thought about throwing a spinner for a bit on the return trip (the boat was not all that fast), I decided to just enjoy the ride back and put my gear away. When we returned to the port I left our boat driver with an assortment of hooks as a thank you and we went looking for someplace to eat. We found a restaurant that had a nice view and ordered a grilled fish to share, but I tend to be a little picky when it comes to fish and did not like it, so Lily ended up eating the whole thing by herself and I ate at our favorite menu place by the plaza afterwords.

Day 8 This was our last full day and we decided to visit the Pilpintuwasi butterfly farm and so we again made our way to the Nanay port and this time we took a boat colectivo to the small town (Padrecocha) where the butterfly farm is located. It is not the easiest place to find as there are not many signs, but the locals all know where it is at, I think if you basically just make your way in an upriver direction (Left) you will get there, but the locals were all helpful with directions and motto-taxis are available at the port if you want to make things easy. Visiting Pilpintuwasi was interesting as they are also an animal sanctuary and have other things than just the butterflies, and entry includes a tour through the butterfly house as well as the grounds and explanations of all of the animals.

After visiting Pilpintuwasi we made a quick stop at a native center next door where they will dance (for a fee) but also offer hand made goods. After this stop we headed back t the port, when we arrive we noticed a restaurant just next to the port and decided to check it out. The name of the restaurant is “El Gran Yacare” and I highly recommend it if you happen to visit Pilpintuwasi, while it is a bit on the tourist price side, the owner is very nice, the food was excellent and you can even take a swim right off the deck if you want, she will also give you a ride back to the port if you eat there in their fast boat, and even pick you up if you call in advance (#945-522-316). There is also another reason that I liked it, she has fishing poles and will let you borrow them to fish right off the deck, of course had I known that this was going to be an option I would have brought my gear with me this day. I mainly used the bigger surf rod that she had, hoping to get something larger, but again the small piranha were a problem, constantly stripping the bait off the hook, I did though manage to land one of the red bellied piranhas. We had a good lunch of grilled paiche, ordered a plate of fried plantains and had several beers and the total was S/67.00 Soles, after lunch the owner Leili took us back to the dock and dropped us off, and as we were leaving the next morning we headed back to the house so we could start packing.

Day 9 Today we departed, we got a motto-taxi outside the house to take us to the airport and our flights back to Cusco were uneventful.

Summery:

To sum things up, the total cost for this trip (not including flights) was S/1,686.70 Soles or $511.12 USD at the current exchange rate.

Although we did not go very deep into the jungle, we still enjoyed the trip and felt that it offered a good sample of what the jungle is like. We would actually compare this trip to the Manu or Puerto Maldonado tours that we did, as neither of them were very deep trips either.

For reference all the activities that we did on the tour are easily done on your own by hiring a bot at the dock, the total cost would end up being more than the tour itself, but if you are only interested in doing one or two of the activities, then it would be cheaper than doing the complete tour.

For anyone on a tight budget, that is considering a trip to the jungle, this would be a good option, but unless you have to see the dolphins, or are interested in going to a lodge to do ayahuasca, I would consider Manu or even Puerto Maldonado as alternative options, especially if you are going to be visiting Cusco anyway, as these other locations can be done without the addition of a flight, and would be similar experiences in my opinion, Personally I think that I enjoyed Puerto Maldonado better than Iquitos.

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