Don’t Be Like Me and Check Out these 8 Mistakes to Avoid (like the plague) when Peru Itinerary Planning

June 10, 2017

Trust me, Peru Itinerary Planning is TRICKY

Peru Itineraary Planning is almost as tricky as handling a parachute.

Oh wow, you’re going to Peru and are now Peru Itinerary Planning? Wait, timeout. You’re going to see Machu Picchu? I have NEVER heard of that before. You’ll be like the ONLY one there. Wow. That is such an original idea!! Okay, okay. I’m totally joking here. When you go to Peru you have to go to Machu Picchu. And even with the crowds and the difficulty of getting there, I am happy to report that the experience is totally worth it. So enjoy because it really is an adventure of epic proportions.
But if you are anything like me, you order your Lonely Planet Guide to Peru, off Amazon, right after you book your flight because, let’s face it, you want to be prepared and see everything there is to see.
Once your order is complete, you keep refreshing your Amazon app, tracking the order, hoping against hope that it will arrive immediately because you want to see the cool things that Peru has to offer. I mean, there has got to be more to the country than Machu Picchu right?
Well yes. Most countries have a wealth of cultural treasures that extend beyond a single cultural icon. And Peru is no exception to this rule. But planning a trip to Peru is tricky. I should know because I made a ridiculous number of mistakes when planning my trip there. I mean, i hadn’t even left the country and I was already destroying a 3 week tour of this delightful, South American country (I’m surprised my poor planning didn’t cause an international incident.).
So before you dig into some Peruvian ceviche and chase it down with a neon yellow Inca Cola, I suggest you take a second to skim through this article and read about my Peru Itinerary Blunders and the Mistakes You Need to Avoid to have the BEST Vacation in Peru. Because let’s keep it real, I’m not some ultra cool, travel guru. I am just a woman who loves to travel and who makes a TON of mistakes along the way. But that’s totally fine because we laugh about them here and you thank God you’re not me, and then you avoid my mishaps because as they say in School House Rock, “Knowledge is Power!” (If you don’t know School House Rock you should youtube it. They have some of the best songs. Like, “conjunction junction, what’s your function?”. Too bad a melody doesn’t translate via blog.) And because of this post, you have the knowledge and power to have the best Peru Trip possible.

1. Assuming Peru is a tropical paradise

Kelly’s Brain: “Oh hey, Peru is right near the Amazon and near the Equator, so it will be super hot there. I will just bring a ton of suntan lotion, shorts, and t-shirts. That should be good. It’s not cold there or anything…”

Hey little buddy! I need yur fur t keep me warm. Thanks! You don’t need it right?

Talk about famous last words. No! This is a lie! Don’t believe a word your brain tells you. Peru is freaking freezing. That’s why they have Alpacas. They use their fur to keep warm. I know this was shocking to me but just because it’s South America and it’s near the Equator, doesn’t mean it’s hot.

Truthfully, I have no idea what I was thinking because Peru lies across the Andes Mountains. And the Andes are not pip squeak mole hills. They are like Big Bertha Big. Like, Mount Everest Big. Okay maybe not that big, but when you reach those high altitudes, it gets cold!
So don’t be the chump who goes on a Sacred Valley tour, freezes, and then has to buy all the most expensive Alpaca gear at the local tourist trap because she has nothing to wear and her lips are turning blue (No. That wasn’t me. That was a friend. I errr am WAY more savvy than that. Pssh. Insert fake eye roll.) Seriously, who buys alpaca leg warmers in some weird Aztec print? What was I thinking? h wait, clearly I wasn’t.

2. I’ll just nonchalantly stroll through the Amazon. No biggie.

Yeah no. I think I am the only human being who suddenly realized, “Oh gee, it’s the rainforest. There may be some tropical diseases that I MIGHT want to take precautions against. You know, like Malaria.”
This is all sadly true by the way. I really forgot all about Malaria until like three weeks before my trip. I was gonna just go and hope for the best, but then I remembered this sad movie about Malaria with Hillary Swank (of course it’s sad, all Hillary Swank movies are sad.). Well, I won’t give it away but the movie scared me enough to NOT want to get Malaria.

The Amazon looks pretty, until you meet all the things that can kill you! Just kidding. I still really want to go.

I then think, “Ehh. No problem. I’ll just roll up to my doctor, grab a prescription, and head on my merry way to meet Tarzan in the jungle (Sorry Jane. You’re not invited.). No big deal.” WRONG!! You have to go to an infectious disease doctor (at least in the US) to get Malaria pills. But you can’t just go because they are fancy smancy specialists that require an appointment like a month in advance. So yeah, that was stellar. I could get an appointment AFTER my trip. Yes. That is so super helpful. Just kidding. It was awful.
I ended up skipping the Amazon because I couldn’t get Malaria pills in time (all this would have cost an arm and leg too because it was NOT covered by my insurance since my travel plans were “elective”. Thanks lousy American healthcare.) Moral of the story, make an appointment to get Malaria pills more than a month before your trip, if you’re planning to travel to the Amazon or any place where mosquitos carry Malaria. This way, you will get to see the Amazon and not have to worry about all the killer, infectious diseases that the mosquitoes are carrying around you (No. You’ll just have to worry about the 10,000 other things that can kill you in the Amazon. Just kidding. The Amazon has pink dolphins so it’s all good.).

3. You’ll just stroll up the Inca Trail and hike up to Machu Picchu. No one would ever want do that.

HAHAHA. That’s really what I thought. I literally read this book and was like, “Oh wow. That sounds so romantic. I want to camp along a jungle trail and retrace the historic steps of the Inca people.” I could just imagine ascending the mountain with just my pack on my back and a canteen in hand (I dunno. That just sounds way more Indiana Jones than a water bottle.). As I finally reach the crest of the hill, as sweat steadily drips off my furrowed brow, I look up and see the sun glimmer off of the timeless beauty and majesty that is Machu Picchu; a settlement lost in time.

Sounds pretty stellar, right? Well that’s what I thought too, until I decided to book the trip. First of all it is like $600 and takes four days (There are also two and five day options but four days is the classic choice.). Now, I am by no means an Olympic athlete, so four days trekking might kill me. I mean I lift food to my mouth, does that count as exercise? Plus factor in the altitude and I would have just another discarded ruin along the way.
This is also my not so sneaky way of reminding you to prepare physically before undertaking this hike. But aside from all that, apparently this “majestic trail” is a highway because it gets sold out like 6 months in advance (I know they have a limited number of tickets but still. A lot can change in 6 months. I mean, I could get married! Just kidding. There is a greater chance that I would get eaten by a heard of cats. Especially if he reads this blog.).

Just say NO to the train. Unless you’re going to Machu Picchu. Then that’s your only option.

Well, needless to say, I did not make it to the Inca trail because I did not plan far enough in advance. So don’t be like me and book your trek WAY in advance (FYI there is also a good Inca Jungle Trek that is a fun alternative to the Inca trail. Plus, this trail is less famous and therefore, easier to book.)

4. Train Travel is NOT faster and easier than bus travel, at least in Peru.

When I traveled to Peru, i had not used public transportation abroad in a really long time. Therefore, the only public transportation reference I had was my experiences with it in China. There, the train is usually the fastest and most economical way to get around the country. Well, silly me, i assumed that this generality would be true for Peru too. I mean Peru and China are like totally the same country right? Just kidding. Nope. Not even a little bit.
Because of my mistaken beliefs, I booked some weird, luxury train from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca and not only was it expensive, the trip took forever. After awhile i was like enough of the Andes, I want to get to the damn lake. Plus I need to pee and these bathrooms don’t smell that luxurious. Okay maybe that was just me but to make a long story short, I forgot that the Andes Mountains cover most of Peru. And because they are so high, the fastest and easiest way, apart from flying, to get around Peru is by bus (FYI some bus companies seem to get attacked by robbers so just make sure you invest in the more expensive tickets with the better bus companies.). So back away from the train and rock your bus pass instead.

5. No big deal, i’ll just book the train to Machu Picchu when I get to Peru. It’s off season anyway.

No post about Peru would be comolete without the token Machu Picchu photo.

LIE!!! The train to Machu Picchu is always packed, and yes, that’s the only way to get there. So if you think you’ll just take a car or bus there, you won’t because a road doesn’t exist. The only way to get to Machu Picchu is through Aguas Calientes and you can only get there by train (or if trek along the infamous Inca Trail).
Well, thank God I managed to secure a ticket because it was a little dicey for a while there. And mind you, this was in the off season. Just imagine how difficult it would to secure a ticket to Machu Picchu in high season. That’s why you should just book your train ticket to Machu Picchu well in advance (The ticket will be to Aguas Calientes since that’s the name of the town at the base of the mountain. I suggest spending the night there and then heading to Machu Picchu in the early morning, when the mountain is less crowded.)

6. Nazca looks nice. I’ll spend a few days there and relax after seeing the Nazca Lines.

Like I said, get in, see the Nazca lines, and quickly run away.

Hmm… How do I put this delicately? There is nothing to do in Nazca and it is not the safest place to be (The hotel owner would not let me go to the ATM alone because he said I would get mugged.). Plus, people really only visit Nazca for the Nazca Lines, so the city tries to manufacture a bunch of tourist attractions that are honestly, pretty lame. Truthfully, I really don’t care about some ancient water filtration system, thanks.
So don’t waste your time here. Get in the plane, see the Nazca Lines, and bounce. Nothing else to see or do here (Get the most expensive plane ticket because the vendor told me, “The C planes are low quality and leave in the afternoon and crash a lot. I would purchase an A ticket instead.” After that comment I was totally freaked out and thought I would die in a firey ball of airplane wreckage, but I did get the A ticket and lived to tell the tale. Phew!).

7. Oh awesome. My hotel will be vintage and romantic near the quaint, historic, “Old Town” of Lima, Peru.

So umm yeah. I kind of just looked at the price of my hostel and didn’t actually consider why it was so cheap. And I should have known something was up because even the cab driver didn’t want to drive me there. But once I got there, I knew it was super sketch. Not only was the place dilapidated, but I could hear gun shots outside and was terrified that if I put my bare feet on the floor, I would contract some weird flesh eating virus.

Trust me, my hotel in Lima was not as romantic as Arequipa.

That’s why you should ALWAYS look at independent reviews of a hotel/hostel before you make a reservation. This way, you can confirm that the place you are staying is not in fact, some whack roach motel (I mean, I’m not a wuss. I have held hissing cockroaches as a naturalist, but that doesn’t mean I want these skeevy things sleeping with me at night).
Also, be VERY wary of cab drivers. I have heard horror stories of cab drivers stealing people’s things or abducting them altogether. Therefore, only ask for a taxi from a reputable, tourist attraction like a museum or hotel. DO NOT hail a taxi directly from the street. And yes, you will need a taxi, in Lima, because the only other public transportation available is the bus. But don’t be nervous. I ran into no problems and I attract disaster like the Titanic. So I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it. Just be careful.

8. Rainbow Mountains? What rainbow mountains?

Seriously, how did I not get to see these? BLARG>

I feel totally ripped off. I went to Peru back in 2013 and there was no talk of a Rainbow Mountain around Cuzco! And trust me, I went to like a bazillion different tour operators. So instead of mind blowingly beautiful rainbow mountains, all I got was a lousy tour of an aqueduct (I guess I missed out because they weren’t a “thing” when I went to Peru. They weren’t even in my guide book! I want my money back!). Okay, it wasn’t that bad but have you seen the Rainbow Mountain? I would much rather have gone there than to some glorified swamp that passed for a, “historic water filtration system”.
So if you’re headed to Cuzco, make time for this trek. You won’t be disappointed. It looks super cool and I’m still resentful that no one ever mentioned this epic mountain to me when I was there (Envision an adult temper tantrum where I am whining and stamping my feet. Okay, done guys. Thanks for letting me keep it real.).

PS If you want to check out more fun things to do in Peru, clickย Here.

So yeah, stay away from kidnapping cabbies, DON”T DRINK THE WATER (Don’t even put it on your toothbrush), roll into Peru with some malaria medication induced swag, and kick ass

Don’t be like me and plan the perfect trip to Peru Instead.





and take names in the Amazon, Machu Picchu, and Rainbow Mountain.ย You OWN this trip because not only will you avoid my mistakes, but you will have the time of your life because Peru is an absolutely incredible place with truly inviting people (Minus my ex because he was an ass. But he grew up in the States so he doesn’t really count.). Trust me, you will not regret going here.


Nanny by day and travel blogger any other time.

I love writing and traveling and bearing my soul on the page.
I want to inspire others to face their fears and join me on an adventure.


  • Cynthia 9 months ago

    Awesome job – you made a ‘disaster’ of a trip sound like an absolute adventure!! (Haha) I haven’t been to Peru yet, but will absolutely take all your advice, thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jean 9 months ago

    Still looks like you had an amazing time. You’ll just need to go back to see the rainbow mountains

  • Cris 9 months ago

    I am pretty sure you need to change your choice of travel guides :)) You know, ditch printed, go online and try other bloggers.
    On another note, damn, you are funny!

  • Becky 9 months ago

    Great post Kelly so funny. I agree with you on Rainbow mountains. Are they really that close to Cuzco because I never saw them either!! Glad to say I booked in advance so did Inca Trail but I can imagine how popular it is so good tips about booking early ๐Ÿ˜Š

    • Sophie 2 months ago

      Hello, nice funny tips!! I fly to peru next friday ! Excited (but Also stressed!)…
      What about the inca trek? I never did ร  trek, would you advise a very beginner to do it?

  • Harmony, Momma To Go 9 months ago

    Wow that was hilarious!!! Sometimes I fail to plan in advance even though I’m usually an over planner!!!

  • Cali 9 months ago

    So many things about this made me super nostalgic. Like the fact that you mentioned “Conjunction junction” out of all the possible School House Rock songs, lol! And neon yellow inca cola (I actually think it tastes revolting, but picturing the bottle and the color comforts me in some weird way). Anyway, this was such a useful guide! I have been to Peru previously, and I didn’t hear jack about this Rainbow mountain either! I also didn’t hike the Inca trail OR see the Nazca lines (like did I even go there?) Point being, I’ll need to go back and your post will help me!

  • Sally 9 months ago

    You are too funny! I love your quirky writing style! Though I’m sorry you had to go through all those mistakes, but thanks for sharing it ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Kristine Li 9 months ago

    Such a fun read and this is like the first time I read in detail about a trip to Peru, so much to discover! I bet you didn’t sleep well in the hostel with the gunshots outskide (OMG), but glad you came off the trip all fine and healthy! Plenty of valuable tips in here, thanks!

  • Paroma 9 months ago

    You are genuinely funny:-) humor is the best way to tackle travel fails and you have plenty of that! Will keep all of these cautionary anecdotes in mind when it is my turn to go see Peru!

  • Lia 9 months ago

    Hilarious as always! And so true! We spent 2 months in Peru and made SO many mistakes (like spending a whole month in the northern part of Peru, which is basically the way you described Nazca. …. FOR A MONTH) and ended up kinda killing our own trip for us. Attempting to hike the Inca Trail & failing was the cherry on top of our fail-trip. So you’re lucky you skipped that bit ๐Ÿ˜›

  • Alyssa J 9 months ago

    Hahah this is hilarious!! I just returned from Peru myself and literally LOL-ed at Rainbow Mountain! For some reason people don’t really talk about them!

    Also I did Peru on a budget and was flabbergasted at how expensive Machu Picchu was – USD 140 for a return train from Cuzco? Nope. Taking the colletivo instead and walked along the railway. USD30 for a return bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu? Nope. Hiked an hour to save money. Also, did you went to Huaraz? That was my favourite part of Peru!

  • Jill at Reading the Book 9 months ago

    A great read and some good suggestions! At least you came away with some funny stories to share, but I think all of us can relate. Travel is all about adventure, making mistakes and hoping you don’t die in the process! But yeah, malaria tablets… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Sidenote: can you get malaria tablets online in the US? That’s what I do in the UK. Just tell them where you’re going and for how long, answer a few health questions and they issue a private prescription and the tablets. But don’t know if that works for you guys!

    • girlwiththepassport 9 months ago

      Good suggestion. I doubt it because we can’t get perscriptions online but good suggastion!!

  • Erika @LatinAtlas 9 months ago

    Love how honest and humble you are! We’ve all had those trips but fortunately it was in Peru, one of the greatest countries on earth so you still had an amazing experience. And of course you’ll be back for the rainbow mountains!

  • Karen 9 months ago

    The malaria pills ARE a good idea, but beware of the side effects. I paid a bit extra for the less terrible ones, but they just made me sick if I didn’t eat first–and just very sleepy. Even with the ones with no crazy side effects, they can still be such a pain. Still a good idea though!

  • Julie 9 months ago

    Great to know we all make mistakes. Loved reading this post. Peru is now on my bucket list!

  • Jas from My Suitcase Journeys 9 months ago

    Love this! Peru is number one on my bucket list and I’ve been dying to see Machu Picchu. My coworker just came back from there actually and said the same thing about the Inca trails and that it takes days to complete. Except he told me the tours are $1000 and up! $600 sounds like a deal in comparison – although still a bit pricey. Ughhh such mixed feelings about visiting!

  • Paulina 9 months ago

    That is a super useful post. Especially for advising that Peru is not a tropical paradise. The pic with the lama is epic.

  • Eve Kay 9 months ago

    OMG I have to visit Peru once I move back to the Stateside!! Machu Picchu has been a dream for me for 10 years and I can’t believe I still haven’t gotten to do this (nowhere close to it either now that I’m living in Asia). But someday I just have to. And that Rainbow Mountain looks great, looks more like sandwich at first glance :p Sorry you didn’t get to see it. Anyway, pinning this and will need to heed these advice if I get the chance to go!

  • allison 3 months ago

    Headed to Peru in a little over a week. Rainbow mountain was on our itinerary, but I actually took it off. Most of the reviews I have read say that for the 3am wakeup call to drive for 4 hours then hike for another 3 or yield muted color mountains at best and just not worth it if you are budgeting your days in Peru. We are instead opting for Lake Humantay.

    • girlwiththepassport 3 months ago

      Good to know. It’s funny because when I was there, the rainbow mountains wasn’t even a thing. I didn’t even know it existed but good to know that I didn’t miss out on too much.

  • Sophie 2 months ago

    Hello, nice funny tips!! I fly to peru next friday ! Excited (but Also stressed!)…
    What about the inca trek? I never did ร  trek, would you advise a very beginner to do it?

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