Saturday, May 26, 2012

Traveling in Peru

One of the most pleasurable bits of traveling in Brazil is the lavish breakfast you get served at pousadas (bed and breakfasts). No matter where you stay, breakfast is overflowing with bread, cheese, ham, baked sweets, multiple fruits, multiple juices, fresh coffee and tea. And often granola and yogurt. All you could want.

Our brief trip, though a narrow bit, through Peru proved not so satisfying.

I’m not one to complain. We LOVED our trip in Peru! Really. But the accommodations left something to be desired.

First, by way of definition, it should be said that by law in Peru you cannot call yourself a “hotel” unless you have a private bath for every room. So we stayed in “hostals” (but we always had a private bath). In regular parlance a hostal is a casual hotel with a shared kitchen, often dormitory sleeping quarters and generally a shared bath. Backpacker ground zero. Not so in Peru. The variance can be striking.

We arrived at our hostal in Lima to see an exceptionally appointed old, large house since converted to a hostal (two stars). It was beautiful. Lots of art and culturally significant elements. Wonderful.  Check it out: 

The only problem was that they charged (in dollars) for any extra service. For example: breakfast was simply a crust of bread, butter, jelly and one cup of coffee. If you wanted another cup of coffee – US$1. If you wanted an egg – US$1, etc.. Give me a break!

Then we went to Cusco (sometimes spelled Cuzco or historically Quosquo). There we had a super comfortable three star hotel . Somehow our travel agent in Lima got us a rate of US$50 for a US$75 room. The breakfast was wonderful and plentiful on all fronts. And the room was heated (not common among the cheap seats… the city is chilly - above 3,000 meters in the mountains.)

Then we went to Machu Picchu, staying in Agua Calientes at Inka House . Our two star hostal there was nice and friendly . There was a bare-bones breakfast (we had become accustomed to buying our fruit and cheese the day before to eat the next morning). The donna of the hotel was super sweet, but did not provide food or drink beyond the basics.

Returning to Cusco, we went to a basic two star (probably should be rated one star – if there is such a thing) hostal because our three star place was fully booked (no website, but you can email them at This place sucked. The good thing was that the proprietor was well connected on the tour circuit and hooked us up with some really good local tours. But the room sucked, the breakfast sucked, and the internet connection was incredibly slow. And it was COLD! Breakfast with a scarf.

Then – much to our wondering eyes should appear – when we returned to Lima the previously stiff hostal melted into a very nice place to stay. (Maybe they knew I write a blog…) We still had to bring our own fruit and cheese to breakfast, but they gave us a wonderful room – so much nicer than our initial spot and they even offered us a second cup of coffee or tea at no extra cost.

In all – I would keep your expectations modest. Our experience in Peru was that breakfast is NOT like your experience at Brazilian pousadas. Take care of yourself. Enjoy. The people are indeed wonderful.

It should be noted that we took the expensive tourist trail from Lima to Cusco to Machu Picchu and back. Less expensive routes are possible. But we definitely had to fight against the tourist exploitation tide.

Luiz and I generally “follow our nose” when it comes to international travel. We book the first night and then just take it from there. In this case we found ourselves wanting a bit more advance work to avoid cold and clammy sleeping situations. Let it be a lesson to us. (Maybe we are just getting older…)

Do go visit Peru – it was wonderful! Our daily bed rates were US$40 – US$50 on our limited, cheap route. More is more – but we had a fine time.

 - still trying to get the photo right... sorry...


GingerV said...

nice info. Camillo has planned us a trip to Peru several times and it keeps getting canceled. Luiz looks tanned and relaxed. is funny you comparing breakfast with Brasil's.... for example, the breakfast at the Ibis in Macae is R$16 extra and I think spartan and not fresh. I write a complaint every visit. 16 for breakfast is a rip off. we also book only first hotel or where we know will have limited accomidations... but we try to stay at3 star. enjoyed.

bee and jay said...

Jim, you've left us intrigued--we now want to hear a lot more about your vacation. Hopefully this is only the first of several posts about your wonderful trip!

Jennifer Souza said...

I love the honesty! To me, a good breakfast can make all the difference in the quality of a day.

Jim said...

Ginger - I think we are moving to the three star territory. Definitly check out this hostal in Lima. It is beautiful, very quiet and safe. Just BYO-breakfast!

B&J definitely more to come. So many photos!

Jen - I got used to carrying bananas and tangerines to the breakfast table.

MariaLuvsNOLA said...

Glad you guys had a nice trip - although I'm curious to learn more about what you did and to see more pics!

By the way, love the "San Francisco" sweatshirt! It's nostalgic for me to see that (I'm on the East Coast now)