Want to see Machu Picchu without feeling sick and nauseous? Don’t waste a day in Cusco because of altitude sickness. There are ways to avoid this to ensure that your every minute in Peru is as enjoyable and memorable as possible. This guide is highly recommended to those who are travelling Peru in a strict schedule and will be travelling around by way of airplanes.
Don’t stay in Cusco – Train to Aguas Calientes
The best way to avoid altitude sickness is to slowly make your body adjust to the different altitudes of Peru, even if it means travelling backwards.
Traditionally, travellers who have more time will stay in Cusco for a couple of days to get used to the altitude. Some will even trek from Cusco to Machu Picchu for two days. If you are not into trekking or don’t have that long to see Machu Picchu and Cusco, you will definitely not have time for altitude sickness. But don’t fret. There is a way around it.
Firstly, research the different altitudes of Peru’s main cities. Lima is 1550 metres above sea level compared to Cusco, which is at 3300 metres above sea level. This is almost twice as high and is a massive change, especially if you take the plane. Therefore, let your body adjust slowly to the altitude by going straight to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu where you will have to catch the bus. This town is at 2450 metres above sea level and is not that big of a change compared to Lima.
From the airport, catch a taxi to Poroy Train Station to catch a train that goes straight to Aguas Calientes. For comfort over price, you may want to go with Peru Rail, which will cost you around 157 USD. The best thing about Peru Rail is that they provide food, tea and entertainment along the way. Again, if you are travelling on a budget, do your research as there are other trains that go to Aguas Calientes.
After ticking Machu Picchu from your bucket list, it would be a lot easier for you to travel back to Cusco, as you would have acclimatised and gotten used to the altitude in the train.
Drink coca tea and take coca candies
Throughout your time in Cusco, coca tea and candies will be your best friend. And yes, you guessed it right. These products translate to cocaine tea and candies. However, they are not the illegal substance that most people think of when you say the word ‘cocaine’.
All hotels, hostels and trains offer coca tea, so it is very easy to get them. Most street vendors and supermercados (which translates to supermarkets in English) offer coca candies in packs of 10 for 1 USD. Take these while strolling around, as Cusco’s hills will definitely take its toll.
Practice your breathing
Cusco is a very mystical city with Spanish era buildings and cobblestone pavements. You can spend days walking around the city and getting lost in the alleys, as there are so many things to see. Additionally, seeing a panoramic view of the city is definitely one that you have to do when in Cusco. That said, be ready to walk around a lot! Cusco is very hilly and most of its buildings look the same so prepare to get tired and lost.
If you are still acclimatising, it is recommended to walk slowly and take deep breaths to avoid getting nauseous. The last thing you want is to vomit on the street or collapse in the middle of nowhere. It is also recommended to travel with a buddy or a group when in Cusco for this reason.
Visit the magical Cusco without the pain of altitude sickness
Seeing Cusco is probably in the bucket list of most enthusiastic travellers. It is as authentic as you will get and there are so many things to see and do, not to mention, Machu Picchu. Make sure to follow these few tips to make your trip to Cusco as enjoyable as possible. With a little research, you will be able to avoid altitude sickness and be able to get the most out of your Peruvian excursion!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.