Cuzco: A Tourist’s Heaven Is A Traveler’s Nightmare

by Sam on August 2, 2011

Cuzco, Peru-

This city is nothing but a money grubbing harlot. This was my first impression of Cuzco. It’s streets are paved with cobblestones and the only thing in more abundance than churches are money exchanges. Any person you meet downtown is nothing more than an annoyance trying to sell you a massage or a tour. I came to Cuzco expecting a certain amount of this shameless promotional tourism but what I can’t stand is the absolute money grubbing when you least expect it and the adverse impact that comes with a complete over abundance of tourism. It’s almost impossible to find a decent room at a good price. I went to four different hostels/hospedaje’s before I found one with space. Luckily that one I found was offering a room for a price I was willing to pay or I’m sure I would still be wandering around the city looking.

The city is beautiful. It’s clean, lots of historic plazas with Cathedrals and traces of that Incan past that originally founded the city. Money flows here and it shows by the fact that the police ride around on Segways in the central square. They all make this a city that people want to visit which is exactly the problem. Not to mention it’s the stepping stone to Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail and several other Inca ruins. It’s blatant ‘Inca History’ aspect turns me off. At times it feels like this city was specifically built for tourism – an Incan\Spanish historic city pre-designed and built like Disney World. At least in Disney World I can meet Mickey Mouse. On the plus side I don’t have to listen to ‘It’s a Small World’ on repeat. So for all that I’ve managed to take one photo of Cuzco in four days…and it’s really nothing of importance.

Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, Peru

And so concludes my impression of Cuzco after my first 36 hours. Since then I can’t say my impression of the city has changed much.

What makes a city enjoyable for tourists makes it my traveling nightmare. This city is made for tourists and not travelers. It can be seen in the smiles of the fanny pack, snap-happy white people walking down the street. The prices here don’t seem to phase them whereas you talk to anyone who lives here and they find the cost of living too high and only getting higher compared to the rest of the country. Those tourists don’t mind paying cover charges, they will pay to enter a church and will talk to anyone who approaches them on the street – including those massage selling parasites. They book their rooms ahead of time and don’t mind paying $15/night or more. After all, why not? They can get a taste of Peru for a week before flying back home and returning to work.

Anyone traveling for more than a holiday seems to find this city more of an annoyance that must be adapted to. While here I’ve learned to accept the unchangeable and annoying realities of massive international tourism. The thought of paying to enter a church is as asinine and incomprehensible as paying someone in order to walk down the street. Walking is free, entering a church should be too. I grit my teeth at paying cover charges and someone who approaches me on the street who I don’t know is usually automatically ignored. Nor will I spend $15 on a room in a country in which the average price is half of that.

Past those annoyances I can enjoy Cuzco. On Friday and Saturday night I was able to meet up with Stefan again and we hit the town hard on Saturday night in our usual ‘Sucre Style’ with lots of drinks and lots of club perusing.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Sucre and also in La Paz was meeting the locals. It’s a big boost to my Spanish vocabulary and you get a personal chauffeur around the city. It’s win-win. When I met a Peruvian girl on that Saturday night with Stefan I was all smiles. I liked the way she moved on the dance floor so I chatted her up and have been able to spend the last couple of days with her outside of the historic center. Outside of the city center of Cuzco isn’t much different then most other cities I’ve been to – street dogs running around half completed concrete houses with lots of outdoor markets and street vendors. Things got even better when I came back to my room and was offered another room for half the price which means I scored a private room for about $3.50/night in Cuzco. Take that you money-grubbing city.

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Wade Shepard August 3, 2011 at 12:19 pm

So incredibly true. But the extreme of tourism also provides for more of a complete view on a country — the debate is out as to whether this is worth it or not haha. Enjoy it, drink, get the f’ck out!

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