Header Notice

Winter is here! Check out the winter wonderlands at these 5 amazing winter destinations in Montana

Tips For Traveling Cusco, Peru, On A Budget


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Natala Tew



Are you dreaming of exploring the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, experiencing the vibrant culture of Peru, and immersing yourself in the beauty of the Andes mountains? Look no further than Cusco, Peru’s historic capital and gateway to the region’s many attractions. Cusco offers a unique blend of history, nature, and adventure, making it a popular destination for budget travelers.


Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the wonders of Cusco. With careful planning and some insider tips, you can experience everything this enchanting city has to offer without breaking the bank. From finding affordable accommodations and dining options to exploring the city’s highlights on foot, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your budget in Cusco.


In this article, we’ll provide you with valuable information and practical tips to help you make the most of your visit to Cusco without draining your wallet. Whether you’re a backpacker, a budget-conscious traveler, or simply looking to save some money, these tips will ensure that you have an unforgettable experience in Cusco without compromising on quality.


Get ready to embark on a budget-friendly adventure in Cusco as we guide you through the best ways to travel, eat, shop, and explore without breaking your bank. Let’s dive into the exciting world of budget travel in Cusco!


Getting to Cusco

Cusco is a well-connected city and there are several ways to reach it without spending a fortune. Here are some budget-friendly options for getting to Cusco:

  • Flight: The most convenient way to reach Cusco is by air. Look for budget airlines or discounted fares to find affordable flights. Be flexible with your travel dates and book in advance to get the best deals. Additionally, consider flying into Lima, Peru’s capital, and then taking a domestic flight to Cusco. This option sometimes offers cheaper fares.
  • Bus: If you have more time and are looking for a more budget-friendly option, taking a bus to Cusco can be a great choice. There are several bus companies that offer comfortable overnight buses from Lima and other major cities in Peru. While it may take longer than flying, it can save you money and allow you to enjoy the scenic landscapes along the way.
  • Train: Another scenic option is to take the train to Cusco. The Peru Rail and Inca Rail offer train services from various destinations, including Ollantaytambo, which is a popular starting point for those visiting Machu Picchu. While train tickets can be more expensive than bus tickets, the experience and the breathtaking views are worth considering.

To further reduce costs, be flexible with your travel dates and consider traveling during the off-peak seasons. Prices tend to be lower when there is less demand. Keep an eye out for promotions and deals offered by airlines, bus companies, and train operators.


Once you arrive in Cusco, the airport is just a short distance from the city center, making it convenient to reach your accommodation. Taxis are readily available at the airport, but be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in. Alternatively, you can use a ride-sharing app or take a shared airport shuttle to save some money.


Now that you know how to get to Cusco on a budget, let’s explore affordable accommodation options in the next section.


Affordable Accommodation Options

When it comes to finding affordable accommodation in Cusco, there are plenty of options to suit every budget. Here are some budget-friendly choices:

  • Hostels: Cusco is known for its vibrant hostel scene, offering budget travelers a variety of options. Hostels provide dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities, making it a great way to meet fellow travelers. Look for hostels that offer free breakfast, Wi-Fi, and common areas for socializing. Be sure to read reviews and check ratings to ensure a comfortable and safe stay.
  • Guesthouses: Guesthouses are another popular and affordable option in Cusco. These small, family-run accommodations offer private rooms with shared or private bathrooms. They can provide a more intimate and cozy experience compared to hostels. Look for guesthouses located slightly away from the main tourist areas to get better rates.
  • Apartments: If you’re traveling with a group or prefer more privacy, renting an apartment can be a cost-effective option. Websites and apps like Airbnb offer a range of apartments at different price points. Look for apartments with kitchen facilities to save money on dining out.
  • Homestays: Immerse yourself in the local culture by staying with a local host through a homestay program. This not only provides affordable accommodation but also gives you the opportunity to learn about the Peruvian way of life firsthand. Look for reputable homestay organizations or websites to ensure a safe and authentic experience.
  • Camping: For the adventurous and nature-loving travelers, camping is a budget-friendly option. There are campsites available in and around Cusco where you can pitch a tent and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Just make sure to check if you need any permits or permissions to camp in specific areas.

Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, it is recommended to book in advance, especially during the high season or holidays, to secure the best rates. Additionally, consider staying slightly outside the city center as accommodation prices tend to be lower in those areas.


Now that you have affordable accommodation sorted, let’s move on to finding budget-friendly dining options in Cusco.


Affordable Dining Options

Cusco offers a wide range of dining options to suit every budget, from street food stalls to local eateries. Here are some tips for finding affordable and delicious meals in Cusco:

  • Street Food: Embrace the local food scene by trying the street food in Cusco. There are numerous food stalls and carts scattered throughout the city, offering delicious and affordable options. Try local favorites like anticuchos (grilled beef heart skewers), empanadas, and ceviche. Just make sure to choose stalls that have a high turnover of customers to ensure freshness and hygiene.
  • Menu del Día: Look out for restaurants that offer a “Menu del Día” or “Set Menu” option. These are fixed-price menus that typically include a soup, a main course, a drink, and sometimes a dessert. They are a great way to enjoy a filling meal at a reasonable price. Ask the locals or check online for restaurants that offer this option.
  • Markets and Bakeries: If you’re looking for budget-friendly ingredients for self-catering or a quick bite, head to local markets and bakeries. You’ll find a wide variety of fresh produce, bread, cheese, and meats at affordable prices. Visit San Pedro Market in Cusco to explore the vibrant food stalls and grab a delicious and cheap meal.
  • Chifa Restaurants: Chifa is a Peruvian-Chinese fusion cuisine popular in Cusco. Chifa restaurants offer affordable and tasty dishes that combine elements of Chinese and Peruvian flavors. You can enjoy dishes like fried rice, lomo saltado, and chaufa at reasonable prices.
  • BYOB Restaurants: Some restaurants in Cusco allow customers to bring their own alcohol, which can significantly reduce your dining expenses. Check online or ask locals for recommendations on BYOB restaurants in the area.

Additionally, consider eating away from the main tourist areas, as prices tend to be higher in those locations. Venture into the local neighborhoods to discover hidden gems and more affordable dining options.


Remember to drink only bottled or purified water to avoid any stomach issues during your trip. Lastly, don’t forget to try the famous Peruvian drink, Pisco Sour, which is often cheaper during happy hours or at local bars.


Now that you know where to find budget-friendly meals, let’s explore how to make the most of your time in Cusco on foot.


Exploring Cusco on Foot

One of the best ways to experience the charm and beauty of Cusco is by exploring the city on foot. Walking allows you to soak in the atmosphere, discover hidden gems, and save money on transportation. Here are some must-see places to explore on foot in Cusco:

  • Plaza de Armas: Start your walking tour at Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cusco. Admire the impressive architecture of the Cusco Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus. Take a moment to relax on one of the benches and observe the vibrant activity happening around you.
  • San Blas neighborhood: Wander through the charming streets of the San Blas neighborhood, known for its bohemian vibe and artistic community. Explore the local artisan shops, admire the colorful murals, and visit the San Blas Church, which offers panoramic views of the city.
  • San Pedro Market: Immerse yourself in the local culture at San Pedro Market. Stroll through the bustling food stalls, browse the souvenir stands, and savor some authentic Peruvian street food. Don’t forget to try a refreshing chicha morada, a traditional Peruvian drink made from purple corn.
  • Qoricancha: Visit the Qoricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun. Marvel at the impressive Inca stonework and the fusion of Inca and colonial architecture. Take a moment to appreciate the history and significance of this sacred site.
  • Sacsayhuaman: Take a walk to the ancient ruins of Sacsayhuaman, located just outside of Cusco. Enjoy the scenic views of the city and the impressive Inca stone walls. Explore the site and learn about the fascinating history of the Inca civilization.

While exploring Cusco on foot, don’t forget to take breaks at local cafes and enjoy a cup of freshly brewed Peruvian coffee or traditional coca tea. These moments of relaxation will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the unique ambiance of the city.


Remember to wear comfortable shoes, as some areas of Cusco have steep streets and uneven surfaces. Additionally, be mindful of your surroundings and take precautionary measures to ensure your safety, especially when walking alone at night.


Now that you know the best places to explore on foot, let’s dive into the next section to discover budget-friendly transportation options for getting around Cusco.


Budget-Friendly Transportation Options

Getting around Cusco doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are some budget-friendly transportation options to help you navigate the city and its surrounding areas:

  • Walking: As mentioned earlier, walking is a great way to explore Cusco, especially within the city center. Most of the major attractions are within a reasonable walking distance from each other, allowing you to save money while enjoying the picturesque streets and architecture.
  • Local Buses: If you need to travel longer distances within Cusco or to nearby towns, consider taking local buses. They are the cheapest mode of public transportation. Keep in mind that the buses might not be the most comfortable option, but they are reliable and will give you a taste of the local transportation experience.
  • Collective Taxis: Collective taxis, also known as combis, are shared taxis that operate on fixed routes. They are a convenient and affordable way to get around Cusco and its outskirts. Simply wait at a designated taxi stand and hop on the next combi heading in your desired direction. Fare prices are generally lower compared to private taxis.
  • Bicycles: Renting a bicycle is a fun and eco-friendly option for exploring Cusco and its surrounding areas. Many rental shops offer hourly or daily rates, giving you the freedom to discover the city at your own pace. Just make sure to follow the local traffic rules and wear a helmet.
  • Group Tours: When visiting popular tourist attractions outside of Cusco, joining a group tour can often be more cost-effective than hiring a private guide or arranging transportation independently. Group tours usually include transportation to and from the destination, as well as a guide to provide insights and information about the site.

While using these transportation options, it is important to remain vigilant and keep an eye on your belongings to avoid any theft or scams. Be cautious when negotiating prices with taxi drivers and ensure that you have agreed upon a fare before starting the journey.


Now that you know how to navigate Cusco on a budget, let’s explore free and low-cost activities that will enrich your experience in the city.


Free and Low-Cost Activities in Cusco

Cusco offers a plethora of free and low-cost activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the local culture and explore the city without breaking the bank. Here are some recommendations:

  • Free Walking Tours: Join a free walking tour to learn about the history, architecture, and traditions of Cusco. These tours are usually led by knowledgeable local guides who provide fascinating insights into the city’s past and present. While the tours are technically free, it is customary to tip the guide at the end.
  • Visit the Plaza de Armas: Spend some time in the main square of Cusco, Plaza de Armas. People-watch, relax on a bench, and absorb the vibrant atmosphere. Admire the historical buildings and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There is no cost to enjoy this central meeting point of the city.
  • Explore Museums: Cusco is home to numerous museums that showcase the region’s rich history and culture. While some museums require an entrance fee, others have free admission or discounted entry on certain days. Take advantage of these opportunities to learn more about Inca civilization, Peruvian art, and local traditions.
  • Take in the Views: Cusco offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding mountains. Head to one of the many miradors (viewpoints) such as San Cristobal or Sacsayhuaman to enjoy panoramic vistas for free. Don’t forget your camera to capture the stunning landscapes.
  • Join a Language Exchange: If you’re interested in practicing your language skills and meeting locals, consider joining a language exchange meetup. These events bring together locals and travelers who want to practice different languages. It’s a great way to make new friends while improving your language proficiency.

Furthermore, keep an eye out for local festivals and events happening during your visit. Many of these cultural celebrations are free to attend and offer a unique insight into Peruvian traditions and customs.


Lastly, take advantage of the city’s natural beauty by going for hikes or walks in the nearby countryside. Explore the surrounding hills, visit nearby archaeological sites, or trek along parts of the world-famous Inca Trail. These outdoor activities offer a closer connection to nature and won’t cost you much.


Now that you have a list of free and low-cost activities, let’s move on to find out how to shop on a budget in Cusco.


Shopping on a Budget

Cusco is a shopper’s paradise, offering a wide array of handicrafts, textiles, artwork, and souvenirs. Here are some tips for shopping on a budget in Cusco:

  • Local Markets: Explore local markets like San Pedro Market and Mercado de Artesanias for affordable and authentic products. These markets offer a wide range of handmade goods, including textiles, ceramics, jewelry, and clothing. Don’t forget to haggle and negotiate prices with the vendors to get the best deal.
  • Compare Prices: Before making a purchase, take the time to browse different shops and compare prices. Similar items can vary in price from one store to another, so it’s worth exploring your options. Remember to negotiate politely and respectfully to potentially get a better price.
  • Buy Directly from Artisans: Seek out artisan workshops and cooperative stores where you can buy directly from the makers. By cutting out the middleman, you can often find unique items at lower prices while supporting the local artisans in their craft.
  • Consider Quality and Materials: Sometimes investing in higher-quality items can save you money in the long run. Look for well-made products, crafted with care and attention to detail. They are likely to last longer and be a better value for your money than cheaper, mass-produced alternatives.
  • Shop Off the Beaten Path: Venture away from the main tourist areas to find lesser-known shops and boutiques. These hidden gems often offer more competitive prices due to less tourist demand. Explore the side streets and neighborhoods to discover unique finds and support local businesses.
  • Don’t Forget to Bargain: Bargaining is a common practice in Cusco’s markets and many shops. Don’t hesitate to negotiate for a lower price, especially when buying multiple items or making a larger purchase. Approach bargaining with a friendly and respectful attitude to increase your chances of success.

When shopping for textiles, pay attention to the designs and materials used. Alpaca wool products are popular in Cusco, but make sure they are made of genuine alpaca wool rather than synthetic materials. Take the time to understand the differences and choose the best quality within your budget.


Remember that shopping is not just about acquiring souvenirs; it’s about the experience and the interaction with local artisans. Take the time to appreciate their craftsmanship, ask questions about their techniques, and build connections.


Now that you know how to shop on a budget, let’s move on to the next section for important safety tips to keep in mind during your budget travel in Cusco.


Safety Tips for Budget Travelers in Cusco

While Cusco is generally a safe destination, it’s always important to take precautions to ensure a smooth and secure trip. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as a budget traveler in Cusco:

  • Stay Alert and Aware: Be mindful of your surroundings at all times, especially in crowded areas and tourist hotspots. Stay alert to avoid pickpocketing or other petty crimes. Keep your valuables secure and avoid displaying signs of wealth.
  • Use Reliable Transportation: If you’re taking a taxi, choose registered taxis or reputable ride-sharing services. Verify that the vehicle has proper identification or signage. Avoid getting into unmarked or unofficial vehicles to ensure your safety.
  • Secure your Belongings: Keep your belongings secure and be cautious with your personal items, especially in crowded places. Use a money belt or a secure bag to carry your valuables. Avoid leaving your belongings unattended, even for a short time.
  • Stay Hydrated: The high altitude of Cusco can cause dehydration more quickly than usual. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated to prevent altitude sickness and other related issues. Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it at trusted sources or opt for bottled water.
  • Be Mindful of Altitude: Cusco is located at a high altitude, and some travelers may experience altitude sickness. Take it easy upon arrival, acclimatize gradually, and listen to your body. Avoid strenuous physical activity for the first couple of days to adjust to the altitude.
  • Follow Local Customs and Laws: Familiarize yourself with the local customs and laws to avoid any misunderstandings or legal complications. Respect local traditions, dress modestly when visiting religious sites, and ask for permission before taking photos of individuals.
  • Travel Insurance: It is highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses, emergency evacuation, and theft or loss of personal belongings. Check with your insurance provider to ensure you have adequate coverage for your trip to Cusco.

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to read up on the latest travel advisories and safety recommendations for the region before your trip. Stay informed about any potential risks or safety concerns that may affect your visit.


By following these safety tips, you can enjoy your budget travel experience in Cusco without compromising your well-being. Now that you’re equipped with safety knowledge, it’s time to embark on your adventure!


As we conclude our guide to budget travel in Cusco, we hope that these tips help you make the most of your trip while keeping your expenses in check. Remember, budget travel is not just about saving money, but also about immersing yourself in the local culture, creating unforgettable memories, and embracing new experiences. Enjoy your time in Cusco!



As you conclude your budget travel adventure in Cusco, you’ll find that this vibrant city has so much to offer without breaking the bank. From exploring ancient ruins to indulging in authentic cuisine, Cusco provides an enriching experience for travelers on a budget.


By following the tips in this guide, you can save money on transportation, accommodation, dining, shopping, and more, allowing you to make the most of your budget without compromising on the quality of your experience. Whether you’re strolling through the historic streets, bargaining for local crafts at the markets, or joining a free walking tour, Cusco has something for everyone.


Remember to prioritize your safety by staying alert, securing your belongings, and respecting local customs. Take care of your health by staying hydrated and acclimatizing to the high altitude. And most importantly, enjoy your time in this captivating city.


As you explore the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu, hike through the breathtaking Andes mountains, and immerse yourself in the rich culture of Peru, you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime. Budget travel in Cusco is not just about saving money, but it’s also about embracing the spirit of adventure, connecting with the local community, and discovering the beauty of this incredible destination.


Now it’s time to pack your bags, embark on your budget travel journey, and experience the wonders of Cusco. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an outdoor adventurer, or simply a curious traveler, you’ll find that Cusco has something to captivate your heart and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the beauty of Peru.


So, get ready to explore, discover, and make unforgettable memories in the fascinating city of Cusco. Your budget-friendly adventure awaits!