Cusco (also spelled “Cuzco”) is located in southeastern Peru, near the Huatanay River Valley and the Andes. Cuzco has a population of 430k. The locals are extremely friendly, and you’ll have the opportunity to truly become part of the local community.
Volunteers can either take a 20-hour overnight bus or a one-hour flight (ranging from $200-$400 round-trip). A couple of the airlines operating this route are TACA and LAN. The bus ride can be harrowing, with a lot of sharp curves through the mountains. With the bus options, one of our local Coordinators will accompany on the bus. Upon arrival in Cusco, your host family will meet you at either the bust station or airport.
The main spoken language in Peru is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages.
Volunteers in Cusco stay with a local host family. They will provide you with your own room, all meals, include you in family activities, and generally help you adjust to and learn about their culture and country. Our families can host more than one volunteer at a time, so you can stay in the same house with your friend(s) or partner. You can also stay in separate host families that are very near to each other.
The primary ingredients found in nearly every Peruvian dish are rice, potatoes, chicken, pork, lamb, and fish. Most of these meals include one of the different kinds of “aji”, or Peruvian hot pepper. There are also “Cevicherias” which are popular restaurants serving all kind of seafood. The most traditional meal in Peru, the one that at least in South America represents the Peruvian food, is the Ceviche. This is a cold dish, which mainly consists in pieces of raw fish, cooked by the juice of lemons, served always with onions, camote (one kind of sweet Peruvian potato) and of course, Peruvian aji pepper.
Mobile phones are widely available in Cusco. You can rent a mobile phone from the airport in Lima for you entire stay, the cost is about $30 USD per month. You can also buy and activate a mobile phone for about $40 USD from one of the many mobile phone shops in town. You can also bring your mobile phone from home and buy a local SIM chip to get a local number. However, keep in mind that this will not work with American phones which are “locked” by the carriers so that they will not work abroad. For Internet, there are Internet shops in Cusco for both Internet access and international phone calls. Your host family will also have a phone that you can use to receive international calls from family and friends.
While you are in Cusco, you will likely be within walking distance to the place where you will volunteer. However there are plenty of local buses and taxis that make getting around the city both cheap and easy.
Health & Safety
Cusco is extremely safe in terms of personal safety as well as health. The most common ailment is an upset stomach as you adjust to the food and water. Another concern is altitude sickness because Cusco sits at 10,800 ft (3,300 m) above sea level. There are hospitals and clinics in Cusco that can treat serious illnesses.
The weather from April-October is warmer and dry. The rainy season lasts from November to May. Daytime temperatures are in the 60’s F (19-21 C) year-round, with nighttime temperatures ranging from 33 F (1 C) in July to 46 F (8 C) in January.
Sightseeing & Activities
As the original Inca city and capital, Cuzco is located 120Km from Machu Picchu — one of the most important and amazing archeological ruins in the entire world. Also, Cuzco’s main stadium, Estadio Garcilaso de la Vega, is home to one of Peru’s best soccer teams. The surrounding Andes make for great trekking and other outdoor activities.