Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A guide to Cusco and Machu Picchu

In January this year, I was sent to Lima, Peru for work, so I took one day off to go to Cusco and visit Machu Picchu, which always has been one of those places that I have in my list of places to visit before I die.

During my trip I had some good and bad experiences; in this post I am going to tell you about some tips, so you can have a better trip than mine.

In Cusco you can find a lot of different tours that you can take and there are tons of different agencies that can arrange these tours for you, some of these agencies are more expensive than the others.

I was told that it is better to reserve these tours when you are in Cusco because there you can find cheaper prices, which is true. However, I recommend to make the reservations before you get to Cusco, why? Well, because in Cusco there are a lot things to do and see, so wasting time looking for the right agency and prices requires a lot of time and effort and it can be really stressing, specially because people in Cusco tend to be very persistent and they can overwhelm you with offers and a lot of different prices and options. Try doing the reservations via Internet, but even there look for different sites, you can find several different options for different tours and prices.

Another thing I was told was, get to Cusco early in the morning, have some rest and then do the City tour in the afternoon. Well you can certainly do that, but if you get affected by the height it would be better for you to not take any tour the first day and just relax, maybe walk a little bit around Cusco and get used to the height. Believe me, it is really hard doing all that walking on the tour if you are affected by the height, you don't enjoy it the same way.

Something really important to take into consideration is, have plenty of cash with you, most of the stores and restaurants are pretty reluctant to accept credit cards and if they do accept credit cards, they will probably charge you more. Also, if you want to buy souvenirs it is easy if you have cash, because some of the nicest souvenirs are those you can buy on the streets or on the markets and for people in these places is really hard to accept credit cards.

Another tip, when buying something, you can always negotiate, so do it and you might be able to get something in a really cool price. Also, walk a lot and compare prices, you can find the exact same thing cheaper in another store. Be aware when somebody offers you cheap Alpaca or Baby Alpaca coats, most of the times that is not real Alpaca, neither Baby Alpaca; both of these materials are expensive.

When you do the City tour, there is a visit to a Church (I don't remember its name right now) that you have to pay extra, I think it doesn't worth to pay that extra money, there is no much to see inside, they have a bunch of rocks but then you can see similar rocks in the other places you are going to visit.

Take a lot of water with you or Gatorade, because you have to do a lot of walking, so it is good to keep your body hydrated. Bring fruits and energy bars as well, because it is hard to find where to buy food in these places.

There are many nice things to see, so keep your camera battery charged, you wouldn't want to run out of battery in the middle of a tour. If you can, take a tripod with you, this would help you take better pictures, but bring one not too big so it is not heavy and hard to carry around.

I hope these tips help you on your trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cinepolis Costa Rica dealing with too many people!

These past two weeks most of the students of Costa Rica were on vacation and that coincided with the premier of a lot of major films like Get Smart!, Wall-E, Handcock and Batman The Dark Night, so as you imagine all the movie theaters were packed with people these past two weekends.

We went yesterday night to Terramall to watch Batman, we were really excited about it, we wanted to watch it in the VIP theaters to be more comfortable. We arrived there around 6:30 pm, the parking lots were incredible packed, there were cars parked even in the sidewalks, so people were not able to walk freely and it was hard to drive in the little roads of this mall, fortunately we found a spot in the underground parking lot, that was luck.

When we got to the movie theaters upstairs, there were no more spaces in the VIP rooms, only for the 11 pm show, but that was too late for us. I asked the guy if there were spaces in the regular theaters, he said that he couldn't help me, that if I wanted to know, I'd have to go and stand in line in the regular box office. That just sucked because I knew he could have given me that information, it was that he just didn't want to help me, what a nice treatment.

I was amazed by the amount of people there, it was incredible. There was even a sign saying that the 11 pm show was opened because there were too many people wanting to watch Batman, what a nice touch of Cinepolis opening that show, right?.

However, I was really disappointed with their service, you had to stay in a long line to be able to buy a ticket, once you buy it you have to go and stay in another line for around 2 hours if you wanted to get a good seat. People that wanted to buy popcorn and drinks had to stay in a line for half and hour, how hard can it be to serve popcorn and a coke? Come on!! The worst part of this is that while we were waiting on these lines, there were so many people that it was so hot, everybody was sweating, not cool!

Another thing was that I needed to go to the restroom, that was bad, there were no toilet paper, the toilets were all dirty, most of them, there were no even towels to dry your hands, thank God there was soap and water to wash your hands after using those dirty toilets.

I like Cinepolis, because they have nice theaters, but they need to be more prepared for when they are going to have this amount of people, it was just crazy, the service was so bad that I was wondering that if what was paying for the ticket was really worth it.

They should enable an Internet service so you can buy your tickets online and have numbered seats so people don't have to stay in a line for so many hours just to get a nice seat, check this site to get an idea: http://www.yelmocineplex.es/ideal_yelmo_cineplex.html

Also, they should hire more people to keep the restrooms clean and to serve popcorn and cokes faster and they should improve their air conditioning as well, it is just a matter of keeping their customers comfortable and happy with a good service, I think that is a good investment!