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Is Cusco in Peru Safe?

Cusco is generally safe for tourists, though petty crime like pickpocketing is common in crowded areas. Violent crime is rare, but disputes can arise due to cultural differences. Altitude sickness is a risk at Cusco's high elevation, so acclimatization is crucial. Protests occasionally disrupt transportation, so remain vigilant and have contingency plans. Respecting cultural customs, especially in sacred sites, is essential for a positive experience.

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Safety & Security

Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is generally considered safe for travelers. However, it's essential to exercise caution and take necessary precautions to ensure a smooth and secure trip.

  • Petty Crime: While violent crime is relatively rare, petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching can occur, especially in crowded areas like markets and tourist hotspots. Remain vigilant and keep valuables secure.

  • Scams: Be wary of common scams targeting tourists, such as overcharging for services or goods, fake tour guides, and taxi scams. Research reputable tour operators and negotiate prices beforehand.

  • Civil Unrest: Occasional protests and demonstrations can disrupt transportation and access to certain areas. Monitor local news and avoid areas with large gatherings.

  • Altitude Sickness: Cusco's high altitude (3,399 meters/11,152 feet) can cause altitude sickness in some travelers. Acclimatize gradually, stay hydrated, and consider medication if necessary.

  • Solo Travel: While generally safe, solo travelers, especially women, should exercise extra caution, particularly at night and in isolated areas. Stick to well-lit, populated areas and consider joining group tours.

  • Natural Disasters: Cusco is located in a seismically active region, so be prepared for potential earthquakes. Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures and evacuation routes.

By taking reasonable precautions and staying vigilant, travelers can enjoy the rich cultural heritage and stunning landscapes of Cusco while minimizing potential risks.

Health & Medical

Travelers to Cusco, Peru should be aware of potential health risks and take necessary precautions. The high altitude of the city, situated at around 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level, can cause altitude sickness, including headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath. It's advisable to acclimatize gradually and stay hydrated.

  • Altitude Sickness: Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it's recommended to ascend slowly, avoid strenuous activities initially, and consider medication if necessary.
  • Insect-Borne Diseases: Cusco has a risk of diseases like dengue fever and malaria, especially in certain areas. Use insect repellent and consider antimalarial medication if advised.
  • Food and Water Safety: Exercise caution with street food and untreated water to avoid gastrointestinal illnesses. Stick to bottled or purified water.
  • Medical Facilities: While Cusco has decent medical facilities, they may not meet the standards of Western countries. Ensure adequate travel insurance coverage.
  • Vaccinations: Routine vaccinations like hepatitis A, typhoid, and influenza are recommended. Consult a travel health professional for personalized advice.

Natural Disasters

Cusco, located in the Peruvian Andes, is prone to certain natural disasters that travelers should be aware of. The region experiences occasional earthquakes due to its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire. While major quakes are infrequent, minor tremors can occur. Travelers should familiarize themselves with safety procedures in case of an earthquake.

  • Landslides are a risk, especially during the rainy season from December to March. Heavy rainfall can destabilize slopes and trigger landslides, potentially affecting transportation routes.

  • Flooding is another concern during the rainy season. Flash floods can occur, particularly in low-lying areas and near rivers. Travelers should exercise caution and follow local advisories.

  • Altitude Sickness is a common issue for visitors due to Cusco's high elevation of around 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level. Symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue can occur, especially for those arriving from lower altitudes. Proper acclimatization and hydration are essential.

While natural disasters cannot be entirely avoided, being aware of the risks and following local guidance can help ensure a safer visit to Cusco.


Transportation in Cusco, Peru, can be a mixed experience for travelers. While public transportation options like buses and taxis are available, safety and reliability can be a concern.

  • Public Buses: The bus system in Cusco is relatively affordable but can be overcrowded and chaotic, especially during peak hours. Exercise caution with your belongings to avoid petty theft.

  • Taxis: Hailing a taxi on the street can be risky, as some drivers may overcharge or take longer routes. It's recommended to use reputable taxi services or have your accommodation call a taxi for you.

  • Walking: Cusco's historic center is relatively compact and walkable, but be cautious of uneven sidewalks and heavy traffic. Avoid walking alone at night in isolated areas.

  • Driving: Driving in Cusco can be challenging due to narrow streets, aggressive driving habits, and a lack of clear signage. If renting a car, familiarize yourself with local traffic laws and consider hiring a local driver.

  • Road Conditions: Roads within Cusco can be in poor condition, with potholes and limited lighting. Exercise caution when traveling to and from the city, especially in rural areas or at night.

While transportation in Cusco may pose some challenges, being aware of the potential risks and taking necessary precautions can help ensure a safer and more enjoyable travel experience.

Cultural Norms

Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, is a city steeped in rich cultural heritage and traditions. As a traveler, it's essential to respect the local customs and practices to ensure a meaningful and respectful experience.

  • Inca Ruins: Cusco is home to numerous Inca ruins, including the iconic Machu Picchu. When visiting these sites, dress modestly, avoid littering, and follow the guidance of local guides.

  • Religious Festivals: Cusco hosts various religious festivals throughout the year, such as the Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) and Corpus Christi. Respectfully observe these events and refrain from disruptive behavior.

  • Indigenous Communities: Many indigenous communities reside in and around Cusco. Obtain permission before photographing individuals, and respect their way of life and traditions.

  • Traditional Dress: In certain areas, locals may wear traditional clothing. Avoid mocking or disrespecting their attire, as it holds cultural significance.

  • Language Etiquette: While Spanish is widely spoken, learning a few basic phrases in Quechua, the indigenous language, can go a long way in showing respect and appreciation for the local culture.

  • Haggling: When shopping in markets, haggling is a common practice. However, be respectful and avoid excessive bargaining, as it may be perceived as disrespectful.

By embracing and respecting the rich cultural heritage of Cusco, travelers can create lasting memories and foster a deeper appreciation for this remarkable destination.

Emergency Services

Emergency services in Cusco, Peru are generally reliable, but can be limited in certain areas. The availability and quality of services may vary depending on the location within the city or surrounding regions.

  • Tourist Police are present in major tourist areas and can assist with emergencies or provide guidance. However, their resources may be stretched during peak seasons.

  • Private Ambulance Services are available for medical emergencies, but response times can be slower in remote areas. Many hotels and tour operators have arrangements with specific providers.

  • Fire Department services are available within the city limits, but may have limited resources and capabilities in rural areas.

  • Hospitals and Clinics in Cusco offer varying levels of care. Major hospitals, such as Hospital Regional del Cusco, provide emergency services, but facilities may be overcrowded and lack advanced equipment.

It's advisable for travelers to have comprehensive travel insurance and to research the nearest reliable medical facilities before embarking on any adventurous activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is Cusco safe for tourists?

Cusco in Peru is generally safe for tourists. However, it's advisable to take precautions against petty crimes like pickpocketing and bag snatching, especially in crowded areas. Avoid walking alone at night and use authorized taxis or transportation services.

Is Cusco safe for solo female travelers?

Solo female travelers should exercise caution in Cusco. While the city is relatively safe, it's recommended to avoid walking alone at night, dress conservatively, and be aware of your surroundings. Consider joining group tours or activities for added safety.

Is Cusco safe for families?

Cusco is generally safe for families with children. However, be mindful of the high altitude, which can cause altitude sickness. Take it slow, stay hydrated, and consider acclimatization before strenuous activities. Families should also be cautious of pickpockets in crowded areas.

Is Cusco LGBTQ+ friendly?

While same-sex relationships are legal in Peru, LGBTQ+ travelers should exercise discretion in public displays of affection. Same-sex marriage is not legally recognized, and societal attitudes can vary, especially in more conservative areas.

Do you need a visa to go to Cusco?

Most visitors from Western countries, including the United States, Canada, and the European Union, do not require a visa for tourist stays up to 183 days in Peru. However, a valid passport is mandatory, and entry requirements should be verified before travel.

Can you drink tap water in Cusco?

It's not recommended to drink tap water in Cusco. Stick to bottled or purified water, even for brushing teeth. Avoid ice cubes made from tap water and be cautious when consuming fresh fruits and vegetables washed with tap water.

What is the currency in Cusco?

The official currency in Cusco, Peru is the Peruvian Sol (PEN). While credit cards are accepted in major establishments, it's advisable to carry cash, especially for smaller purchases and in remote areas.

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