Cusco hotels & toilets: what to expect when traveling in Peru
This post will focus on the common characteristics of 3 star hotels in Cuzco and what to expect. There's nothing wrong with most of the hotels in Cusco. But judging by the negative comments written by travelers on Trip Advisor, most of the issues are due to traveler expectations. There are a few things that, if prepared for in advance, will make your stay in 3 star Cusco hotels more comfortable:
Getting to a Cusco hotel:Streets in Cusco may be cobbled, steep and even too narrow for some vehicles to fit. Mini-vans may not be able to arrive at the entry of the hotel. Even micro-taxis may have to squeeze to get through. Ask the hotel to provide your transfer to/from the airport. It shouldn't cost any more than if you hail a taxi at the airport. The hotel will send the appropriate size vehicle. If you are in a group, don't be surprised if the vehicle let's you off at a nearby intersection so that you can walk the final block. Adios Adventure Travel knows how to get to the different hotels, so our travelers don't have to worry. We send the correct size vehicle. And if necessary to walk a block or so, we will arrange for assistance with the luggage.
Cusco hotels and street noise: hotels located near the central plaza and on streets wide enough to accommodate vehicles with horns are likely to have street noise that can be heard in your room. Even hotels not on big, busy streets will be subject to urban noises including barking dogs, crowing roosters & local late night festivals. When checking in, forgo the picturesque balcony perched over the cobbled streets and ask for a quiet room. Whip out ear plugs & dark eye mask & keep them on your bedside table in case you are awakened by braying animals or nearby revelry.
Cuzco hotels are not centrally heated: but then, neither are homes. Even the 4 star and 5 star hotels may not have central heat. But most have space heaters available on request. Peruvians know how to layer bedding and you should be plenty warm and comfortable once you are inside your woolen cocoon.
Cusco hotels are dimly lit: Peruvians are practical when it comes lighting. You'll find switches on the wall, overhead fixtures and even bedside lamps and many times individual reading lights over each bed. But you will not find an abundance of light flooding every corner of the room. Digging through a black-lined suitcase in the semi-darkness is the last thing you want to do after a busy day of sightseeing. The best solution is to bring a headlamp which gives you the freedom to use both hands and can also be used as a book light if you happen to have insomnia from the altitude and want to do something while you lie awake!
Limited outlets in Cuzco hotel rooms: So you have cameras, ipods, ipads & laptops. All of which need charging. And your hotel room might have 1 or 2 outlets in the room. And it's possible the only light fixture in the room is plugged in to valuable wall outlet. Here's a link to a travel size power strip & surge protector It can accommodate 3 plug-in devices and has 2 USB ports. IMPORTANT NOTE: the power strip is 3-prong and you will need to carry a 2-prong adaptor. (maybe Belkin product developers will read this post & come up with a device that adapts to 3-prong or 2-prong outlets)
One mirror in Cuzco hotel rooms: double, single, triple rooms will likely have only 1 mirror. And it will be located in the bathroom. Remember that headlamp you brought earlier? Couple that with your compact mirror and you have a mini setup for doing those things that require you to look closely at your face.
Clocks, hair-dryers, oxygen tanks & land-line phones in Cusco hotel rooms: I don't think I've ever seen a clock in a Cusco hotel room. Hair-dryers may be available. You may have to ask at the desk. Most hotels are family run and when things go "missing" or get broken, the replacement comes right out of the family grocery money! If you MUST have a hair-dryer, bring your own. Unless you're staying in a remote jungle lodge, you can expect a land-line phone in your room. Most hotels have an oxygen tank tucked away in a corner or under the desk for those moments when the altitude is getting to you. If you do not notice improvement within 5 minutes of using the tank, just turn it off. You might be one of those people whose symptoms are not affected by ingesting additional oxygen.
Concierge services in Cuzco hotels: family-run hotels want your stay to be comfortable and enjoyable. You can ask for anything and if it's possible, they will earnestly try to help you out. They can make local calls for you, direct you to local tours, arrange airport transfers, directions to hotels, pharmacies or landmarks. They may not be able to confirm your flights or print boarding passes.
Computers & Internet in every Cusco hotel: most hotels have a dedicated computer in the lobby for guests who want to quickly check email or get local info. However, it's rude to think that the computer is there for your entertainment. Surfing the web or watching Youtube videos is a bit much.
Toilet seats in every Cuzco hotel: we take our toilet seats for granted elsewhere, but not in Peru. Every hotel will have toilet seats and fully plumbed facilities. However, once you leave the comfort of your hotel, you should be prepared to use toilets without seats. Seats break and become a maintenance issue and the solution of the practical-minded Peruvians is to eliminate them. Public toilets, restaurants and museums may not have seats on their toilets. For men, this is not so bad most of the time, unless you absolutely have to sit down.
Sitting on cold, pee-splattered porcelain (or worse) means that women have to either clean the toilet in order to sit or they have to learn to "dangle" above the hole. Here's a couple of techniques for using toilets without seats. Place both hands on the wall behind you to support your body weight as you lean back. Have your toilet paper ready to use. Or do lots of lunges to build your quadricep muscles before you travel to make it easier to squat without using your arms. I think it's easier to squat in the bushes than to use some of the seat-less toilets in public banos. But this is frowned upon in public places, (unless you're a man!) Toilet seat covers sound like a good idea but are not a practical solution in this case because they are not sturdy enough for this application. You need a solid barrier.
We found a folding, travel toilet seat that weighs less than 1 pound. We realize it's designed for diminutive derrieres, but so far, no one has designed a folding, travel toilet seat for adults! You can find different styles including those decorated with Disney cars or Sesame street characters. It's your choice.
We've covered all the basics for hotels and here's one final travel tip. There is only one restroom at Machu Picchu. It's located at the main entry to the ruins. They charge 2 soles to enter and we're happy to report there is plenty of paper and every toilet has a seat!