We arrived in Cuzco at night, with a taxi into the Plaza de Armas, and saw the cathedrals and churches all lit up. It was very beautiful. But that was as far as the wonder and beauty went.
To my great disappointment I finally had something bad to say about a city in Peru. The culture here in Cusco is one of greed and ripping-off tourists in any way possible. This is not limited to tourist-facing businesses – even the Catholic Church is in on the feeding frenzy of the Walking-Wallets…
It was time to buy the Boleto Turistico, the Tourist Ticket. This is sold by the INC who are the institute trusted with the safeguarding of Cusco’s heritage. We knew it would be expensive but were a bit taken aback by the price of S./70 (Update: it is now double!!) or about $25 each. It felt like I was in London again, or perhaps somewhere more expensive. Laughingly, for that price the ticket is only valid for a week and says beggingly on the back to destroy it after use so no-one else can visit the places you have not visited. (The ticket is clipped each time you enter an attraction as the ticket is valid for only one entry to each)
We soon noticed the ticket wasn’t the end of the costs to be endured. I knew that the Sun Temple and the convent of Santa Catalina were not included, but I was worried what else we’d have to pay for.
We visited the;
Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo
Museo Historico Regional
Museo de Arte Popular
All of which were exceptionally poor value for money, infact they were the word tourist attractions I have ever seen in my life, and we were starting to feel ripped-off. It was time for lunch.
Lunch in Cuzco is not easy. The Plaza is swarming with rich tourists and the local restaurateurs, well I guess they cater to their need to spend money. The restaurants are quite expensive, with a good 200% to 300% mark-up on the price of the ingredients. One Parrillada we found was S./45 per person + drinks. The best restaurants in Lima cost less.
So we had to leave the touristy area and walk away from the Plaza to the cheaper places. Cheaper they were, but it was here that some Cusqueños excelled in their efforts to cheat me any way they could. We stuck our heads into what seemed like the right place. There were local people sitting at the tables, the restaurant had no proper signage outside and the smell of choclo, giant corn-on-the-cob, was wafting into the street. Before we had time to decide if this was the place for us, it was decided for us. An old woman who was cooking the choclos ushered us in. A waitress approached our table and handed us a menu. A two course meal for S./3.50? That sounded perfect, and there were a variety of main course dishes to choose from after the soup. We chose that. On ordering, the waitress said with a smile;
“That is only for local people, perhaps you could try the Tourist Menu, you’ll like it, it’s exactly the same for only S./5.50”.
She said this as if she was doing us a favour by cheating us out of S./2 merely because of where we come from. Sensing our building anger, she smiled and offered Annett the menu for S./3.50 and me for S./5.50 because she is Peruvian. Wow. Much better.