When it comes to solo travel worries, us females are always hit with more warnings and danger stories than our male counterparts. Though most are well intentioned, where would we be if we actually listened to the empty tales we were told? I, for one, would never have been able to realize one of the most magical cities I’d ever visited. Sure, Peru isn’t a “first-world” country, but like most places, it’s got way more people trying to make an honest living, feed their families, and spread kindness to others. Cusco especially is a lively city with a healthy mix of tourists and locals, a rich history visible in its architecture, and traditional customs and values instilled in the people. So what’s the fuss over how dangerous it is?
Strangers in the Dark
When I explored the nightlife, I learned that tourists and nationals engaged effortlessly. Groups of unfamiliar faces clinked glasses as everyone shouted “salud” before downing pisco sours. And in the wee hours of the morning, we linked up with others going the same way so that we knew everyone was home safe. We locked arms while walking down tiny, winding alleys, lit only by the yellow glow of a lamppost peeking in from the adjacent street. What should’ve been an intimidating walk home was ironically made comfortable because of a group of strange faces.
Suspicious unidentified white vans concerned me the most until I experienced them for myself. I learned they were full of passengers seeking exciting adventures outside of the city. Groups of strangers became travel buddies who all helped and encouraged one another on strenuous hikes, laughed together throughout the long drives, and fell asleep on each other’s shoulders at the end of the day. From my highly sought-after adventure to Machu Picchu, to Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, the Nazca lines, and Moray, I made friends from all over Peru and throughout the world, which I otherwise would have never met.
Cusco’s streets are littered with stray dogs, and even more, not one looks like any other. For a while, I was certain I would be attacked before my trip was over. But I learned that the dogs are just as sweet as the people. Lots of dogs aren’t even strays, they have homes and owners, but disappear to live their own lives during the day. Most are just napping in the sun, others playing with others dogs, and some might accompany you to your door so you aren’t alone. They aren’t looking to harm anyone. All of the dogs are well fed and friendly.
Scams at the Mercados
Some parts of Latin America are known for some shady business practices which scam you out of your money at the local mercados. But in Cusco, you’ll find that no matter what you go in looking for, you’ll find at least 5 stands in the same exact aisle selling the same items. Therefore, if you feel you’re being priced unfairly, just head to the next stand! There is so much competition among locals that they’re more focused on providing honest, and fair prices than they are in scamming you.
As you can see, the dangers I was made aware of were just opportunities in disguise. Opportunities to meet new people, experience new things, and broaden perspectives. However, I don’t write this to say you can blindly walk into unfamiliar territory–No matter where in the world you travel, there are dangers to be cautious of, and exciting adventures to unfold. Choose wisely and don’t abandon your sense, because it’s your greatest weapon to proving the naysayers wrong.
With lots of love and blessings,
A Solo Female Traveler