South America Living

Cusco, Peru – Cheap Place to Live in South America

View of the City of Cusco From The Mirador (Lookout Point in English) a Ten Minute Walk From Plaza de Armas

If there is a city to fall in love with in Peru, it’s Cusco. And it makes an excellent choice for a long-term stay as well.

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What’s to love about Cusco other than being the way station to Machu Picchu and having many lovely museums, restaurants and hotels? Everything. The low cost of living, markets, people, active nightlife.

There is even a sweet, little gold-painted man who stands at Plaza San Francisco waiting patiently for a sole to be dropped into his cup whereas he comes to life and gives a fortune. How endearing is that?   YouTube Video of Fortune Teller:

As if the above wasn’t enough, thanks to increased police presence due to the number of tourists who travel through the area annually Cusco is a very safe city to live in – if you stay near the central area around Plaza de Armas and adjoining neighborhoods such as San Blas.

Ok, there is one thing you may not like… the odd shooting off of a gun (no, nothing official it seems and don’t ask why) or round of fireworks for no apparent reason, at any time of the day or night. “Honey… where did that come from?” “Don’t know sweetie, just go back to sleep…”. If that won’t cause you too much distress, you’ll be fine living in Cusco!

Located At 3400 metres (11,160 feet) above sea level you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness, though most become acclimated after a few days. The smartest thing you can do is to take it easy for the first 24 hours, drinking lots of water and not doing anything strenuous. This article outlines what symptoms you could experience and treatment options: Travel Health – Symptoms, Prevention & Treatment of Altitude Sickness.

Is There a Shopping Mall in Cusco?

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective) there is no shopping mall in Cusco. The closest thing to a mall (and where you will be directed to if you ask where the ‘shopping’ is) is Centro Commercial El Molino.

Selling Flowers on the Streets of Cusco

El Molino is basically a large, ‘smashed in next to each other’ hodgepodge of the same type of shops you will see on the streets of Cusco; selling clothing, toys, shoes, kitchenware, etc. To view the inside of Molinos up close, first-hand view this YouTube video: El Molino Commercial Center in Cusco, Peru.

It is a ways out of the central area, not easily accessible by bus, you need to take a taxi (10 minutes, $2 USD).

What is great at El Molino, surprisingly enough, is the cerviche stands at the front entrance. They don’t look like much, but for 10 soles ($3.80 USD) you will get a huge serving of fresh seafood with a large pile of fried calimari on top. Easily enough food for two. How about a sweet potato to go with it?

The best shopping in Cusco is to walk around the central plaza area (Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco). This is where you will find the most selection of imported items and things marketed to folks who may have the cash to pay for them; quality camping gear, Patagonia jackets, boots, imported sandals, etc.

Where to Buy Groceries in Cusco

There are two grocery stores in Cusco, Orion and Mega. Mega has multiple locations but the Orion store is located directly across from the main farmer’s market.

To find out how much things cost at both stores and take a brisk walk through the ailes of Orion click here: Grocery Shopping in Cusco, Peru & Price Chart of Grocery Items. How about where to find fresh baguettes? View the page!

Apartments for Rent in Cusco & How To Rent an Apartment

There are plenty of options for rentals in Cusco. Fully-furnished ‘equipped for tourists’ apartments with cable T.V., kithen supplies, etc. are available at Renacimiento. A one-bedroom apartment is $350 USD per month or $40 USD per night. It is in a great central location three blocks from Plaza San Francisco on Calle Ceniza #331. The website with photographs and contact information is here:

For the best deals (especially if you are staying for 6 months or longer) buy the small local newspaper “Rueda de Negocios” (50 cents). Clasificados means ‘classifieds’ and “Alquileres” means ‘for rent’. You can find places for as low as 400-700 soles ($150-$270 USD) per month. Some even advertise with cable T.V. and Wifi.


  • Beautiful location to walk around in and enjoy with plenty to do.
  • Fun nightlife scene with discos, reggae clubs, live bands and shows.
  • Central area safe due to increased police and miltary presence.


  • If you need seclusion, this isn’t really the place. Cusco is a very active ‘bustling with life’ city, not a small town though living in an area such as in San Blas can make it feel like one.
  • There are always tourists around, sometimes a lot of them depending on the time of year. This can be a plus as well, as it makes for a constantly changing mix of people and folks to talk with.
  • Shopping options are basic, no designer clothing in Cusco… may be frustrating for those used to more westernized cultures.

Photographs & videos by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.

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