Lake Titicaca - altitude sickness?

Sep 30th, 2008, 07:22 PM
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Lake Titicaca - altitude sickness?

Thanks to others who are posting on this board, we have made a very good start on planning our trip to Peru, coming up in about four months.

We will be flying in to Lima and then after a couple days we fly to Puno (Juliaca). I am wondering about altitude sickness ... Lake Titicaca is 12000 ft. and we will be coming from basically sea level. We have three days planned for the islands.

The good thing (I think ?) is that from Puno we will go by bus to Cusco and Machu Picchu - both are at a lower elevation - so hopefully we will not experience continuous problems, should one or the other of us be susceptible to altitude sickness.

Have any Fodorites done this itinerary? Anyone used the prophylactic medication for altitude sickness - the side effects sound kind of bad - or should we even waste time worrying about this?
scdreamer is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:18 AM
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Scdreamer -- no first hand experience and hoping we won't have any problems with altitude sickness, but we specifically switched our plans around so we would be doing Lake T at the end. Part of my reasoning was that, if the altitude affected me at Lake T (even after spending time in Cusco), I'd at least be able to just sit around the hotel (staying at Casa Andina Private Collection) without exerting myself. We live at sea level, but have been to 8-9,000 ft before without problems.

Difficult decision since there seems to be no rhyme or reason with who gets affected and who doesn't.

By the way, I did read somewhere that some tour companies like starting people at Lake T if you are doing the Inca Trail - seems you have an easier time with the trail, which is at a lower altitude than Lake T.

Hopefully someone who has traveled this way will chime in, but you may want to check TripAdvisor posts as well (if you haven't done so already).
eenusa is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Symptoms of acute mountain sickness, may include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, malaise, insomnia, and loss of appetite. Severe cases may be complicated by breathlessness and chest tightness, which are signs of pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), or by confusion, lethargy, and unsteady gait, which indicate cerebral edema (brain swelling).

Altitude sickness may be prevented by taking acetazolamide 125 or 250 mg twice daily starting 24 hours before ascent and continuing for 48 hours after arrival at altitude.

I always take it most common side effect for me some tingling... good info.
qwovadis is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 06:39 AM
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eenusa (you are Erin, right?)- thanks for your post. We are actually arranging our tour with Vidal at adventureholidaysperu, as you had been so positive in your previous post regarding your meeting him in person. So far Vidal has been very responsive to our questions and wishes for a two-week tour of Southern Peru. BTW, we are not hiking the trail.

We have also suggested that we rearrange the tour to be at Lake T at the end. Received an email from Vidal - he doesn't seem that concerned about the altitude sickness problem, but is willing to switch the itinerary around.

I think that's what we'll do. No telling if either my husband or I will have any problems, as what you said about the unpredictability of who will be affected is true. But, that said, I have friends who ski in the Rockies and they have said that gradually increasing one's altitude exposure over a few days is the best way to avoid getting sick.

Are you considering taking anti-altitude sickness medication?
scdreamer is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 07:18 AM
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A couple of years ago we started with a similar itinerary--Lima, then Puno, then the bus trip to Cusco.

We used Diamox for altitude sickness and did not experience any side effects nor any altitude sickness after we stopped taking the pills a few days later. I've included my trip report link below for more information.

Peru is a wonderful country. I hope you enjoy your stay there.

kathleen is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 07:36 AM
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Sorry. The correct link (hopefully) to the trip report is the following.

I remember the bus ride from Puno to Cusco being very enjoyable. We stopped at several towns and sites along the way.

kathleen is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 08:13 AM
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scdreamer - yep, I'm Erin. I think it's smart to switch the itinerary around. I got the same sense that Vidal is less concerned about the problem ... but then, he's been living there all his life.

One of his former clients, who was at the Adventure Expo where I met Vidal, indicated that he was very conscious of how fast or slow they were moving, and adjusted the speed/level of activities accordingly, so I feel good that he won't be pushing us to go faster or do more than we are capable of.

Not that I want to miss any portion of our trip, but if I have to take it easy, I'd rather do it at a lakeview room/hotel at Lake T.
eenusa is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 08:24 AM
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definitely switch your itinerary. we did lake t. last and so glad we did. felt the altitude a bit in the sacred valley and cusco, but much more so in puno. see my trip report for details - lots of them!
althom1122 is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 11:53 AM
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we also went on a similar itinerary, starting in cusco, on to puno, and further south.
we both got hit by altitude sickness, differently - i was short of breath, and didn't sleep well. my wife had mild headaches. we didn't take medication, and the symptoms were not too bad.
as an aside.... i would HIGHLY recommend to spend time in copacabana, rather than puno - smaller, prettier, just wonderful. let me know if you're interested, i can recommend there the most beautiful and romantic hotel room we ever stayed in, anywhere.
chiefie is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Assume that neither of you have been to anyplace 5k or higher?

I visited Peru in June 2006. Our itinerary began in Lima, then continued on to Machu Picchu (no problems at that elevation, 8k), then on to Cusco (could feel it, but just took it easy) and finally to Puno/Lake Titicaca.

During my 1st night in Puno, really felt the difference in altitude from 11k (Cusco) up to 12k. I got up in morning, and went down to reception (stayed @ Casa Andina in Puno) where I sat for 15 minutes breathing oxygen. After my "O" treatment, I felt much better and was okay during our excusion on Lake Titicaca. Of the group on our boat, there was an 18 yr old guy who was having a terrible time dealing w/ altitude. As you may have found through your research, age/health has little impact on whether you will (or will not) experience problems with high elevations.

FYI -- I live at sea level and have asthma. I discussed with my physician the pros/cons of taking diamox and opted not to do so.

It's a smart move for you to rework your itinerary to save Lake T for the end of your trip.
Tess_Durberville is offline  
Oct 1st, 2008, 03:25 PM
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Tess, I have been as high as 5,000 ft, but like you, I live at sea level (coastal California) so I have no idea how my body will reslond to 8,000 and above.

We have decided to definitely switch the order in the itinerary. I'm still on the fence regarding Diamox. I have read that if a person begins having altitude sickness, the Diamox can be started, but that it's more effective to use it in advance.

I am not a person who takes medication indiscriminately, so this is something I will continue to investigate before making a decision.

Erin - your hotel at Lake T sounds great. We weren't offered that one as an option. Did you find it on your own? Also - will you be spending time in Lima before and/or after the tour? Have you chosen a hotel there?
scdreamer is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 06:34 AM
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Scdreamer - Vidal offered us the standard hotel options ... but I had done extensive research on TripAdvisor because we knew we would probably want to stay at different hotels, so we gave him the specific hotels and he priced our itinerary accordingly. Vidal's willingness to completely customize things to our wants/needs is one of the reasons we decided to work with him.

We already have our confirmed reservations for Inkaterra in AC and Los Apus in Cusco. Waiting on confirmation from Pakaritampu in Ollanta and Casa Andina PC in Puno.

We're staying overnight in Lima the night we arrive. Since we get in around 10:00p, we're going to stay at the Ramada Costa del Sol for that night - short walk from the airport terminal. On the way back, we'll be staying in Lima one night at San Antonio Abad in Miraflores - small boutique property; found on personal recommendation; good enough reviews on TripAdvisor for a one night stay. (We're skipping an extensive stay in Lima this time - will do that when we return to do Nazca lines, Paracas, northern Peru.)
eenusa is offline  

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