It is one of the Frequently Asked Questions for the AMAUTA course counsellors from students that have registered for one of our Spanish courses in Peru: how will the altitude in Cusco affect my body?
Will I get soroche, altitude sickness? Will I be bothered by the altitude? Will I be strong enough to live and learn Spanish in Cusco at 3400 meters above sea level? And what should I do to avoid soroche?
Fortunately, we can always confirm that the altitude is hardly ever a problem for our Spanish students*. We recommend to rest upon arrival, and take it easy during the first days so your body can adjust to the altitude before starting the Spanish classes in Cusco.
What does really happen in our body, when we arrive at the altitude in Cusco?
With each breath, you inhale a certain amount of oxygen. Your body is accustomed to this respective amount. If you go to a city at a higher elevation like Cusco (2500m or more; the altitude in Cusco is 3400 m above sea level), you will most likely show symptoms of altitude sickness.
Why? In higher elevations, the air pressure is less. This means that although the oxygen percentage in the air stays the same, you will still take in less oxygen with every breath you take because the air is less dense, or “thinner”. (This is one of the reasons airplanes are equipped with pressure equalization.)
The term “altitude sickness” implies that there is a cure for it. However, there isn’t. Practically the only cure would be to return to lower levels of altitude. You can, however, treat the individual symptoms.
Not everyone shows symptoms in the same manner, and not everyone is affected by altitude sickness in the first place.
The most common symptoms of altitude sickness or soroche, as it is called in Peru, you will experience during the first hours or first days in Cusco, are:
In more serious* cases symptoms can include:
*this does not happen very often.
Should you really feel bad and should your symptoms not lessen after 72 hours, you better consult a doctor.
In a very exceptional case, the doctor will recommend getting yourself to a lower altitude, especially if you suffer from lung or heart problems.
Did you know that AMAUTA Spanish School is happy to count with an in-house medical assistance? There is a doctor available for you,
24 hours a day.
In case you want to travel to a lower altitude, you can think about studying Spanish at our Spanish school in the Sacred Valley of the Incas,
which is almost 1000 meters lower than Cusco.
Here are some tips to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness upon arrival in Cusco:
When you take into account those tips, you should feel perfectly fine when starting your Spanish lessons in Peru!
We hope you have a better idea now of how the altitude will affect your body in Cusco.
For more info about the altitude or our Spanish courses in Peru, feel free to contact one of our course counselors.
*This blog is not professional medical advice. Consult a doctor if you have any doubts concerning your reaction to higher altitudes.