We have made it to Bolivia, and so far as not been much better than Peru. With the exception of seeing D, K and C in Cusco (which was fantastic, we realized we hadn't had a conversation with anyone besides each other since Colombia), we didn't like much about Peru. Since Cusco was a big tourist area, I was even able to get a salad. The only thing they seem to eat in Peru is really salty roasted Chicken and french fries. I told A that I'm on a strict diet of french fries, chicken, coke and white rice. Sometimes they'll put a single slice of tomato on the side.
Cell Phone Pic of Machu Picchu, Peru (better ones to come)
We even went to see Machu Picchu (will post more photos from my camera later), which while beautiful is very expensive to get there and all of the tourist stuff around is unimaginably irritating. First of all, there is no direct road to the town of agua calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu), so you must take a very expensive train to get there. On the train they will play music at ear splitting levels and try and get you to buy their llama sweaters and such (this is after paying $55+ one way per person). Then the town of Agua Calientes is a terrible tourist trap (since you pretty much need to stay over night there to see Machu Picchu). The food is expensive and horrible, there is almost no where to walk or go. The hot springs are filthy and overrun with drunk people. If I were to direct other people doing this, I'd suggest spending the $300 dollars for the night and staying at the lodge right at Machu Picchu, this way you avoid Agua Calientes all together and can get to Machu Picchu first thing. Machu Picchu is provably the most breathtaking ruins (because it is on top of a mountain set in the middle of nowhere) in terms of location, but was not as interesting to us as Copan Ruins (Honduras).
One thing we haven't figured out is older Peruvian (and Bolivian) women from the Mountains where a traditional outfit which includes a felt bowler (or top or other strange style) hat.
City Street, Peru
As per the title of this post: In the United States, I have never asked to see a hotel room before staying there. I guess you could, but there is some expectation of quality and services based on the price. In Central and South America, that is not the case. It is definitely necessary to see the room before choosing to stay there. This is also why we don't book hotels in advance. Things we typically ask about before even seeing the room: parking, wifi, hot shower (or AC depending on climate), toilet seat, and towels.
Parking: Sometimes they say they have parking, but it is blocks away in a dirt lot that our little car cannot get up, or they want the keys so they can do some car shuffles (we don't give anyone the keys to the car), or it is not actually in a secure lot, etc. Having access to the car right on the hotel site is useful for many reasons.
WIFI: They will say they have WIFI, but it is only in the lobby, unfathomably slow or is not actually theirs.
Hot Shower: This is the big one, almost every place tells you they have hot showers, some of them look like the picture below (note these type of showers will shock you if you put your hand too close). We have now learned to turn the shower on and make sure, mostly they will say "oh it takes a few minutes to heat up." While this is sometimes true, it is not true when it's one of the electric shower heads. Also important: pressure. You will almost never find American shower pressure, but you need to make sure the shower is more than a small drip. Now hot showers have only become a problem since the Southern part of Colombia, where is became cold. In Cusco, it was so cold people where enormous jackets at night.
Terrifying Electric Shower Heads
Air Conditioning: This no longer applies since it is freezing out (and no one has heat here, not even fancy hotels), but even places that appeared to have air conditioners, sometimes those air conditioners just blew hot air.
Toilet Seat: You will almost never find a toilet seat in a public restroom (even if you are paying for said restroom) anywhere in South America. I'm not really sure why. They don't have squatters like in China, but they seem to be fine without a toilet seat. This is important to check in hotels. Even some nicer hotels don't have them, I cannot understand why. We have even considered buying one to carry with us.
Towels: Now in hotels, since there are two of us, we are paying for a "matrimonial" room. This means there is one larger bed for two people. This implies two people are staying. Many places will try to only give you one towel, you seem to always have to ask for a second. In Aguas Calientes, they even went as far as to try to charge us for a second towel. Also, the towels are tiny and often smell funny.
So those are all the things we check, other annoying things about bathrooms in Central/South America:
Cleanliness: They range from filthy to clean-ish. You will always find hair all over, even in nicer places. There will often be standing pools of water on the floor.
Shower Curtain: For some reason they don't seem to mind when water gets all over the bathroom floors. Many places will not have shower curtains and when they do, sometimes they will not be long enough or cover the whole area. There is almost never a lip dividing the shower either, so either way the whole bathroom is wet.
Shower Drains: Shower drains almost never drain, leaving you standing in a pool of filthy water and hair (see cleanliness). This also means even if there is a dividing lip between the shower and the rest of the bathroom, it will overflow getting water everywhere.
Bath Mats and Hand Towels: I'm not sure we've seen these since Mexico. Since the entire bathroom is covered in water anyway, why bother?
More about Bolivia and it's corrupt Policia and Aduana soon!