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PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Peru is the Peruvian New SOL (I will refer to them as P$s). At the time of writing, US$1 = P$3.38.
It is impossible to do Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley cheaply.
This experience is going to put a big hole in your pocket.
We were using Cusco as our base.
There were 5 of us, so we decided to rent a 3 bedroom apartment: the Departamento Plaza San Pedro. We paid US$60 / night for 8 nights (US$480) plus a US$10 ‘Cleaning Fee’.
It was located where we wanted to be: in a flat area of town close to the San Pedro Mercado …
… and the Historical Centre.
MACHU PICCHU TICKETS:
You buy your tickets online at the Government Website. You have 3 types of tickets:
|TICKET TYPE||TIMES||LIMIT / DAY||NATIONALS||FOREIGNERS|
|Machu Picchu Only|
6am to Noon or
Noon to 5:30pm
|2,500 People||64 SOL||152 SOL|
|Machu Picchu & Mountain|
7am to 8am or
9am to 10am
|400||112 SOL||200 SOL|
|Machu Picchu & Wayna Picchu|
7am to 8am or
10am to 11am
|400||112 SOL||200 SOL|
We bought and paid for our tickets (using their Visa gateway) on the official Government Website months in advance. We had electronic confirmation but no physical tickets (yet).
PLEASE NOTE: The official site only takes Visa and there are reports of many Foreign Cards being rejected. If you card is rejected, you can take a chance and turn up in Cusco and buy your ticket at the Government office here – you should be OK as long as you don’t arrive in ‘peak season’. Your only alternative is to go through an ‘agent’ and pay a premium price.
We made a mistake with our online booking. On arrival, we discovered that the 2 people doing only Machu Picchu were booked in the afternoon time slot. I went to the Government office and had no trouble changing their tickets to the morning time slot. The office were kind enough to print out our hard-copy tickets for free.
RECOMMENDATION: Book the morning time slot (6am to Noon). Once in Machu Picchu, your tickets are never checked. You can stay as long as you like up to the 5:30pm closing time.
PLEASE NOTE: We discovered that the Museum is not actually at Machu Picchu nor in Aguas Calientes. It is half way between the two. You either have to walk there or ask the Shuttle Bus driver to drop you off. It is a (flat) 40 minute walk from Aguas Calientes … the 2 people in our group never made it to the Museum.
We decided to go by train – both there and back. There are 2 competing rail companies: Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Both leave from Poroy and take you along the sacred Urubamba river to Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Town).
We compared prices and train times and chose:
- The 8:25am Peru Rail Vistadome Train to Aguas Calientes for US$105 each (we figured that we would be excited and enjoy the 360 degree view); and
- The 3:20pm Peru Rail Expedition Train back for US$55 each (we assumed that, by then, we would have ‘seen it all’ and that we wouldn’t be looking out of the window much).
The 30 minute taxi from Cusco to Poroy costs P$25.
The Vistadome has slightly better seats and you are served a complimentary sandwich and drink.
PLEASE NOTE: You will need your passport to get on the train. They check that the details on your train ticket match your passport.
RECOMMENDATION: The view from the Expedition is just as good as that from the Vistadome … and is half the price. Choose that one.
On the streets around the main square you will run a gauntlet of touts trying to sell you something or attract you into their over-priced restaurants and bars.
Don’t trust the advertised prices. Double check everything. Once inside, the prices can change. What the tout promises you on the street may not be delivered once you get inside.
Almost everywhere, they add a 20% tip to your bill without telling you. Always check your bill.
You buy your Shuttle Bus tickets in the official ticketing office next to the river down near the railway lines. Look out for the yellow ‘ticket office’ sign. The price is US$25 for a return ticket. The journey takes about 30 minutes each way.
Buses leave regularly all day. Just join the queue. When the bus is full, it leaves. Expect to wait no more than 15 minutes to depart.
RECOMMENDATION: Plan to be at the bus stop 1 hour before you want to be at Machu Picchu.
Once in, you are ‘on your own’: no-one to help you and no instruction boards. This can be confusing … especially if you have booked to do the Mountain or Wayna Picchu as extras. You end up standing there wondering what to do next …
Just walk along the path and follow the signs. You will, eventually, get to the entry to the Mountain (or Wayna Picchu). At the entrance, you register and show your ticket.
PLEASE NOTE: The Government site is not very informative and the 1 hour time slots are misleading. You get the impression that the Mountain can be done in 1 hour. NOT!!!! It took us 3 hours to do the return trip!
You finish over 600 metres above Machu Picchu.
We got back to the Machu Picchu ruins at Noon.
RECOMMENDATION: You have paid heaps of money to get here … don’t miss out on getting a guided tour.
PRO TIP 1: It is said that the best months to visit are March and November. The weather is good and it is less crowded.
PRO TIP 2: Don’t go on a Sunday. Peruvians get free access on a Sunday and the place can get swamped with people.
PRO TIP 3: Book to go in the morning. You can stay as long as you like. Come noon, the second batch of tourists arrive and the place gets more crowded.
PRO TIP 4: As there are no cafes inside, bring your own food and drink with you.
PRO TIP 5: There are no toilets inside, you can go outside two times presenting your ticket at the entrance.
THE SACRED VALLEY:
This gives you access to all of the main sites in the Sacred Valley.
Excellent value for money at US$21 each.
A pleasant, cheap outing.
There are about 3 other Cusco museums on your Tourist Ticket.
You can easily spend a week in Cusco.
AVOID AGUAS CALIENTES:
Avoid staying in Aguas Calientes (if you can). Stay in Ollantaytambo instead.
You can catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (90 minutes), connect to the Shuttle Bus (30 minutes), and be in Machu Picchu before 9am. This allows you to connect to The Mountain or Wayna Picchu hikes if you have booked them. You can easily get back to Ollantaytambo by sunset.
Ollantaytambo is much less ‘touristic’, less ‘money grabbing’, and more atmospheric. It even has its own ruins overlooking the town.