South America Blog Posts

Week 24 – Visiting Machu Picchu on a budget

This week I have spent some time relaxing in Urubamba, but I took one great trip. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was planning to visit Machu Picchu. You may have noticed that I am travelling on a very limited budget, so doing a tourist trip like this needed to be done as cheaply as possible. Through taking this trip, I learned some useful information that could help other people to visit Machu Picchu without spending too much money.

Getting your tickets

There was a change to the ticketing system a few months ago. This resulted in a lot of protests and unhappy backpackers. Basically the numbers of visitors were limited and tickets now have to be bought directly from the government (https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/) and most be booked with the name of the tourist. They cannot be transferred. There are four different tickets available.

  • Machu Pichu circuit 1,2,3,4 ($45)
  • Circuit 4 and Wayna Picchu mountain ($60)
  • Circuit 3 and Machu Pichu mountain ($60)
  • Circuit 4 and Huchuy Picchu mountain ($45)

In my opinion, the best ticket to get is the first one. The other 3 only allow limited access to Machu Picchu park and do not include the famous view looking down on Machu Picchu. However, they do include their own views looking down from their mountain spots. I would also recommend circuit 2 out of the four available circuits. You can see maps of the circuit routes on the government website if you would like to compare(https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/).

Getting to Aguas Calientes

Machu Picchu is located right next to a small town called Aguas Calientes. The only difficulty is that there are no roads to that town. So to get there you have a few different options. There are trains that run there. But they are a bit pricey at $100 one-way from Cusco. You can save some money by taking a bus to Ollantaytambo ($6), then taking the train from there for only $50.

But there is an even cheaper option if you take a bus from Cusco. The ticket is only $30 return. So that’s just $15 each way. But as I mentioned before, there aren’t any roads to Aguas Calientes. So the closest you can get is a place called Hidroel├ęctrica. From there you have two choices. You can take a train, which will cost you $33. Or you can hike the 10km to Aguas Calientes. The route isn’t difficult and you will be there in two or three hours, depending how fast you walk.

Costs in Aguas Calientes

As we had a ticket for 7am, we arrived in Aguas Calientes the day before our Machu Picchu trip. This meant that we needed to sleep and eat in the town. Most of the restaurants are tourist restaurants, so the prices are a little high. But we managed to find a local restaurant which offered the typical Peruvian ‘menu’ meal for 10 soles ($3). That includes a starter of soup, then a second course which you choose from two or three different options. You also get some iced tea to wash it all down. Not a bad price at all.

Then there’s the hotel. I think there were cheaper options available, but we were happy with the standard of our hotel. We paid 100 soles for a double room with breakfast included. This works out to around $30 between two people. Not bad, but more expensive than the places I am used to staying when I’m on my bike.

Getting to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu itself is on top of a mountain next to Aguas Calientes. So you need to get there. There are buses for $12 one-way. But you can also just hike up to the park and back if you have the time and energy to do it. We took the bus there in the morning, because our entry time was so early. But we hiked back down to Aguas Calientes after we had finished our tour.

Machu Picchu

When you are actually inside the Machu Picchu park, you aren’t free to explore. The routes are clearly marked and there are park rangers watching everyone. If you go the wrong way or do anything wrong, they will blow their whistle and get you back on track. But they don’t rush you. You can take your time and enjoy the views. You just can’t backtrack once you have left a specific area. There are a lot of important UNESCO world heritage sites to visit around the world. Whether it’s the pyramids, the colosseum, the acropolis, Borobudur, Prambanan, Angkor Wat, The Great Wall of China or here in Machu Picchu. Personally, I find it really hard to visit a country and pass one of these places without going to see it for myself. I would definitely recommend that people take the chance to visit places like this. As you can see from my post, you don’t need to have a big budget to have these experiences.