Organized tours to Machu Picchu can be very expensive (see inlay for typical itinerary and cost), but it isn't too difficult to plan it on your own as long as you know the ropes. Guides are not mandatory. You can explore it on your own or with the help of a guidebook. You can a guide at the ruins and you should expect to pay around US$20 for a 2hr private tour.
The nearest town to Machu Picchu is Aguas Calientes, an isolated land locked town tucked in the valley. The only option for travel to Aguas Calientes is by train or by foot. From there you will need to take a bus or walk to the Machu Picchu ruins.
Entrance TicketsTickets CANNOT be purchased at the entrance to Machu Picchu. They can be purchased in Aguas Calientes at the Machu Picchu Cultural Center about 10 mins walk from Central Plaza where the statue of Pacahcuti is located.The ticket center is open from 5.15am to 7pm.
Note: Take the exact change of 122 sole (around $44.00), they often do not have change.
Tickets can also be purchased in Cusco from the NIC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura) office, located a few blocks from Plaza de Armas. Getting your ticket in Cusco is the best option. Some Hotels will arrange the purchase of tickets but these may be a small service fee. Arraging it via the hotel is conevenient especially when checking in late for a trip the next day.
Tickets are also now available for purchase online. The site is a bit cumbersome to navigate. Instructions on how to purchase online can be found by clicking here
Student DiscountsThere is a discount of 50% for students with an ISIC; International Student Identity Card, a globally recognized student ID. Cards can be obtained from their website (http://www.isic.org/).
Tickets can be purchased up to 3 days in advance and is valid for entry into the ruins on a single day. Multiple reentries is permitted on the same day.
This service to the ancient ruins at Machu Picchu offers a spectacular journey in the Andes region.
The journey begins in Poroy Train Station in Cuzco, the train then descends from the highest point into the Sacred Valley and the foothills of the Andes. Before reaching Machu Picchu, the train travels along the Urubamba River, with awe-inspiring views of the dramatic canyon.
Purchasing Train TicketsIt is advisable to purchase tickets well in advance of arriving in Cusco. The trains are often sold out especially within the high season. In this event, your only option is to get a ticket from the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo Station, from which there are many more scheduled departures.
Tickets can be purchased directly from the Peru Rail website. Only a few services actually run all the way between Cusco and Machu Picchu, most of the train services terminate at Ollantaytambo. If all the Cusco trans are booked, check for departures between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu (M.Picchu) - there should be plenty available.
Aguas Calientes to M.Picchu
There is a regular bus service with buses running at 10 minute intervals throughout the day. There is no need to puchase tickets in advance, they can be purchased from a booth in the town. The bus ride is approximately 20mins, walking approximately 70 mins.
The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 20 minutes and costs US$6 each way. The ride is an experience in itself with great views of lush cloud forest and the sacred mountain Putucusi across the valley and precipitous drops plunging down into the Vilcanota Valley below. The splashes of pink and orange flowers growing on the slopes are actually the orchid Wiñay Wayna which iscommonly seen throughout the region.
The buses are clean and modern with air-conditioning (the whole fleet of 20 buses were renewed in 2006).
The last buses depart Machu Picchu at about 5:30pm, be sure to check the time of the last bus as it can be a long walk back to Aguas Calientes if you miss it (well about 1 hour if you follow the more direct route rather than follow the road)
Guided Tours?Guides are available at the ruins. You should expect to pay around US$20 per guide for a 2 hour private tour or if your lucky, join a group for as little as US$3 per person depending on the size of the group.
Guides are not mandatory and you can enter Machu Picchu and explore it on your own or with the help of a guidebook (or you can just stand next to one of the several places of interest and listen to the explanations given by someone else's guide!)