Do-It-Yourself Machu Picchu: Buying the Various Sets of Tickets for Your Visit to Machu Picchu

This is part 5 of a series of posts devoted to our whirlwind tour of Peru & Chile.

  1. Less than $1,000 per person all-in for our 11-day tour in Peru & Chile
  2. How you can use <75,000 points to replicate our itinerary to visit Machu Picchu, Easter Island, and more
  3. How to prepare for altitude sickness in Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca
  4. What to bring for your trip to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and/or Easter Island
  5. How many different sets of tickets do you have to buy for that one-day visit to Machu Picchu?
  6. How to Create Your Own Machu Picchu “Inka Trail” Experience in One Day
  7. Using the Tambo del Inka, a Starwood Luxury Collection Resort, as Your Base for Your Visit to Machu Picchu
  8. Tour Guide #1 – Sabino for Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Peru
  9. Tour Guide #2 – Silvia for Puno, Lake Titicaca, Sillustani, Peru
  10. How We Did Lima, Peru in One Day
  11. Tour Guide #3 – Sergio for Easter Island, Chile
  12. Taking Advantage of an Airport Hotel for Our Walking Tour of Santiago, Chile
  13. Airport Lounge Access + LAN International Business vs. Economy
  14. Budgeting for Your Next Big Dream Vacation
  15. You Won’t Believe What Happened on Our Way Home!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, visiting Machu Picchu is made quite expensive by non-local tourist-only pricing. On average, you’d expect to spend about US$150-200 per person on tickets, just to get you from your base in Cusco or Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu and back.

Tickets [in the order of priority] (1 US$ = 2.676 Peruvian Soles as of 6/6/12):

Category Price Range Where/How to Buy
(1) Machu Picchu (MP) 1-day Admission (non-refundable, non-changeable)
  • MP only: S/. 128 (~US$48)
  • MP+Huayna Picchu Hike: S/.152 (~US$56)
http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/

  • Only 2,500 visitors allowed each day
  • 400 allowed to hike Huayna (Wayna) Picchu: 200 @7am, 200 @10am
  • Almost impossible to use a US Visa card (see details below for alternatives)
(2) Train Tickets to/from MP (the earlier you decide on your dates, the cheaper; changeable 48 hours prior to travel dates) ~US$100 round-trip for Expedition (cheapest class)

  • Most from/to Ollantaytambo
  • A few from/to Poroy (30 minutes from Cusco)
  • 1 to/from Urumbamba (new station at the Starwood resort)
https://www.perurail.com/en (site can be down from time to time!)

  • Can be purchased in soles or US$
  • Again, major issues with US credit card (see details below)
  • Expedition service is more than sufficient (no need to waste money on higher classes)
(3) Bus to/from MP US$17 (round trip per person) Bus station at Aguas Calientes before getting on the bus

 

Machu Picchu Admissions:

  1. US (Chase) Credit Card Issues: the official website requires a VISA card with the “Verified by Visa” feature. I still remember successfully going through this procedure a few years ago when shopping online with various Chase VISA cards. However, Chase recently implemented its own security measures and stopped using the “Verified by Visa” feature. I got on the phone with Chase security department MANY times to try pushing the payment through, but had to give up. Emailing/calling the official ticket office in Cusco did not help, either. Finally, I decided to just try our luck by buying the tickets on the day we arrived in Cusco.
  2. Official Ticket Office in Cusco: Direccion Regional de Cultura Cusco, located at Ave. de la Cultura No. 238, Condomio Huascar, Wanchaq, Cusco, Peru. Office is open Mon-Fri 8am-4pm, Sat 8am-12pm. Visa & cash (soles) accepted (I used Chase Sapphire Preferred to avoid paying foreign transaction fees).
  3. Local Tour Agencies/Hotels: you can also ask your hotel in Cusco or Sacred Valley for help with purchasing your tickets to Machu Picchu. The tickets will have added service fees, and you may only be able to pay with cash.
  4. Aguas Calientes (Main Square, Plaza de Aguas Calientes): I don’t recommend doing this, as you will waste your valuable time and run the risk of being sold out for the day (unless you stay overnight in Aguas Calientes, which is again something I don’t recommend). If you have to do this, EXACT cash (soles) is expected, and the office is open every day from 5:30am-9pm.
  5. Quirky Official Website: if you would like to try booking your tickets online,

  • Select English by clicking on the “English” icon
  • Under “Lugar a Visitar,” select Machu Picchu
  • Under “Seleccione la Ruta,” select Machu Picchu (or other combos you’d like)
  • Choose your date of visit, and “Availability” shows how many of the 2,500 tickets are still available
  • Highlight “Adulto” and choose how many tickets you want to buy

  • Click on Step 2 to enter personal information for all visitors – there is no “USA” or “United States” option, you have to select “Estados Unidos”

  • Click on Step 3, check “agree” box, and click on “Reserve Generating”

  • Use that reservation code to proceed to “PAYMENTS” tab (reservations are valid for 4 hours)
  • IF payment succeeds, you can click on “CHECK-IN” tab to print your tickets
  • “QUERIES” tab shows you ticket availability information

Train Tickets to/from Machu Picchu on Peru Rail:

  1. US (Chase) Credit Card Issues (Again!): the official website is relatively intuitive and self-explanatory, but also requires a VISA card with the “Verified by Visa” feature. Chase security department again tried MANY times to help with the purchase, but to no avail. Two days after my last attempt on the website, I received an email from a real person at Peru Rail, offering to help with my ticket purchase. The exact amount for the three of us (round-trip between Ollantaytambo and MP) was US$246 ($82 a piece)  – strangely about $8 cheaper per person than the original website quote. I had to email a signed copy of a purchase order form, a scanned copy of TravelWhimsy‘s Chase Sapphire Preferred card and driver license. The purchase was completed a few days after I emailed back all the required documents; tickets in PDF format were emailed back to us. [Many of you might cringe at the idea of emailing sensitive documents; there are other options.]
  2. 24-hour Ticket Booth at Lima Airport Domestic Terminal: before your flight from Lima to Cusco, you can stop by the airport stall to buy your train tickets.

    Peru Rail Ticketing Location at Lima Airport Domestic Terminal
  3. Autowagon: this new service starts right at the Starwood resort, Tambo del Inka, in Urubamba (2-2.5 hours each way). One morning train leaves for MP around 8am, and one evening train returns from MP around 6pm [subject to change]. Round trip tickets cost around US$130-140 per person. [We stayed at the resort, but the schedule was different in May and had a return train leaving MP at 3pm, too early for us.]
  4. Monopoly: I saw 2 other rail companies at Ollantaytambo, but was told that they only had very limited services and similarly high fares. There is no other way for you to get to Machu Picchu (unless you hike/walk), so you have to shell out the big bucks for the 1.5-hour 40-mile train ride from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu.

Bus Tickets to/from Machu Picchu:

Buses Waiting to Depart for Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes
  1. No Advance Purchase Needed: these mini-buses start around 5:20am from Aguas Calientes, and the last bus leaves MP at around 5:30pm. If you stay in Aguas Calientes the night before, you can buy tickets in advance to avoid the morning crowds.

    Waiting to Buy Bus Tickets to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes
  2. You Can Walk: walking the bus route/trail is free, but could take ~2 hours up and ~1 hour down. I don’t recommend doing this, as you would be too tired to enjoy MP and the hikes within the sites/ruins.

If you are interested in hiking the 4-day 3-night Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu, you can only do so with a licensed tour company and expect to spend about US$525-$585 per person, including transportation back from Machu Picchu to Cusco. (The 2012 summer season is fully booked as of this writing, but you can still reserve your spots for the months of October, November, December 2012.)

Let me know what you think! I respond to all comments.

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  • Very nice tips! Thanks!

  • Very nice tips, thanks!

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  • Gary S

    I had the same problem with Verified By Visa on my chase credit cards. After many attempts I did find something that worked. Ended up using a chase DEBIT card on the Visa network for the domestic LIM-CUZ flight. Have no idea why their VISA branded debit cards participate in Verified by Visa, but their Visa branded credit cards do not. Question : So you weren’t asked to punch in any Verified by Visa code when making your purchases in Peru? Just swipe and sign?

    • Thanks for the great tip, Gary! When making purchases in person, we only needed to show pictures IDs. Yes, swipe and sign. Have fun in Peru!

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  • Iko248

    How do you purchase them now that the site is no longer accepting credit cards at all?

    • Wow, thanks for letting me know, Iko248. I guess in this case you will have to rely on hotels or travel agents to secure the tickets for you, or you could do what we did – buying tickets once you land in Cusco. Good luck!

    • Iko248, the official site started selling MP tickets again in mid-September 2012.

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  • jay_see_are

    The pictures are awesome, thanks for that.

  • Liz

    Great info, thanks for that. Does the Peru Rail ticket booth at Jorge Chávez International Airport take $ or visa credit cards or do you need to use Peruvian currency?

    • Liz, you can use your VISA credit card with Peru Rail (make sure you have one with no foreign exchange fee).

  • tania

    Sigh, still no luck trying to get the tickets through the official website and the message saying that online payments from abroad still pops up.  Guess I will have to try a travel agent.

  • nitro888

    I had no problem using my Chase Priority Club Visa to buy the MP tickets.

  • MichaelP

    I used my Chase InkBold with no issue for http://www.perurail.com.

    http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe shows no availability in January 2013 but plenty in all of December 2012.  Does this mean they don’t release tickets for sale until that month?

    • MichaelP, great news about perurail! I am not sure why you are not seeing availability for January, but fortunately, January is not peak season for MP so you should be able to get the tickets one way or another. Good luck and have fun in Peru!

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  • Thanks for the tip, Poleinahole. I suspect that this site is probably an online agent catering to US travelers having difficulty making credit card payments directly with Peruvian local companies.

  • MichaelP

    – Train tickets: got them online using Chase Sapphire
    – Cusco and Sacred Valley ruins entrance tickets: got them at the ruins.  Was suppose to get them from the tour operation but we had to get our own due to confusion between tour operator and tour guide.
    – Machu Picchu tickets: Online purchase attempts failed – got them at the official ticket office in Cusco. Left one passports at the hotel – they won’t sell ticket without a passport and they won’t let you use the ticket at Machu Picchu without your passport.
    – Bus ticket up to Machu Picchu – purchased at the bus stop.  One couple told us it took them 2+ hours to walk down.

    • Good to hear that the online payment situation in Peru has somewhat improved, Thanks again for sharing your experiences in your comments under various posts. Looks like you had a wonderful time visiting Cusco, Sacred Valley, and Macchu Picchu. Did you hike Huayna Picchu?

  • MichaelP

    No we didn’t hike Huayna Picchu but I would recommend it though.  We did hike to the Sun gate and Inca bridge.  We spent a total of about 8 hours.  Got up there about 9, hike to the Sun gate when it got a little crowded about 10:30.  Hike back to the main site after 1pm when the crowd thin out.  Hike to the Inka bridge and by the time we got back to the main site about 3:30pm it basically deserted.

    Also there were some hikers on the train that did the one day Inca trail.

    • Sounds great! Your comments bring back fond memories of our own trip. Can’t believe it’s been almost a year.

  • Sam

    Very helpful tips – just booked the MP tickets using Chase Preferred – no issues if you use the spanish version – english translation doesnt go through at all…

    • Sam, thanks for the tip – great news for those who understand Spanish. Have a wonderful time at MP!

  • SarahS

    Thanks so much for the detailed info! With all the info provided here my sister and I successfully purchased tickets to MP through the government site. We used a Chase B of A card. Just had to call the CC company ahead of time to get it verified and then it went through without any issues.
    It was also good to know you were successful with emailing Peru Rail in order to purchase your train tickets. I’m in the middle of doing that now and if you hadn’t mentioned that’s how you did it I would have been much more skeptical about that process.
    Thanks!

    • SarahS, have a wonderful trip! Glad to hear that your trip planning is going well.

  • Priscila

    Sometimes the government system has problems. Ever happened to me once, but I found another way to purchase Ticket Machu Picchu easy and safe.
    Here is the link – http://ticketmachupicchu.com/ – If some day you need it.
    Have a good trip 🙂

  • Munzer1

    Most Important Question – Please, I need at least this question be answered.

    1. I have sleep apnia and use CPAP machine when sleep.

    This mean I will need electricity at night time. Other than that I am physically very fit and can hike. I do regular exercise and swim. Is my need for electricity at night going to be a problem in Machu Piccu, or in any hotel there?

    1.a Especially, does Tahuayo Lodge has electricity? would the tree top rooms have electricity?

    2. We are 4 in our group, all adults. We are planning to go there between December 26 and January 10. Is that a good time for Machu Pichu trip?

    3. Buying a package deal while I am in the US is pretty expensive. They are giving me quote for $2,000/person for 5 to 6 days in Peru. Does this sound right?

    4. Can we just buy plane ticket to Lima, make reservation for hotels and then buy local plane tickets there, hire guide, porter, buy train and park tickets locally after I arrive there? Is that a good idea?

    4.b . How much can I save by doing so?

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