Using the Starwood Luxury Collection Resort, Tambo del Inka, as Your Base for Machu Picchu

This is part 7 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!

If you have been following this series, you probably already know that you need a few days to prepare yourself for possible altitude sickness. While many use Cusco as the base for a trip to Machu Picchu, TravelWhimsy and I believe that you should consider using your points to stay at the newest 5-star Starwood property, the Tambo del Inka (opened in 2010), for a fraction of the retail cost.

 

The Tambo del Inka is a Starwood Category 4 hotel, which normally goes for 10,000 Starpoints a night (or 4,000 Starpoints + $60). Our three-night stay in May 2012 would have cost over $500 a night (18% tax in Peru + 10% service charge on top of base rate), but we only spent ~$54 + 4,000 Starpoints per night. That translates into a redemption value of 11.15 cents per point!

         

The resort is about 30 minutes from the Ollantaytambo Peru Rail train station, an hour from the Cusco airport, and within 30-45 minutes of all the major Sacred Valley sites.

The resort was beautiful and had all the amenities we needed:

  • Internet Access: As a Starwood gold member, you get free in-room WiFi. Without elite status, you can use the 24/7 business center (4 computers + 2 printers) for free.
  • Breakfast: We spent ~$24 per person (including tax, service charge, and gratuity) for a scrumptious buffet (this means a lot coming from a Las Vegas local who’s tried almost every buffet in town). I also checked with restaurant staff for those of you who have Starwood platinum status – you get two restaurant buffets for free (not just the continental breakfast).
  • Bottled Water (and Apples): The room is stocked with two free bottles of water, but you can get more (+apples)  from the fitness center and/or the pool area.
  • Coca Tea: The lobby tea station (24/7) is stocked with plenty of coca leaves & other tea options.
  • Pool/Spa/Fitness: We tried the pool, sauna, but did not use the fitness center or book any spa appointments.
  • Room Service: For about ~$18 (all-in), we ordered a continental breakfast for one (checked all items on the list), and it was enough food for 3 adults! For a few dollars more, we could have gotten an egg entree, too.
  • ATM: It is located in the business center, and you can use your Schwab ATM card  (truly fee-free) to withdraw Peruvian Soles (more on that in a later post).
  • On-site Dining: Restaurant menu looks very interesting, and all prices include the 18% tax. We would have eaten dinner there, had we returned to the resort nightly at a reasonable hour.
  • Off-site Dining: If you don’t mind chicken (pollo) and/or can speak some Spanish, you can take a 10-minute walk to town. Turn right at resort entrance, and turn left when you see the gas station. Or, if you have a driver/tour guide, he or she can take you to a locals’ favorite for some authentic Peruvian/Andean food. (Guinea pig or Cuy, anyone? Mom is vegetarian, and we are fishetarian, so our choices are limited to mixed veggies and trout.)
         

 

Book as early as you can: We made our reservation as soon as we could in November 2011. Had we waited, we would not have been able to score the Cash+Points nights. Should your plan change, you could always cancel without incurring any penalty.

For those of you who are unable to get a room at the Tambo del Inka and/or would like to be close to the train stations in Cusco (Poroy), Ollantaytambo, or Aguas Calientes, your might want to use a hostel search service, such as HostelWorld, to search for reasonable lodging options.

Other Starwood Redemption Options: If you plan to stay for 5 nights and have enough Starpoints, here are two better use of your points.

  1. 5th Night Free: You only need to use 40,000 points for 5 nights.
  2. Nights & Flights: You can redeem 70,000 points for 5 nights + 50,000 airline miles. This is a nice way to top off your AA account for your free plane tickets to Machu Picchu. [Normal conversion to 50,000 airline miles requires 40,000 points, so you are getting 5 nights for the price of 3!]

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

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  • Chebert8

    I don’t understand about how long do we keep the card.  If I have 20 cards.  Are they gonna let me keep getting new cards and I don’t want to pay the reup fees and If I want to do a new churn all over again.  Then how long do I wait after I do cancel cards or keep cards or what.  Like I had 4 United cards between my husband and me.  But not the big one yet.  I still have codes will they be good I don’t know but  I still have the code to get the Big United card but I cancelled two united cards cause they wouldn’t wave the fee so how long do I wait.  This is all so mind boggling.  Thanks  Carla

    • Carla, at some point, I hope to do a post on how to decide what cards to keep and how strategies vary when it comes to closing accounts with the big credit card companies.

      Chase has a credit department that provides very personalized service. Once you decide that you no longer need a card (or want to pay the renewal fee), you can apply for a new card or two and then just call the credit analyst to have him or her move the credit limit over. By doing this, you will preserve all your open credit, ensure the approval of your new application while closing that account you no longer wish to have.

      As to what cards to keep, it is a personal decision. But in general, there are 3 categories of cards you sign up for – (1) For the big sign-up bonus only (go into the drawer after bonus, to be cancelled before the annual fee is due). (2) For the on-going benefits – such as lounge access or annual free hotel night or foreign exchange fee waiver, etc. So you actually choose to pay the annual fees for those cards that provide you with benefits you like. (3) For daily use to maximize miles & points accumulation. Examples include Chase Ink if you want to go through Office Depot for prepaid cards, Chase Sapphire Preferred for travel & dining & 7% annual point dividend, or United Select (no longer offered) for 3x United purchases and 2x gas, groceries, dining, home stores, etc.

  • Jane A.

    Thank you so much for your post, we just stumbled across it last night as we were researching how to purchase our MP tickets for this fall. Much to my surprise we are also spending 5 nights at Tambo del Inka (using points and cash) as a base for our visit to Sacred Valley. We just decided to leave Tambo del Inka and spend one night in Aguas Calientes for our day trip to MP.

    I look forward to continuing to read your information! Can you share with us, how far the train station is from the property and how your purchased your train tickets to AC? Special thanks for sharing how to get into town for some local food–we we will certainly be doing that!

    • Jane, the Ollantaytambo train station is about 30 minutes away from the hotel by car. I am going to write a post on our tour guide in Sacred Valley soon, so stay tuned.

      Read my post #5 of this series on how to buy various tickets for MP (there is a link to that post in this post, too). Good luck with your planning. I am so excited for you!

  • Jane A.

    Thank you, Jimmy! I read through all your posts and hope to see your photos when I have some time. Such awesome information you are sharing!

    Thank you so very much for your quick response! I think we may try purchasing our tickets today.

    I look forward to reading about your tour in the Sacred  Valley as we will have four days there and any other suggestions for while we are at Tambo del Inka are greatly appreciated! The property looks amazing and we are so excited we were able to book it for such a great deal (although, I am nervous about those resort fees!) 

    • Jane, you are very welcome! I am glad that you find the posts useful and timely. My better half Prana has been writing about our trip on her blog TravelWhimsy. There are more pictures and trip details on her site, too.

      By the way, there is no resort fee at the hotel, so there is no need to be nervous :D!

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  • Jane A.

    I have a question, one of the reasons we decided to stay at Tambo del Inka was because it states there is a train station at the hotel. Is that so? If so, which train is it that stops there? 

    • Jane, I believe it is Autovagon 601 departing in the morning and Vistadome 304 returning in the afternoon (see this official link 
      http://www.perurail.com/en/urubamba_station.php). You might not have enough time in Machu Picchu if you do decide to take those two trains. Also, the train tickets are usually much more expensive (vs. trains departing from Ollantaytambo, 30 minutes away by car). You can confirm with the hotel or your tour company to see if those trains operate on the day you want to go to Machu Picchu. Good luck!

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  • Alvarado Jane

    Jimmy! We’re enjoying Tambo Del Inka, having used cash & points ( and our free Wi-fi for being Gold). We had a lovely day with Savino! Thank you for all the information!

    • Jane, thanks for stopping by to say hello. Enjoy the rest of your stay! Have fun at MP if you haven’t done it yet.

  • Brent

    You wrote, ” ~$54 + 4,000.” Isn’t is $60 + tax + 4,000 points?
    Really enjoyed your review. I’m very active on all the travel forums and blogs and have never really been a huge fan of travel blogs, but I am highly impressed with the details you wrote! It is funny that they want 120 soles when walking out of the airport and then you can get them to drop to 95, but it is much cheaper on the way back. Staying at the Tambo as I write this =)

    • Brent, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words! I hope you are enjoying your time at the Tambo. Yes, I was a little surprised at the “~$54” amount myself and couldn’t really figure out why. My guess is the fluctuation of exchange rates between the time when we made the reservation and when we stayed at the property.

  • cyclotron

    If I sue the SPG Amex card to book this on SPG.com then will I have to pay the 3% international charge? IS ti better to use the Chase sapphire here instead?

    • cyclotron, yes, it is better to use your international-fee-free sapphire preferred card to settle your hotel bill at the Tambo (the cash portion is paid at the hotel). Enjoy your trip!

  • MichaelP

    We originally booked this resort but later changed it to stay in Ollantayambo to be closer to the Ollanta train station. Didn’t want the hassle of trying to get to the Ollanta train station early in the morning from Urubamba.  Ollanta train station is 1 min ride from Ollanta town square on a Tuk Tuk.  The Urubamba train would not work for us – it comes back too soon from MP (3:30 pm I think).

    We did the usual Sacred Valley tour from Cusco for $35pp with lunch included.  The tour drop us off at our hotel in Ollanta with our luggage.  Doing this made us miss the last tour stop (Chincero) which I think it’s worth it.  Getting to Ollanta on our own would have cost about $40 which was what we paid to be back to Cusco from Ollanta.