Machu Picchu

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Machu Picchu Money-Saving Tips

Alpaca garments

Although alpaca garments are sold in Machu Picchu Pueblo, beware of faux apparel – no real alpaca garment would ever be sold for less than 200 soles ($70), even if the label says so. You’re better off buying alpaca garments in Cusco, where the fabric is more likely to be genuine.

Rules of the Inca Trail

The only way to hike the Inca Trail is on an organized tour with a licensed guide. Only 500 visitors are allowed on the trail daily (200 trekkers, 300 porters and guides) so book at least 6-12 months in advance in high season (June, July, August). For all other months book at least 3-4 months prior. www.incatrailreservations.com

Ground travel

Unless you’re hiking the Inca trail, the only way to Machu Picchu is by train. All Peru Rail trains depart from Cusco and arrive (3.5-4 hours later) at Puente Ruinas Station at Machu Picchu Pueblo. From there, pay 20 soles ($7) to make the 5-mile trip by bus (buses leave every 10 minutes from 5:30am-5pm) or dedicate an hour to hiking the steep stairs to the plateau – the locals will point you in the right direction.

Purchasing power

The exchange rate fluctuates daily, but the rate per 1 Nuevo Sol is approximately US$3. Although ATMs are hard to come by, some businesses, like the local pharmacy, will exchange cash. Be aware that small change is hard to come by and large bills are often rejected due to counterfeit fear.

Machu Picchu hours

Visiting hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The site is busy year round and in peak season you’ll likely be sharing the space with some 3,000+ travelers, so you’ll have the most breathing room if you go early. Travelers who bring their passports receive official Machu Picchu stamps – the perfect souvenir.

Sunscreen, water, snacks

Wear sunscreen! The sun is strong and the ruins are completely devoid of shade. You’ll also need water and snacks from town to stay hydrated and fueled. Should you forget, snack shop El Mirador, near the entrance, is the only available food stand.

Bathroom

Go before you enter the complex; there are no toilets inside.

Hiker must-brings

Guided Inca Trail excursions booked through Inca Trail Reservations include required permits, Machu Picchu entrance fees, transportation to Cusco, meals, food, tents, foam mats, oxygen and first aid. You’ll need to bring all the rest: sleeping bags, rain gear, hiking boots, sterilizing tablets (recommendation: Micropur), toilet paper, etc.

Alternative Hiking Trails

If you can’t hike the traditional Inca trail due to limited space, choose from three alternative treks, all of which originate south of Cusco: Lares Valley (4 days), Choquequirao (4 or 5 days), the Ausangate Circuit (6 or 7 days), or the Northwest: Salkantay Valley (5 or 7 days). None of these routes have visitor limitation numbers, but all require reservations – call at least 4 days ahead.

Tipping Porters

A group of 16 people on an Inca Trail trek generally have approx 19 - 20 general porters. Tipping of porters who carry your personal items is separate and you are asked to tip an extra porter directly. Again the recommended minimum is $10 for 40 lbs. A general guideline is $15 tip per treker for the porters but please do not worry if others tip less or more. This does not account for tips for guides and cooks generally $10 - 15 more. Most trekkers take approximately $30 to cover the tipping tradition.

Machu Picchu Entrance Fees and Tourist Information

Tickets to the Machu Picchu ruins cannot be purchased at the entrance. Pick them up ahead of time at the Cultural Center in Machu Picchu Pueblo (Ave. Pachacútec 1 block s/n, office # 4; opens at 5:15 a.m.). They only accept payment in Peruvian Soles (122 soles; $44) and rarely have change, which is a current theme in Peru. Alternatively, buy them at Cusco’s Instituto Nacional de Cultura (Calle San Bernardo s/n; 011-51-84-236-061; www.inc-cusco.gob.pe [Spanish only]). Tickets are valid for 3 days from the day of purchase but can only be used once.

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