Machu Picchu Express – what I wish I’d known

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Dates of travel: July 22-23, 2012

First of all, let me say it was worth it. My husband and I added Peru onto a trip to South America hoping to see Machu Picchu. I researched and planned our few days in Peru, although a few glitches in our plane schedule and the new way things are run for tourism to MP gave us quite the opportunity to decide whether we REALLY wanted to go or not.

IMPORTANT: Buy your rail tickets and entrance ticket ahead of time!

It is my understanding that the way the tourism industry runs has changed recently – I talked to lots of people while planning our trip, including local contacts and south American friends that visited MP just last year, and no one seemed to know of these changes.

CHANGES:
You can now purchase your entrance tickets online – only 3,000 can be purchased per day. It appears that local travel agencies are buying up the tickets so it will be sold out online and tourists without a pass will panic and buy through these companies. The rail lines also seem to be involved – there were a few train tickets into Aguas Calientes, but the returns were sold out.

TIP:
Purchase your entrance ticket and train tickets ahead of time, or plan through an agency ahead of time,

ORIGINAL PLAN:
Day 1: Fly to Cusco, hire a driver to Ollanta. Utilize resources in Ollanta to set up train and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and spend the first night.
Day 2: take train to Aguas Calientes and check into hotel.
Day 3: take bus to MP and spend day exploring and enjoying. Take late train back to Ollanta for the night.
Day 4: hire driver or take collectivo back to Cusco. Spend the night.
Day 5: flight leaves in morning

ACTUAL SCHEDULE:
Day 1: lost due to flight delays. Try to book trains online. Able to book train TO Aguas Calientes only.
Day 2: arrive in Cusco and hire driver to Ollanta. get hustled by agencies for both train ticket back from Aguas AND Machu Picchu entrance ticket (didn’t know I needed to buy in advance). Drop luggage off in Ollanta and spend rest of morning trying to solve train and entrance tickets. All day was spent trying to find a train ticket back and entrance ticket to MP. Eventually buy additional return train tickets to give us a few more hours.
Day 3: go to MP, take train back to Ollanta.
For MP purposes, you don’t really need our itinerary for the rest.

Hostal in Ollantaytambo: Casa de Wow
Hotel in Aguas Calientes: La Cabana Machu Picchu

RECOMMENDATIONS:
Do give yourself a minimum of a day to allow for unanticipated travel changes.
Do purchase your train tickets in advance.
Do purchase your entry ticket online.
Do book your hotels/hostals in advance.

For those of you wondering why we didn’t book our rail and entrance tickets ahead of time – we wanted to have the flexibility to climb before OR after our night stay in Aguas Calientes. All of our friends that had been before, local resources, and Chilean friends said this would not be a problem. It has been very recent that this has started happening with selling out of train and entrance tickets – so I’m writing about it to help out those coming after us.

A more detailed description of how we got to see MP will be added to this post later. For now, check out some pictures.

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PeruRail Train at station

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View from train to Machu Picchu

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Aguas Calientes – river through town

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Aguas Calientes – city street

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View from trail leading to the Sun Gate

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