4 October 2009

The cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu!

In Peru there was no shortage of people wanting to do the famous Inca Trail - a 4-day trek through the mountains to the archaeological site of Machupicchu. It is the trail that the Incas are said to have followed to this lost city. It costs upwards of US$400 and, due to its popularity, it has to be booked at least 6 weeks in advance.

But from the time building commenced in 1430 AD until the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, Machupichu was occupied for less than a century. So realistically the trail is now used more in one year than it ever was in the time of the Incas.

Today, the cunning Peruvian government has pinned exhorbitant prices to everything associated with tourism. Hence getting to Aquas Calientes (the town at the base of Machu Pichu) is super expensive - using the train or a tour will cost between US$120-160. But I found an alternative. This is my US$85 journey to Machu Picchu (all inclusive):

[nb. US$1 = 3 Soles]

1. Bus from Cusco to Santa Maria. Go to Terminal Paso de Santiago and get a bus destined for Quillabamba. 5-6 hours. 15 Soles. Or you can take a safer, more comfortable mini-van: 20-25 Soles.
2. Shared taxi to Santa Teresa. 1-2 hours. 10 Soles.
3. Shared taxi or mini-van to the hydroelectric plant ("hidroelectrica"). 25 minutes. 3 Soles
4. Walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. 3 hours. Free

The journey takes 3 days: one day to get there, one day to visit Machu Picchu, and one day to return to Cuscu. The whole journey takes about 11 hours.

[Above] When walking along the train-tracks, take the third exit on the right (not far from the beginning). At the top of the steps turn left and keep walking... and walking and walking. ;) You will definitely hear the trains coming - and they are always tooting their horn anyway. I tried hitch-hiking a train but they didn't stop.

[Above] After about 20-30 minutes you will come to this bridge. Yes... you are supposed to walk over it, but on the left side which is for pedestrians.

[Below] Looking back at the bridge I must admit I that was pretty worried whist crossing it. It was very rusted and many of the metal flooring had lifted up and was no longer secure.

[Below] This is the road the bus takes from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The walk up the mountain takes about 90 minutes.

Further budget options:

1. Cheap Hostal: 15 Soles per night (private room, private bathroom & hot water). Keep search until you find one - supply exceeds demand with regards to hostels.
2. Eat local food: in the 2nd floor of the mercado central ("central market") or on the other side river (near the football field). 5-6 Soles
3. [Photo above] Walk up and down the mountain to Machu Picchu: Free (otherwise the bus costs US$7 each way).
4. Take your own food and water for your visit to Machu Picchu.
5. The entrance to Machu Pichu is an extortionate 124 Soles, but only 70 Soles with a student card (e.g. an ISIC card).

With the combination of reckless bus-drivers in antique, dilapidated buses; rusted bridges; train dodging; and jungle treks, this is certainly the more adventurous route. And at the end you will feel like an animal... roar!

[If you found this post useful please leave a comment below. Thanks.]

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Related Posts

- I'm not in Machupicchu
- Visit Easter Island on a low budget!
- Nazca Lines


  1. Yes!! This post is gonna be very useful when I visit it during my trip to South America in a few months! Thank you very much Ara for all the tips ;)

  2. Nice one bro. We had ended up taking the bus up and down, as the walk on Huayna Picchu and the cavern at the back absolutely killed us.

    As a sidenote for people that may find this useful, if you wish to visit Huayna Picchu (the big mountain in the middle of Machu Picchu) you need to be there at 6am to ensure you are within the 400 people they allow per day. That means, if you wish to walk up to Machu Picchu, rather than take the bus, you will need to be out of bed by 3.30.

    Keep up the great stuff! ;)


  3. No worries, Juju. I'm glad I could help. :)

    Thanks Mene. And thanks for the extra info.

    For everyone else, click here to read about M.'s entry about Machu Picchu and the journey up the mountain.

  4. Anonymous17:47

    Thanks Ara for sharing, just check from intrepid. it costs 700... Save a half of the trip rrp. - Novatus

  5. I'm going to have to re-read this if/when I ever do this trip. Thanks!

  6. No worries, guys!
    But just be careful with that first bus ride from Cusco to Santa Maria. I think it's really worth paying 10 Soles more for a safer vehicle. Otherwise, the buses are big and dodgy, and not the best at navigating around the tight mountain passages. I was worried we'd go over the edge a few times.

  7. Travelers always fond of cheap travel ideas as this is good one for travelers. But it also depends on the destination's popularity like Hostels in Panama in Central America gives cheap budget travel option along with offering a beautiful memorable moments.

  8. Your blogs are very helpful to reduce travel hassles and maintaining your budget, thanks for sharing them with us.
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  9. Machu picchu is one of the most adorable places to explore. Thank you for sharing it with us.
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