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Machu Picchu Inca Townsite from air

Machu Picchu Guide 2022 | Accurate for August 2022

A helpful guide to Machu Picchu with the pandemic in mind

There’s plenty of misinformation out there about Machu Picchu these days. Most of it was once relative and correct but with inflation and the pandemic, so much has changed. We strive to both examine and correct any misinformation in this article to give you the best experience possible. With the pandemic nearly behind us though still affecting many countries, it’s important to identify current sources of information to avoid expectations and disappointment.

Our team arrived in Peru in August 2022 and as such, this guide should be updated annually. We will use our contacts gained while in Peru for future updates to keep this content up to date. Traveller tip before even planning your trip to Machu Picchu is to buy tickets to the site. There are a number of tickets available and if you plan on spending the whole day there, we recommend you buy all four tickets though many just elect to buy Circuito 1 o 2 + Puente Inka which, along with Circuito 4 + Montãna Huchuypicchu is the lowest cost ticket at 152PEN. The other two tickets for Montãna Machupicchu + Circuito 3 and Montãna Waynapicchu + Circuito 4 are considered premium tickets and are both 200PEN. See our detailed article of Montãna Waynapicchu + Circuito 4 to offer a personalized experience of Montãna Waynapicchu!

Machu PIcchu Circuito 3 + 4 entry sign
There are plenty of signs and security to direct you once inside

Arriving in Peru from international destinations

There are a number of international flight options available to many places in Peru. Many will choose Lima as their entry point. Flying into Lima was an easy experience though keep in mind that following your country’s recommendations, entry requirement for Peru and visa policies. At the time of writing, for travellers from most countries in the Americas entering Peru, a vaccination certificate is required to avoid quarantine. You must also fill out a health declaration, along with following a recommendation for double masking, though this was not enforced on our flight into the country. Approximately half the passengers on the flight were not wearing a double mask or single KN95/N95 mask.

We landed late at night in Lima and decided to spend the night there before our flight out. There are a number of reasonably priced hotels in the vicinity of the airport that offer excellent amenities. The area around the airport is safe for tourists, but we recommend you don’t venture out too far from your hotel. If you are looking for a sim card or “chip” as they are called in Peru, don’t buy it from the airport to avoid high costs. Although you will have to do a cost vs. benefit analysis if you want to buy water, alcohol, refreshments, snacks from your hotel. The cost for these items will be very high, and it may make sense to purchase your sim card to use a delivery app like Rappi and cut down on costs. Otherwise, just wait until you get to Cusco as there are many places to buy a sim card.

Getting to Machu Picchu

The nearest major city and airport to Machu Picchu is Cusco or how some local Peruvians pronounce it with the “s” silent “Coo-co”. Taking a flight from Lima to Cusco was our best option and as we had checked baggage, it was extremely difficult to avoid high travel costs. If you can avoid checked baggage, you can have significant savings on airfares. Watch closely to avoid additional fees and higher costs as you make your way through the booking process with any airline these days.

At the boarding gate for our flight to Cusco it was mandatory to wear two masks or one KN95/N95 mask and have our vaccination certificates checked. Our flight was approximately one hour and twenty minutes. Our arrival to Cusco airport was without issue and the airport was very quiet and empty when picking up our bags though beware that protests happen there and this does not paint a picture of a serene place if you exit the airport into chaos like this. There is a new airport being built in the area to accommodate more passengers and have more amenities.

There are taxis and many aggressive drivers outside who want your money. It’s advised to use ride-share like Uber from the airport as this will help cut down on costs. Expect to negotiate for your taxi. Our driver started at 35PEN, and we negotiated down to 25PEN. An Uber costs only 10-15PEN but does vary a little depending on the location of your hotel. Again, weighing the cost to get a sim card at the airport in Lima may make sense over the money and hassle saved with taxi drivers.

Spending a night in Cusco will leave you with plenty of options for accommodation. It will also leave you well rested with options to leave on the train or bus to Aguas Calientes which is the nearest town to Machu Picchu. It’s also called Machu Picchu, beware of this on train or bus tickets. We recommend you do not leave from Poroy station as it’s a good distance outside of Cusco. Try to leave from Wanchaq or San Pedro station. When it comes to Peru Rail or Inca Rail, we went with Peru Rail as there were strikes at Inca Rail and you can be left without a train due to this with Inca. The cost for Peru Rail was high but to have a reliable train ticket with a good view was worth it. Most, if not all the seats (even the low-cost ones) have a good viewing window or skylight in the top of the train car to see everything! If you value privacy, getting a pair of seats over a shared table with four total seats is the way to go. Beware these seats two private seats with a table go fast so book early.

View from train station in Machu PicchuA breathtaking view from the train station near Machu Picchu

The train ride to Aguas Calientes is approximately three and a half to four hours from Cusco depending on the station you choose to depart from.

Arriving in Aguas Calientes

What a unique little town, there are no cars and the town is dropped right in the center of many picturesque mountains. The train station there has some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. After checking into your hotel (which again there are plenty of low-priced options), it’s totally reasonable to buy your bus tickets from the Consettur bus ticket office. There are enough buses that you can wait and buying online may not work anyway, like it did for us! We bought our tickets between 1-2 PM though the hotel mentioned that buying between 4-5 PM was best. There was no line at this time and tickets were $24 USD per person for a return ticket, and it’s our best advice that if you see a short line, get into it right away. What we noticed is that the town is relatively empty in the morning and midday except for the line for the buses to Machu Picchu.

Consettur bus tickets office entry Aguas Calientes Peru

The signage for the bus ticket office to Machu Picchu

There are some great restaurants with unique flavours and reasonable pricing in the area. A few of our favourites were Indo Feliz, Incontri del Pueblo Viejo and Chullos. All had excellent food and service. For restaurants along the river, we recommend you arrive early or make reservations to avoid disappointment. Watch out for the dog poop around the town as there are plenty of stray dogs wandering the streets as you make your way around the town site.

The bus to Machu Picchu

Now that you have your bus tickets, wake up early to catch the bus. We were awake at 4:00AM and at the bus stop or line as we will call it at that time. There were nearly 500 people in the line-up at that time. It was hard to believe, and we thought we wouldn’t make our entry time, but the bus lines move fast and there are plenty of buses for all. We were waiting for about thirty minutes before we were at the front of the line. Have your bus ticket and passport ready.

The bus ride up was windy and dark; the drivers know the route so well that they may be able to do it blindfolded. They are extremely courteous to other drivers on the route and these facilities the trip up. It takes about another thirty minutes. Once you arrive, it can be chaotic, dark and not the spiritual experience you were hoping for. You don’t need a guide to see this wonder of the world and finding your lineup will be easy with our help. Simply put Circuito 1 + 2 are at the top or upper lines and Circuito 3 + 4 are at the bottom or lower lines. These lines are shorter and give you a much more relaxed and Circuito 3 + 4 private experience at Machu Picchu. If you don’t like crowds we highly recommend you stay away from Circuito 1 + 2.

Exploring the beauty of Machu Picchu is a very personal experience as such we won’t provide more in this post but leave it up to our readers to share their journey with us on social media; it doesn’t have to be the commercialized journey that many tourists have made it. We recommend you spend time on your own or with your family away from the crowds as much as possible for the ultimate spiritual high. Beyond this, just inhaling the fresh mountain air will help to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Being at a lower altitude than Cusco, you may not need your altitude pills or coca tea to prevent any sickness. Though come prepared with these things, particularly if your health is deteriorating. After your visit or between entries for different tickets, you can use the washrooms between the entry lines on the lower entry. They are five soles for each use.

Line for bus to Machu Picchu
The line for the bus is long and extended into the late morning

Getting back to Aguas Calientes

After your trip up the mountain, you may be ready to leave on the next train out or stay a little longer to explore the area more. There are no other places in the town to buy tickets for other attractions, but we recommend Mandor (waterfalls and birdwatching), Mariposario (Butterfly Park) and The Hot Springs.

For many, the perfect trip to Machu Picchu simply lasts a day or two, and then they head off to the nearby Ollantaytambo to see the archaeological site there and take the train or bus to Cusco after. If you want to see it all, Ollantaytambo is a must-see!

If you are looking for a cheap hotel or resort in Peru, make sure to book through MixViajes.com we gather the lowest prices from over 50 websites to bring you the best prices possible!

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