Visiting Machu Picchu isn't cheap. As of March 2009, the entrance fee is 124.00 soles; students with an ISIC pay 61 soles.
With the train ticket to Machu Picchu Pueblo, also formerly known as Aguas Calientes at US$98 return and a night's accommodation it easily adds up to over US$200.
Visitors to Machu Picchu typically leave from Cuzco.
From Cuzco, a visitor has the following options to reach Machu Picchu:
- On foot:
Hiking the Inca Trail is an alternative to get in and a great way to arrive as you first see the city through the Sun Gate (instead of arriving from beneath on the bus). Both the four-day and two-day hikes are controlled by the government. Travelers should be fit enough to walk for days and sleep in tents. A hiker can also follow the train tracks all the way to Machu Picchu. There is only one track leading out of the Machu Picchu train station in Cusco, so it's quite simple. It takes about four days, and you only have to pay the entrance fee. Recent regulations require reservations and the hiring of a professional tour guide to accompany you on the hike.
- Walking Along the Railroad Tracks:
While this route is technically illegal, the law is not enforced except at the Inca Trail checkpoint of Kilometer 82. If you wish to get to Machu Picchu by this route, leave from Ollantaytambo early in the morning, at about 5 - 5:30 AM. You will likely have to make arrangements beforehand for a taxi to bring you to Km. 82, as there are not many taxis in service at this time. Once you get to Kilometer 82, begin walking on the tracks away from Ollantaytambo. The trip is approximately 30 kilometers, but because the ground is flat it goes fairly quickly. You can count on getting into Aguas Calientes sometime after lunch and before dinner. It is then recommended to get a hostel and see the ruins the following day. This method of travel, it should be stressed, is technically illegal, but for a budget traveller looking for an adventure, this is the best choice.
The most common way is to take the PeruRail train to Machu Picchu in the morning, explore the ruins for a few hours and return to Cusco in the afternoon, though it can be a bit rushed. The train terminates at Puente Ruinas station, where buses take tourists up the mountain to Machu Picchu. The Machu Picchu station is located at Aguas Calientes; this is not the station used by tourists on a day trip. Note: PeruRail's Backpacker train is segregationist in the literal sense. Tourists ride in a posh car, and Peruvians ride in another car farther back, often standing room only.
From Machu Picchu pueblo Aguas Calientes a traveler can take one of the frequent buses to the ruins (US$7 each way). It is also possible to walk the distance, about 2 hours (8 km). This route is mainly stairs, and follows the bus route up. It is a strenuous and long hike but is very rewarding, recommended to start around 4 a.m. to make it to the top before sunrise.
Helicopter flights direct into Machu Picchu stopped in the 1970s due to concerns about harm to the ruins. However, a helicopter service from Cusco to Aguas Calientes is available.
- Back Way:
You can travel the "back way" (route used by Machupicchu By Car, above) independently from Cusco by taking a bus to Santa Maria, colectivo to Santa Teresa, and proceeding to the hydroelectric train station by foot or van and on to Aguas Calientes by foot or train. Note that hiking the tracks is technically prohibited. Do your research before choosing this route.