Peru Pt V: Getting to Machu Picchu

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PeruRail

Machu Picchu is always going to be a highlight for any traveler to South America, us included. The Peruvian authorities know this and priced the admission fee accordingly; we paid 152 PEN each for the privilege of visiting Machu Picchu and climbing Huayna Picchu. The entrance fee for foreigner to Machu Picchu alone is already 126 PEN; it is really a very expensive place to visit.

There are several ways to get the tickets apparently and we chose to get ours online from the Peru’s Ministry of Culture’s website ahead of time. The portal is in Spanish only but luckily there was a very useful step-by-step guide online to see us through. We would need to print out our own tickets for entry to the site.

After settling the entrance tickets, we started to look into the transport options from Ollantaytambo. Both PeruRail and Inca Rail operate trains between Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes (now known as Machu Picchu Pueblo) and PeruRail had slightly cheaper fares for the timings that we wanted.

The return journey cost us 116 USD each, another expensive outlay for a journey which is 100 minutes each way. We booked our train tickets on PeruRail’s website and we had to print them out ourselves like Machu Picchu entrance tickets.

It was an early start for us as our train would depart slightly after 6am. The lovely staff at Picaflor Tambo was already up and he passed us our packed breakfast before wishing us a good trip.

Still dark in Ollantaytambo

We decided to take an auto rickshaw (2 PEN) and it was a great decision. It was close to freezing outside and the road to the train station was longer than expected. The shops outside the station were already open for business. Gotta admire the work ethics of these Peruvians.

Shops leading up to the train station

Our tickets were checked before we were allowed in

Fast-flowing Urubamba river

To get away from the cold, we headed to the waiting room where there was a band providing some entertainment to the bleary-eyed travellers.

Expedition 81

Arrivals at Ollantaytambo

There was a small cafe which I believed to be more expensive than the shops outside the station.

Pretty well-stocked

The time for boarding came and we followed the other travellers to the train. Our tickets were checked by the PeruRail staff before we boarded our carriage.

Expedition 81

Train: PeruRail Expedition 81
Depart: Ollantaytambo – 06:10
Arrive: Machu Picchu Pueblo – 07:40
Duration: 1h30m
Seat: 51

I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the train was.

Onboard the train

PeruRail logo

Originally Ying and I were separated but luckily the seat opposite was free and I moved over.

The sun was rising and the scenery outside of our windows were fantastic.

Countryside

Through the panoramic windows

Snow-capped mountain

There was service provided on the train and we got to choose a snack from the basket as well as getting a drink from the crew. The crew also pushed through a cart of PeruRail merchandise through the aisle after the snack service ended.

Bun and tea

90 minutes after departure, our train pulled into Machu Picchu Pueblo station. Took a few pictures of the train which took us there.

Carriage 1642

Cool PeruRail logo

Both of us agreed that Aguas Calientes had a pretty nice natural setting.

The hill that dominates Aguas Calientes

Machu Picchu Pueblo

PeruRail ticket counter – tourists are prohibited from using the local trains though

Inca Rail ticket counter

It wasn’t apparent how we could get to the shuttle bus stop after exiting the station. We had to pass through a covered market with stalls selling typical tourist souvenirs before reaching the river where we spotted the shuttle buses..

Spotted the shuttle bus; we would need to cross the bridge to get to the boarding point

Pretty scary to see the back of the car was over the river

There were two locations (from what I observed) where one could buy the shuttle bus tickets; one was beside the river while the other was just before the boarding point. The one beside the river had a much shorter queue.

The sales point with a much shorter queue

The shuttle bus cost 18.50 USD for the return journey and the sales person refused to accept our less-than-pristine dollar bills. We parted with 53 PEN each instead with the exchange rate obviously not in our favour. With the Machu Picchu and the shuttle tickets in hand, we joined the queue to board.

Waiting to board

With tickets in hand

The person in charge of the boarding ensured that we had both tickets before allowing us up the shuttle bus. It was the morning peak period and the shuttle ran at a regular interval. We didn’t need to wait more than five minutes after joining the queue.

The bus had to negotiate multiple switchbacks up the mountain and took around 40 minutes to reach the entrance of Machu Picchu. I was surprised to see many people were already leaving the site at 9am.

Entrance to Machu Picchu (Taken later when leaving)

Our day at Machu Picchu awaited us after the gate…

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