Visiting Machu Picchu is probably on everyone’s bucket list. Here we are giving you a hassle-free itinerary to visit Machu Picchu without spending a lot of money. By using this as a guide, you can make it to one of the most beautiful ancient ruins for less than €20. Yes, less than €20!
In order to save some money on your visit to Machu Picchu, you need to avoid the train. These can range between €100 and €200+! You may find good a deal for your train ticket but it won’t be much less than €100.
HASSLE-FREE ITINERARY TO MACHU PICCHU ON A BUDGET
There are a number of cheaper ways to arrive at Machu Picchu but many of them can be quite complicated, and unreliable if you are opting for routes including public transport. If you have never visited South America before, we can assure that traveling on collectivos can be a never-ending story.
In fact, the option we found was a combination of several buses. Cusco to Santa Maria, Santa Maria to Santa Teresa, Santa Teresa to Hidroeléctrica, and then hike from Hidroeléctrica to Aguas Clientes, and finally Machu Picchu.
But, thanks to our host in Cusco we discovered that there are several travel agencies operate with a single bus from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica. After a few calls and Whatsapp messages with a lady called Maria, we finally planned our trip to Machu Picchu.
CUSCO TO HIDROELECTRICA
Our first bus was at 7:40 am in the main square in Cusco, Plaza de las Armas. We waited at the main monument in the center of the square until somebody showed up and called our name.
We had to wait for other people so, in the end, we left the city of Cusco around 8:30 a.m. The whole journey takes around 5 to 6 hours with several stops on the way. A one-way ticket costs 40 soles (€10).
If you are brave enough and you have spare time you can negotiate more by showing up at the meeting point in the square. Usually, companies won’t leave until every seat is filled so there is room for an extra discount.
If you book your ticket in advance from your hostel/bnb/… be sure to ask for a receipt as proof of your purchase.
The van we got was a bit rickety but good enough, and even with an early start, there was no sleeping! There was too much to see out the window on this journey. The view was spectacular!
Pro Tip: If you get car sick, be sure to take some pills as the road is very windy and bumpy.
Along the way we have a couple of stops, the longest one was in Santamarta where we had our lunch. The bus stopped close to a little cafe/restaurant where you could find sandwiches and snacks. Although we bought our own so we enjoyed our meal outside.
We finally arrived at Hidroeléctrica at the parking lot, where there was another restaurant bar with food available.
HIDROELECTRICA TO AGUAS CALIENTES
Now the adventure begins! From the entrance, we soon arrived at the train station. This is the pick-up area for the way back to Cusco. This is also the last chance to change your mind and get a train ticket, probably very expensive.
We hit the road to begin our two-hour walk. The trail is along the train track which is mostly flat, so we would say that it is doable for everyone. At the beginning of the trail, closer to Hidroeléctrica there are several restaurants and bars. This is the place to buy the last snack and drinks. There are some other stands or restaurants along the walk, and if your lucky enough you can find street vendors selling lemonade or watermelon.
The walk was so enjoyable. We met lots of other travelers and it was amazing to share this experience with other people. What also captured our attention was the amazing view of Machu Picchu ruins from below. Very impressive.
We arrived at Aguas Calientes before dark, but before entering into the town we pass next to the lower entrance gate of Machu Picchu. So we had an idea of where we had to go the next morning.
Aguas Calientes is a small town. The main business here is tourism. In fact, due to its proximity to the site, it hosts all the people that are going to visit Machu Picchu. There is a nice market in the main square and the streets are full of restaurants and hotels for any type of budget.
After the walk, we felt like having a burger, so we pick one of the restaurants with a nice deal and we enjoyed our deserved meal. Our sleeping option was a private room in a hostel not far from the main station. Breakfast was included, but since we had the entrance early ticket they gave it to us as take away.
Part of this hassle-free itinerary includes the choice of buying the tickets of Machu Picchu for the first slot in the morning. 6:00 am entrance. This allowed us to complete the visit and go back to Cusco the same day. Thanks to that we avoided paying for another night’s accommodation in Aguas Calientes.
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We set the alarm clock at 4:00 am because we didn’t want to rush on our way up. From Aguas Clientes, there is another hike of about one hour to arrive at the very top of the mountain where the ruins are. There is the possibility to take a bus that leaves from the town at 5:30. But we wanted to have an authentic experience so we decided to hike up until the main entrance.
We arrived early to the lower gate, but there were already people queuing. We had to wait until 5:00 am when the guards opened the entrance. Be sure to have your ticket and your passport with you.
The hike up was tough, but everybody was supporting each other, and we felt like members of a big team. There is no rush but we really wanted to arrive before the first bus.
It takes about one hour to reach the top of the mountain. The distance is not too long but the path is mainly made by stairs made with irregular stones.
Pro Tip: don’t forget to bring a flash light for you way up. It is pitch black.
The gate opens at 6:00 am but the first people arrived there earlier. We managed to arrive right before the first bus, but in the end, we realized that the queue was moving so fast anyway. If you are carrying a big backpack make sure to leave it at the storage room. They won’t let you bring it inside the site.
For more info check this out the Machu Picchu official website
After our experience, we strongly recommend getting the entrance ticket for the first slot at 6.00 am so you can enjoy the sunrise on the ruins from above. Once inside the ruins, everybody will go and stay at the Guardian House, to admire Machu Pichu from the highest point. This means that the ruins will be almost empty. We had enough time to take memorable pictures.
The ticket allows staying inside for a maximum of 4 hours, more than enough. After the visit, we started immediately our way back to Hidroeléctrica. We brought our backpacks with us so, we didn’t have to return to the hostel in Aguas Calientes.
THE WAY BACK
The whole experience can be exhausting, but also very emotional. We arrived at Hidroeléctrica around 1:00 pm. We had plenty of time to enjoy a warm meal next to the pick-up point and a power nap on the hammocks.
The meeting point for the way back is at 3:00 pm next to the parking lot beside the train station. The bus drivers will call people’s names when it is time to go. We paid 30 soles on the way back because we decided to spend one day in the town of Ollantaytambo.
It may sound hard and wearisome but, if you travel on a budget, the is definitely the most hassle-free Itinerary to Machu Picchu.
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