Last updated on February 10th, 2018
Machu Picchu is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It’s an archaeologic site many dream of exploring. Machu Picchu attracts over one-million visitors per year. With this many visitors, a lot of money is spent (or wasted) in and around Machu Picchu. I’ll explain how to get to Machu Picchu on a budget.
First, I’ll let you figure out how to get to Peru.
Second, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is expensive, and you have to book months in advance. Only 500 permits per day are provided for the Inca Trail with more than half going to the guides and porters. This is not-to-say don’t do the Inca Trail. I’ve only heard good things about it. But I’m a budget traveller that doesn’t plan months in advance and trekking is not my specialty.
An alternative is the Salkantay Trek. It’s cheaper and you can buy the tour a few days prior to going to Machu Picchu from Cusco.
- Buy a Machu Picchu permit (128 soles) online or at one of the Ministry of Cultures in Peru. I bought mine in Cusco located on Calle Garcilaso. You should buy the ticket a few days in advance as they sell out sometimes.
- Arrive in Cusco by bus (cheaper) or plane. Cruz del Sur is a notable bus operator in Peru but is the most expensive.
- Purchase a round-trip bus ticket from Cusco to Hidroelectrica the day before you want to go to Machu Picchu. Several travel agencies sell the bus tickets in Cusco. Usually costs between 70 and 80 soles. The bus is a microbus, so leave most of your belongings in luggage storage.
- Reserve a hostel for one or two nights in Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Town, so search both names). It’s better to spend two nights in Aguas Calientes so you can spend one whole day in Machu Picchu.
- Take the bus to Hidroelectrica. Once you arrive, walk along the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. The walk is about 10 km and takes about 2 hours.
- Check in to your hostel in Aguas Calientes. After, buy a bus ticket for the next day to the base of Machu Picchu. One-way is $12 and round-trip is $24. I only did one-way up.
- Wake up the next morning and enjoy Machu Picchu.
In addition to buying a permit to Machu Picchu, you can also buy the mountain or Huaynapicchu add-on for 20 or 24 soles respectively. They offer panoramic and higher altitude views of Machu Picchu. They are quite the hike, so make sure to have ample rest.
Some people walk from Aguas Calientes to the base of Machu Picchu instead of taking the bus. I advise against this if you are going to climb Machu Picchu Mountain or Huaynapicchu. Huaynapicchu sells out one month prior, so book in advance.
People stand in line more than one hour early to catch the 5:30 a.m. bus (first one of the day) from Aguas Calientes to the base of Machu Picchu. If you want to catch the sunrise over the mountains, you’ll need to be in line by 4:00 a.m.
Hopefully, you visit Machu Picchu on a budget, too, and save some money.