This post is for travelers who are looking for an alternative route to get to Machupicchu, instead of taking the train directly. I took the longer and cheaper way to get to Machupicchu and my experiences are noted below:
Cuzco, Peru > Santa Maria, Peru
Ticket: 15 Soles / U$D 5.00
Method of Transportation: Bus
Duration of trip: 5 hours (8:30am - 1:30pm)
*To find these minibuses you do not go to the main bus terminal. You need to go to the smaller terminal. Ask your taxi driver to take you to the terminal for Santa Maria.
Santa Maria, Peru > Hidroelectrico, Peru
Ticket: 8 Soles / U$D 2.67
Method of Transportation: Minivan (seats 12, fits 17…)
Duration of trip: 3 hours (1:30pm - 4:30pm)
*There was a stop in San Teresa to change to another minibus that charged 3 soles but was included in the 8 soles prices.
*Make sure when you stop in San Teresa you ask the driver to let you out to buy your ticket for the train in Hidroelectrico. If you do not do this you will not be able to take the train or buy your ticket at Hidroelectrico. I am not sure why this is the case. I did not buy my ticket in San Teresa and me and my friends ended up walking for 3.5 hours along the train tracks with our backpacks (half of the time in the dark) until we reached Aguas Calientes. Walking is your only other option if you do not buy a train ticket in advance. Because I didn’t take the train, I don’t know how much it costs. I believe it may only be 8 soles.
Getting up there:
There are two options to get up to Machupicchu. There is a bus that goes up for 21 soles each way (U$D 7.00). The bus takes approximately 5-10 minutes. The other option is to take the stairs straight up the mountain. This takes about 1 hour depending on your endurance. My friends and I decided to walk up the stairs at 4:30am in order to get to Machupicchu right as it opens. It was pitch black and only a few of us had cell phone lights or head lamps so if you decide to go this route make sure you have a flashlight of some sort. I’m not gonna lie, the stairs were hard, especially in the middle of the night. We arrived to Machupicchu at 5:30am and there was already a line. The reason to show up early is because some people want to climb Mount Huayna Picchu to see a different view of Machupicchu. This mountain is free to climb but you have to get a ticket once you are inside Machupicchu otherwise you cannot climb it. They only allow 400 people a day on the mountain; 200 at 7am and 200 more at 10am.
You will need to buy your ticket before going up to Machupicchu. You can buy the ticket in Aguas Calientes near the lower plaza. If you have a student ID you can get a discounted rate of 62 Soles / U$D 20.67. You will need to present your student ID card up at Machupicchu along with your passport. In Aguas Calientes they tell you that you need to have a date stating when your ID expires otherwise you need to be 23 or younger in order to get the discount. I am 24, my ID had no date on it whatsoever and I got in without any questions. I may have been lucky because they were busy. Feel free to take the same chance.
Here is a video I made of getting to Machupicchu, just for fun.
The normal ticket costs around 124 Soles / U$D 41.00.
Bringing things into Machupicchu:
In the brochures that you get when you buy your ticket it tells you that you cannot bring certain things into Machupicchu like food or large backpacks. Don’t listen to the brochure. They did not check our bags and we saw multiple people with large backpacks in Machupicchu. If you don’t bring sufficient water and food you will pay out of your ass in one of the 2 restaurants at Machupicchu. For example: 1 small water costs 8 Soles, 1 sandwich with no sides costs 22-30 soles.
At first glance Aguas Calientes can seem a bit charming. After about 5 minutes of being there you realize it is a stupid tourist trap and everyone who lives/works there knows you have to pass through Aguas Calientes in order to get a good spot in line for Machupicchu. For this reason the town is plagued with shitty restaurants along the main street that offer “tourist menus” of 12 - 15 soles which include an appetizer, main dish, drink and dessert. Don’t be fooled, though. The dishes aren’t good and the drinks and postres are small as shit. Every restaurant offers the same exact menu with the same exact food excluding the one vegetarian restaurant but even they kinda sucked. Also, the people working in the restaurants are annoying as hell when the scream all of the things on the menu to you as you walk by, sometimes they even stop you which is even more annoying since the hill is steep as shit. I avoided the main street as much as possible.
To eat decently for a decent price you can always ask for the local farmer’s market. I bought avocados and other cheap vegetables to make guacamole. If you cross the bridges to the other side of Aguas Calientes you will find restaurants for the locals that have more authentic and better food. I had “Arroz a la cubana” and “Palta Rellena” for about 6 soles and it was damn good.
Water in restaurants isn’t free so if you order water expect to pay about 4 to 5 soles for a bottle. You can buy water for 1 - 2 soles in any convenient store.
Thermal Baths/Hot Springs:
Hot water is hard to come by in the hostels in Peru so when arriving to Aguas Calientes all I could think about was the warm water. The actual hot springs were not that hot (not as hot as the hot springs in Iceland for sure). The water is filtered into square pools and the last pool is the coldest. The cost is 10 Soles to enter and 1 Sole to store your stuff in a locker with a padlock. You can rent towels and bathing suits all over Aguas Calientes. I had mine so I don’t know prices.
To get back to Cusco from Machupicchu you can take the same route via Hidroelectrico/San Teresa/Santa Maria or you can take the train. Often times, people will take the train to Ollantaytambo and then take a bus from there because it is cheaper. I ended up staying in Ollantaytambo for 3 days because it was so nice. The town is all cobblestone and has moats lining the streets with water flowing constantly. It was very relaxing and very quiet after Aguas Calientes. I highly recommend taking time to stop here for at least one night.
Aguas Calientes > Ollantaytambo
Ticket: 78 Soles / U$D 26.00
Mode of Transportation: Train
Duration of trip: 2 hours (9:30 am - 11:30am)
Via Hidroelectrico: 8 soles for Train from Aguas to Hidro, from Hidro to Santa Maria it was 3 soles or more, and 15 soles for a comfortable minibus for tourists from Santa Maria to Ollantaytambo (total 26 soles)
Duration of trip: 7-8 hours (12:30pm - 8:00pm)
Ollantaytambo > Urubamba
Ticket: 1.20 Soles / U$D .40
Mode of Transportation: Combi/Minivan
Duration of trip: 25 minutes (comes every 15 minutes)
Urubamba > Cusco, Peru
Ticket: 3 Soles / U$D 1.00
Mode of Transportation: Bus
Duration of trip: 2.5 hours