Machu Picchu Tips for a First-Time Traveller

Machu Picchu tips for visiting the famed Lost City of the Incas

If you haven’t heard of Machu Picchu before, then you must’ve been hiding under a rock since, well…1911. Machu Picchu tops many of our travel bucket lists, but many people that I’ve met have expressed regret at doing something wrong during their first visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, how can you make your trip to this top travel destination run smoothly? Here are some Machu Picchu tips to help you out:

1. Buy your entrance tickets ahead of time

Since 2011, Machu Picchu has started limiting visitors to 2,500 visitors per day, so make sure to buy your ticket in advance. This can easily be done online. If you’re a student, you can even get a discount on your ticket! Furthermore, if you’re planning on climbing Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu, you will be given a specific time during which you can enter these sites (usually an hour window). Looking to buy your tickets? You can do so here. If you’re worried about ensuring your spots for a certain day, you can see the number of entrances available per day by checking the “availability” box in the top left corner.

How to check availability for visiting Machu Picchu

2. Spend the night in Aguas Calientes

So so so SO many people do Machu Picchu as a day trip from Cusco. This involves waking up early in the morning, taking the 3.5-hour train ride to Aguas Calientes, and boarding a bus to reach Machu Picchu…all in one day. After following these steps, they tend to arrive to the top of this buzzing tourist area at the peak time (around 12-3 in the afternoon). If you want pictures without hundreds of people in them, come before this peak time. I recommend staying the night in Aguas Calientes, which is quite a cheap destination, and visiting Machu Picchu first thing in the morning.

Machu Picchu Tip: Spend the night in Aguas Calientes

3. Take the bus to Machu Picchu

From Aguas Calientes, there are two ways to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu: a 20-minute bus ride that zigzags up the mountain or an hour and 45-minute hiking trail. My only regret during my visit was choosing the hiking trail (don’t worry, I’ll explain). This hiking trail is pretty brutal as it is pure stairs. Imagine doing this trail before the sun rises with tens of other travellers and you’ve got, well, a lot of British people cursing. I started hiking around 4:40 a.m. and by the time I got to the entrance of Machu Picchu, it was around 6:30. With my ticket, I had also bought entrance to Machu Picchu mountain from between 7-8 a.m. However, after already having hiked one mountain, I was too exhausted to make it to the top of another one (only about 25% of my group did). Conserve your energy and take the bus, it’s only $24 USD round trip! Needless to say, I took the bus down.

Machu Picchu Tip: Save your legs and take the bus!

4. Get your Machu Picchu passport stamp

Did you know that you can get a stamp on your passport for having visited Machu Picchu? They start doing stamps at 9 a.m. by the entrance. As soon as you enter the gate, look left and you’ll notice a table. Here, the stamp is typically laying out and you can stamp your passport yourself! Even if you don’t need a passport for identification (for citizens of countries like Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, etc.), I recommend bringing your passport anyway to be able to add another beautiful stamp to your collection.

Get your passport stamped at Machu Picchu!

5. Hire a guide to tour Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of those tourist sites that weirdly enough has no explanatory signs. If you’d like to really understand what you’re seeing as well as the history behind it, I recommend getting a group guide once you’ve entered. My group was able to secure a 3-hour tour for 20 nuevo soles per person (that’s only $6 USD).

Hire a guide to show you around Machu Picchu.

Do you have any tips for visiting Machu Picchu?

Machu-Picchu-Tips-First-Time-Visitors

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25 Comments

  1. says: Renuka

    These are really helpful tips. I guess Machu Picchu is an epic place and taking care of these small things can enhance the experience of visiting it.

  2. says: Stef

    Just in time. I’ll go to Macchu Picchu in July! Thanks for those tips, especially the hike to the entrance. I’ll definitely take the bus.

  3. says: Lisa

    Great tips. This is one of my dream destinations, so I’ll definitely keep this in mind. I would definitely have opted for the hike, so I’ll have to think twice about it now!

    Lisa | farawaylisamae.com

    1. says: Leah Shoup

      haha yeah I thought the hike was going to be awesome and it was a bit disappointing! although I definitely recommend the hike to Machu Picchu mountain once you are already in Machu Picchu.

  4. Super helpful article, thank you! I want to visit sometime in the coming years. I didn’t know you had to get a ticket, but it makes sense.

    weirdwonderfulwanderlust.blogspot.com

  5. Machu Pichu has always captivated my imagination since I watched “The motorcycle Diaries”. Now that I’ve read your tips, the lust has only increased. Hope of finally getting there one day. Thanks.

  6. says: apenoni

    Nice, didnt know you actually have to book the tickets in advance! Thanks for the information and inspiration 🙂

    1. says: Audrey Bergner

      May through October is the best time to trek since you’re in the dry season, but the trail can get busy during July and August when most people are on holiday. Also, keep in mind that the trail is closed every year in February for repairs. If you’re planning on trekking you’ll want to book months in advance to ensure you can get a spot since there are restrictions on the number of people allowed on the trail each day.

  7. says: Sue

    Hi Audrey, thanks for these great tips. We’ll be in South America from February and think we’ll be heading to Machu Picchu late April. Glad to have your advice, we’ll check out Aguas Calientes for a couple of days ahead of the bus trip. I think there’s a pretty cool train trip there from Cusco.

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