A visit to Machu Picchu was my dream and would be the highlight of my travels around South America. I visited Peru in May, so this could be considered the shoulder season. My visit to Machu Picchu would be at the end of my trip so it was difficult to pin point my visit to the ancient Inca ruins to an exact date. A lot went wrong with my visit to Machu Picchu and I ended up buying tickets in several ways. The good thing is: I can tell you exactly how to buy Machu Picchu tickets as an independent traveller to Peru.
Is a visit to Machu Picchu on your bucket list? Do you want to make sure you’ll have your entrance ticket to this great Inca sight? Check this guide on all the different wayt to buy your Machu Picchu entrance tickets as an independent traveller!
Buy Tickets to Machu Picchu as part of the Inca Trail
Many people hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and do not buy their Machu Picchu tickets themselves, but they book a tour with a company. They receive a permit to hike the Inca Trail, a guide and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu.
I did not hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu so I have no personal experience with this. Read more about Hiking the Inca Trail from Emily from Seehertravel and a Guide to the Inca Trail from Backpack Southamerica.
Buy Machu Picchu tickets online
I researched the option to buy Machu Picchu tickets online. If you know when you’ll visit Machu Picchu and you want to make sure you’ll have a valid entrance ticket in high season, this is a good option.
I looked at my itinerary and went to the website to buy my Machu Picchu tickets online. I almost finalized my purchase but decided to allow myself a bit more freedom while traveling. Here is how you can buy your Machu Picchu tickets online:
- Go to the website from the Ministery of Culture of Peru
- Select the type of tickets. There are several options.
1. Entrance to Machu Picchu
2. Entrance to Machu Picchu and climb Huayna Picchu Mountain (2 time slots)
3. Entrance to Machu Picchu and climb Machu Picchu Mountain. For more details on this hike, check 7continents1passort and their post about the Machu Picchu Mountain hike.
4. Entrace to Machu Picchu in the afternoon
- Select the date and how many tickets you want
- Pay immediately
- Print and take with you! No smart Phone download tickets.
For the prices for 2017, check the .pdf from the Ministery.
Buy your tickets for Machu Picchu via an Tour Agent
When you travel to Peru as an independent traveler (aka not part of an organised tour) you can always book a tour to visit Machu Picchu. There are many tour agents in Cusco and the other cities of Peru. They are very eager to sell you tours and tickets to Machu Picchu.
Read more: Train to Machu Picchu Peru– a non hiking guide.
I looked around in Cusco and visited several tour offices and inquired after their tours and the trip to Machu Picchu. They all offered pretty much the same:
Transport to the train station, train tickets to Aguas Caliente, accommodation in Aguas Caliente, a tour guide, entrance ticket to Machu Picchu and the return train journey.
I checked prices for over 6 offices and talked with many people. Finally, I settled for a tour to Machu Picchu with a certain agent. We agreed on prices and I would come back the next day to pay the rest of the fee and get more details. They would buy Machu Picchu tickets for me as well as arrange all the other things.
My tour to Machu Picchu
I intentionally say “would” because they didn’t.
They said they did but I ended up buying my own train tickets to Aguas Caliente. I arrived in Aguas Caliente without an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu. I’ll tell more about this nightmare later.
I do think booking a tour to Machu Picchu is very easy and should be considered by all independent travellers.
My tip to you: make sure you have your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu before you’ll leave Cusco. I didn’t but it did give me personal experience with how to buy Machu Picchu tickets in all possible ways!
Buy Machu Picchu tickets in Aguas Caliente
So there I was, in Aguas Caliente and no ticket to Machu Picchu. What was I to do? I walked around town and was directed to the office of the Ministery of Culture at the town square. I waited in line and I asked if it was possible to buy tickets for Machu Picchu to visit the same day.
The man behind the desk looked at me with a frown on his face. He pointed at a sign which said tickets for Huayna Picchu Mountain were sold out until August (it was May.) I shook my head. I said I only wanted to buy entrance tickets to Machu Picchu. He nodded. He asked for my passport and printed out a ticket.
As the ticket was for the same day, he gave me a discount (it was 2.30 pm, Machu Picchu closes at 5 pm) and handed me my ticket for Machu Picchu.
Before he would change his mind, I ran off to hop on the first shuttle bus to Machu Picchu so I could have 2 whole hours in Machu Picchu before it closes.
Note: I was very lucky to be able to buy a ticket on that short notice in Aguas Caliente. I do not recommend to rely on this in the high season. It is always better to have your Machu Picchu entrance ticket before you go to Aguas Caliente.
By the time I got back that evening, I still did not receive my entrance ticket to Machu Picchu from the tour agent for the next day. So the next morning, I had to go to the Aguas Caliente office again, to buy another ticket. I ended up going to Machu Picchu twice, so this worked out in the end.
The office in Aguas Caliente is located at Av. Pachacutec, this is right off the main plaza. They are open 7 days a week from, 5.00am – 8.00pm (please check, opening times can change with the season).
Read more: How I got kicked out of Machu Picchu… Twice!
Buy Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco
When I returned to Cusco, I was happy with how my trip to Machu Picchu played out. But I was definitely not happy with the tour agent whom I paid to buy Machu Picchu tickets for me! I went back to the tour agent and complained about their services.
After a lot of arguments and discussion, we went to the office of the Ministery of Culture in Cusco together. We hoped to explain the situation and see if I could get my money back. This didn’t go so well and out of despair, the agent gave me back some of the money. As I didn’t want to waste any more valuable time, I let it go.
But, now I did know where the office was located and how things worked down there. I met another independent traveller to Peru and she wanted to buy her Machu Picchu ticket before she would go (probably because of my horror story). We ended up going back to the office together and she was able to buy Machu Picchu tickets in Cusco.
The office in Cusco is located at Calle Garcilaso, it is open Monday to Saturday, from 8.00 am to 6.00pm. (check please)
Important note on buying Machu Picchu entrance tickets:
In the end it doesn’t matter if you book your tickets to Machu Picchu as part of a trail, on the internet, with a tour agent or in Lima, Cusco or Aguas Caliente.
The most important thing is to bring your passport when you buy Machu Picchu tickets.
Also bring enough money and have your ticket in hand before your journey to Machu Picchu begins. If you do not have your ticket, they will not let you inside Machu Picchu and it is not worth taking the bus up to Machu Picchu because you cannot see the sight.
As the train tickets to Aguas Caliente are very expensive and there is nothing else to do in Machu Picchu Pueblo, it will be a huge disappointement if you can’t visit Machu Picchu!
What would be your prefered way to buy tickets to Machu Picchu? How did you buy your Machu Picchu tickets? Did you find it easy to buy Machu Picchu tickets? Let me know your story for visiting this famous sight in Peru!