So we made the decision not to do a multi day hike to Machu Picchu. We didn’t fancy a tour either. With the altitude leaving us short of breath just walking around Cusco and Shaun suffering with the flu, we actually didn’t fancy doing much walking at all. So it didn’t take us long to decide that a day trip to Machu Picchu would be the perfect option for us. Our trip to Machu Picchu certainly wasn’t the most adventurous option, in fact it was rather leisurely! But it was enjoyable and easy and that’s exactly what we wanted.
We soon realised that if we wanted to travel to Machu Picchu in just 1 day, the train companies have you locked in, so the train it was. The train tickets are pretty pricey, however it worked out that our day trip to Machu Picchu still cost similar to what the multi day treks (the Salkantay Trek or the Jungle Trek) would have cost us anyway. So we didn’t lose any money.
However as you’re not dealing with the tour agencies, it does mean a little more work is involved on your part.
Here’s how you can do it too:
1. Book your train tickets
Firstly head over to https://www.perurail.com and choose your preferred day and times. We booked our train tickets just 6 days in advance and still managed to get the times we wanted, but it’s worth noting that the good times back were all gone for the previous 5 days.
Note: We couldn’t get our UK debit cards to work on the Peru Rail website, but PayPal worked fine.
We booked the following tickets:
- POROY (CUSCO) – MACHU PICCHU (AGUAS CALIENTES) – 06:40AM, US $65 Per person, Approx. 3 hours.
- MACHU PICCHU (AGUAS CALIENTES) – OLLANTAYTAMBO – 16:22PM, US $65 person, Approx. 1.5 hours.
2. Print off your train tickets
Your train tickets will then be emailed to you and it’s important to remember to print them off and bring them with you on the day.
If your hotel/ hostel doesn’t have a printer then don’t worry, there’s plenty of internet cafe’s in Cusco which should let you use the computer and print off your tickets for really cheap.
3. Buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu
You can then buy your entrance ticket to Machu Picchu from the ‘Ministerio de Cultura’ payment centre in Cusco. Remember to bring either your passport or a copy of your passport. The ticket currently costs $156 Peruvian Soles (about £35). Show them your train tickets and they will grant you a suitable time slot to enter Machu Picchu, ours was 11am and you are allowed in the site for 4 hours.
4. Buy your shuttle bus ticket
The train doesn’t actually take you ALL the way to Machu Picchu, it takes you to a town called Aguas Calientes. There is a fleet of shuttle buses that run from Aguas Calientes all the way up to the Machu Picchu entrance gates and takes 30 minutes each way. Ideally you should get your shuttle bus ticket in advance, so head down to the big bank called ‘Interbank’ on ‘Av El Sol’ in Cusco (not far from Plaza de Armas). The company that sells the shuttle bus tickets are called ‘Consetur’ and they have a desk within the bank to the left as you walk in the door. Again you will need either your passport or a copy of your passport and the ticket costs $24 USD/ £17 return.
However, if you are a decent hiker and you think you will have time you could skip the shuttle bus and walk the steep hike up to Machu Picchu and back down instead (it’s about 10KM each way). There is also the option to just buy the shuttle bus one way and hike one way.
Tip: If you’re stuck with any of the above steps, we found the Peru Rail office on Plaza de Armas really helpful 🙂
5. Set an early alarm… and enjoy Machu Picchu!
If your train leaves from Poroy train station (the best option as it’s a very early start) a taxi from Cusco will take 20 minutes and cost about $25 Soles in total. The other train station (Ollantaytambo) is about 90 minutes away. We got our train back to Ollantaytambo and there were plenty of collectivo (mini bus) drivers lined up outside the train station to take us back to Cusco for just $10 Soles per person.
Also – don’t forget your passport! You need this to get on the train and into Machu Picchu.
How much did it all cost?
Return train tickets to Machu Picchu: £97 per person
Machu Picchu entry ticket: £34 per person
Shuttle bus to and from Machu Picchu: £17 per person
Taxi from Cusco to Poroy train station: £2.85 per person
Mini bus from Ollantaytambo train station to Cusco: £2.27 per person
Total Cost: £153 per person
6 thoughts on “How to visit Machu Picchu as a day trip (without going on a tour)”
Thank you so much for this article! Planning a day visit to Machu Picchu this August and this article has been very helpful! 🙂 One question though: I’ve read that it is now mandatory to enter with a guide. Are the visits all guided or did you guys walk around freely? x
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Hi! Sorry for the slow reply. We didn’t have a guide, it was possible to walk around freely 🙂 hope you enjoy Machu Picchu!
Very informative and detailed alternative to those who don’t have the time to do a longer trek.
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Such a great article, very insightful so thank you for sharing! I’d love to visit Peru!
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