Dangers & Annoyances
- Inside the ruins, do not walk on any of the walls – this loosens the stonework and prompts a cacophony of whistle-blowing from the guards.
- Overnighting here is also illegal: guards do a thorough check of the site before it closes.
- Use of the only toilet facilities, just below the cafe, will set you back S1. Validate your ticket before leaving the complex to be allowed back in.
Preparations for Visiting
- Tiny sand-fly-like bugs abound. You won’t notice them biting, but you may be itching for a week. Bring insect repellent.
- The weather at Machu Picchu seems to have only two settings: heavy rain or bright, burning sunlight. Don’t forget rain gear and sunblock.
- Disposable plastic bottles and food are not allowed in the site, though vigilance is a bit lax. It’s best to eat outside the gate, use nondisposable water bottles and pack out all trash, even organic waste. Water (in glass bottles) is sold at the cafe just outside the entrance.
Entrance tickets often sell out: buy them in advance in Cuzco. The ticket booth in Aguas Calientes only accepts cash (soles). Check for changes in online purchasing: it is possible to use debit cards, but only for adult entry (to the ruins, Wayna Picchu and Cerro Machu Picchi). Student and child admission cannot be purchased online. Students must present an official school ID with photograph.
The site is limited to 5940 visitors daily, with 400 paid spots for hiking Wayna Picchu and Cerro Machu Picchu. Visitation is limited to a morning or afternoon ticket: morning tickets are valid between 6am and noon while afternoon tickets are valid between noon and 5:30pm. There is even talk of adding a third turn, which would shorten visits considerably!
Drones, tripods and backpacks over 20L are not allowed into the ruins. Walking sticks are allowed. There are baggage check offices outside the entrance gate (S5 per item; 6am to 4pm). Bringing plastic bottles is frowned upon, so try to bring a reusable bottle, and if you do have food with you, keep it discreet.
For really in-depth information, take along a copy of Exploring Cuzco by Peter Frost.
Avoiding the Crowds
Avoiding the crowds has become harder than ever, especially since visitors are largely expected to walk a set route through the ruins, instead of spontaneously wandering. Choose the longer route unless you just want to skim – it might be hard to get back to it later.
High season is late May until early September, with June through August being the busiest months. A visit midweek during the rainy season guarantees you more room to breathe, especially during February, when the Inca Trail is closed.
Local guides (per person S150, in groups of six to 10 S30) are readily available for hire at the entrance. Their expertise varies, look for one wearing an official guide ID from DIRCETUR. Agree on a price in advance, clarify whether the fee is per person or group, and agree on the tour length and maximum group size.