There are a few things you’ll need to know before vising the extraordinarily beautiful Inca creation that stands 2,430 meters above sea-level. In the description below, I’ve included links where you can purchase or see more information on tickets and fees.
Cusco is nowhere near Machu Picchu
Cusco, sometimes spelled Cuzco, was the capital of the Inca Empire (13th – 15th century) prior to the Spanish invasion. It has an amazing history — like the execution of Tüpac Amaru II, the man who inspired Afeni Shakur to name her son ‘Tupac’ — but sadly, it’s nowhere near Machu Picchu. In fact, if you plan to stop by Cusco before you visit the Inca construct, you’ll need to take a two-hour bus ride to Ollantaytambo. Then, take a two-hour train ride (Inca Rail or Peru Rail) to Aguascalientes. In Aguascalientes, you’ll hop on another bus, for 30 minutes, that drives up the mountain and to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
Altitude Sickness is Real
If, like me, you live below sea-level, you’ll need altitude sickness medication or medicine that contains Acetazolamide. Cusco and Machu Picchu are 3,399 and 2430 meters above sea-level, respectively. That’s 11,152 and 7,972 feet for my Americans! It’s high and if you’re not use to this altitude, you will feel it. When I reached my hotel in Cusco, I felt a bit nauseated. Ignoring my discomfort, I carried my small carry-on suitcase up one flight of stairs before I felt my heart race. What was going on? I was breathing like I just finished a 5k! Well, that’s a symptom of the altitude sickness. My body wasn’t receiving a sufficient amount of oxygen and it caused my lungs and heart to work harder. Thankfully, I had medicine and acclimated before I visited Machu Picchu but note that there are plenty of stairs and little oxygen, so get to squatting, my friends.
You’re Passport is Your Life
You won’t be able to do any of the activities mentioned above without your passport. Bring it with you and keep it on you at all times. You’ll even have the opportunity to stamp your passport at Machu Picchu’s exit.
The Money Shot
If you want an amazing shot of Machu Picchu or a moment to meditate, you’ll need to wait. The hordes of tourist rush in at 10am and disperse by 2pm. For my solo travelers, tripods and selfie sticks are permitted, buy don’t be scared to ask someone to take a photo (or 10) of you! Just be sure to take their photo in return.
Speaking of Money
You can pay in Peruvian Sol or US Dollar (USD) but try to only pay in Sol; the exchange rate during simple transactions isn’t favorable for the USD. Alpaca scarves, silver jewelry, and fun souvenirs are relatively cheap and there is an nice artisan market in Aguascalientes. Happy shopping!
They Speak Your Language
Hablas Español? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parlez–vous Français? No problem! There are plenty of tour guides at the entrance that speak various languages. Let me tell you, I was slightly offended when I heard a Peruvian speak better Japanese than me! 死にそう！Tours aren’t my thing, but the guide showed me some really cool spots and didn’t mind if I ventured on my own from time to time.
Dress to Impress Your Instagram Followers
It was around 40°F (4°C) when I left Cusco and around 85°F (29°C) degrees when I arrived in Machu Picchu. Therefore, be sure to check the weather and dress accordingly. Remember, the more you put on in the morning, the more you’ll have to take off and carry in the afternoon.
Hangry? There are No Snickers
Food options are very limited at Machu Picchu but there are plenty of places to eat in Aguascalientes. Outside of Machu Picchu’s entrance, there is a small cafe with coffee and wraps as well as a buffet/restaurant that charges $40 per person. I would recommend bringing some light snacks. Bonus: bring something that attracts the llamas for the perfect selfie.
Pay to Pee
This has to be a form of torture, but you’ll need to pay one Peruvian Sol to use the restroom that is located outside of the entrance.
Respect the Sun and Fear the Mosquitoes
Don’t forget the pack the sunscreen and apply it evenly -unlike me. Also be sure you use insect repellent during their summer season.
Bonus: Check out Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams.
Until next time! 🐰💭