Westerners pay thousands. There are multi day hikes to high end all inclusive options. But, if you’re like us and on a budget, this is out of the question. After all, we see the same place in the end.
The most popular option is expensive. Arrive in Cusco, purchase the entrance ticket to MP for 128S, take a bus/taxi to Poroy ( small village about 20 minutes from downtown Cusco). Purchase a train ticket to Aguas Caliente (the gateway village of MP). From there you take a 20 min bus to the entrance gate at the top which costs 39S one way. Either leave early enough to return to Cusco late in the night or purchase lodging in Aguas Caliente and return to Cusco the following day. This “economical” package can get expensive.
If you are short on time and your goal is to see Machu Piccu. You can do it cheaper with a little work.
Here is how we saw Machu Picchu for under $75:
Arrive in Cusco. Wake up early and look for the white tourist buses in Plaza de Armas or Plaza Regocijo (the smaller plaza just two blocks up). These white mini buses are everywhere. Approach the bus and negotiate a price. They are open to negotiations because they are franticly trying to fill seats. The first bus we approached accepted our offer of 60S per person round trip (around $18).
The bus takes 4-5 hours through curvy roads (take meds if you get car sick) and drops you off in Hydro Electrico. From here you have two options, take the train which is only 5S for locals but 97S for foreigners, or you can take a nice two hour walk along the train tracks for free. The terrain is almost tropical and you follow a beautiful river. There are also food stands and restaurants along the way, where your options rage from 3/4 S for a very simple cheese sandwich or 10 Soles for the daily menu at the restaurant (menu del dia), which includes a soup, entre and a juice.
Finally, you arrive in Aguas Caliente. Here you can find a hostel for 20S per night and if you walk towards the end of the town, you will find food at reasonable prices. Menu of the day in town can range from 15S, Pizza for 20S, or Burger and a softdrink for 15S.
Don’t forget to purchase your entry ticket to Machu Picchu. You can either purchase your ticket in Cusco or upon arrival at Aguas Caliente (discount with student ID) or 128S without.
Now to get to the main event. You can either hike up for free or purchase round trip bus ticket from Aguas Caliente to MP for $24. They also offer one way tickets so you can take a bus and walk down or visa versa.
Warning: the bus line starts early. By early, I mean 4am and by 6:00 it’s lined up through town.