How to Plan, Book & Budget a Family Holiday to Machu Picchu
A number of readers have asked me about the logistics of booking a family holiday to Machu Picchu. I’ll be honest, it’s not straightforward! Our Journey to Machu Picchu took a lot of time to organise. What would have sped things up is if I had had a checklist of what tickets to book, along with instructions on how and where to book them, and ballpark costs for budgeting purposes.
Here follows, my far-flung friend, that very checklist!
I have also detailed some of the headaches I experienced when booking this trip independently to give you an idea of what to expect and to help you weigh up the pros and cons of booking everything through an agent. To give you a little taster, you should be prepared to enter your passport details (or rather the passport details for every member of your family) multiple times, along with expiry dates, dates of birth, full names (as on passports), billing addresses, credit card info etc. You should also expect crashing websites and payment gateways.How to Plan, Book & Budget a Family Holiday to Machu Picchu # Peru #familytravel Click To Tweet
Machu Picchu Itinerary
This checklist is based on the following 8 day / 9-night itinerary:
Lima (1 night) – Urumbamba, Sacred Valley (3 nights) – Aguas Calientes (1 night) – Machu Picchu – Cusco (3 night) – Lima (1 night)
Our family is 2 adults and 2 children (who were 7 and 6 years at the time).
1. How to buy an entrance ticket for Machu Picchu
For conservation purposes, the government of Peru limits the number of visitors to Machu Picchu tickets to 2500 per day (*see updated figures below). Children under 8 are free and do not count in this quota.
The official government-owned website for buying tickets is here but if you want to save yourself the sweat and tears (because trust me, that website will elicit both) buy your tickets through an agent. There are hundreds of websites offering this service, but be aware that con artists are reported to operate online as well.
I can personally vouch for the website Ticket Machu Picchu where I bought our tickets from. The way they work is as follows:
1) First you can check ticket availability at Machu Picchu here.
2) Enter your details in the online booking form provided here and select the ticket you want to buy. No payment details are required at this stage.
Which ticket should I get?
There is the option of paying an extra fee to climb Huayna Picchu – the tooth-shaped mountain that sits directly behind Machu Picchu. The hike requires a certain level of fitness (in some parts it requires getting down on all fours to scramble up the rocks) and not recommended for young children under 12. The 360m (1000ft) climb takes about 1 hour to ascend and 45 minutes to descend.
We bought the ‘Machu Picchu Only’ ticket and were happy with this decision as walking around the site was fairly strenuous in itself, particularly with little kids.
3) The agent will send you an email to confirm your booking details (ticket type, date of visit and number of visitors). Children under 8 years do not require a ticket of any kind, only their passports to enter. As with everything, policies do change over time so it wouldn’t hurt to double check them at the time of booking.
4) Your confirmation email will be followed by a paypal invoice. You do not need to have a paypal account to make the payment. A 6% processing fee is charged. Two adult tickets for example amounts to USD 131.44 (62+62 = 124 +6%).
5) After your payment has been processed, they will email you your tickets (from info [at] boletomachupicchu.com) which you need to print out and take with you. The price on your tickets will be displayed in the Peruvian currency, Sol (S/128 per person).
Rates (subject to change): ‘Machu Picchu Only’ ticket (for a foreigner): Adult USD 62. Student USD 37 Children (8-17) USD 37
Machu Picchu opening hours are 06:00 – 16:00 hrs.
- All entry tickets to Machu Picchu purchased after July 1, 2017 are for half-day. Visitors can choose between the morning slot (6am – 12pm) and the afternoon slot (12pm – 5:30pm). Ticket rates are the same, regardless of the time.
- The number of visitors permitted has increased to 3200 (am) and 3200 (pm)
2. How to book a Train Ticket to Machu Picchu.
Journey times by train (approx)
Ollaytantambo – Aguas Calientes: 1.5 hours
Urumbamba – Aguas Calientes: 1 hour, 45 mins
Aguas Calientes – Cusco: 3.5 hours or 4 hours by train & bus (see bimodel service below)
If you are visiting Machu Picchu with kids and have no urge to trek the gruelling 4-day Inca Trail with them, you will be relieved to hear that you can catch a train to Aguas Calientes. This small town that sits in the valley below Machu Picchu is the penultimate stepping stone to Machu Picchu. From here you can get the 25-minute shuttle bus right up to the entrance gate of Machu Picchu (see point #3 on this list for more details on this bus service).
Hailed as one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world, the train track runs alongside the roaring Urubamba River and through the spectacular landscape of the Andes to Aguas Calientes, the last stop on this route.
There are a number of trains that run every day to Aguas Calientes from Cusco or Ollaytantambo, and a couple of trains that run from Urubamba. The trains are operated by PeruRail and offer three services to suit different budgets. Think of them as economy, business and first class.
1) Expedition – budget (standard train)
2) Vistadome – midrange (supersized, panoramic windows) with comfortable seats and good service.
3) Hiram Bingham – luxury (with first class service)
We took the Vistadome and loved the panoramic windows that extend into the ceiling (it’s probably as close as you’ll get to a roofless-train). We had four large seats with a table, a tasty snack and at one point were even entertained with a fashion show. The attendants double up as models to showcase a collection of alpaca outfits from a high-end fashion house. Peruvian pipe music plays throughout and the timings emulated Swiss punctuality!
Booking the train tickets
We booked our tickets online via the PeruRail website. The website is easy to navigate but I did experience a few problems with their payment gateway. I was able to reserve and pay for our tickets from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu without issue but had problems processing the ticket for our return journey (Machu Picchu to Cusco). After a phone call to their (Spanish-speaking) reservation department (+ 51 – 84 – 581414) we were emailed a credit card authorization form and the payment was eventually processed, and the tickets issued. I see that their website has undergone a facelift since I booked my tickets so it is likely that this problem has now been fixed.
Note that during the off-peak season (January – end April) the train track between Cusco and the Sacred Valley maybe closed due to the risk of landslides but a ‘bimodel’ service (train + bus) is offered instead. We took the bimodal service and found it worked very well.
For more information about their service during the off-peak season, please visit their website.
Rates (subject to change):
Ollantaytambo – Aguas Calientes: USD 64 per adult, USD 31 per child
Aguas Calientes – Cusco: USD 117 per adult, USD 47 per child
3. How to buy tickets for the Shuttle bus (from Aguas Calientes) to Machu Picchu
Journey time: approx. 25-30 minutes
There is only one road in Aguas Calientes that runs from the centre of town up the mountain to the site of Machu Picchu. Serious walkers can trek up this hill but be aware that it extremely steep, and there is still plenty of climbing to do within the site itself! Our hotel told us it takes around an hour to walk up it but I suspect it takes longer, especially if travelling with kids.
Frequent shuttle buses run back and forth throughout the day – a ride of approximately 25 minutes. The buses are modern, comfortable and, given the numerous hairpin bends, driven very well! Buses departing from Aguas Calientes run between 05:30 – 15:30 and buses departing from Machu Picchu run between 06:00 – 18:00. There are no set departure times and buses depart when full. To avoid long queues at the ticket office it helps to buy your tickets in advance. These can be bought from any of the Consettur offices or from a travel agent. We bought our tickets the night before at their office in Aguas Calientes). The Consettur website has also undergone a facelift since we booked and it looks like you can now book these tickets online. If any of our readers book these online, please share your experience in the comment section below.
Rates (subject to change)
When we visited adult tickets were USD 24 and children under 8 years USD 12. You can check current rates here via their website.
As the number of visitors permitted per day has increased significantly, visitors may experience long queues/lines for the shuttle buses (there are reports of people lining up from 3am!). Apparently the number of shuttle buses in this service has not increased due to conservation issues. Reports indicated that the mornings slots are busier than the afternoon slots.
4. Tips for booking hotels on the Machu Picchu circuit
If you are following a classic itinerary (see A Journey to Machu Picchu for itinerary tips) there are a number of hotel chains that have properties in all of the key destinations. However, they make it surprisingly difficult for independent travellers to make multiple reservations. In other words, if you want to book more than one of their properties through their central reservation office (as opposed to making separate reservations/payments with each property), expect to chase up your enquiry with numerous emails and/or phone calls (Spanish required).
Popular hotel chains on this circuit include:
Belmond ($$$$) http://www.belmond.com
Inkaterra ($$$) http://www.inkaterra.com/
Mantis ($$$) http://www.mantiscollection.com
Tierra Viva ($$) http://tierravivahoteles.com
Casa Andina ($$) http://www.casa-andina.com
We stayed in Tierra Viva in Aguas Calientes and Cusco (and the beautiful Sol y Luna in the Sacred Valley. We were staying with friends in Lima, but had we not had that option, we would probably have stayed in the Tierra Viva property in the Miraflores district.
5. How to book a domestic flight from Lima to Cusco
Flight time: approx. 1 hour
In addition to your international flights (which presumably will land you in Lima), you also need return flights from Lima to Cusco. There are a number of airlines that fly this route, including LAN Airlines, Peruvian Airlines and Star Peru. We flew with Star Peru. Like many bookings for this trip, the payment gateway on the Star Peru website gave me so many problems that I eventually booked the flights through a travel agent. Let’s hope they’ve updated their website too!
I read somewhere that weather conditions tend to be favourable first thing in the morning, and that the later flights are more prone to delays. Whether or not that’s true I really can’t say! We took the 9:35 flight which departed and arrived on time.
If you continuing to Lake Titicaca after Machu Picchu you may wish to book your return flight to Lima from Juliaca (approx. 30 miles north of Puno).
Avoid booking your international flights on same day as your domestic flights. It’s not worth the risk!
Rates (subject to change)
USD 295 per adult, USD 189 per child
6. How to book a car and driver in Peru
We took taxis for the following journeys (see our itinerary)
a) Lima airport transfers
b) Lima taxis between sites
c) Cusco – Sacred Valley (1-1.5 hours)
d) Daily excursions within the Sacred Valley (half to full days)
e) Transfer from Urumbamba to Ollantaytambo train station (20 mins)
f) Transport in/around Cusco (half day)
g) Airport transfers
Car Journey Times (a rough guide)
Lima airport – centre: 45 mins (allow 1 hour)
Cusco – Urumbamba: 1 – 1.5 hours
Urumbamba – Chrincheros: 40 mins
Urubamba to Pisac: 45 mins – 1 hour.
Urubamba to Moray & Maras: 30 minutes
Cusco centre to airport: 20 minutes
In Lima (and many parts of Peru) many taxis run off LP gas. A large gas cylinder takes up most of the boot / trunk space in the car and may not be able to accommodate your suitcases. We had to take two taxis for our Lima airport transfers, although I’m sure it’s possible to find bigger cars/vans.
For Cusco and the Sacred Valley we were recommended the driver, Freddy Guzman, who works for a taxi company based in Cusco (084 312512). As Freddy wasn’t available on our dates we were allocated a different driver (Jose) who was lovely and reliable but possibly not the safest of drivers – he nearly fell asleep at the wheel one day! For this reason, I can’t recommend him but it may well have been a one-off mistake. If anyone hires Freddy though, or has any tried & tested recommendations, we’d love to know!
In Cusco we booked a half day tour to see the surrounding Inca sites with a local tour company.
Rates (subject to change)
As a price guide, we were quoted around the following for the service of a car and driver (our hotel quoted more or less the same rates):
Cusco – Urumbamba in Sacred Valley (1.5 hours) USD 150 for a minivan, USD 100 for regular car. Full day visiting sites in Sacred Valley: USD 200 per day
Lima airport transfers: approx. $20 one way to centre of Lima.
Half day tour with Responsible Travel Peru, a local tour operator: With a guide and van $115 or guide and regular car $95
7. How to book a Boleto Turistico (the ‘Cusco Tourist Ticket’)
With the exception of your entrance ticket into Machu Picchu, you will also need to factor in entrance tickets to numerous other Inca sites of Cusco and The Sacred Valley including Pisac, Chincheros, Ollantaytambo, Moray, Maras, Sacsayhuaman, Qengo and Tambomachay. These tickets can be bought individually at the entrance gates to the sites (Sol.70 per adult) but if you’re planning on visiting more than two sites (and it would be a crime if you aren’t) then it’s worth buying the Boleto Turistico which covers many of them.
The Boleto Turistico gives you access to the following sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley:
Monastery of Saint Catherine of Cusco, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museo Historico Regional, Museo del Sitio del Qoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo Danzas Folklórico, and Monumento Pachacuteq, Sacsayhuamán, Qénqo, Pukapukara, Tambomachay, Chinchero and the ruins of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Tipón and Pikillacta.
You can buy the Boleto Turistico ticket at Oficina Ejecutiva del Comité (OFEC), on Ave. Sol 103 in Cusco or at the ticket offices in any of the above sites. You do not have to buy them in advance. We bought ours in Chincheros. Remember the Boleto Turistico doesn’t include entrance to Machu Picchu, nor to Moray & Maras. We bought tickets for the later at the entrance.
Rates (subject to change): Tickets cost 130 Soles for a 10-day pass. Children under 8 are free.
One other museum that is worth visiting, but isn’t included on this ticket is The Inkiary Museo Adults: S/.55, Children S/.30
Peru Budget Summary
A reminder that this is to be used as a price guide only! The costs listed below are per person, and for an adult / child respectively (with the exception of the Car & driver / taxis which is based on using standard size taxis, and booking directly with the drivers as opposed to through an agent. Transports costs will depend of course on where you go and whether you keep a car for half a day or a full day; and whether you have one car allocated to you for the duration of your visit or whether, like us, you book taxis as you go along.
1. Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket: USD 62 / 37
2. Train: USD 181 / 78
3. Shuttle bus: USD 24 / 12
4. Hotels: wide range
5. 1 return domestic flight: USD 295 / 189
6. Car & driver / taxis: USD 300-500 (for standard sized taxis).
7. Boleto Turistico / Cusco Tourist Ticket USD 40 per adult
On top of this you’ll need to budget for:
Local guides (if required)
Shopping / souvenirs! (think alpaca, textiles and sombreros!)
Book your Peru Family Holiday through our Partner Agent!
In short, booking our trip to Peru took a lot of time and effort! We have subsequently found a really good UK-based agent who is an expert in family travel and who can organise your family trip to Peru for you. Our partner agent can organise a two-week trip in Peru starting from £2,000 per person. If you are interested in receiving a quote then please email us your requirements. Note that we do receive a small commission for any bookings, however this does not affect your quote in any way. You pay the same as you would if booking directly.
The following testimonial written to our partner agent is from a referred client:
Thank you so very much for organising such a fantastic trip to Peru and at such short notice! We had the most magical time, a perfect balance of adventure, exploring and relaxation that we all loved and gained so much from. The service you provided made the trip totally seamless. We were met at every airport by one of your representatives smiling faces and taken to our hotel. The train/flight tickets and info was always waiting for us which made the trip stress free. The balance of hotels you suggested was perfect and the jungle trip a huge success…we were lucky enough to see a 30ft Anaconda! One of the highlights for us was the Sacred Valley…the hotel a gem after the jungle and the town, bustling market and tuk tuks were fascinating. The scenery was stunning and we found a great horse-riding place and the boys went zip lining which looked fantastic (if not a terrifying!). Once again thank you so much for your service and we will definitely be in touch again for another adventure!
How to Plan, Book & Budget a Family Holiday to Machu Picchu # Peru #familytravel Click To Tweet
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