The great guide to going to Machu Picchu on your own and cheap is finally here. A condensed answer that resumes all the concerns we saw for years that the travelers who want to travel to Cusco had: make the Inca Trail or arrive at Machu Picchu walking through the train tracks in ten points.
Usually, if you are Latin American, North American, or European you will not need it. If you’re a citizen of Mercosur you can enter Peru just by carrying your identity card or your passport. If you’re not from a Mercosur member country you’ll need a valid passport and in some special cases depending on your native country, you’ll need a visa. If you’re underage your parents will have to go with you. If you’re a parent and you travel with your child, you’ll need a marriage certificate and the child’s birth certificate.
There’s no vaccine required but the Ministry of Health of Peru “recommends” to be vaccinated against yellow fever to go to certain regions of the jungle. Usually, nobody does it so it’s your choice to take or not the risk. The vaccine is free in many countries and if it costs, it’s not expensive.
We don’t recommend bringing a tent. Camping is not available and it’s not something that people usually do in the Peruvian mountain rage. Camping in the mountain range is unsafe in general and you’ll end up hating the idea of carrying a heavy tent with you in Cusco, a place where you practically will not need it. Peru is one of the cheapest places in South America and you can find rooms at really cheap prices but you get what you paid for. You can watch for lodgings, see the photos and compare them to have a better idea.
If you are Argentinian, Colombian or you came from a place where it’s hot in the summer, there´s a chance that Cusco is the opposite. Don’t believe that the summer from where you come is the same here. The rainy season takes place between December and February while it’s hot in Lima, the capital. Summer or winter, a part of the day is always cold in Cusco. The sun is radiant and could damage your skin. Bring sunscreen and/or buy cocoa paste in the drugstore, they are cheap and useful. Machu Picchu is located in the eye of the jungle, i.e. a hybrid point where the mountains meet the jungle and the vegetation changes showing characteristics of both regions. The best season to go is between July and October where usually doesn’t rain and the sky is always blue but you can visit this place any time and it’ll never disappoint you.
You may never experience the lack of oxygen. It’s a common thing in Cusco because of the altitude. This makes everything cost you the triple of effort so don’t count on your physical resistance because is going to be reduced. Your digestion will be slower and your sleep will be dense and deep. Is ideal to stay clam the first day to acclimatize. Usually all the drugstores sells altitude sickness pills. The coca leaf tea and the candies helps too.
Making “The Inca Trail” is not mandatory to reach Machu Picchu. A lot of people is confused about this. This is a touristic route that can only be access by a travel agency authorized. There’s 4 or 5 day trekking just as the cheap Inca Trail and it’s essential to have a good physical condition. The trail ends in “one of the entrance to Machu Picchu” (Intipunku) that’s the reason why everyone think is the way to arrive. It only can be access by a small group of people so the reservations must be in advance.
All the routes are excellent full of the same incredible nature and you can see almost the same landscapes. Making the Inca trail is not mandatory and not making it doesn’t deprive you from all the things you could do in Cusco. In fact, Cusco is full of routes of the authentic way that was formed by the Incan Network Road. You’ll see the same ruins, mountains and landscapes during your stay. To reach Machu Picchu on your own you can do it in the following ways:
Cusco city is secure in the places where you’re surrounded of tourist like the city center, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Try to avoid walking along in the markets at night or in places that are far from the city center with valuable things and a tourist appearance. Beware of your pockets in the fairs or in places where there are lots of people. It’s one of the most touristic cities in the world so it’s predictable that petty thefts and scams happen. To avoid this simply don’t leave alone your valuable things and don’t trust in free things. Don’t rely on the excesses of unwarranted kindness from strangers who will always want something from you. Hygiene is very important to maintain health. Try whenever as possible to see how the food that you eat is treated. Usually the tourist get sick for trying to eat everything, so be prudent. Avoid things that are sold in buses, especially street vendors. Avoid handmade cheeses because they can be carries of dangerous bacteria. Almost all the time boiled, freshly cooked or washed food is good. The long walks on stony ground can easy make you a prey for dislocations or similar injuries. Wear good footwear. Cusco has good medical care places that especially attend tourist. To access them don’t forget to have a traveler’s insurance. Compare all the travel insurances here so you can choose the cheapest.
It’s convenient to get the ISIC (International Student Identity Card) card if you’re a student. This card allows you to get discounts at hostels plus getting the ticket to enter to Machu Picchu (costs 128 soles) at half the price. You also get the Cusco touristic ticket and some other advantages. (Cost about 18 dollars)
There used to be an entrance where you could visit the entire Machu Picchu complex before. Now they’ve divided it into sections. If you want to go to Wayna Picchu (The Mountain behind the citadel where the temple of the moon is located) you must book your ticket in advance and arrive before noon. Same for the Machu Picchu Mountain.
Here’s a Machu Picchu map and updated official rates.
You can climb to the ruins of Machu Picchu from Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes) in two ways:
In the other hand, if you came from Santa Teresa then you passed near the path that leads to this place. It’s a nice alternative trekking to consider.