Because of the international demand for trips to Machu Picchu, prices for everything from laundry and postcards to hotels and transportation are through the roof. Some of those costs, like the Boleto Turístico (the $40 ticket to all the sites) and the $40 Machu Picchu entrance fee can’t be easily avoided. Others can. Here’s some tips for travelers looking to save a few bucks:
Tip #1: Ignore your guidebook’s recommendations on hotels. Those places are overpriced. When you arrive in Cusco, the Sacred Valley or Aguas Calientes (the base town for Machu Picchu), hotel advertisers will hassle you to come see their places. They aren’t luxury, but you can negotiate the prices down more with them than with established hotels. However, definitely check the room and its hot water.
Tip #2: Unless you’re really needing a treat, or comfort food, ignore your guidebook’s recommendations on restaurants too. You can find a perfectly delicious Peruvian lunch (drink, soup, main dish) for less than seven soles on your own. In Cusco, we liked Restaurant “Egos” on Loreto off the plaza.
Tip #3: Don’t take taxis in or around Cusco unless you’ve asked two-three people what the price should be. They charge outrageous amounts to tourists who don’t know--which happened to us once admittedly. A taxi from the bus terminal to the plaza, for example, should cost two or three soles.
Tip #4: Take the provincial buses to the Sacred Valley. They cost three to five soles whereas a taxi might cost 70 soles or more. Buses for Pisac leave from Puputi street in front of a green garage door (take a taxi for two soles to get there). Buses from Pisac on to Urubamba are two soles. You can take another one in Urubama for Ollantaytambo for two soles.
Tip #5: While I didn’t do this, I want to: Lonely Planet says you can get to Aguas Calientes without doing the Inca Trail (expensive) or taking the train ($43 each way). Take a bus for Quillabama from Cusco and get off at Santa Maria to stay the night in a simple lodge run by Lorenzo Cahuana. Catch another bus in the morning from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. Walk two hours to the hydroelectric plant and another two hours along the old train tracks to Aguas Calientes.
Tip #6: Don’t take the $15 bus up the hill from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. Walk the 20 minutes to the park gate then do the (extremely steep) hour hike up the hill. ALSO: If tickets to Waynu Picchu are important to you (another part of the ruins), you should probably leave the hotel at 3:00 am for your hike. Taking the bus won’t get you there in time to reserve one of the 400 tickets they give each day.