For many, Machu Picchu isn’t simply a stop on a convoluted trip through the Americas - it is the reason to board a plane to Peru in the first place. Regularly featuring in ‘most visited tourist attractions in the world’ round-ups, and with more than a million visitors a year, it was only a matter of time before stricter rules and regulations were brought in to conserve this New Wonder of the World for future generations to come, better protect it from overtourism, and improve aspects of the visitor experience.
For visitors to Machu Picchu, 2019 is the year of some big changes; changes to entry times and tickets, to what is acceptable inside, what you can take into the site, how much time you have in there, and when you will need to buy that coveted sunrise ticket. The four-hour time limit really is only one small aspect of the whole host of new rules and regulations.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to Machu Picchu in 2019!
How and Where to Buy a Machu Picchu Ticket
Tickets to Machu Picchu can either be bought online or in-person from Cusco, Aguas Calientes or any city with a Banco de Nacion.
Cusco | Ministerio de Cultura (Casa Garcilaso on Calle Garcilaso), open Mon - Sat, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Ensure you bring your passport, a valid student card (if required), plus credit card or cash.
Aguas Calientes | Machu Picchu Cultural Centre (Av. Pachacutec), open Mon - Sun, 5 a.m. - 10 p.m. Ensure you have your passport, a valid student card (if required), and cash for ticket as credit cards are not accepted here.
Online | If you are visiting Machu Picchu in high season and would like to buy your tickets in advance (and for the lowest possible price), you will need to do so online, via the official government website. Do note that the website appears to only accept Visa cards (Update June 2019: a reader has informed us that they did manage to pay by MasterCard), and is a a little clunky to operate. Make sure, after the purchase, to take a note of your reservation number - not only will you require it to access and print your tickets, but you’ll also have something to refer to should you need to chase up a booking.
Should you encounter problems on this site, consider booking your tickets via GetYourGuide. The tickets work out a little pricier, but the buying process is much more straightforward.
When to Buy Your Machu Picchu Ticket
At which point in your planning you need to buy your ticket depends very much upon the type of ticket that you would like.
Should you only require entry to the ruins, you will usually be able to purchase tickets fairly last minute (although perhaps not for the most popular entry times, newly introduced in 2019); but if you want to summit Huayna Picchu you’ll need to be a lot more organised. It’s worth noting the around 2,500 people visit Machu Picchu daily.
As a good rule of thumb, the busier the season and the shorter your time in Peru, the earlier you should buy your Machu Picchu ticket. High tourism season in Peru runs from May to October, with the greatest number of visitors seen in July and August.
New 2019 Machu Picchu Rules and Regulations
As of January 1st 2019, a number of significant new rules have come into play with the aim of getting Machu Picchu off of UNESCO’s naughty list and becoming more sustainable. Some of these measures were long overdue and will hopefully better preserve the site and stave off the symptoms and impact of overtourism, however they may prevent you from experiencing the site exactly how you hoped if you don’t understand and prepare for the changes ahead of your visit.
Whereas in the past you could spend as long as you like exploring Machu Picchu once you entered the gates at a time of your own choosing, visitors now have to abide by a series of much stricter regulations:
You must hire a guide | This is a new rule that whilst theoretically brought in more than a year ago, has only recently been more stringently enforced; we’ll cover this in more detail later in the post.
You have to follow a set route | Gone are the days when you could clamber about on the ruins - now you need to follow a designated route as part of your tour.
You will have a designated time for entry | This is the aspect of the entry ticket that has changed the most since the first time we visited Machu Picchu back in 2015. It’s pretty bloody complicated but we’ve finally got our heads around it - see below for more specific information on all your options.
Machu Picchu 2019 Ticket Types
There are now four types of tickets available to those that would like to visit Machu Picchu in 2019, and within each ticket you will be required to select a specific time slot. We have summarised the options below:
Machu Picchu Ruins Only
This allows entry to the full Machu Picchu ruins, but not Machu Picchu Mountain, nor Huayna Picchu Mountain.
At the time of booking, you will be required to select an entry time, from which will have four hours in total to explore the site. It is important to note here that whilst in the past simply buying a ‘morning ticket’ entitled you to arrive at sunrise (the best time to take photos and experience a less crowded site), this possibility will only be open to the 300 or so people who purchase the 6 a.m. ticket.
So, if a sunrise entry is hugely important to you, we highly recommend buying your ticket as far as possible in advance as these will no doubt be snapped up very quickly.
There are hourly slots available, beginning at 6 a.m., with the final entry at 2 p.m.
Cost | Adults S/. 152 (£35 / $45 / €40), Children S/. 70 (£16 / $21 / €18), Students S/. 77 (£18 / $23 / €20)
Machu Picchu Ruins + Huayna Picchu Mountain Combo Ticket
Nicknamed the ‘Mountain of Death’ for its incredibly steep climb and terrifying - and seemingly at times, never ending - steps, Huayna Picchu (sometimes called Wayna Picchu), is the mountain that sits behind the Machu Picchu ruins. It offers a phenomenal view over the site.
Only 400 tickets are available each day at three specific morning timeslots for the hike to Huayna Picchu, therefore it is recommended that you purchase this type of ticket as far in advance as possible (at least three months before during high season). The hike itself is a 2-3 hour round-trip, and you will still be required to leave the site within the four hours allocated to each visitor (i.e. if you arrive at 6 a.m., you still have to leave by 10 a.m.).
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 a.m., followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 a.m., followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 a.m., followed by entry to Huayna Picchu between the hours of 10.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m.
Cost | Adults S/. 200 (£46 / $60 / €52), Children S/. 125 (£29 / $37 / €33), Students S/. 118 (£27 / $35 / €30)
Machu Picchu Ruins + Machu Picchu Mountain Combo Ticket
The slightly less cool little brother to Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu Mountain is absolutely still worth your time. A slightly easier (and less terrifying) climb, it will still provide spectacular views over the ruins and surrounding landscapes.
Only 800 tickets are available each day at three specific morning timeslots for the hike to Machu Picchu Mountain, therefore it is recommended that you purchase this type of ticket at least one week in advance or three weeks in advance during high season. This itself is around a 2 hour round-trip.
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 6 a.m., followed by entry to Machu Picchu Mountain between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 7 a.m., followed by entry to Machu Picchu Mountain between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Entrance to Machu Picchu from 8 a.m., followed by entry to Machu Picchu Mountain between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.
Cost | Adults S/. 200 (£46 / $60 / €52), Children S/. 125 (£29 / $37 / €33), Students S/. 118 (£27 / $35 / €30)
How to get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
For those of you not completing the Inca Trail, in order to reach Machu Picchu you will have to first pass through Aguas Calientes. From this small tourist-centric town (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo), you have two ways to reach the site entry point:
Probably one to avoid if you’ve arrived in the Sacred Valley without allowing yourself to acclimatise, but a lovely relatively easy hike otherwise.
To find the start of the trail, simply follow the route of the shuttle buses towards Machu Picchu until the road takes a sharp left turn over the river and you pass a small bridge (this should take no longer than 30 minutes). Immediately after the bridge, take an immediate right turn down a small lane and keep going until you reach the clearly sign-posted trail head. From here it is around another 60 minutes uphill walking to the entrance of Machu Picchu.
For most people, especially those wanting to arrive at Machu Picchu as early as possible, the shuttle bus is the preferred method of transport to the entrance. But note that at $12 each way, it is eye-wateringly expensive in terms of the typical distance / cost ratio you will see everywhere else in Peru.
These modern and relatively comfortable buses to Machu Picchu leave regularly throughout the day from the stop on Avenida Hermoas Ayer (close to the train station). The first departure is at 5.30 a.m., and under the previous Machu Picchu entry ticket system, anyone hoping to catch this or other early buses would have to start queuing for the bus at 4.30 a.m. as your bus ticket was not for a specific time slot and seats were allocated on a first-come-first-served basis, hence the early morning queuing. However, with the new Machu Picchu ticket system and entry times, we imagine that the shuttle buses will either introduce checks to make sure you are going up to the site for your allocated entry, or only sell you a ticket for a bus leaving for your allocated time slot. Either way, we expect that there will still be queues for early morning buses, but just less people in them. If you could let us know the situation in the comments so we can update the post, that would be much appreciated!
Tickets can be bought in Aguas Calientes at the bus stop the day before or on the day of your visit, and the bus takes 25 minutes around winding roads to reach the entrance.
And remember, with the new specific entry times and four-hour time limit, you really do not want to miss the bus and arrive late!
The Best Time to Visit Machu Picchu
Whilst a visit to Machu Picchu is certainly bucket-list fulfilling at any time of the year, there are definite plus points to visits at a particular time of the year.
For example, should you want to see this New Wonder of the World the way you have seen in in photographs - clear blue skies with only a wisp of beautiful cloud, ruins bathed in golden sunlight - you’ll need to visit in the dry season, between May and October when the weather is at its best.
Unfortunately, from June to August, this will also correspond with the largest crowds. Due to the fixed ticket numbers each day, there is a natural cap on visitor numbers, but we definitely noticed a difference in the number of people milling about during our visit in the low season, as compared to the high season.
A with much of Peru, it’s important to note that visitors in low season run a much greater chance of experiencing heavy downpours, so be prepared for this.
Before You Get to The Gate, Make Sure You Have Your Paperwork in Order
For those that lack a little organisation, this one is super important: you must have your passport with you in order to enter Machu Picchu. This does not mean a photocopy of your passport, nor a blurry photo on your phone, but your genuine, valid passport. Turn up without it and you almost certainly won’t get in.
Additionally, if you’ve bought your ticket in advance, you’ll need to have it printed out in order for the guys at the entry gate to check it and confirm it’s valid (and has the same name as your passport!).
Finding a Guide at Machu Picchu
From 2019, it is compulsory to have a guide to enter Machu Picchu*. Unless you are visiting the site as part of an organised tour from, for example, Cusco or Ollantaytambo, then you will need to hire your guide upon arrival at the site.
These men and women will be immediately obvious outside the entrance, but be sure to take your time in selecting one as whilst they should all hold a degree in tourism, knowledge and language skills can vary quite considerably.
The price per person for a guide depends on the number in the group, but as a general rule a 2.5 hour tour for 1-2 people will cost approx. S/. 140 (£32 / $42 / €36) in total. Should you have a larger group, expect the per person price to reduce. Tipping is often expected, but is absolutely not mandatory so do not feel that you have to.
Alternatively, you can buy your ticket, shuttle transport and guide as a complete package, click here for more information.
*Again, please let us know in the comments if you find that this rule is not being strictly enforced.
Pee before you enter
Understandably for a site that is hundreds of years old, there are no toilets once you step through the turnstiles at the entrance to Machu Picchu - so be sure to pee before you enter.
Cost | S/. 2 soles per person (if you’ve arrived here after the Inca Trail, like we did, it’ll be the best 2 soles you’ve ever spent!)
Don’t Be a Dick
Besides serious concerns regarding sustainability, the other reason it was felt that stricter rules needed to be brought into force was due to the lack of respect some travellers have shown to the site.
Contrary to what some leaping, flashing, and generally in-bad-taste selfies would suggest, Machu Picchu is a revered site. And when people time and time again show that they can’t play nice, the toy needs to be taken away - or in this case, an abundance of guards brought in with very loud whistles.
So yeah, treat the site with the respect it deserves.
Be Aware of What You can and Can’t Bring in to Machu Picchu
If you had visions of laying out a picnic overlooking picture-perfect ruins, now is the time to scrap it - the rules concerning food, and pretty much everything else are now pretty stringent in Machu Picchu to reduce litter, lingering, and (in some cases) fun.
Water bottles are fine (we’d recommend filling up a refillable one before you enter) but food of any description is not, so leave those sandwiches back in the hostel.
Neither are tripods, drones, obnoxious selfie sticks, or large backpacks. Trust us when we say that those guards have eyes everywhere, and you’ll soon be alerted to the fact that you’ve brought in something you shouldn’t.
If you fall foul of the backpack rule, there is a storage place before the entrance.