Machu Picchu is probably the highlight of your Peru trip and indeed everyone should go. Accordingly, lot of content has been written yet as well, for instance about the costs or the different routes you can take to get there. Therefore, we will refrain from most practicalities and provide 8 practical Machu Picchu hacks to help you have the best time once you get to this world wonder in the rainy season. We tell you how to avoid the clouds and have the park to yourself in our rainy day itinerary, and lastly share some links to read more.
Just click on the hacks below, to go immediately to the explanation!
Machu Picchu hack 1: Buy the Machu Picchu Mountain ticket = second entrance
After entering the Machu Picchu park, there are actually two more mountains you could climb: Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu. Both take about 3 hours up and down and you need to book the tickets for these mountains in advance (around $25). Especially Huayna Picchu is sold out long in advance because this mountain gives you a view from the other side of the valley. Yet, in the rainy season, a few weeks in advance you can still get tickets.
We just booked Machu Picchu mountain extra but never intended to climb the actual mountain (if you want to, be at the designated entrance to that mountain before 10 am). On the contrary, we bought the ticket because a mountain ticket allows you to enter Machu Picchu a second time. A great investment, especially on a cloudy day and one of the best Machu Picchu hacks!
Because, whereas in the past you could roam freely in the park and enter multiple times, now your basic Machu Picchu ticket buys you one entrance and a one-way route down the hill. When you arrive at 6:30 am at the viewpoint (highest point of the park) and it’s too misty to see the actual view, without a mountain ticket you have no choice than wait at the viewpoint or forget about the view altogether. With the Machu Picchu or Huayna Picchu mountain ticket, you get a second entrance tough. So, you can come back later when the air has cleared to take in that perfect view! A great hack to Machu Picchu right?
Machu Picchu hack 2: Get a $20 student discount
This is a Machu Picchu hack especially for Exchange students in Peru, namely if you bring the student card from your host university in Peru, you could get up to $20 discount on your Basis Machu Picchu ticket! Make sure to mention to your tour company when booking multiple day hikes to Machu Picchu and they reserve the tickets for you.
Mind you, the ISIC card is not accepted for the discount. It really has to be a student card from the university itself (no copies of photos).
TIP: More tips for studying in Lima? We have a whole page dedicated to student exchange!
Machu Pichu hack 3: If cloudy, don’t hurry
The gate to the bridge leading to the trail to Machu Picchu opens at 5 am, but people will start lining up way earlier. In the end, it comes down to your own physical ability though: our friend entered the line at 4:40, bypassed 80 people on his way up and arrived the very first at the gate of Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu itself opens the doors at 6 am. Then, follows another 15 minutes up the hill to the best viewpoint.
However, when you visit Machu Pichu on a cloudy day in the rainy season, there really is no need to be first in line: when you arrive at the viewpoint you will literally not see a thing. So, this Machu Picchu hack implies that you can just chill down and try to enjoy your monstrous hike up the stairs or sleep in a little bit and take the bus.
Machu Picchu hack 4: Save your toilet receipt
The one and only toilet of the complex is located just outside the entrance. It will cost you two soles to use the bathroom (less than a dollar). However, there is a little hack: if you save your receipt, you can come back and go to the toilet for free a second time. A money saving hack to Machu Picchu, or as Joe would say: winner, winner, chicken dinner!
TIP: limit your water intake, as there are no toilets in the complex itself.
Machu Picchu hack 5: Interact with llamas, or watch others try
Maybe not so much a hack, but certainly something you should pay attention to because it’s very funny. Of course, more Peruvian/Bucket list than a photo with a llama with Machu Picchu in the background it cannot get. And thus everyone tries to get that one photo and people are willing to do anything for it. The llamas, on the other hand, don’t care at all, adding to the fun of watching. So, make sure to sit down and enjoy the selfie sticks and attempts to llama whispering.
Machu Picchu hack 6: what (not) to pack + luggage storage
We all know Machu Picchu is in the mountains, so we should pack accordingly, especially in the rainy season. Then, what does this mean? Layers, layers, layers. At 6 am it was proper cold at the viewpoint, but at 9 am you could comfortably walk around without a coat. It is smart to bring sunscreen too and mosquito repellent for sunnier days.
Officially, you are not allowed to bring bottles into the park, but no one checks this. However, really not allowed are walking sticks and backpacks that are too large. Fortunately, if you cannot leave them in your hotel, there is luggage storage near the entrance next to the toilets where you can safely leave your stuff.
TIP: don’t forget your passport, you need it to enter the park!
Machu Picchu hack 7: Bypass the basic viewpoints
I guess we can say that everyone knows that one photo of Machu Picchu, as it’s all over social media. What surprised us though, is that it’s actually quite hard to determine the location where it was taken from exactly because there are so many photo points provided in the park.
Up at the Guard’s House, you will be able to take a good photo for sure because, if you are not climbing the Machu Picchu mountain, this is the highest point (and busiest too). Much further in the direction of the Inka Bridge you have a perfect view as well and less competition from other tourists. That is one of our Machu Picchu hacks: take your time and walk over to some different viewpoints to enjoy the site a bit more quietly.
Machu Picchu hack 8: Get your passport stamped at 9 am
Right next to the exit you will find the stamping station where you can get a free stamp of Machu Picchu to put in your passport. Our tip: just make sure you get you to stamp early, say around 9 am, rather than around 12 pm.
Why? Because only the people with the mountain tickets will be exiting the park around 9 am (see hack 1). This really made a different, as when we got out of the park the fisrt time at 9 am, there was no line at all. However at 12, there easily were 20 people waiting.
Machu Picchu hack 9: The bus up? Decide the day before
Other than it’s cool to know you did it, our friends said there is not that much fun in walking up to Macho Picchu. Mainly because It’s a one hour walk of stairs and if you try to be quick you will miss the view while going up as well.
Additionally, at Machu Picchu, you still have to climb for 15 minutes and there is a lot of walking in the park. Might it be raining too, then after a week of hiking the bus up could be a pleasant option as well.
To have a good day at Machu Picchu, the hack here is to buy tickets the day before. Otherwise, you will have to line up twice in the morning: for the ticket and the actual bus. Bus tickets (40 soles) you can buy here till 9:30 pm (we were there at 9:15 and there was no line at all). Don’t forget to bring your passport when booking. The buses start driving at 5:30 am, the line starts forming earlier and the whole process is quite efficient!
TIP: buy some coffee for 4 soles in line! Totally worth it at 5 am.
Machu Picchu hack 10: The bus down? Buy tickets at the top
You just checked Machu Picchu off your bucket list. Next, you will have to get off this mountain again and the stairs might not look too inviting. Fortunately, there is a bus service as well and you can buy tickets on top of the mountain near the entrance. It will cost you about 40 soles ($12) and you need your passport to buy tickets. So, no need to decide the day before, you can just see how you feel after Machu Picchu.
The perfect rainy day itinerary
Combining all our Machu Picchu Hacks, this is whta we think would be the perfect day itineray:
Enter around 6:00 – 6:15 am and make your way up to the viewpoint. If you are unlucky like us, there will be only clouds and no Machu Picchu view. Follow the tour downhill (with your tour guide). As the people without a second entrance have to wait for the sky to clear, you will have the park all to yourself! It makes for beautiful photos and the mist adds an eerie effect. After the tour, exit the park around 8:30 am.
Go to the toilet, refresh and maybe even go for a rather nice coffee at the ‘Snack Bar’ (11 soles for an Americano, 15 for a cappuccino). Make sure to get your Machu Picchu passport stamp at this moment, because later the line will be longer. When you are ready, and the sky has cleared, reenter. Make your way up to the viewpoints and take all the time you want to make that perfect Machu Picchu shot. Ready? Take the shortcut to the exit and depending on how tired you are, the bus or the stairs back.
Want to read more?
We are excited to have shared our hacks to Machu Picchu, but there is a lot more to read about this magical place. For instance, we especially liked the piece by National Geographic with ten hidden secrets. Unfortunately, we only found out about the Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón after returning to Cusco. We would totally have wanted to visit if we knew before. Moreover, the official site from the Peruvian government is very informative considering tickets for the park, bus, and trains. Lastly, this post of Thrifty Nomads gives the most detailed overview of visiting Machu Picchu I have seen so far. It includes everything from transport, accommodation to different hikes to the sacred place.
Besides to Machu Picchu, there is so much more to see in Cusco and its surroundings though! You could, for instance, check out the Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley. We visited both on a budget (only 70 soles in total) and write elaborately how we did this! Just click on any of the links below to go to the respective post.
Tips and Tricks to see the Red Valley when in Peru
The Inca ruins were to us what everyone promised it to be: a once in a lifetime experience. We hope that with these Machu Picchu hacks, you have an incredible time too.
In short, make sure you buy a ticket to the Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain for a second entrance such that you can take it easy on the morning of your visit. Once there, wander around and pass the main viewpoints, see people interact with llamas and get your passport stamped. Busses drive all the time and only the one up you need to book in advance. Lastly, don’t forget your student card for a discount and your passport to enter the park.
Do you have more Machu Picchu hacks for other travelers yourself? Let us know in the comments!