We accomplished our voyage to Machu Picchu in July 2018. Decent amount of time and money was allocated for this trip. It would have been a bummer without proper planning. To effectuate our dream, we spent 8-9 months preparing. This is a short summary of how we equipped ourselves for the trip to Machu Picchu.
Options to reach Machu Picchu
The easiest way is to take a train to Aguas Calientes town at the bottom of Machu Picchu and then take a shuttle bus to go up in the mountain. Bus ride usually takes about 30 minutes. We saw people walking from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu, but I recommend taking the bus.
If you want to make the trip more thrilling and exciting, then the Inca Trail is for you. Hiking to Machu Picchu, following the trail of Incas, is long and challenging. The Inca trail will take 4 days to get to Machu Picchu. Along the way, you will see the remains of the Inca civilization, which is a century old.
Alternatively, a 2-day Inca trail hiking option is also available.
We chose to follow the Inca trail to discover the way Incas built their empire and to see their engineering masterpieces.
When to visit?
Best would be to choose between May and October. According to our experience, June/July/August is a perfect time (dry season) to visit Machu Picchu.
Save it to spend it
You need to save money in advance if Peru is far away from your mainland. Your flights will be expensive depending on where you commence. We flagged off from Singapore, which is more than 30 hours of flying away from Peru.
Tip: Explore the neighboring countries of Peru as a bonus trip to your itinerary and experience another culture. We stopped over at Brazil for a couple of days, to see the signature Christ the Redeemer and the Sugarloaf Mountain.
Inca Trail permits are sold out very quickly hence you need to reserve them at least 6 months in advance. Only a limited number of hikers are allowed on the trails of Inca each day. So getting your permit in advance is essential.
The availability of permits can be checked here.
Tip: Permits should be bought through registered tour agents. It’s best to read the reviews about your agent before engaging them.
Inca Trail Reservations helped us to get the permits for Inca trail hiking, and escorted us during our trip.
Catching your flights early
Flight rates are unpredictable and can go high nearing the date to departure. Check for promotional flight rates and save some bucks to buy a ‘Chicha Morada’ (purple corn) drink from Peru.
Tip: Try multi-city flight search to get an idea of your traveling options. Better to search in more than one websites to get all the possible solutions. The one we tried was SmartFares. Once you figure out the routes and flights, look for cheap air tickets online. Remember to set aside at least 3 hours of layover time between any connecting flights.
Sleep comfortably and safely
We were told by many sources, including our colleagues from South America, that we have to be very careful if we go to a few South American countries. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any bad experience, and the people were accommodating. But advice is, better try not to take any risk especially when you are in an unfamiliar place.
Our accommodations were mostly near to the tourist spots and not far away from public transport options.
Tip: We asked among our South American colleagues for hostel options. There are many safe and comfortable hostels available which match your budget. Another tip is to negotiate for a free airport transfer with your hotel/hostel staff.
Public transport is cheap and convenient in most of the countries. At Brazil, their metro is priced at a flat rate regardless of your destination. It also gives you the chance to get to know the country and people better. Ask your hotel/hostels reception staffs for help if you wish to take a taxi. You may also choose Uber taxis if you feel comfortable.
Check before you leave
Check the weather forecast websites to have an idea of the climatic conditions you are going to face. The mountains are always unpredictable. Be prepared for rain, heavy wind, snowfall and also for hot weather conditions. Carry more than enough water (you will find it useful later). Pack your hiking materials and all other essentials to survive extreme weather conditions.
Make a list of attractions near to your stay over places and try to visit them as much as possible. Tickets can be bought online for many of the attractions like Sugarloaf mountain, tram to Christ the Redeemer, etc.
Do’s and don’ts
Adhere to the rules displayed and don’t invite unnecessary trouble to you and your travel mates. Remember you are a guest there.
What to eat?
What to eat is as important as Where to stay and How to travel? An upset stomach can spoil your entire trip. At the same time, prepare the list of authentic cuisines you want to try. Peruvian food is distinctive and flavoury, one of the very best cuisines in the world.
Keep one-day as a buffer especially if you are traveling to a different time zone. We preserved the day before the return flight to home as a buffer day. This really helped us to avoid the last-minute rush and got extra time to buy souvenirs and try some delicious food one more time. When you travel to high altitude places like Cusco, a buffer day is good for acclimatizing.
More the merrier
If you have friends, bring them along. It will be fun and recommended if you are going to countries with safety concerns.
Visa, Immigration and Vaccination
Check if you need a visa or any additional documents/vaccination to the country you are traveling. It is equally important as getting permits to Machu Picchu. For example, it is a requirement by Singapore Immigration to be vaccinated with Yellow Fever if we visit Brazil.
New restriction observed
While trying to convert US Dollar to Peruvian Sol, using Singapore passport as an identity proof, at one of the Peru airports the cashier told us that we can’t use Singapore passport to convert money. Singaporeans don’t need a visa to visit Peru. We didn’t understand her reason for the same because of language difficulties.