It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for – watching the clouds that hang low over Machu Picchu clear to reveal the former Inca citadel surrounded by a verdant landscape. But that lifelong dream quickly turns into a nightmare when you realize you didn’t buy your tickets in advance.
Fear not, curious explorers, we at Only in South America have you covered.
The first thing you need to know is this: You must purchase your tickets in advance. There are no exceptions to this. Well, in Peru, there are almost always exceptions; sure there are one-off cases of a sensitive gatekeeper taking pity on a tourist, or the tourist offering a propina (known as a “tip” in Peru, this is basically a bribe), but in general, the no exceptions rule takes precedence and you will be turned away without tickets in-hand. You’ve waited a lifetime for this; you’ve traveled half-way across the world for this; you’ve saved up for months and even years for this: get your tickets before you get to the gate.
Buy them in Cusco
Both the Instituto Nacional de Cultura in Cusco City and the Machu Picchu Cultural Center in Machu Picchu Pueblo (formerly Aguas Calientes) sell tickets.
That said, waiting until you arrive in Peru could be detrimental to your trip if you plan for Machu Picchu to be a part of it. Simply put, Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and can only officially issue 2,500 entrance tickets to Machu Picchu each day. It is not unheard of for tickets to be agotado (sold out) for weeks at a time during the peak season (June-September).
Buy them through a third-party ticket seller
I recommend that you buy your tickets as soon as you know the date(s) you will travel to Machu Picchu. There are a slew of online ticket dealers that make this possible; a simple search will give you quick access to hundreds of them. While this does take some of the stress out of buying tickets, keep in mind that you are paying for that convenience.
I found that some of these third-party sites charge as much $90 for one boleto. Through Peru’s Ministero de Cultura (a government page, not a travel agency), one adult entrance ticket for a non-Andean community member (a resident of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador or Peru) costs S/.126 or ~US$45. So, if you follow the steps listed below in point three, you can book your own tickets in a few minutes, save yourself upwards of $45 per ticket and spend that cash on something else.
Buy them through the official government site
The last but certainly not least way to buy your tickets is to head over to Peru’s Ministerio de Cultura page. Open this page in two windows, one in Spanish (as designated by the Spanish flag) and the other in English (as designated by the Union Jack flag). While you can’t actually book the tickets on the English site, you can use it as a guide to help you book your tickets on the Spanish site.
1) Under Compra en Linea (Book Online), select where you want to go (Machu Picchu) and what circuit you want to do (i.e., Machu Picchu, Machu Picchu and the museum, Machu Picchu and Huaynapicchu, or Machu Picchu and the mountain). Then navigate to the calendar just below to select your date of travel.
*Note: The number under Disponibilidad (Availability) tells you how many more tickets are available for the day you have selected.
2) Once you have that sorted, figure out how many adult tickets you want to buy. Students and minors (those younger than 18) receive a discount and children under eight-years-old enter for free. Navigate to extranjeros (foreigners) and change the cantidad (quantity) of tickets you wish to purchase using the arrows.
*Note: In the section just below the extranjerossection, the price drops by 50%. The government reserves this boleto for residents of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
3) Scroll down and click Paso 2(Step 2). A new page will load where you will enter the information of each traveler.
Fill out the blank boxes with the legal nombres (first name) and apellidos (last name) as noted on the passport, whether that person is male or female (under sexo), the pais (country) of the issued passport, the person’s edad (age) at the time of entrance, the type of document the person will use as identification (likely pasaporte), and the numero documento (passport number). Repeat the steps for each passenger, then verify that everything is correct.
*Note: The countries list is in Spanish. Country names are as follows:
- Canada = Canada
- Estados Unidos = United States
- Inglaterra = England
- Sudafrica = South Africa
- To find out the name of your country in Spanish, use Google Translate.
Once it is, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Paso 3 (Step 3). A new page will load and you will finalize your purchase.
4) If you would like, you may Leer Términos y Condiciones (read the Terms and Conditions – though they are in Spanish). Once you are ready to make the big purchase (re-check the names, document types and document numbers), check the box next to Acepto las condiciones and navigate to the button that reads Generar Reserva (Generate Reservation).
A new window will open. Save your reservation as a PDF to your desktop and be sure to print a copy for your records. On this page, note that you have a reservation number (reserva) unique to you.
5) Copy that reserva. Navigate back to the main Ministerio de Cultura page and click the Pagos (Payments) tab.
Paste the Codigo de Reserva (reservation code) into the box and click Pagar (Pay). A completely new page will load.
You will notice that there is a Gastos Administrativos (Administrative Fee) charge of S/.5.80 (~US$1.80) for each ticket. This is a credit card/administrative fee.
6) Next, verify – once again – that all of your information is correct. If it is, click Enviar (Send) to proceed to the payment screen.
On this screen, everything is bilingual, in Spanish and English. Enter all of your details and finally, click the Pagar/Pay button.
*Note: If you have Verified by Visa, you will have compete that step as well. Otherwise, you are all set.
7) HAVE FUN!
Also, be sure to keep all emails and print all of your documents to bring with you to Machu Picchu. I would even suggest emailing saved or scanned copies to yourself as a back up in case the documents get lost or damaged.
A final bit of information – if something happens that you cannot go to Machu Picchu on your selected dates, get in contact with the Instituto Nacional de Cultura in Cusco City. Representatives there can work out the logistics of getting you new tickets.
What to Pay:
:: S/.126 (~US$45) for adults over the age of 18
:: Students and those under the age of 18 receive a discount (with valid ID)
:: Children under the age of eight enter for free
When to Buy:
:: In short, buy tickets as soon as you know the date(s) you will visit Machu Picchu
:: High season (June through September) means that tickets can be scarce, with tickets being sold out for days and weeks at a time during July and August.
Where to Purchase Tickets:
:: Online through Peru’s Ministero de Cultura
:: In-person at the Instituto Nacional de Cultura in Cusco City and the Machu Picchu Cultural Center in Machu Picchu Pueblo
:: Via an online Machu Picchu ticket dealer (expect to pay more)
How to Purchase Tickets:
:: Buy tickets online with a Visa credit card
:: You can also pay for tickets once you have a reservation code in person in Peru at these locations or at any Banco de la Nacion