Machu Picchu Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts When Visiting the Inca City in Peru

Every day 2,500 people enter the gates of Machu Picchu and they are all there for one reason – to experience this beautiful, historical and magical place. But when there are that many people all on a common pilgrimage, problems can arise. To reduce potential issues and to maximize your enjoyment, it’s best to go with what I call the three Ps: a plan, propriety and lots of patience.

  1. DO Snap Memorable Shots 

Close your eyes and think of Machu Picchu. Now open them. What image came to mind? Was it this one? If so, it was for good reason as this is likely the most photographed angle of Machu Picchu.

Even if you don’t climb the couple hundred steps to snap this shot, chances are you will have your camera in hand seeking out the perfect photo op. As you’re going on your photo taking mission, be mindful of your surroundings, taking care not to step in front other people’s photos. While you may want every possible angle of the former Inca citadel, keep in mind that other travelers also want digital memories. Instead of hogging one area, consider stepping aside if others are waiting to take a picture where you are standing. You can always get back in there and snap away once they are done.

As far as getting a picture of your entire group, don’t stress. With 2,499 other people walking around it means there is always someone ready and willing to take a picture for you.

Pro tip: Learn how to take memorable pics with our “Tips and Tricks to Get the Perfect Shots” photography guide.

  1. DON’T Bring in Food

To protect the ambiance of and animals that live in Machu Picchu, officials have a strict no food or beverage policy (though they will allow one bottle of water per person).  Security guards will usually search the bags of each visitor, confiscating any epicurean contraband they find.

Now, this does not mean you can’t pack a picnic. You are free to leave food and beverages outside at the baggage check area. You may also purchase food at the two restaurants just outside the main entrance. Expect to pay movie theatre prices, however.

  1. DO Be Nice to the Llamas and Alpacas

One of the coolest things about Machu Picchu is the llamas and alpacas that roam freely. To us, Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but to them, it’s home, so show them the same respect you’d want someone to show you in your own home. Don’t feed, harass or try to ride them, and remember that while they are used to people, they are still wild animals.

  1. DON’T Litter 

Because Machu Picchu has a strict no food or drink policy, there are no garbage cans inside the park. If you’re a rule breaker who has decided to bring in a packet of granola or an apple to snack on, be a gem and stuff the trash back into your bag, disposing of it in a receptacle on your way out.

Aside from disrespecting this cultural site, litter like plastic wrappers or fruit peels can endanger the animals, like llamas, alpacas, rabbits and birds, that call Machu Picchu home.

  1. DO Be Prepared for Lines

Because you can enter Machu Picchu anytime between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., lines usually aren’t too bad. One exception to that generalization is during Machu Picchu’s peak season, June through August.

Expect to wait in line at various points during your journey. The most frustrating lines can be those you have to wait in to get your desired photo. Prepare yourself by being patient. Machu Picchu isn’t going anywhere so there’s no need to cut the line or be rude to your fellow travelers.

  1. DON’T Steal

While crews work hard to keep Machu Picchu stable, at five and a half centuries old, parts of the citadel are crumbling. If you happen to see a piece of the structure, don’t pocket it. Tell one of the official guides so they can work to preserve the structure.

After all, there are many places to pick up souvenirs, this UNESCO site isn’t one of them.

  1. DO Be Respectful

While Machu Picchu was built to house around 750 people, 1,300 times (~1,000,000 people) that number visit each year. Crews work hard to maintain the walkways and structures but they need visitors’ help in keeping the site pristine.

When you visit, stay on the walkways and don’t sit, climb or stand on the walls. Also keep in mind that you are surrounded by other people, some who have waited their entire lives to visit this sacred site. Try to keep you voice down so as not to disturb the experience of other travelers.

  1. DON’T Forget to Tip

Guides bring Machu Picchu alive, telling the history of the Incas and how they fled Machu Picchu when the Spanish arrived. They work hard to ensure that your trip is a memorable one. Before saying your goodbyes, tip your guide. A fair rate is S/.10-20 (US$3.50-$7) per person.

There is no need to tip at the cafe at Machu Picchu, however, if you dine at the sit-down restaurant, it is customary to leave a 10% tip.

You do not need to tip the train staff, bus driver or other Machu Picchu personnel.

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