It tops the list of most people's bucket list and it doesn't disappoint. Machu Picchu is amazing but it doesn't have to cost you an arm and leg.
After walking into to at least 30 of the hundreds of tour operators bailable in Cusco, the most reasonable price we could find to Machu Picchu was USD $90 per person (transport to Hidroelectrica & return, 1 x night hostel, meals, and guide).
We didn't want to spend that much so we decided to do the trip independently and save as much money as possible
First, we had to buy tickets. The cheapest option is to do this in person at the Ministry of Culture. You can also purchase tickets through their website (http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/), however they are slightly more expensive.
There are three types of tickets;
Entrance only - 128 soles
Machu Picchu Mountain - 142 soles
Huayna Picchu - 152 soles
Once we had our ticket (entrance only), we could start making our way to Aguas Caliente. We chose public transport, taking a colectivo from Cusco to Santa Maria (22.50 soles). A second colectivo from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa (10 soles) and then a shared taxi (10 soles), Santa Teresa to Hidroelectrica. This was a mistake as it ended up being more expensive than transport provided by the agencies.
When we arrived in Hidroelectrica, the taxi pointed us in the right direction and then it was a 10km walk, following the train tracks to Aguas Calientes. This took us about 2 hours and the scenery was incredible.
In Aguas Calientes, we shared a pizza and a beer (25 soles) and found a cheap, private room with the most comfortable beds we've slept in for months for 40 soles.
The next day, we visited a bakery for some bread (2.5 soles) and made sandwiches for breakfast before cuing for the bus to Machu Picchu. The bus was the budget killer at USD $12 per person, one way, but it saved us hiking uphill and we were going to need all the energy we could muster to get around the site.
We also took snacks along to keep us powered. Technically, you can't eat inside but if you're discreet and take your rubbish with you, you shouldn't have any problems. Saves eating at the restaurant (28 soles for a burger!).
We had read enough information to understand the site before going so we didn't feel a guide would have enriched our experience. Instead, we enjoyed walking along at our own pace, taking photos and discussing it among ourselves.
When we had seen everything we wanted to see, we walked down the hill (free), and back along the train tracks, stopping along the way for a very tasty meat stick with potatoes (10 soles each).
In Hidroelectrica, we found a colectivo headed to Cusco for 35 soles each.
Our total cost was USD $91 including the bus from Aguas Caliente to the entrance of Machu Picchu. If we had walked, we would have come in at USD $79 but been dog exhausted for the rest of the day.
Videos by Global Runaways