How to Powder Your Nose at Machu Picchu
It's the elephant in the room at Machu Picchu. The one with his legs crossed. The thing that no one dreams they have to put on their list of "essential things to plan when I go to Machu Picchu." Who could imagine that you need to organize your entire trip to a world-renowned high-profile destination around the availability of the restrooms? Are you prepared to wear a diaper for your visit to Machu Picchu? Let's talk about toilets.
I get emails from savvy travelers who have figured out that there is only one restroom at Machu Picchu and that facility is located outside the main entry, and if they dare need to micturate (cool word, huh) while inside the national park, surely there is no accommodation for re-entry to the ruins. They can't believe there is no allowance for this basic human need during tours of Machu Picchu. Technically anyone can exit and use the facilities anytime they choose. But the consequence is they are banned from re-entry using the same ticket. Everyone wants to know. "What if I have to powder my nose during my tour of the citadel? Can I exit and re-enter?"
The quick answer is no. But what if nature calls? Surely the Peruvian government will make allowance for normal bodily functions right? Haven't they heard of urinary tract infections, prostate gland hyperplasia or urinary urgency, which apparently can strike at any time? Well yes you are allowed to tinkle anytime you choose. But there's a catch. Restrooms are provided outside the main entry, and for only 2 soles per person, you can use them as frequently as you need to. But if you exit the park to have a go during your tour, you will not be allowed to re-enter with general admission tickets.
People can't seem to accept that the Peru government can get away with this practice. Except maybe during airplane take-offs and landings, there are not many places in the world where you have limited access to a toilet. Should you add "bladder training" to the list of things you need to do to prepare for your trip to Peru?
Could this be a covert gimmick implemented by the Peruvian government to limit the amount of time people can spend inside the citadel? Since we're talking about elephants, I might as well go ahead and say it. "I think I smell a rat!"
Using the natural call of mother nature could be considered either a brilliant strategy, or a dastardly ploy to limit human traffic in Machu Picchu. I'm trying not to picture a group of "suits" sitting in a back office at the Ministry of Culture laughing their heads off.
How often do normal people need to tinkle?
- medical standards say its normal to urinate 4-10 times every 24 hours.
- what if you're taking medication? Especially acetazolamide which is often taken for adjusting to high altitude
- what if you're drinking coca leaf tea, or coffee, both of which can have a diurectic affect?
- what if you're engaged in an outdoor activity and you're drinking more water because that's what you're supposed to do!
None of that matters. What matters is that there is one bano outside the main entry of Machu Picchu and all visitors should prepare a strategy to take care of their needs when mother nature calls out their name.
Come up with a game plan for taking a whiz:
- Buy two entry tickets to get in at different times. This will give you a break between your visits. Remember you can't buy tickets at the gate. (I have an idea to try to buy a ticket from my phone at the main entry. There are risks. Bad wifi connection. Government website doesn't work. Payment won't work on my phone. I'll post details when it's done. Check back)
- Tank up on fluids the day before you visit and restrict your liquid intake on the morning of your tour to reduce your need to urinate
- Limit your consumption of diuretic-inducing drinks
- Set up 2 short visits on 2 different days. Afternoon visit then overnight and morning visit the next day.
- Wear an adult diaper. (Maybe we'll add it to the Machu Picchu packing list)
Guided Tours of the Citadel:
- average time for the main citadel takes 2 hours with a private guide (tours by pickup guides at the main entry may be shorter duration)
- average time for guided tour of citadel with Adios guide is 3-4H
- choose from 2 one-way circuits beginning at the main gate and ending at a separate exit gate. The circuit that goes up to the guard shack may take a little longer.
- each general admission ticket is valid for one entry
What if you want to spend more time in Machu Picchu?
- consider hiking the easy 1-day Inca Trail which is part of 2 day trip to Machu Picchu (permits include 1 entry to Machu Picchu the day after the hike. There's no camping. One overnight in a hotel in Aguas Calientes is included.) Follow this link to read about the Inca Trail
- you don't need extra tickets to hike up to the Sungate from Machu Picchu. Allow at least 2H for the round trip which ends near the guard shack where you can enter right in to the citadel for a guided tour of the main city. (If you have morning ticket make sure you enter before 12N)
- buy tickets which include hikes to Machu Picchu Mountain or Huayna Picchu. Even those tickets will have time restrictions now. You don't have to actually do the hike, but you do need to be aware of the entry times to the main gate based on the timestamp on your tickets.
I hope you've enjoyed this frank discussion about a topic that is rarely discussed but could turn out to be very important. Afterall you don't want your visit to the bano at Machu Picchu to become the most lasting memory of your trip.