Eventually every one who is planning a trip to Machu Picchu will learn that there is a size limit for bags on the train to Machu Picchu. That is just the beginning of the information you need to know about the most practical kind of luggage to bring on your excursion to Machu Picchu. And there's more. I'm going to explain what you don't know yet. Whether you're traveling to Peru with carry-on luggage or checked bags, there are things you should know about the segment of your trip between Cusco (or Sacred Valley), and Machu Picchu. Literally every single person who goes to Machu Picchu will need to decide what kind of luggage to take. This post is not about the items you pack in your luggage. Whether you take the train, hike the short Inca Trail or go the long Inca Trail, I'm going to describe the KIND of luggage that is best suited for the conditions you will encounter in Cusco and en route to Machu Picchu. Even those courageous souls who opt for a one-day trip by train to Machu Picchu will benefit from my advice. Scroll down for links to view the kinds of bags I'm talking about, because a picture is worth a thousand words. (which I'm still going to write anyway! haha)

This is not about your packing list. If you need pre-departure information including a packing list for travel to Peru, CLICK HERE.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that you can't bring hard cases or other kinds of bags on the train to Machu Picchu. I'm saying they're not ideal under some circumstances. Lots of visitors take rolling carryon size suitcases on the trains. But trains to Machu Picchu do not have baggage cars. People are creative with the choice of bags and we even saw someone hiking the easy 1-day Inca Trail with all their gear in a large plastic shopping bag whose handles were looped around their shoulders. On the trains, all items must fit under your seat, behind your seat or in a small unsecure open area in the rear of your carriage. Then you hand-carry your bags to your hotel. Some hotels may arrange for staff to meet you at the station to assist with carrying your bags. Next, I'm going to explain why your choice of luggage even matters. 

Luggage for Traveling through Airports on your trip to Peru

Let's start with the latest trends in luggage for traveling through airports. Rolling hard cases are all the rage. There's nothing more convenient than gliding through an airport with barely one finger pushing a stand-alone suitcase with four grippy, shock-absorbing wheels. Airport corridors, elevators, jetbridges, bathrooms, gates, and even restaurants are designed to accommodate humans escorted by their inanimate rolling carryalls. Standardized cases fit the overhead bins in airplane cabins like sets of matching encyclopedias lined up in a bookcase. The contents of these durable rolling capsules are snug, dry and safe from accidental bumping and dropping. The only possible down side is the extra weight of the case. But this seems to be offset by the ease and convenience for people of all ages and abilities to have the freedom to transport their stuff. Besides, there's always at least one kind-hearted beefy dude (or dudette) willing to assist with the occasional hoisting. 

Luggage for Urban and Rural Settings in Peru

Here's what you need to know about getting around cities and rural places with suitcases in Peru:

  • Be prepared to hand-carry bags. Wheels may be useful for some portions of your trip. The best rolling bags are those that can be comfortably carried from time to time. 
  • Many taxis are small. For 2 - 4 people this is usually not a problem to toss the luggage into the trunk. If you're part of a group, it's entirely possible that some bags will be strapped to the roof rack of the van picking you up.. 
  • Paved surfaces in urban settings can be rough, broken, steep and cobbled. I don't mean cobbles made from smooth pavers. You would think that the Peruvian department of transportation would have used some of the precision cut stones carved by the Inca as a template for building cobbled streets. But sadly, they did not. This is also a reason it's not easy to use strollers and wheelchairs. 
  • It's not common for hotels to have elevators. But fortunately, hotel staff will assist in hand-carrying your luggage to your room. 
  • If you're going to a jungle lodge, they will ask you to take only the things you need for your stay in the lodge packed in a soft side duffle bag. Hard cases do not stack well in canoes and are more difficult to transport on foot between docks and lodges. Most lodges have soft-side loaner bags and provide storage for excess luggage.

What are the conditions for carrying luggage to Machu Picchu?

  • For overnight trips to Machu Picchu, all hotels except Belmond Sanctuary Luxury Hotel, are located in the village of Aguas Calientes within walking distance of the train station.
  • Luggage is hand-carried at various stages of the trip from Cusco (or Sacred Valley) to your hotel in Aguas Calientes. 
  • Luggage on the trains is not checked or ticketed for tracking. You get on the train and stash your bag wherever it fits. 
  • Staff from the 5* luxury hotels in Aguas Calientes will transport your bags between the train station and the hotel. Other hotels may do this as well. Just ask if you're not sure. Otherwise you will walk from the train station to your hotel with all your bags.
  • The entry to the train station in Aguas Calientes is right behind the market. Every passengers must walk through the market to get in and out of the station
  • The entire village of Aguas Calientes is paved including stone steps, cobbles, small bridges, and rough concrete pavement. Rolling bags will need to be carried over some portions of the walk to your hotel from the train station.
  • There is no public conveyance in and around the pedestrain-only village of Aguas Calientes. No cars or taxis. No scooters or pedi-cabs. The only motorized vehicles are the buses going to and from Machu Picchu all day.
  • Some hotels have elevators. They will be small boxes large enough for maybe 2-3 people. It's not unusual for hotels with 3-4 stories not to have an elevator at all.

Tips for choosing the best kind of luggage for your trip to Machu Picchu

  • Trains to Machu Picchu do not allow passengers to bring large bags. There's no luggage carriage. The official policy states that each passenger is permitted 1 bag or backpack up to 11 lb / 5kg weight and total of 62 linear inches (length + height + width) Our tour guides report that passengers often carry an additional personal bag like a purse. Or bring a small duffle bag and a small personal backpack. We've never seen anyone get zapped for bringing a bag that's "too big." 
  • No matter what bag you choose to use for your trip to Peru, make sure it's a size and weight you can handle on your own. Unless you're treating yourself with luxury services all the way.
  • Link to view OSPREY 35 Liter rolling carryon-size backpack on REI WEBSITE.  This is the largest I would use. And it's too big to fit under the seat, so you need to carry a personal bag for your valueables.
  • If you're traveling with only one backpack, use a moderate, manageable size with hip straps and padded shoulder straps. And have a separate passport pouch or personal bag for valuables.
  • Instead of a roller bag, consider packing in a soft side duffle bag. 
  • Bring a soft side small duffle bag in your roller bag and use it to pack only the things you need for your side trips. How big? For a 2-day 1-night trip you need no more than 8-10 pounds of personal gear. REI Lightweight Duffle Bag
  • All hotels in Cusco and the Sacred Valley store excess luggage when you hike the Inca Trail or take the train to Machu Picchu
  • Bring an extra folding backpack, stringbag or shoulder bag to use for day trips including the tour of Machu Picchu. I use the North Face lightweight folding pack
  • How many nights should you stay at Machu Picchu? One is plenty. CLICK HERE to read more
  • All hotels in Aguas Calientes will store your bags while you visit Machu Picchu. Bring a small collapsible bag to use for the tour of Machu Picchu

What Inca Trail Hikers Need to Know about Luggage for their trip to Machu Picchu

  • All hotels in Cusco and Sacred Valley will store your excess luggage while hiking the Inca Trail
  • Hikers on the 1-day Inca Trail need to use a backpack large enough to hold everything needed for the 1-day hike + 1 overnight in a hotel. We suggest a maximum size 24 liters women / 28 liters men.
  • We can arrange for a porter to travel by train and deliver 1 small bag to your hotel in Aguas Calientes if you want to lighten your backpack for the hike and still have clean clothing and other toiletries available after the hike.
  • On the 2nd day of the 2-day Inca Trail hike, it's recommended that hikers store their backpacks in their hotels during the guided tour of Machu Picchu. 
  • We recommend that hikers bring a small string bag or folding backpack to use just to carry essentials for the guided tour of Machu Picchu on day 2 of the Inca Trail hike.

What else do you need to know before you travel to Machu Picchu? 

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