Avoid These Mistakes When Buying Tickets to Machu Picchu
Can travelers buy their own tickets to Machu Picchu? Should they? What are the risks for making a mistake? Do people actually go to Machu Picchu and get turned away if there's an issue with their ticket or document? It's my intention to explain the details and share a couple of stories, not to twist your gut into knots, (which it might!) but to learn from mistakes made by real people. These are legitimate tales told to me from Vidal, our manager in Cusco and a few of our tour guides that I know really well. Grab a cup of something depending on what time of day it is, then listen up!
The short quick answer is "Yes," anyone can access the official Machu Picchu government website and buy entry tickets. If you're one of those people who is comfortable navigating new websites and have the skills to analyse the layout and the info to determine what you want, then there's no reason why you can't and shouldn't buy your own tickets online. However there are a few pits full of vipers waiting for anyone who slips up. Most mistakes aren't deadly. But they can affect your experience. However. Occasionally, people fall into the abyss landing eye to eye with a slithery reptile. I can't tell you how often this happens because there's no way to track the mishaps. But there are enough incidents in our little slice of the pie, that I think it's worth mentioning. .
How do you decide which tickets to buy for your trip to Machu Picchu?
Not fully understanding your ticketing options is one of the first steps in making mistakes. This is where it can get complicated because there are tickets for 4 hikes inside the park, plus general entry tickets called (Machu Picchu Llaqta). Each of the 4 hikes is paired with one entry ticket to a circuit inside the city. The biggest issue this year affecting which tickets to buy, seems to be that visitors are showing a preference for access to the upper terrace for the Classic View of Machu Picchu. Let's say access to the Classic View of Machu Picchu is all the rage this year. What is it? CLICK HERE to read more.
Mistake #1. You think you're buying Machu Picchu tickets from the official government website. But you're not.
Why does this matter? Isn't it OK to buy tickets from ticket distributors? Yes. And no. Here's why. There are fraudulent companies misrepresenting themselves or allowing you to think they are "the" official government website, taking money, then "ghosting" people. "But Jacquie, we are 100% sure we were on the Ministerio de Cultura website!" Nuhuh! Is all I got to say. How do you know if a company is legit? Use your third eye, your spidey sense or your gut. But if you see something that looks like a red flag, acts like a red flag, waves like a red flag, it probably is. Referrals from your friends and family who used certain websites for their tickets is the most reliable source. Below I provided the domain name and the link to the one and only official Machu Picchu government website.
Tips to determine if the website you're on is the official Machu Picchu government website:
- The cost for 1 adult Machu Picchu Llaqta entry ticket is 152 Peruvian soles. (rates are going up on January 1, 2024.) If you're being asked to pay in USD or to pay more than 152/s, that's a clue you may not be on the official government website.
- If you see packages that offer Machu Picchu tickets combined with trains or buses or tours, you're not on the official government website
- if the domain name at the very top of your browser bar doesn't match this: https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/ you're not on the official government website
- if the company you're communicating with does not want to show you the reservation code after you have paid and provided your passports, you're not on the official government website.
- If you don't get an email with your reservation code immediately after generating a reservation on the website, you're not on the official government website. (that email is when the 3 hour window to complete the payment begins. TickTock!)
- Only the official government website has the page where you can paste your reservation code into this link on the official government website to see your tickets. (I suggest you print hard copies)
Mistake #2: Payment for Machu Picchu tickets did not go through and you don't know it
- Credit cards / debit cards are the only way to pay for Machu Picchu tickets online. People in Cusco have the option to pay in person at Banco de la Nacion, or the ticket office on Garcilasa street. (with 3 hour window to complete payment. More TickTock!)
- Machu Picchu website offers two options for processing credit cards. When we buy tickets we use VISA which we have noticed doesn't always work after hours. For some reason it only works during Peru business hours. We think it might be the merchant service provider NIUBIZ. We also have Mastercard and we have found the 2nd processor (which is IZIPAY) works round the clock with MC. (see the image at the top of this post. The payment options are displayed in the lower left corner)
- After completing your payment, go to your credit card or bank statement and look for the transaction. It may be pending, in which case you need to check back just to confirm that the payment was successful. Payments can be rejected. If that happens you can double check by pasting your reservation code on the official government website. (I provided the link above in the previous mistake) If you don't see your tickets then you can start over and generate a new reservation. It is possible to buy more than one ticket per person per day. So. Make sure you confirm that the payment definitely didn't go through before you start over.
- It has happened that people show up without the actual entry ticket to Machu Picchu because the payment got screwed up and it wasn't discovered until right before departure and there were no more tickets available. Vidal said that it happens often enough that the gate agents often let people in if they have some kind of evidence that they got a reservation code and attempted to pay, but for some reason it didn't work. However, do not call me and say "Jacquie they wouldn't let me in!" I'm just sharing here. No one can guarantee that on the day you show up with a messy ticketing situation, that the ticket agents will all be in a good mood, waving you in as they wipe the tears in their eyes after hearing your sad story.
Mistake #3: You bought tickets but you printed the wrong page.
We see this all the time when people hire Adios tour guides to meet them in Machu Picchu. They buy their own tickets usually from a 3rd party, thinking that all they have to do is print the email. What they don't realize is that they don't actually have a ticket in hand. They might be clutching the equivalent of a square of toilet paper. You need to have a "ticket," not an email confirming that you paid for your tickets. Tickets should come through as attachments, or PDF, or use the reservation code in the official government website to access your actual tickets. Print.
Mistake #4: You bought the wrong ticket to Machu Picchu
Here's the thing. No matter what ticket you get, you're still going to see Machu Picchu, which is amazing! As long as the entry time of the ticket you buy is compatible with your trains and other logistics, just go and enjoy. Have fun! Neener, neener, neener. You're still in Machu Picchu! I'm jelly! Although confirmed tickets cannot be changed, you can buy additional entry tickets on the same date if they're available. Tickets must be purchased in advance online or in person in the city of Cusco. You cannot buy tickets on site. CLICK HERE to read more.
Mistake #5: You showed up at Machu Picchu main gate with the wrong passport
Passports expire, get lost, dogs eat them etc. But here's what you need to know. The one and only passport you used to buy your Machu Picchu entry ticket (also Inca Trail permit) is the exact same one and only passport you need to show when you enter the joint. "But Jacquie!. I need to buy my ticket now and then renew my passport!" Don't worry. There is a solution. You have to travel with both your old passport and your new passport. That's simple to do. Just don't forget!
Mistake #6. You entered the wrong personal info when you generated your reservation for Machu Picchu tickets
People make typing errors from time to time, if not daily. When you book airline tickets you know to double check the information you provided before you click the magic button that locks down that reservation. The same attention to detail should apply to your Machu Picchu entry tickets, your train tickets and any other tickets that asks for personal information. Recently we had a young man mistakenly enter the wrong year for his birth when he bought his own Machu Picchu tickets. Vidal thought it was worth asking about and went to the office in Cusco to talk to an agent. They said as long as he didn't pay a lower student rate trying to pass himself off as younger than he is, it would be fine. I'm not telling you that you can disregard typos or errors that could potentially make your tickets invalid. It depends on the severity of the error. If you make a mistake just send an email to the office and ask them how they would like you to handle it. Here's the email address from, you guessed it, the official Machu Picchu government website: email@example.com
Mistake #7. You bought a non-refundable flight to Peru before you confirmed that tickets to Machu Picchu are available
Here's the first thing you should ask yourself if you see really cheap last-minute international flights to Peru. "Why are they so cheap? Could it be that all Machu Picchu entry tickets are sold out?" You only need to check the one and only official Machu Picchu government website to get the answer to that question. I showed you how to do that in in the list of TIPS above. Now you need to read my post about what to do when Machu Picchu entry tickets are sold out.
Mistake #8. You bought train tickets that include Machu Picchu entry tickets right?
Yes and no. Be very careful. If you're not seeing tickets available for your dates on the official Machu Picchu government website, that means tour operators, hotels, tour guides and train companies can't buy tickets either. In order to buy a ticket, everyone must make full payment and present a valid passport for the Machu Picchu visitor..In other words, no one can store blank tickets for later use. Perurail has Hiram Bingham luxury trains that include entry tickets but they must be purchased at least 30 days in advance. Given the nature of the fluctuating availability for Machu Picchu tickets in 2023, I would double check that entry tickets are guaranteed for any dates regardless of how early you are organizing your trip. IncaRail offers upgraded service that includes private tour guides and bus tickets but they will use YOUR entry tickets. Once you are less than 30 days from your proposed visit to Machu Picchu, all bets are off. Here's a link to our blog about "When Machu Picchu Tickets are Sold Out."
Mistake #9. You bought a ticket based on the entry time for the hike you wanted, but found out your entry time to the main gate is 1 hour earlier.
All the entry times for tickets that include one of the 4 hikes inside the park will be listed on the official government website. Be aware that when you click on the 2nd page to buy your tickets you will see the entry time to Machu Picchu Llaqta (main gate) will be one hour prior. This is to allow you time to explore the circuit before your hike if you are buying Huayna Picchu or Huchuy Picchu. What if your train arrives too late for the earlier entry time? You can still get in the main entry but you will not have as much time to tour the circuit before the Huayna Picchu and Huchuy Picchu hikes. There is a one hour window for starting the hike and they are strict about you showing up on time. For instance, if your start time for Huayna Picchu hike is 10-11AM, you have until 11 AM to checkin for the hike. I suggest you show up no later than 15 minutes before the window starting time closes. In this case you would be at the checkin kiosk no later than 10:45AM. For hikes that begin from the upper terrace, usually you can do the hike before the tour of the circuit. Keep in mind that the Montana Machu Picchu hike is roughly 3 hours roundtrip. I recommend using trekking poles for the descent just because the cobblestone sections are rough.
How hard is it to buy Machu Picchu entry tickets online?
To buy your own tickets online at the official Machu Picchu government website, you basically need two things:
- Passports - must be valid for at least 6 months after your travel dates. Can you use an expiring passport? Yes but you need to travel with both your new passport to enter the country, and your old passport if that's what you used to buy your tickets. You need the passport for each person you're buying a ticket for.
- Payment - is a two-step process on the official Machu Picchu government website. Whatever method of payment you choose, there is a 3 hour window to complete the transaction or your reservation will be cancelled. Where does it say that? Surprisingly it's not on the booking page. The only place I'm aware that provides this absolutely essential information, is on the first email you get after you make your reservation. The email is titled RESERVA DE BOLETO ELECTRONICO and includes 12 instructions. #3 clearly states: "Make the payment for this reservation within a maximum period of 3 hours, otherwise, the reservation will be automatically cancelled."
What should you do after you pay for your Machu Picchu tickets online?
- The first email you get when you generate your reservation includes a unique reservation code. After your payment is complete, you can copy and paste that reservation code on the Machu Picchu government website page under the tab BUSCAR RESERVA. CLICK HERE to open the link to the official Machu Picchu website page where you can paste your reservation code. Your tickets should open up in a window. From there you can print them which I highly recommend, even if you have an electronic QR code on your phone.
- Check your bank account or credit card statement ASAP to confirm the transaction was completed. (some cc accounts may show recent purchases pending. I would go back and confirm a day later to make sure nothing was rejected.)
Is it OK to buy Machu Picchu entry tickets from a private party reselling?
No. No..Never. Tickets cannot be resold. People trying to resell their personal Machu Picchu tickets have no idea what they're doing. Or they're swindlers. CLICK HERE to read more. (just to be clear, if you are in Cusco and working with a trained tour operator, there is a method to transfer a ticket. The process is complex and above my pay grade)
Every once in a while we get a panic phone call late at night or on the weekend from a person preparing to leave for their trip to Peru, who just found out that the Machu Picchu entry tickets they thought they bought and paid for at some point in the past, are not there. Nada. It's got to be the worst feeling ever.
It was approaching late July and my phone rang at 3AM on a Saturday night. Someone left a message. I knew it had to be bad. It was. I'm sharing this story because it's a classic mistake we've heard before. And it gets worse during the July and August busy season.
Lori in Texas bought 2 sets of entry tickets online and had trouble paying with her credit card. She noticed that one of the payment options was to pay at the office in Cusco. So she decided to pay in person in the office in Cusco when she arrived. a couple months later. Meanwhile, she got the email confirming RESERVA DE BOLETO ELECTRONICO which included 12 instructions. She didn't notice that #3 clearly stated: "Make the payment for this reservation within a maximum period of 3 hours, otherwise, the reservation will be automatically cancelled."
So. A few days before departing for her trip she went to print her documents and you know how the rest goes. At this point, all tickets were already sold out for all the dates she was traveling. And even the permits for the Inca Trail hike were sold out. (that's our last-ditch "Hail Mary" get-you-in-any-way-we-can entry strategy)
Eighty year old Fran and her teenage granddaughter bought their Machu Picchu tickets from a 3rd party and dutifully printed the letter they emailed showing she had paid for the tickets. However, no one explained that another email with a link to the actual tickets was forthcoming, and Fran showed up in Aguas Calientes with a piece of paper that was worthless. Vidal checked in with her before the trip to Machu Picchu and Fran triple assured him that she had her passport and the tickets in her bag. He asked to see her tickets while waiting in line for the bus to Machu Picchu and just to prove to him that she had everything, she whipped out the useless piece of paper. He knew right away they were not the tickets. The only things that saved their hineys was that Fran had arranged for full phone service and could access her email account from her phone. (otherwise Vidal was ready to set up a hot spot with his phone.) Granddaughter searched emails and found a tiny email with a little link to the sacred and holy tickets. Fran thought she bought her tickets from the official Machu Picchu government website. (I rest my case.)
From time to time, there can be a problem with limited ticket availability, most likely to arise in July and August when tickets typically sell out due to North Americans traveling for summer vacations, which collides with annual Peruvian Independence Day Festivities and school closures. Everyone wants to visit Machu Picchu in August. But in 2023 the sell out continued right in to Septermber and October. We have our theories about why this happened which I won't go into here. Don't buy your flights until you know for sure that entry tickets are available for your dates.
If Machu Picchu Tickets are sold out on the official government website, can we purchase from tour operators or hotels?
No. No. And No. I've mentioned this before. Every Machu Picchu entry ticket is connected to a unique passport number. No one can hold or reserve "blank" entry tickets to sell later. This is why I warn people that you cannot buy a Machu Picchu ticket from a private party. The private party used their passport to get the ticket. What are you going to do with a ticket with someone else's passport and name on it? It's like trying to sell your own personal driver's license. Tour operators cannot hold or reserve Machu Picchu tickets. If you go to the offical Machu Picchu government website and the tickets you want are sold out, that's it. They're gone for all of us.
Is it possible to buy Machu Picchu tickets in person in Aguas Calientes?
Starting in September 2022, the residents of the village of Aguas Calientes insisted that they be allowed to sell tickets in the village. Surprising just about everyone, the government granted 1000 tickets per day to be sold in the village of Aguas Calientes directly to any visitor willing to jump through the hoops of fire to get one. Vidal reports that when the first train arrives each morning in Aguas Calientes, he has seen people running from the train to get in line for those tickets. So. If you have a flex schedule and are desperate, it's worth a shot right? We have heard of companies who will meet you at the train station in Aguas Calientes and walk you to the place where you stand in line and coach you through the steps to get one of the those revered tickets. They will charge you a fee of course. I have no idea how much. If tickets sell out, it's my understanding you can try again the next day. Ask your hotel for more details.
Is there anyone who can help us if we make a mistake or need assistance?
Prevention is the key here. If you already done fell into the dark hole, there's only so much that can be done. However. Always the optimist, just call me "Vinnie the Fixer." I have resources at my disposal that ordinary travelers don't even know about. I couldn't do what I do, without my sidekick Vidal. He is superman. He doesn't wear a cape, but he seems to have a magical Peruvian poncho! Sometimes we can throw a life preserver ring at you and pull you back from the black drain hole you're about to fall in. But it's better if you call me first.
Disclaimer: I'm sharing details to help you prepare for your trip to Machu Picchu and to inform travelers of the potential pitfalls in the booking process. This information is subject to change. I am not responsible for procedures or changes to procedures.