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? This year in 2024, there are some changes you need to be aware of. For the most up to date info about entry tickets for 2024 and the Great Train Suspension situation, go to the latest post CLICK HERE. (and the latest after train service was restored is that the government agreed to set up a government-owned vitual ticketing platform. Adios to Joinnus! And Hola to . . . we don't know. Yet!
The short quick answer is "Yes," anyone can access the official Machu Picchu website and buy entry tickets. If you're one of those people who is comfortable navigating new websites and have the skills to analyze 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.
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. In the year 2023, there was an unexpected shakeup in visitor preference for tickets that included access to the upper terrace. And why? Because that is the only location for the Classic View of Machu Picchu. Let's say access to the Classic View of Machu Picchu was all the rage in 2023. What's so special about the upper terrace? CLICK HERE to read more.
Mistake #1. You think you're buying Machu Picchu tickets from the official NEW government website. But you're not.
Here's the update. The official Peru government website that sells Machu Picchu tickets is shifting ticket sales to a new private plafform. I posted all the details on the post linked above in the first paragraph. After January 20, tickets will be sold by a private company online, called Joinnus, the website is called Tu Boleto.. If you go to the old Machu Picchu government website and click "BUY TICKETS" it will automatically redirect you to the new site (see the link I included above to go to the post with all the links. There's a scam site with same name. Make sure you get the correct URL)
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 5 hour window in 2024 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 your reservation code has a window to complete the payment. (I believe in 2024 that window is now 5 hours) If you don't want that reservation for some reason, just let it time out and start again. There's no way to double check by pasting your reservation code on the official government website. The old website had a search bar where you could paste the code and if it was valid, your actual tickets would pop up. But that has been eliminated. So. Make sure you confirm that the payment definitely didn't go through before you start over.
- in 2023 It happened that people showed up at the main gate 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. With the new Tu Boleto platform, I don't know how this will play out in 2024. One thing is that because of the jaw-dropping number of tickets available, you may be able to buy tickets more easily than last year. How many tickets are available? CHECK THIS OUT
Mistake #3: You bought tickets but you printed the wrong page.
If you're buying tickets from the new TU BOLETO platform in 2024, after your payment on the website you get a download to print the actual ticket which has your name, passport info and scanable code. If you're buying tickets 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. (effective in 2024, it's no longer possible to use the reservation code in the official government website to access and print your actual tickets!)
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, so far in 2024 we have not tried to buy extra entry tickets on the same date (if they're available. In 2023 when buying tickets on the same date, they need to be in different category. We're trying to nail down this question which I will update here. No matter what tickets you get, they 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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?" With all the increased availability for tickets in 2024, I can't imagine this would happen. But as we have seen in Inca Land, anything is possible. 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. In case they are sold out 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 buy a ticket for any hike, the entry time at the main gate will be one hour earlier. This is so important, the the new TU BoLETO website has an "important message" on the landing page reminding people to confirm their transportation and make sure it's synchronized with the entry time at the MAIN GATE..This was such a problem in 2023 that there is a new regulation in 2024 stating that there is a 30 minute tolerate for entering late. 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.
Mistake #10. You are late for your entry to Machu Picchu ruins.
Starting in 2024, new regulations state that there will be no more than a "30 minute tolerance" for entering Machu Picchu after the time printed on your official entry ticket. This applies to the main gate known as Machu Picchu Llaqta. Planning and coordinating the logistics for arriving on time is more important now than ever before. We recommend that you allow extra time in the village of Aguas Calientes in case your train is late or if there is a long line waiting for buses. (in case of a long line at the bus stop, there's nothing wrong with asking the bus agent standing at the head of the line if there is allowance for you to skip the line and board in front of others.)
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 - the new TU BOLETO website will generate a reservation code immediately followed by the request to complete the payment. If the payment is successful then you will see an instant download for your tickets. In 2024, there is a 5 hour window to complete the transaction or your reservation will be cancelled.
What should you do after you pay for your Machu Picchu tickets online?
- The new Tu Boleto website will show a download link immedately after a successful payment. The only email you will get is the receipt of your payment online. Print hard copies of those tickets and remember to bring it with you.
- 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.