Monday, June 27, 2016

[URUBAMBA] The How Much of Machu Picchu

Everyone talks about how they want to go to Machu Picchu and how it is on their bucket list, but seldom do they discuss how they intend to go there. And so the wish remains just a wish. You actually need a plan of action, and that plan is not as simple as landing in Lima. Come to think of it, even getting to Peru is a challenge in itself if you are coming from Asia. You’ll be spending about USD 2000 on airfare alone which makes it a rather prohibitive journey, a once in a lifetime kind of thing.

There are no direct flights from Manila to Lima. You’re going to have to transit somewhere. Having a multiple entry visa for the United States might just cut your airfare in half. A roundtrip ticket to California can be booked for around USD 600 if purchased early through Chinese carriers. From LA, you can book a flight to either Mexico City or Fort Lauderdale, where Interjet and Jetblue offer relatively cheaper one-way fares to Lima in comparison to legacy airlines. But that’s not the end of the story.

If you thought you just have to land in Lima and that’s it, then you’re gravely mistaken. Machu Picchu is in Cuzco, which requires another hour and a half flight to reach. One-way tickets start at around USD 75 with LCPerú. The price increases if you decide to book with Avianca or Peruvian. Once in Cuzco, there are several ways of going to the ruins. You can choose to spend more and get there faster or pay less but waste more time in transit. This is when you decide which you value more: your money or your time?

The most convenient way is to go by train. The caveat is that the train ride is considered to be one of the most expensive in the world. Inca Rail is a local company while Peru Rail is said to be controlled by foreign investors. A one-way ticket from Cuzco to Machu Picchu via Peru Rail will set you back around USD 95. In effect, that 4-hour train ride will cost more than your plane ticket from Lima to Cuzco. Some people opt for local transportation from town to town, but this takes a lot of time.

For all the bad rep that Peru Rail is receiving for their prohibitive prices, I’d say that they actually offer good service. The seats are comfy. They serve snacks. For the return trip, they also have this cultural show followed by a fashion show of sorts, with the attendants modeling knitted wear made of baby alpaca wool. They then sell you those afterwards. They did make a killing with a Chinese group, selling more than USD 500 worth! My only complaint is that the train is so slow, but this is more of a technical restriction.

But why are we talking about transportation costs when there is this one thing that is more important than all of these plane and train rides combined! So, let’s say you’ve booked everything and you are ready to go. Finally, you arrive at the base of that mountain and you are all ready to hike. And then they decide not to let you in. Wow, all those dollars down the drain in this so near yet so far scenario! Before booking train and flight tickets, MAKE SURE you book the ENTRANCE PERMIT first.

Being a popular tourist destination, the number of tourists entering Machu Picchu and climbing the peaks nearby is limited to around 2,000 (Machu Picchu) and 400 (Huayna Picchu) a day. You can pay for this online with your credit card and print the permit right after that. The cost for Machu Picchu alone is around PEN 120 (~PHP 1,800) while a combo ticket including Huayna Picchu will cost you PEN 158 (~PHP 2,370). The website gives you the number of remaining slots for any given day.

Process that permit first. Rebooking flights is a bitch, and you will be rescheduling around half a dozen if ever. You don’t want that kind of hassle. You can also book everything in one fell swoop. It really depends on you and how internet savvy you are. Once you are done with administrative and transportation related worries, it’s time to prepare physically. Unless you have your own personal Hodor who will carry you all the way to the top, you need to rev up for a hike approximately an hour and a half long.

As for other miscellaneous costs, well, you still have to set aside some money for food. By the way, the train does not leave directly from Cuzco but rather from Poroy which is half an hour away by taxi. The normal one-way rate is PEN 30 (~PHP 450). When you get off at Aguas Calientes, the bus going up to the park costs PEN 40 (~PHP 600), if you are not in the mood for a hike. Of course, everything there will be overpriced given the tourist infestation and the inaccessible location.

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