There were only two ways to get to Machu Picchu – hiking the tracks from Santa Teresa (cheap) or catching an overpriced train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo. Now that Perú Rail’s monopoly has come to an end, there are two further options to get to the Inca Citadel.
The Old – Perú Rail
Prices: Depending on the class, there are three tariffs, for the wealthy and disconnected from the real world, laughing in the face of the Andean poor there is First Class, or the luxurious Hiram Bingham service at $334 for the 1 hour trip. The Vistadome service from $43 to $71 allows views of the surrounding mountains via windows in the roof, and the rickety Backpackers service where hundreds are crammed into ageing carriages and suffer bolt-upright wooden seats for $31 to $48.
Services: First class includes dinner, wine, entertainment, entrance to the ruins, guide, bus transfer and tea in the Sanctuary Lodge. Vistadome includes snacks and drinks. Backpackers get a kick in the behind.
Times: Hiram Bingham leaves from the Poroy station every day at 9am and leaves Aguas Calientes again at 5:45pm. Vistadome leaves Cusco at 6.53am and Backpackers at 7:42am. Backpackers however should instead purchase tickets to leave Ollantaytambo in the evening of the day before, see the Sacred Valley, spend a night at Aguas Calientes, and beat everyone else to the ruins at 5:30am the next day.
Tickets: See www.perurail.com – Backpackers must buy tickets in person in Cusco.
Inca Rail: A new alternative
Prices: First Class costs $70 and has only 3 seats per row and roof windows allowing everyone a view. Executive Class coasts $40 and has the standard 2-2 seating rows but also roof windows. Kids under 3 years old do not pay, those under twelve pay 50%.
Services: Both services offer snacks, and large windows protected by UV-Ray filters. First class has larger tables and a far greater variety of snacks and drinks.
Times: Daily from Ollantaytambo at 6:30am, 11:30am and 4:30pm. Return leaves Aguas Calientes at 8:30am, 2pm and 7pm.
Capacity: Three carriages for First Class and Three for Executive. 150 passengers in executive and 90 in First. Multiplied by 3 journeys per day.
Tickets: You must book at least 1 day before you intend to leave by calling +51 84 233-030 or visiting the office in Av. El Sol 611 in Cusco. From next month (November 2009) the website should be fully up at running at www.incarail.com
Andean Railways: Innovators
Prices: Maximum price is $59, kids pay half. Specifics not available until next month when they start operations.
Services: Either breakfast, lunch or dinner included depending on the departure time. Trains have reclining leather seats and panoramic windows, air-conditioning and music.
Times: Three departures daily at 7:20am, 11:40am and 12:36pm from Ollantaytambo, returning at 4:20pm, 7:15pm and 10:32am the next day.
Capacity: 100 passengers in two carriages.
Tickets: From office on Av. El Sol 576 in Cusco, or from website www.machupicchutrain.com