Machu Picchu is one of those destinations that requires advanced planning because it’s very popular and often sells out. Here’s what you need to know before purchasing any Machu Picchu tickets:
1. Tickets are not sold at the gate.
Instead, tickets can be purchased in advance online through various travel agencies or directly through the government website. The best way to get to Machu Picchu is by hiking the Inca Trail, in which case your tickets should be included as part of the package. But even if you’re taking the train, it can still make sense to purchase some sort of package deal because the Peruvian government requires all visitors to enter Machu Picchu with an official guide. As a bonus, many package deals include transportation, which makes getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu seamless.
2. Tickets can sell out one to two weeks in advance.
Machu Picchu is capped at 2,500 visitors daily and tickets often sell out during the high season of June, July, and August. This means that for those who wait to the last minute to purchase tickets online or in person at offices in Cusco or Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Pueblo), they may run the risk of not being able to visit at all.
3. Purchasing tickets for Machu Picchu does not guarantee transportation to get there.
The only way to get to Machu Picchu is by walking on the Inca Trail accompanied by an official guide, or by taking the train to Aguas Calientes (and then a shuttle bus or hike up the mountainside to the site). Either way, space is limited. Make sure there are plenty of seats on the train available for the dates and times you need before purchasing tickets to the Machu Picchu site itself. There are two train companies, so check availability and prices for both: Inca Rail and Peru Rail.
If you’ve purchased a package through a tour group or travel agency, it’s typical for companies to include transportation tickets to and from Cusco. But it’s safest to double check.
4. Once purchased, tickets are set in stone.
Machu Picchu tickets are not only date specific, they are person specific. When you purchase a Machu Picchu ticket, you must include the name and passport information of the visitor using that ticket. After purchase, it cannot be cancelled or altered. It is nonrefundable. Regardless of whether or not that visitor attends the park, once the ticket is purchased it counts towards the 2,500 daily cap.
This is why trying to visit Machu Picchu last minute is so difficult: there are no tickets released from last minute cancellations and without specific passport information, tour companies can’t reserve or buy tickets in advance for potential last minute customers.
— Laura Rowley