Have you always wanted to see Machu Picchu? Well, now’s your chance… it’s free!
If you’re like me, that travel itch, fueled by months and months of travel restrictions, has grown into a full-blown longing to explore. As they say, 2020 has been a long decade.
Peru is amongst the safest countries you can visit during COVID-19. And so many families in Peru rely on tourism for survival.
Luckily, the Peruvian government has stepped up to play an active role in promoting tourism.
The most obvious change is now allowing entry into their most famous sites for FREE! That includes Machu Picchu!! Note that, unless extended, this is only until the end of December 2020.
This serves not only as a boost to their ailing tourism industry, but also as another health/safety measure. This allows Peru to limit capacity to ensure social distancing measures and enforced.
How to Sign Up for a FREE Machu Picchu Slot
Unfortunately, nobody is promoting the free Machu Picchu slots online. In fact, you have to scroll halfway down the search results on google before you reach the ACTUAL official page.
The first pages listed will attempt to sell you these free tickets for over $70. The organized tours with tour guides will do the same.
The Peruvian Ministry of Culture is the only provider of the official website. If you’re on a .gob.pe website, you know it’s legitimate. None of the other ones are.
Because Machu Picchu is so special, it gets its own webpage.
STEP 1) Finding the Official Machu Picchu Website
You’ll start out on this first webpage that says “BUY TICKETS”. Don’t worry because you’re buying tickets that cost 0.00 Peruvian Soles.
If you end up on the Spanish website, you can change language at the top right of the webpage.
STEP 2) Buying Your Tickets for Machu Picchu
Click on BUY TICKETS. You’ll reach this website:
On the left, you can select between “General” and “Peruanos y Paises CAN”. Only select Peruanos y Paises CAN if your passport is from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador or Bolivia. Otherwise, stick to General.
The Government of Peru saves a number of tickets for people from Peru and surrounding countries. Allowing locals the right to see the beauty of their own land first makes sense. This is an initiate that I love, even if it limits our ability to view Machu Picchu as foreigners.
There’s only one route (Ruta) open right now: Machu Picchu. Huayna/Wayna Picchu (the opposing mountain from Machu Picchu) is not open.
The Fecha de Visita is your desired date of visiting. Note that spots fill up as far as two weeks ahead, so plan early! Spots do open up last-minute as well, and you can always contact the Ministry of Culture at email@example.com to ask for any last-minute (including day-of) availability.
Next is number of adults (Adultos), students (Estudiantes), and youth (less than 18 years old, Menores).
STEP 3) Finding an Available Time & Date
Click on Disponsibilidad. You’ll reach a page like this:
The Ministry of Culture offers hourly time slots, in an effort to manage the rate of entry. This serves both as a health precaution for COVID-19 and to ensure that everyone can get a spot.
If you can’t find any slots that suit you, you can try e-mailing or calling the Ministry of Culture. If this fails, tour guides do have tickets reserved daily. But unfortunately, this means you’ll have to pay the $70+ to enter the park, plus the cost of the tour guide. Still 100% worth it though.
Step 4) Sharing (your info) is Caring
If you manage to find enough spots (and ones that suit your liking), you can click on that time slot and then “Continuar con la reserva”.
Once you click this, you will have to enter all your information:
You’ll select the country of your passport (Pais de origen). Then, you’ll insert your passport number (Nro. documento), your last name(s) (Apellidos), first and middle names as in your passport (Nombres), date of birth (Fecha de nacimiento), and gender (M/F).
STEP 5) SUCCESS! You’re Going to Machu Picchu!
You’ll have to check some boxes agreeing to certain policies, type your phone number and e-mail address (to receive the tickets), and that’s all! Congrats!
STEP 6) Hike or Take the Bus to Machu Picchu?
If you want to buy a bus ticket online, you can do so from unofficial retailers, but you’ll be charged about 50% extra.
The tickets aren’t cheap at $12 each way for a 25-minute ride. Online retailers charge as much as $36 each way.
If you take the train to Aguas Calientes (the closest town to Machu Picchu) a day or more before your entry to Machu Picchu, you can walk to the bus ticket office (Av. Hermanos Ayar S / N, before Puente Ruinas) anytime from 5am to 9pm.
The alternative is hiking two hours from Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu pueblo). It’s a nice hike, but very steep.
STEP 7) ENJOY the Incredible Modern World Wonder of Machu Picchu.
P.S. Don’t forget to bring your passport!!
How to Visit and Reserve Your Spot for Other Sites
The Ministry of Culture has opted to use the same system for all of the other sites. Note that you MUST reserve a spot to enter.
The reservation system closes at 2:30PM for the next day. If you’re visiting these sites as part of a tour, the tour company will have already reserved spots for you and your group.
This applies to all sites in the district of Cusco, including:
- Saqsawayman (Llaulipata and Puqro)
- Museo Historico Regional
You will follow the same exact steps as listed above for Machu Picchu. It’s the same registration system.
Again, you do not need to do this if you are visiting these sites as part of a tour. However, it can be cheaper (and certainly safer in terms of COVID-19 risks) to visit these sites on your own with a hired taxi or a rental car.
I certainly hope this guide helps. Tourism is in desperate need of a boost in developing countries, and this initiative is such a clever idea.
It’s pretty likely that the Peruvian government will want to extend these measures past December 2020. At worst, they’ll use the same registration system but charge discounted entry fees.
Enjoy Peru and all of its marvels. It’s such a sensationally beautiful country, and I’m so glad they’ve opened up to tourism in such a responsible, smart way.