So you’re off to Machu Picchu. You’ve got your train (or your Inca Trail trek) booked, you’ve bought your entry ticket, and now you just need to prepare for the day trip. What should be on your Machu Picchu packing list, and what should you leave behind in Aguas Calientes? We’ve got you covered!
What to bring to Machu Picchu:
Okay, so you can walk to Machu Picchu. But we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a long, steep walk up a mountain. You might have a tinge of altitude sickness. The hike is along a narrow, windy road that has shuttle bus after shuttle bus barreling along it. (Scary!) If you’re even considering this option, you’ve probably also booked a slot to hike up one of the mountains at Machu Picchu, so why not save your energy for that? Then, you can always decide to walk back down the mountain if you’re still feeling spry afterwards.
You can purchase shuttle tickets in Aguas Calientes right here. They’re open until 10 PM, so you can easily get them the night before. Pay with cash, or you’ll have to pay a 4% credit card fee. You can buy a one-way ticket or a round-trip ticket. If you’re thinking about hiking back down to Aguas Calientes after visiting Machu Picchu, buy the one-way ticket and then you’ll have the option of purchasing the return ticket when you exit Machu Picchu.
Passport and entry ticket
Obviously, you need to bring your ticket to enter Machu Picchu. You also need to bring your passport to enter. As a bonus, they’ll stamp it with a Machu Picchu stamp if you ask!
You can’t bring your ginormous backpack, sorry. They won’t let it in. But you’re going to want your hands free for climbing and photo-shooting! Here’s where the day pack comes in. A good day pack will be really light and fold to a tiny size in your luggage, so it’s not a hassle to carry around for the rest of your trip.
Rebecca swears by her Matador Freerain24 because it is light, packable, and waterproof. This means that your phone, camera, passport and everything else is in zero danger should a rain shower materialize. (And it works. We once even brought this swimming with us in Brazil, and everything inside stayed safe and dry!)
Ethan has the more economical Hikpro 20L. It’s light, durable, water-resistant, and cheap.
There is no water available to buy once you enter Machu Picchu. There is a cafe and some vending machines outside the entrance, but they’re expensive. Do yourself a favor and bring a 2.5L water bottle with you in your pack. It gets hot up there.
The UV level at Machu Picchu is HIGH, and there’s not much in the way of shade. We brought sunscreen and reapplied several times throughout the morning, and we still got burned. Don’t forget to bring this!
You’ll need cash for the bathroom, if nothing else. There is only one bathroom available, and it’s outside of the entrance/exit. This means that you should definitely go right when you arrive, because your time at Machu Picchu is going to be limited by how long your bladder can hold out (sad but true). It costs 2 soles.
You’re going to want those classic Machu Picchu shots, obviously. Plus you’re going to want llama shots. Bring your camera. Make sure it’s charged.
But only because you’d probably feel weird without it. We brought our travel phones, but our Bitel SIM cards had no service. Ethan did have signal with his T-Mobile phone, but obviously we weren’t spending our time online, so it didn’t really matter.
What to wear to Machu Picchu
Whatever you want, basically! Keep in mind that although it may be cool in the morning, it’ll get hot, and the sun will be strong. A hat’s not a bad idea.
We saw some people in their Insta outfits, snapping away. If that’s you, go for it. People who were hiking the mountains were in their hiking gear, REI catalog style. If that’s you, dress for it. Most people were dressed somewhere in between. Don’t stress about this too much! Just be comfy and ready for heat and walking.
What shoes to bring to Machu Picchu? Bear in mind that Machu Picchu mountain is just a long, long series of stairs, so sneakers are fine, no need for fancy hiking boots. Huayna Picchu is a bit of a trickier climb, and traction is recommended. If you’re not climbing either mountain, any shoe that’s comfortable for walking will suit you fine!
What NOT to bring to Machu Picchu
They won’t let them in. Leave your giant backpack, suitcase, or duffel bag behind. The backpack size limit (applicable for other bags, too, of course) is 40x35x20 cm. There is a baggage check at the entrance, but easiest not to have to bother. Your day pack will suffice.
You’re not allowed to eat inside of Machu Picchu. We did see some people doing it, but do you really want to be the jerk who’s endangering one of the most beloved sites in South America? Eat a good breakfast before you go (many restaurants in Aguas Calientes are open even before the very earliest shuttles begin, and most hostels and hotels serve an early morning breakfast). There is a cafe right outside the exit of Machu Picchu, which is an option when you come out, but it’s pricey and didn’t look great. We recommend a quick shuttle ride back down the mountain when you’re done to a nice riverside restaurant in Aguas Calientes.
You’re in the mountains at high altitude. There aren’t any mosqitoes. We saw a bunch of ladies by the shuttle bus station in Aguas Calientes selling bug spray, so people must buy it, but you really don’t need this.
Don’t weigh yourself down. If you aren’t gonna need it, don’t bring it! You don’t want your memories of Machu Picchu to be focused on lugging around 80,000 tons of gear under the hot sun!
What did you pack for Machu Picchu? What advice do you have? Let us know in the comments!
You might also be interested in:
How to Get to Machu Picchu
Altitude Sickness in Cusco!
Lima, Peru Food Guide (for vegetarians and everyone else!)
Lima, Peru: Is It Safe?
Daily Budget for Lima, Peru
How to Get a SIM Card in Lima, Peru
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