If you have been following our adventure to Machu Picchu on social media, you know that we hiked over 28km from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, just to avoid the ridiculously priced train all while still experiencing the journey.
You will also know that we refused to pay the 30 minute and $12 bus, and instead trekked a further 1.5 hours from Aguas Calientes to the gate of Machu Picchu.
Considering how expensive the ticket price is, the above meant that we could enjoy a visit to the world wonder, something not many budget backpackers get to do. We have a number of Snapchat followers who admit that although a regret, they simply couldn’t afford Machu Picchu. We feel their pain but refused to let tourist rates prevent us from adding this to the checked bucketlist.
Excluding accomodation (€19pn) and the Machu Picchu ticket (€40), we only spent €7.50 in transport costs. In total. See? It can be done!
Below we will now share the cheapest and easiest way to travel from Machu Picchu to either Cusco or Ollantaytambo. It does involve a simple, sceneic and safe two hour walk, but it’s either this or the €100 train.
From Machu Picchu to Hidroelectrica:
Whether you hike or take the bus back towards Aguas Calientes, you need to make your way to the patrolled bridge, where they checked your passports and MP tickets.
From here, there is a stone stairwell beside the restauarant, on your left hand side. Take the stairs and swing a left towards the train tracks.
Walk the tracks for two hours using the worn paths formed by the locals and tourists who take this route everyday. Despite this being an active train line, it isn’t illegal to walk alongside the tracks so don’t fret when you see police or workers.
Of course, for your own safety, please be be vigilant but know a train will make itself heard and you have plenty of room to safely stand further to the side.
This walk starts at the 113km mark, your aim is 120km, you won’t even see the time pass as it’s such an eye pleasing adventure.
From Hidroelectrica to Cusco or Ollantaytambo:
As you reach 120km, a little after the restauarant with hammocks (you will know what I mean), there is a handmade sign on the right hand side, directing you towards Hidroelectrica.
Follow the signs, cross another set of train tracks and continue down the steps until you arrive to Hidroelectrica train station.
Pass the shops and touts until you reach the busses parked at the end of the tracks.
Our original plan was to take a collectivo to Santa Teresa and change busses to Santa Maria, where we would grab a large bus to Cusco, one that stops in Ollantaytambo.
Thankfully, nowadays there is a direct option which works out a little cheaper, surprisingly.
Approach the parked minivans and ask the drivers, not the touts or ayudantes but the drivers, how much to Cusco. Some will price you 40sol, others 35sol but know the cheapest they’re willing to go is 25sol.
Any bus going to Cusco will detour through Ollantaytambo (and Urumbamba, as we overheard). It takes around 4-5 hours, but as always, please double check where the bus stops, and remind the driver half way through the ride.
NOTE: Busses from Hidroelectrica run until 2.30pm, so you need to arrive before then.
To save time, we brought our bags to Machu Picchu (there are storage lockers, at a price), left the grounds at 11.30am, hiked down to the bridge and straight onto the tracks. We arrived to the busses a little before 2pm.
It’s not unusual for the driver to ask for payment upfront, this is to guarantee your seat. Do not pay anymore than 25-30sol (€6.50).
Within the hour, there is a (free) bathroom break in Santa Teresa.
Now, rest those feet and enjoy winding around mountains, over bridges, through towns and relish the fact that you experienced one of seven wonders of the world and for quarter the price.