Many people planning the Inca Trail doubt about taking an extra night in Aguas Calientes village. I didn't and don't regret it. I had all the morning to visit intensively Machu Picchu and had lunch at the town before taking the train back at 16:30. Anyway, there is nothing really to do in Aguas Calientes, all the city is a big tourist trap, expensive restaurants and souvenir shops.
So, unless you are specially interested in visiting MP for 2 days (count on paying twice the 26 USD of the entrance), I'd recommend not to stay overnight here...
Nowwhere in Peru I have seen a service tax except in Aguas calientes.
If it was properly indicated that there was a service tax it wouldn't have been a problem. The prices over here are expensive enough without the service tax.
So we made trouble and we didn't have to pay the tax. I think they just made it up to get some extra money. They didn't get a tip either.
The people at Govindas got one because they didn't do this service tax.
Be careful of Buskers as in any touriest location they will come into a restaurant and play for you then refuse to leave until you pay them!!
Of course, it all depends on whether you are the sort of person who likes that sort of thing!! If you tell them "no", it should be OK.
Tourist trap term could be applied to Machu as long as people visit in a group and listen to the endless stupidity of the tourist guides. It is understandable that these poor fellows have to make a living somehow and the tourist has paid to get a digested info because he is too tired to unearth it on his own. Once you have applied for the “digest” you might easily receive puke instead. There are the Achievements in stone. No matter that there is obvious difference between the megaliths and the “cobble” stones used to finish them so the structure can fit thatched roofs they are all branded as product of the Inca civilization. It must be a pure accident that the Inca, with all this magical 32angle stone masonry was not able to produce a roof from the same material. There is no word for resemblance to Tiahaunaco which has been advertised as pre-Inca site in neighbouring Bolivia. What is more important though is the latest archaeological breakthrough about the funny separation of the rows of terraces for the simple reason of reverence to Mother Earth once the Inca had realized that this is a fault line. One just has to sit in one spot where the groups stop and listen to the guides to see the discrepancies and contradictions. This is not a reason for confidence shake-up and hypothesises are presented as facts without blinking an eye.
Unique Suggestions: Listen to several "presentations" so you get perspective.
Fun Alternatives: Visit on your own.
If your like me and want to enjoy nature on your own and trek to Machu Pichhu. Do the Salkantay trek and tell the park ranger who you will run into on the morning of the trek up to the 4600m pass to p!ss off.
By all means pay the park fee as its respect for the locals to do so, but just say I have walked a hole day to get here and Im going the way of the mountain. He will give you a funny look but will let you go.
It may be just a matter of time before they do the same here as they did with the inca trail, so get there fast. It is worth it.
Aguas Caliente is only here 'cause it sits right below MP. EVERYTHING here is a tourist trap. That being said, it's actually a pleasant little place, hostals, restaurants and gift shops fill up the two main (and several side) streets.
Unique Suggestions: Up at the high end of town are hot springs, you might as well go to the hot spring as they're the only thing here that's not expensive.
Walking up the main street, you will be greeted (or harassed, depending on your point of view) by dozens of people shoving menus in your face. These people are paid for every group they bring into the restaurant, not by the restaurant itself, but by the groups themselves. This extra fee is added into your bill as a "local tax". They often try to lure you in by offering freebies (in our case, she offered us free juice). Also, the food at these restaurants is mediocre-we got pizza that was slightly overpriced and had no flavor.
Fun Alternatives: There are a few decent restaurants in town; just make sure to do your research first and stay away from the restaurants that employ people to harass tourists.