By Train, Machu Picchu
My buddy and I took the Backpacker train up to Machu Picchu from Ollantambo and took the Vistadome train down to Cuzco the next day.
These are just our observations and thougths. You can disagree.
The backpacker train first off has a more relaxed, chilled travel atmosphere that world travellers and packpackers would be accustomed to. No,its not panoramic windows but unless you can't move your head, its sufficient. What I found to be most pleasant is the amount of luxurious room it has. More room luggage room, more leg room per passenger, and the conductors on the backpacker train are more chilled, helpful, and genuine. Bench seating with pairings facing each other. Even if you get people facing you, there is still more room in the backpacker train.
The vistadome train. Yes you get those extra windows on the top. But to be honest, it was useful for about 5 minutes of the trip. The seats are exactly like an airplane. If it wasn't for the windows, I though I was back on an airplane cabin. Numbered seats, all facing forward, less legroom, arm rests digging at your sides, and a tiny space for everyones luggage.
Continuation on the next tip. Must read.
Facts I found to be true:
1. Cuzco to Machu Picchu is actually a total decrease in elevation, not increase.
2. Even though its hard to book train tickets online in advance, try your hardest. At least book at a ticket counter a few days before.
3. If your a traveler who likes to cram as much as possible, it is possible to fly from Lima to Cuszo on the first flight out, and get to M.P. by train that morning. It just you won't catch the train in Cuzco but have to get a taxi to Ollantambo to catch the train there at 9am. You can make it if you don't make mistakes.
4. The longest part of the train ride is the hill right in front of Cuzco. Its switchback for an hour plus. As posted by other VTers, thanks for the info, you can take and get off at Ollantambo and taxi to and from Cuzco or even better get off at Punoy next to Cuzco and take a bus system waiting to take you to Cuzco and save time.
5. Check the next tip about backpacker train vs. Vistadome train.
I read about the 7:45 pm train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu on VT, and figured we'd take a taxi from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to get to Ollantaytambo in early afternoon to buy tickets, then have lunch and see the ruins before catching the train.
We got to town at 1:40 and already the Backpacker was sold out and had been for some time. "Luckily" we could still get tickets on the 2:55 Vistadome - at 3 times the price ($70 for two - only cash, no credit cards). So much for seeing the ruins - or even having lunch, although a small sandwich and drink is provided on the Vistadome. DO NOT buy snacks inside the waiting room, they're very overpriced (12 soles for a bag of Combos and a candy bar).
Perurail would not let us reserve seats when we'd called before leaving home. The Vistadome was only about a third full, so maybe this is a way they have to sell seats! Some of the people we talked to who, like us, had to get Vistadome tickets had planned to take the Backpacker also.
By the way, I thought the Backpacker (which we took on the way back to Cusco) was more comfortable, even if you couldn't see the tops of the mountains. The Vistadome is set up like a plane, with rows of seats all facing the same way, but didn't even have folddown tray tables and offered little leg room. The Backpacker has seats set up in groups of four, two sets facing each other with a table between and felt much more comfortable.
PLEASE NOTE: Since our trip last month, rates have increased at PeruRail - and the website is completely different.
There are basicly two ways to get to Macchu Picchu, Walk or take the train. If you have the time and the legs you should definatly walk but In that we were trying to squeeze alot into this trip we took the train.
It takes about 4 hours and has some spectacular views as you weave your way through the mountians. The Backpacker is cheap, but you must reserve the day before and there is the risk that it will sell out.
The Vista Dome is more Expensive, $100 round trip but it has skylight type things that let you see the mountians and the Jungle. The vista dome also hase a snack and entertainment with dancers and a fassion show (trying to sell you alpaca stuff of course) This is all very cool but if I did it again I would probably save my money and only take the Vistadome oneway.
The train Vistadome took us from Cusco to Machu Picchu. All the staff of the company is really nice..i realized that all of them are youth peple and very nice.
When we went from cusco to machu picchu we had a delicious breakfast and they started to offer some souveniers from the company. (PERURAIL).
then, when we went back we had other tea with cakes and they offered a cool show of fashiong and peruvian costums.
NOTE: To get the train tickets book at the mail address that is written down...then you have to pay at: wanchaq estacion without number...
and the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu departs from SAN PEDRO...TRAIN STATION.
On the way back from Machu Picchu definitly hop off the train at Peroy. Almost all the tourists who are on package tours as well as many others will.
On the platform you will find someone holding a sign that says "Cusco/Plaza de arms" or something to that effect. Just follow him and there are nice airconditioned buses that will take you to town much quicker that the slow moving train navigating the switch backs.
It only cost around 5 soles (approx)
Although many people choose to hike the Inca Trail to get to Machu Picchu, many more are restructed by time and thus have to take the train. I was one of those. I took the Vistadome train to Machu Picchu at a cost of $89.00 for a round-trip. This train sets out for Machu Picchu a little after 6am and arrives in Ages Calientes at around 9:30am. There is also a backpackers train that sets out to Machu Picchu later in the morning and returns that afternoon for the cost of $60.00 for a round-trip and $41.00 oneway. I suspect that this return trip is actually the one most of the people who take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu return on.
In enjoyed the train trip to Machu Picchu mostly for the scenery along the way. What really raised my eyebrows was the floor show put on by two, one male and one female, attendents on the return trip. It was quite good if you do not mind the fact that they were attempting to get you by lots of local clothing. The Vistadome also serves snacks along the way to and from Machu Picchu.
The Pullman Train is the way many people travel to and from Machu Picchu. It's a 70 mile (112 km) ride from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and the ride is pretty comfortable. The train is usually packed so it pays to make reservations in advance. If you're hiking the Inca Trail, it's a nice way to return to Cusco because of course, you'll be tired from the 4 days it took you to get to Macchu Picchu, and, it offers another experience.
We took the train back to Cusco and I remember going over the Urubamba River, through narrow gorges where you could almost reach your hand out the window and touch the rocky sides of the cliffs, the colorful locals - and some colorful tourists - and just beautiful, wild, natural scenery.
There's food and beverages available on the ride, too.
The railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (town close to Machu Picchu) goes through an beautiful zone; from the train you see beautiful landscapes.
El tren de Cusco a Aguas Calientes (el pueblo cercano a Machu Picchu) atraviesa una zona espectacular; desde el tren se puede disfurtar un hermoso paisaje.
This is one aspect to ask about when buying your Inca Trek. Some companies use the train more than others and believe me, the train is better than the bus. We were bused up to the trailhead which was okay but on the trip back, we had the train only to Ollantaitambo. We had to disembark, find out bus and then there was a mad rush to get out of the parking lot. We were absolutely exhausted and this was the last thing we needed to be doing at that hour of the night. The train, though not super comfortable was far better than the crowded bus. Shop and ask around before buying your tour!
You start at the station of San Pedro near to market place with the same name....by the way this is a place where you´ve got to be careful respect of little thiefs (more at this kind of tip).
So, I hope this didn´t change as well ( please correct me darthmilmo if you know better): The train stopped at the entrance of the inka trail and then went on to Machu Picchu, so, if you want to do the inka trail, you have to leave at this stop, but you also can go directly to Mach Picchu ( not that adeventurely). Nevertheless only Machu Picchu without all the other beautiful places at the inka trail is marvellous, of course.
There is no direct trasport to Machu Pichu. Therefore, you need to take a train to the town of Aguascalientes (a dump not worth a night, IMHO). The cheapest thing to do is to buy a "backpacker" seat in the tourist train ($10-15 USD in 2001). This is the cheapest option as you aren't allowed to ride the local train anymore. From Aguascalientes, you can hike to Machu Picchu (takes 2 hours) or you can take a 10 minute bus ride (bus ride was $5 USD one-way in 2001). If you have the time, then take this route on the way back and on the way there do the 4 day Inca Trail. Read all about it in the Off-the-beaten path tips and the transport tip below.
Train is the affordable transport to visit Machu Picchu. It depart from Cuzco, or Ollantaytambo.
The backpacker Ollanta-M. Picchu- Ollanta, costs US$47.60
On the Vista dome you get a snack. Fopr all that extra money you get airline type food, a little ham and cheese sandwich and fruit. Ohh there is the view and getting there earlier too.
The Inta Vistadom arrive at Aguas Calientes Station at about 09:45am.
Confirm the time of departure gong back to Machu Picchu before you rush to bus sttaion.