18 days in South America – traveling from Lima to Machu Picchu

From Lima, there are many ways to plan your trip to Machu Picchu.

We chose a tiring, but less risky way of traveling to Machu Picchu with minimal risk of getting hit by altitude sickness – arrive in Cusco with the highest altitude, and travel immediately to Machu Picchu so that the body does not react to the change in altitude.

The transport plan

Total time spent on the road was approximately 12 hours, from waking up at 3am to go for the flight and finally arriving at the accommodation at 3pm.

A flight is not all. You have to take the following:

1. Flight to Cusco (3399m above sea level).
1 hr 10mins flight

In my previous post with the full flight itinerary, we had two days of rest in Lima before heading out on an early morning flight (6.50am) to Cusco on Star Peru.

Star Peru was pretty fuss-free like most budget carriers, probably quite close to the online reviews.

2. A taxi ride from Cusco airport to main square, Plaza de Armas.
10 minutes

3. Collectivo ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (2792m above sea level).

1hr 45 minutes

Collectivos are mini buses that takes 14 – 16 passengers from Cusco to Ollantaytambo with some stops along the way to drop or pick up passengers.. At only 10 Sols per person, it is probably the most scenic and economical way to get to Ollantaytambo.

Based on online reviews, we chose Real Inka Tourist Transportation, and it was really near the train station. There is no scheduled departure but we were pretty lucky, being the last 2 to board. Do note there’s no real luggage space, it’s either next to you or strapped on the roof.

Tip: Choose the seat next to the driver if you can, it’s the most comfortable choice.

On collectivo_scenic2

The collectivo takes you through a charming small Andean Indian village Chinchero before reaching Ollantaytambo. I will cover more on Chinchero in the upcoming posts too.

On collectivo_scenic

4. A train ride on Perurail from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu station (2040m above sea level).
1 hr 30 mins 


The train ride from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu station (Aguas Calientes) was operated by Perurail. There are 3 choices, namely the luxurious Hiram Bingham, mid-range Vistadome, basic Expedition trains, and the price of the round trip varies.

We chose Vistadome 303 since it was a not a long ride, and I will recommend it to folks who want a little comfort. The view was awesome with the large windows in the cabin. We totally enjoyed the train rides 🙂

Otherwise, I do think that Expedition is fine too.


In addition, do note that there’s a restriction of the amount of luggage that you can bring onto the train.

When traveling to Machu Picchu on the Belmond Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, or Expedition: one bag or backpack (carry-on luggage) with a maximum weight of 5.0 kg/11 lb., measuring no more than 62 linear inches/157 linear cm (height + length + width). It is prohibited by law to block the exits. If you require special assistance with your luggage, please contact equipaje@perurail.com at least 48 hours before your planned travel date. Subject to available space. For those doing the Inca trail, contact the same folks to make arrangements for onboard luggage.

We made arrangements to leave our luggage at Ollantaytambo, so it was easy for us to travel light to Machu Picchu.

5. Depending on your choice of accommodation for the night, check in and relax till the end of the day. The next morning, rise and shine early to catch the thirty-minute bus ride to the entrance of the Machu Picchu Citadel. Buses leave every 30 minutes from the main bus station.

Summary of prices for easy reference:  
1. Flight from Lima to Cusco vv: 205SGD approx per person round trip
2. Short taxi ride to main square: N.A.
3. Collectivo ride from main square to Ollantaytambo station: 4.50SGD approx per person per way.
4. Vistadome train ride on Perurail from Ollantaytambo to MP vv: 235SGD approx per person round trip
5. Bus ride to MP Citadel: 17.50SGD approx per person per way

More on our choice of accommodation in this area in the upcoming post. And the Machu Picchu climb!

For full set of South America posts, head here!


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