Know the Rules for Visiting Machu Picchu in 2024 - Info Panameña

Know the Rules for Visiting Machu Picchu in 2024

As some famous sites reach the point of being loved to death, the preservationists need to work with the governing bodies to keep the crowds under control. After being named one of the 7 Wonders of the World a while back and getting onto seemingly every person’s bucket list, the rules for visiting Machu Picchu needed to tighten up.

Since then there’s been a battle between those who want to gather as much cash as possible from visitors and those who want to put the integrity of the structures first. Here’s the 2024 update.

New rules for visiting Machu Picchu

It all started with the Inca Trail, which began capping the number of tourists at around 200 a day (porters and guides make up the remaining 300). You need to line up your trip for that well in advance and find a company that has enough permits if you book it directly with someone in Cusco. If you’re booking a longer trip with a stateside company such as Lost World Adventures, they’ll sort out that part for you. Or you can book ahead with Viator.

Machu Picchu and the Huaynu Picchu peak, now subject to stricter rulesThe next step was to limit the number of visitors to Machu Picchu. In theory there was a 2,500 per day cap on admissions for years, with a move to an online sales system causing the site to be “sold out” at times because of excessive demand.

So now they’re saying “Screw that” on the entrance number and have raised it far beyond what the conservationists and UNESCO officials say is sustainable. The government went for the $$ instead and raised the cap on visitors to 3,800 in 2023. Then they raised it again. Now a total of 5,600 per day are be allowed in: 3,000 in the morning and 2,600 in the afternoon. They’ve more than doubled what was deemed to be the maximum the structure could maintain before, apparently a concession to all the businesses that revolve around this one famous Inca site.

In conjunction with that rise comes a whole long list of restrictions, however. Some were a direct result of the UNESCO World Heritage threatening to list the site as endangered. There are even more questions about these rules now, which is probably another reason to go with a company who knows the ins and outs. These are the current rules for visiting Machu Picchu:

  • You must get a ticket for a specific entrance time in the morning or the afternoon. You can’t spend the entire day on site like you could the first time I visited in the ’00s.
  • You must enter with a guide. If you’re not already on a Peru tour, then you have to join up with a guided group when you enter. We suppose this make-work project is justified by keeping an eye on visitors so they don’t take stupid selfies in dangerous places or climb where they’re not supposed to.
  • You must follow said guide around on a pre-determined path, like you would on an island in the Galapagos. No more freedom of movement, no lingering around in a spot with a beautiful vista to take it all in.
  • Backpacks are limited in size to about what you can take free on a Spirit Air flight: 16 X 14 X 8 inches. We’re not sure how that works for people coming off the Inca Trail or for those who want to bring a real camera bag with multiple lenses, a gimble, and batteries…
  • Drones, selfie sticks, and tripods are prohibited. For the latter two, we’ll assume working professional photographers who pay extra get a special pass.
  • The list of other prohibited items includes drinks, hard-soled shoes or heels, baby strollers, and animals.

If you’re traveling independently, you’ll need to buy tickets for your preferred time in advance. Actually accomplishing that is no easy task though and you might have better luck in Cusco with an agency or booking with a company like Viator. The clunky website for their main cash cow was difficult to use, but at least it was in Engish. In 2024 they switched to a privately run one by that is not, so you’ll need to translate constantly just to buy a ticket and there have been plenty of complaints from foreigners not able to work out ticket—even though they’re the majority of visitors.

Huaynu PIcchu hike Peru

In theory there are ticket agencies in Cusco and Aguas Calientes where you can purchase entrance tickets, but some visitors have gotten burned by waiting until they arrived to secure tickets and had limited choices on when they could visit. Others haven’t been able to get their credit card accepted and have had to pull more cash out of an ATM.

Then if you want to hike Huaynu Picchu, that peak you see in the selfie that everyone posts, the rules for visiting Machu Picchu have another layer of complications to consider. This is because a) you need a morning ticket and b) you can only go up at four designated times between 7:00 and 10:00. Only 200 people can go at each time and when I checked in April as I wrote this, it was already sold out for months, probably because tour companies and agencies have snapped up all the tickets.

Last, you would think your Machu Picchu ticket includes the bus ride up the mountain from Aguas Calientes since that’s the one and only way to get there except for the 200 max people arriving on the Inca Trail. Nope, you have to pay extra and get a separate ticket for that: a hefty $24 to $34 round trip depending on factors that are as clear as mud for such a short trip.

How much are Machu Picchu tickets? Well they vary depending on whether you’re just going to the citadel, doing that plus the Huayu Picchu hike, or visiting the museum. But figure you’ll pay somewhere between 152 and 224 soles, which at the current exchange rate is between $40 and $60.

With a little back-of-the-napkin math, the Peruvian government is now pulling in around a quarter million dollars on a peak day, more than a million bucks a week in an average week. Because most of this gets shipped off to Lima, the locals have staged multiple protests that have occasionally closed the site or blocked train access. The last clash, at the beginning of 2024, closed the site for nearly a month and resulted in deaths from clashes and the airlifting of stuck tourists.

best hotel suite Machu Picchu

If you set up your vacation with a tour company or agency, they’ll line up your lodging. Ideally you’ll be at Sumac, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo (splurge for the rock star suite), or Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. Or, you can stay in the Sacred Valley and take a morning train in if you’re getting an afternoon ticket to the citadel. Many Sacred Valley hotels will offer a Machu Picchu day excursion, including the Explora adventure lodge in Peru.

If you’ve waited this long to visit Machu Picchu, these new stricter rules are going to dampen the experience a bit I’m afraid. As “overtourism” threatens the very places you’ve come to see, however, we’ll all need to live with more concessions. It’s only going to get worse as more people travel internationally, so don’t keep putting a visit off another decade or two.

With the rules for visiting Machu Picchu seemingly changing every year, we strongly suggest letting an agency take care of your needs. There are multiple moving parts to the ticket process and it’s not nearly as easy to do it all yourself as it should be. If you’re on an organized tour, they’ll set up the train tickets, bus to the top, the guide, and the entrance, so that’s the easy button that eliminates all your hassles.

If you’re on your own in the Sacred Valley already though, the next best option is to get your hotel to book everything in advance or get a package through Viator.

Article and photos by Timothy Scott, who has visited Machu Picchu on two occasions: from the Inca Trail and after the Saltankay Trek.

Article by Timothy

Timothy Scott is the founder and editor of Luxury Latin America and has been covering the region as a travel journalist since the mid-2000s. He has visited each country we cover multiple times and is based in a UNESCO World Heritage city in central Mexico, where he owns a home. See contact information here.

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