Commonly called one of the best travel destinations in the world, Machu Picchu is a sight to behold. Situated on lush mountainsides and isolated from modernity, this ancient Incan complex is the highlight of many people’s South America vacation. However, to every heaven there is a hell. Make sure your Machu Picchu tour doesn’t take a bad turn south by watching out for these 5 Machu Picchu travel pitfalls.
Altitude. Even if you’re not trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, it is still likely the altitude will take your breath away. Machu Picchu sits at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, and although there are places much higher, it is still enough to cause lightheadedness and a bit of altitude sickness. The best way to deal with the altitude sickness is to take it easy as soon as you arrive into Cuzco, which is actually at a much higher altitude of over 11,000 feet above sea level. Drinking coca tea, an Andean favorite, as well as lots of water will help you adjust. Stay away from alcohol the first night, as that will further dehydrate you.
Rain. Machu Picchu sits in a part of Peru that has a distinct dry and rainy season. The rainy season is the strongest in the months of December through March. In fact, the Inca Trail is closed during the months of February due to heavy rains and mud slides. The ruins themselves, however, usually remain open, although you’ll have to access them from the town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of the mountain. If you do travel during this season, be prepared for the weather. Bring a rain jacket, boots with good traction that you don’t mind getting wet, and a positive attitude.
Sun. Even during the rainy season you’ll probably see some sun, and the sun here is strong. Although the sun is harsh throughout all of Peru, the higher you go in altitude to the more powerful it becomes. Even when it is cloudy you should be sure you’re either covered up with long sleeved clothing or wearing an adequate amount of sunscreen. Be sure to bring a hat and sunglasses as well.
Prices. Machu Picchu is not a budget destination. Although you can try to visit it on a shoestring, there are some prices you just cannot get around, like the entrance fee to the ruins themselves (which is nearly 50 dollars) and the price of transportation to the ruins, which require a train ride to the town of Aquas Calients. Even if you want to hike, the Inca Trail is a coveted excursion and prices are high and competition to book open slots fierce. This doesn’t mean you should visit Machu Picchu, you simply need to be prepared with enough money to make sure you can afford everything and have an enjoyable trip.
Quality. There are many Machu Picchu tours eager for clients. Make sure you book with a quality company or a quality guide. A trip to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and you don’t want it to be ruined by a company that cuts corners or by a guide that doesn’t know what he is talking about. Do some research ahead of time and ask fellow travelers for recommendations before you make any commitments.