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New Regulations and Rules for Machu Picchu – Why We Are Skipping It!

Machu Picchu, the jewel of South America, top destination of Peru, UNESCO World Heritage Site and bucket list item of travelers throughout the world, including ours!  We have long dreamed of going to the lost Incan City and have planned to go there eventually.  This is the year!  We are set to go to South America on a 6 month tour that includes Carnival in Brazil and Machu Picchu in Peru.  Once we began researching the logistics, we realized that Machu Picchu isn't for us.

The Challenges of Hugely Popular Ruins

We have been all over the world and have been to tons of ruins.  Chichen Itza presented its challenges with hawkers and vendors.  Tikal was at times logistically hard to get to and fromAngkor Wat was crowded with Chinese tourists.  The logistical nightmare that is Machu Picchu, just became more complicated this year. We understand that there is a fine line between the promotion of an immensely important historical site and preserving it for future generations to enjoy and learn from.  We understand that it's walking the tightrope of tourism dollars and preservation, however we feel that Peru and it's policies for visiting this location is headed in the wrong direction, a direction we prefer not to follow. 

Why The Changes?

The CEO of the Latin American Tourism Association said, "Machu Picchu is one of Peru’s most important tourist sites, attracting thousands of visitors every year. We anticipate that the new system introduced by the Ministry of Culture will regulate the flow of travelers entering the site and help to preserve the authenticity of this national treasure."  We are not so sure this is the only reason for the changes. Is it really about regulation of the" flow of travelers" or an increase in a revenue stream that is already a juggernaut in historical ruin money generation? 

Let's look at the numbers.

Machu Picchu has around 2,500 -3,500 visitors per day and reportedly up to 5,000 per day recently. (breaking their own rules and regulations).  Assuming that Machu Picchu has 300 days of operation per year,( in a conservative estimate) that is 750,000 -1.2 million visitors per year.   In 2016 that number climbed to a reported 1.4 million.  The previous ticket price for a full day in Machu Picchu was around $40-48 dollars depending on the conversion rate and tour package you wanted.  That would be an estimated 30 -60 million USD per year in ticket sales alone. 

Now, this doesn't take into account how many of the visitors are foreign or domestic travelers, which can be half the cost if you are from neighboring countries to Peru or Peru itself, nor the money in ticket sales for the shuttle up the mountain or train to Aguas Calientes (all Government run).  However, this isn't the point. 

Here is the point!

Prices for Machu Picchu 2015-2016:

  • Machu Picchu (standard ticket): 128 soles (approx. US$41)
  • Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: 152 soles (approx. US$48)
  • Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: 142 soles (approx. US$45)

Prices for Machu Picchu 2017

  • Machu Picchu (standard ticket 1st or 2nd group): 152 soles (approx. US$46.86)
  • Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: 200 soles (approx. US$61.65)
  • Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: 200 soles (approx. US$61.65)

Where things get interesting is that there are two tour times to visit daily. Travelers will be allowed to enter Group 1 - 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Group 2 - 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m..  However, the government is also only allowing you to enter with a paid guide that will be instructed to have no more than 20 per group.  These guides must be approved with appropriate government IDs to conduct a group and will have to stay within roped paths based on the "circuits" (one of 3 ticket groups above) they correspond to.

This brings up a few questions.

How much are the guides charging per person?  Can you then be lumped in with a group of other tourists, potentially a slow-moving elderly couple or 15 kids on a field trip, to maximize traveler-to-guide ratios? Does this mean there will be two groups of 2500 people daily or two groups of 1250 each? There are reports that the numbers will actually double or more at 3,267 in the morning and 2,673 in the afternoon.  If they have brought in 5,000 per day in the past, what will keep them from bringing in 10,000 in one day?  Are they using the guides as a mean to control greater numbers of people or maximize greed by allowing twice as many people in per day with the premise that they will have less of an impact due to the guides showing them around?  These are all questions that have popped into our heads on the logistics of the new rules.

Now the money.

So with an increase in ticket prices, increase in frequency of visitors by double, how much more money does the Peruvian Government stand to make off these changes?  How much more will it cost the average traveler to get the same bang for the buck?  It will now take 1 and a half days to see all that Machu Picchu has to offer, when technically it could be done in a day.  Total cost for three tours to see it all…  the cost of the $25 round trip shuttle from Aguas Calientes, $150.00-$241.00 USD roundtrip train fare from Cusco on the Government Monopoly Express, you are looking at $350 USD just to the government of Peru each person simply to see it all. 

Compare this to a $70USD ticket to Angkor Wat for 7 days ($37 for one day), Tikal at $20USD per day, and Chichen Itza at $14USD, The Pyramids at Giza $5-11USD (outside or inside the pyramid), or $80USD for a three-day pass to Petra in Jordan, the price of Machu Picchu is astronomical!  Considering that there are no facilities in MP for using the bathroom, no ability to take water in with you, and lack of any amenities other than a $45 dollar per meal buffet, where is the government of Peru spending all the money from Machu Picchu?

If the average traveler to Machu Picchu only spends the bare minimum to go to Machu Picchu for the HALF DAY, they will spend $222USD each (150 USD roundtrip train, 25 round trip shuttle, 47 USD admission), assuming they pack the place with two tour groups per day of 2500 visitors, the yearly revenue from Machu Picchu will top 400 Million Dollars in just ticket sales alone.  This doesn't include the fees they charge to make tour guides “approved”, taxes from the surrounding area, airport fees in Lima, souvenirs, buffets etc.   This also doesn't include the fact that if you want to see the entire park in the allotted time, you will have to spend 1 and a half days there to complete all three "circuits".  

So what is this article all about? 

Are we not skipping Machu Picchu due to the money that the Peruvian Government will make off us?  No, it is much simpler than that.  We are not going to Machu Picchu because we can’t enjoy the ruins like we want to enjoy them.  We can’t feel the experience of exploration and discovery.  We can’t be afforded the freedom to walk around, take pictures from where our artistic minds dictate, relax, connect, or feel Machu Picchu’s magic in a way that makes it a special experience for us.  It’s more than  spending over a thousand US dollars (minimum) to be herded around like goats through an ancient ruins, with complete strangers in our tour group, and no freedom to explore the ruins and connect to it in our own unique way.  Rather, it’s about the freedom to enjoy on our own terms the place we have dreamed of.

This is the magic of going to places like these.  The ability to experience it uniquely and allow it to manifest itself to you in a way that is personal.  The government of Peru has destroyed this aspect from many travelers through greedy ticket sales in the name of “preservation” of the ruins.  Surely, there are other ways to ensure the preservation of the ruins without robbing the travelers the ability to explore a ruin on their time schedule and desired route.  However, I am sure that these new regulations are not solely in place to preserve the ruins as much as they are to preserve their pocketbooks and profits at the expense of a personal connections to a unique place in the world.  

Travel Inspiration

I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.
David Rockefeller

Change In Perspective

When we first started traveling it was about seeing things.  Getting the mental snapshot of a place for memory's sake.  Now that he have done a fair bit of traveling, we feel different.  Going to Machu Picchu is not about just seeing it. Will not be making the trek to merely see it, only to pay in upwards of a thousand dollars for 3-4 hours, herded around like domestic animals, standing in lines all day while souring our dream of a peaceful place where we can get away from the crowds and appreciate the incredible significance of a place like Machu Picchu.  No thank you!  We will spend our hard earned money elsewhere, where we can connect, explore and appreciate the world on our own terms, because this is what travel is about, not just seeing places, but feeling places.  How can feel what we need to feel, with such impersonal, rushed, money hungry policies in place?


Here is the PDF for the new regulations in Spanish

You can book your tickets if you are interested here.

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One thought on “New Regulations and Rules for Machu Picchu – Why We Are Skipping It!

  1. When I was in Rome a man dressed in ancient roman attire wanted to my mum to take pictures of us, and after asked for money. When I was in Gozo there was a man with an owl on his shoulders, and when I went closer the man quickly moved away and said I can only see the owl if I pay money. Now this isn’t quite the same as having to pay to be in a big group to see a part of history but it makes travelling frustrating. Perseverance is needed for historical sites, and people need rules and regulations, but it needs to be tailored.

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