Machu Picchu, one of the most iconic sites in South America was subject to a number of rule changes in mid-2017, all in a bid to reduce visitor numbers and to safeguard this important historical Peruvian citadel.
With these new rules in place, it’s more important ever that you head up to Machu Picchu prepared and aware of what you’ll find.
We suggest you consider the following changes when planning your visit to this amazing ‘Wonder of the World’…
Machu Picchu, New Rules: 2018 and Beyond
Split Entrance Times
Instead of having a full day pass, as in the past, visitors to Machu Picchu now have to decide between either a morning or afternoon entrance ticket to the site. The morning pass allows visitors to be upon the grounds from 6am until 12pm, before the afternoon session takes over from 12pm until 5.30pm.
How strict are they in regards to moving people on at midday?
Officially, anyone that stays beyond their ticketed morning time will be escorted out (and it goes without saying nobody for the afternoon session will be let in earlier), but in our experience, visitors are free to wander well into the afternoon. We didn’t see any guards/personnel looking to move people on (or even checking tickets) and because of the set route and the crowds of people, it can actually be genuinely difficult to get out in time – it was past 1pm when I eventually exited the site.
What’s the best timeframe to choose?
Though it means an early start, the general conscientious is that the morning is the best entry time to Machu Picchu. With a potential sunrise on your hands and the relative quiet of the site first thing, it’s worth trying to be one of the first few people through the gate. Add to that, the possibility of staying a bit beyond your ticket time and you’ve got a lot more flexibility too.
Official Guides Leading All Groups
In years gone by, visitors could move throughout Machu Picchu independently. Now, all guests are required to be with an official tour guide.
Do I have to stay with my Machu Picchu guide the whole time?
Not necessarily. Our guide accompanied us around part of one circuit (whilst talking with us for a few hours) and then walked us out of the gates. We took this opportunity to quickly pop into the toilet before re-entering the site and touring independently.
The rules suggest that you need a guide with you at all times but this was not our experience at all.
Each person that enters Machu Picchu is allowed to exist the site once and granted re-entry – that’s it though.
Why would I need to exit and re-enter Machu Picchu?
Firstly, if you join a tour like us, you may not have a choice but to exit with your group.
It’s also worth noting that there are no toilet facilities within the ancient city walls and that eating is not allowed either. If you’re up at 4am and exploring the site from 6am, chances are you’ll need to grab something to eat (and just get away from the crowds).
Exiting will allow you to do that but be warned, there’s a new rule that makes life that little bit more difficult…
Upon entering the citadel, you’ll find two specific circuits looping around. Both trails are one-way and whilst the first one does connect up to the second, the second weaves around part of the site before heading back to the exit.
Don’t get caught out by the one-way system!
As our tour group was taken straight onto the second circuit (and we didn’t get to see everything there), we thought we’d rejoin the second circuit (ticking it off in its entirety) before returning to the first.
What a bad move that was!
Because we’d already exited once, a second exist wouldn’t have allowed us to re-enter the site. Unfortunately though, we soon found out that the second circuit didn’t reconnect again, meaning we had no other option than to head for the final gate.
Whilst approximately 3/4 of the way around the second circuit, we asked the guard if we could either double back or use one of the roped off tracks to rejoin the first circuit but he wasn’t having a bar of it. Tears of frustration flowed – we hadn’t come to the other side of the world to miss out on seeing Machu Picchu like that!
Eventually we found a guide that took pity on us and allowed us to dart up an unused path (our hero).
Learn from our mistake and make sure you’ve trekked along the first circuit before starting your second loop!
Other Rules Worth Noting…
The following items are prohibited whilst at Machu Picchu:
- Bags larger than 40 x 35 x 20 cm (15.7 x 13.7 x 7.9”). These must be placed into storage near the entrance.
- Food and drink (including alcohol)
- Umbrellas (though hats and raincoats/ponchos are allowed)
- Musical instruments (including speakers)
- High-heels and hard-soled shoes. Soft soles, like those sound on running shoes are all that are allowed.
- Strollers and prams. Strap-on baby carriers are permitted.
- Walking/hiking sticks with hard or metal points. Elderly people and those with ‘physical handicaps’ are allowed walking sticks with rubber tips.
The following actions are also prohibited:
- Climbing or learning on the walls of Machu Picchu
- Touching, moving or removing any items or structures
- Dressing up or getting naked
- Laying down, running and jumping
- Making loud noises – this includes shouting, whistling, clapping and singing
- Smoking (including the use of electronic cigarettes)
- Feeding any of the animals on site
Machu Picchu is an absolute icon, both of South America and of the ancient world.
To stand on a site that has homed such incredible history is awe-inspiring and with proper planning, your visit is sure to be a day to remember.