Useful country information

Train operators in Peru:

www.perurail.com (Cusco to Machu Picchu, Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca)

www.machupicchutrain.com & www.incarail.com (alternative trains to Machu Picchu)

www.ferrocarrilcentral.com.pe (Lima-Huancayo).

 

 

Time zone:

GMT-5 (there is no daylight saving time in Peru).

Dialling code:

 

+51.

Currency:

1 = 4.95 Nuevos Soles.     Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.peru.info   Tripadvisor Peru page

Hotels:

 

Hotel search for Peru

Flights:

 

Cheapest flights to Peru

Visas:

UK citizens do not need a visa for Peru for tourist visits of up to 90 days.

Page last updated:

25 July 2014


Train travel in Peru

  The ruined Inca citadel at Machu Picchu  
 

Take the train to Machu Picchu...  Regular train slink Cusco and Ollantaytambo with the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu...  Photo courtesy  of Tim Roberts

 
  Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno  
 

The Cusco to Puno train...  This is the Puno to Cuzco Andean Explorer, stopped for a photo opportunity at the highest point.  Some say it's better than the train to Machu Picchu! Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

 

Peru has several train services of interest to visitors, including the famous train to Machu Picchu.  There are two separate networks:

The train to Machu Picchu

Unless you hike there up the Sacred Valley on foot along the Inca Trail, you'll need to take a train to reach the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu.  However, there are three possible starting points, namely Poroy, which is 13 km (8 miles) from Cusco, Ollantaytambo which is in the Sacred Valley itself, 89 km (56 miles) from Cusco, and there's also one train a day from Urubamba.  There are three competing train companies, PeruRail is the main one, but there are two smaller companies Inca Rail and Machu Picchu Train.  PeruRail operates a range of different train classes to suit different budgets from the cheap and cheerful 'Expedition' through the mid-range 'Vistadome' to the super-deluxe 'Hirham Bingham'.  This page will guide you through the options for an unforgettable visit to Machu Picchu.

Option 1:  Cusco to Machu Picchu with www.perurail.com...

The nicest option is to catch the train to Machu Picchu all the way from Cusco, the big city where most visitors arrive.  Sadly, trains no longer depart from the historic main station in Cusco itself.  As from 1 April 2009 all the tourist trains leave from Poroy station, a local halt situated 13 kilometres (8 miles) west of Cuzco.  This means you miss out on the scenic but slow zig-zag train ride up Picchu Hill between Cuzco & Poroy, but you take the train almost all the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu.

How do you get to Poroy?  You'll need to take a bus or taxi from downtown Cusco to Poroy.  A 3-seat taxi from Cusco to Poroy costs around 20-30 soles (4-6 or $6-$9) per taxi, and takes around 20 minutes.  There's a local bus for 6 soles per person.

Which train company to choose?  The trains from Poroy to Machu Picchu are all run by www.perurail.com, which is part of the Venice Simplon Orient Express group.  PeruRail took over operation of this network from the Peruvian railway company ENAFER in 1999. If you can't get a seat on the three daily direct trains from Poroy, there are additional shuttle trains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, run by a choice of three different companies, see here.

Which train to choose?  PeruRail run four different trains from Poroy to Machu Picchu every day, aimed at different budgets:

 Cusco ► Machu Picchu

 Train:

Vistadome

Expedition

Hiram Bingham

 Cusco depart:

(by taxi)

(by taxi)

(by taxi)

 Poroy (13km west of Cusco) depart:

06:53

07:42

09:10

 Ollantaytambo arrive/depart:

08:40

09:35

11:10

 Machu Picchu arrive:

10:38

10:51

13:09

 Machu Picchu ► Cusco

 Train:

Vistadome

Expedition

Hiram Bingham

 Machu Picchu depart:

16:00

17:03

18:07

 Ollantaytambo arrive/depart:

17:57

19:08

20:06

 Poroy (13km west of Cusco) arrive:

19:42

21:01

21:59

 Cusco arrive:

(by taxi)

(by taxi)

(by taxi)

Poroy to Machu Picchu is 86 km (54 miles). Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu is 38 km (24 miles).  Poroy is 3486 metres above sea level, Ollantaytambo 2600m, Machu Picchu 2350m.

Option 2:  Shuttle trains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu with one of 3 companies:

www.perurail.com, www.machupicchutrain.com, or www.incarail.com...

If you can't get a ticket for one of the PeruRail trains starting direct from Cusco (or rather, from Poroy just 8 miles away), don't worry, there are additional shuttle trains from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, run by a choice of three different private companies.  Ollantaytambo is 89 km (56 miles) from Cusco, 1 hour 40 minutes by taxi, so a longer bus or taxi ride, shorter train ride.  There's also one train a day from Urubamba.

First, buy your entry tickets to Machu Picchu Inca ruins at www.machupicchu.gob.pe...

These can be bought in advance online at www.machupicchu.gob.pe or in Cusco at the National Culture Institute (INC) at Avenida La Cultura 238, Condominio Huascar (in front of the Universitario Stadium).  Since July 2011, visitor numbers have been limited to 2,500 per day, about the expected number on a normal day in a busy month such as June, but less than the numbers previously visiting in the busiest peak months of July and August, so book ahead at www.machupicchu.gob.pe.  If you book in advance at www.machupicchu.gob.pe (recommended), just remember you'll still have to exchange the printout for an actual ticket at the office at either Cusco or Aguas Calientes.  For lunch at Machu Picchu, you can eat lunch at The Sanctuary, at around US$33 it's expensive but saves you an hour travelling to Aguas Calientes and back for lunch in the town.

Then buy your train tickets online at www.perurail.com...

You can buy tickets for all three tourist trains from Poroy to Machu Picchu online at www.perurail.com.  Train tickets can also be bought from Perurail offices at Lima Airport on level 2 between gates 13 & 14, or in Cusco at Portal de Carnes 214, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, call (084) 260809 or (084) 260792.  Tickets for the alternative MachuPicchuTrain service from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu can be bought at www.machupicchutrain.com, and for the Inca Rail trains at www.incarail.com.

Where is the station at Machu Picchu?  How do you get to the Inca ruins?

The station referred to as 'Machu Picchu' is in fact located in the local town of Aguas Calientes, approximately 8 km (5 miles) from the ruined Inca city of Machu Picchu.  A bus link runs every 30 minutes from the station to the ruins costing US$10 return, payable in either US$ or local Peruvian currency.  To find out more about the Inca ruins, see www.peru-machu-picchu.com or www.machupicchu.org.

What's the journey like?

The Vistadome & Backpacker trains (the latter now renamed Expedition) used to leave from Cusco's main San Pedro station on the Avenida Sol and spent half an hour climbing a series of Switchbacks or zig-zags up the mountainside to gain height.  Unfortunately, all trains now start from Poroy (the Hirham Bingham always started here), and so miss this interesting section.  After Poroy the train descends into the Sacred Valley and the Andean foothills, along the Urubamba river.  You'll pass colourful villages and herds of llamas.  Cusco to Machu Picchu is 107 km (67 miles), Poroy to Machu Picchu is 86km (54 miles).  The best views are on the left hand side of the train going up to Machu Picchu and on the right hand side returning, as the train follows the river and this is the side which the river is on, with the odd Inca ruin or terrace visible as the train runs along the Sacred Valley.  PeruRail won't assign seats on a particular side, but you can easily move over if there are empty seats after departure.

On the train to Machu Picchu, beyond Ollantaytambo   Mountains viewed through the roof windows of the Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu shuttle train

On the train to Machu Picchu...  This is a PeruRail shuttle train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu. Courtesy of Tim Roberts

 

Viewing the mountain tops through the roof windows!  Photo courtesy of Tim Roberts

The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu in Peru   The tourist train to Machu Picchu in Peru

Above:  The Expedition train from Cusco to Machu Picchu running alongside the Urubamba River... Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol

 

Above:  The Expedition train from Cusco approaches Machu Picchu.  Courtesy of 's'.

The PeruRail Vistadome train...

This is the mid-range option, a good choice.  The price includes complimentary snacks & non-alcoholic drinks served at your seat.

The Vistadome train to Machu Picchu at Aguas Calientes station   Inside the Vistadome train

The Vistadome train at Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu).  Photo courtesy of  Nicola Herbert

 

Inside the Vistadome train.  Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

The deluxe Hirham Bingham train...

This is the luxury option, the most expensive of the trains to Machu Picchu and one in a category all by itself.  This luxurious train ride includes a gourmet brunch on the outward trip and dinner on the way back, a selection of Peruvian wine, cocktails, entertainment, bus connections, Machu Picchu entrance fee and a guided tour.

The Hirham Bingham train to Machu Picchu   Hirham Bingham dining car

The Hirham Bingham, showing the open-air observation car at the rear. Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

 

Hirham Bingham dining-car. Courtesy Railbookers.com.

Dinner on the Hirham Bingham train   The train to Machu Picchu alongside the Urubamba River

An elegant dinner is served on the way back. Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

 

The Hirham Bingham train on its way to Machu Picchu. Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

Cusco to Puno (Lake Titicaca)

The Andean Explorer:  Better than the train to Machu Picchu?

PeruRail also run an excellent train called the Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno on Lake Titicaca.  It runs 3 times a week and covers 385 km in a 10-hour scenic daytime journey from $220 per person, three-course lunch and afternoon tea included.  This luxurious train has a dining-car, lounge and open-air observation car at the rear.  It gets great reviews from travellers, a superb journey that knocks the spots off a flight or bus journey, it's well worth the extra cost to take the train.

 Cusco ► Puno

 

 

 Puno ► Cusco

 Andean Explorer

Mon, Wed, Sat

 Andean Explorer

Mon, Wed, Sat

 Cusco (Wanchaq station) depart:

08:00

 Puno depart:

08:00

 La Raya arrive:

12:30

 La Raya arrive:

12:45

 La Raya depart:

12:50

 La Raya depart:

13:00

 Puno arrive:

18:00

 Cusco (Wanchaq station) arrive:

18:00

The Andean Explorer may also run on Fridays from April to October.  Cusco to Puno is 385 km (241 miles).

Fares:  From $220 per person including lunch and afternoon tea.

How to buy tickets:  www.perurail.com for times, fares and online booking.

More pictures:  See full-screen panorama photos of the Andean Explorer

Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno   Andean Explorer lounge car

The Andean Explorer train from Cusco to Puno at La Raya. Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

 

The bar-lounge in the Andean Explorer's tail-end observation car. Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

Inside the Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno in Peru   The Andean Explorer train en route to Puno

The pullman-style interior of the Andean Explorer.  Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol

 

The Andean Explorer at La Raya, showing the observation car with open-air viewing deck.  Courtesy of Railbookers.com.

Scenery along the Cusco to Puno train line   Scenery along the Cusco to Puno train line

Scenery along the railway between Cusco and Puno.  Although these shots show the railway, they weren't taken from the train.  Photos courtesy of Tim Roberts

The Andean Explorer from Cusco to Puno stopped at La Raya for a photo opportunity   Lunch on the train from Cusco to Puno

The Andean Explorer , stopped at La Raya for a photo opportunity. Photo courtesy of Dennis Nichol

 

Ready for an elegant lunch... Photo courtesy of Railbookers.com.

Lima to Huancayo

The railway between Peru's capital Lima and Huancayo was once the highest railway in the world, until the Chinese built the line to Lhasa in Tibet.  The air-conditioned Tren de Sierra links Lima & Huancayo once or twice a month, with touristico (1st) class & clasico (2nd) class & bar car.  The Touristico fare is around 160-200 Soles (32-40) and includes breakfast and complimentary tea, coffee, water and soft drinks.  Classico fares start at 100 Soles 20.  You can check departure dates & book tickets online at www.ferrocarrilcentral.com.pe.  In Lima, the train departs from Desamparados or Monserrate stations.  Bear in mind that the high altitude doesn't suit everyone!  Twice daily trains also link Huancayo with Huancavelica - or rather should do, it was reported in July 2012 that it hadn't been running for a year or so.

Train from Lima to Huancayo, Peru   Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo

The Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo.  Photos courtesy of Lynne Quayle

On board the train from Lima to Huancayo   Huancayo station

The Tren de Sierra from Lima to Huancayo.  Photos courtesy of Lynne Quayle

Sponsored links...

 


Recommended guidebooks

To get the most out of your trip to Peru, you'll need a decent guidebook.  For the serious independent traveller this means either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide.  Both guides have everything you need - plenty of background historical and cultural information, plus practical information.

Buy Lonely Planet Peru online at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Rough Guide to South America online at Amazon.co.uk

 

 

 


Hotels & accommodation in Peru

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Flights...

Overland travel by train around South America is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But if a long-haul flight is unavoidable to reach India in the first place, try  Virgin Atlantic who now fly from the UK to India, a good choice for both price and service.

Or use the Skyscanner search tool to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy 20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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