Machu Picchu and Peru costs & prices traveling in September 2019

I just got back from a fantastic trip to Peru with my wife and some good friends. If you’re thinking of going to Peru, we highly recommend it! But do you know how much Peru costs?

Researching before the trip resulted in fewer accurate & updated prices than we wanted. So here’s our numbers on what you can expect your trip to Machu Picchu and Peru to cost, accurate as of September 14, 2019. 


Have you come to this blog post and truly just want to know some ballpark prices, with zero additional context? I can do that:

a decent meal: ~$15/person
Machu Picchu tour guide: ~$25/person
private driver + English tour guide: ~$85/person/day
massage: ~$15/person
original 4″x6″ artwork: ~$9
Uber for taxis: ~$4/ride

I hope you want to learn more than these rough prices, though, since the context is important!

Some notes about our trip:

  • Travelled early September 2019
  • 4 adults
  • This was not a gap year / typical “backpacking” trip
    • We stayed at fairly nice hotels, and ate at generally nicer restaurants
  • 1 person spoke fluent Spanish, 1 person knew some Spanish, and 2 of us (my wife and I) know a little Duolingo (in other words – nothing)
  • All prices in Peruvian Soles prefixed with PEN below
    • You’ll also see them prefixed with S/. in Peru
  • All prices in US dollars prefixed with a $ below
    • Paying with USD is generally accepted for some traveler services, but Soles are always accepted

Machu Picchu & Aguas Calientes

Visiting Machu Picchu probably means you’ll stop in the town of Aguas Calientes (AC).

The bus between AC and the front door of Machu Picchu costs $24 for a roundtrip ticket. You can also get one-way tickets at a lower cost.

Hiring a tour guide for Machu Picchu is not necessary, unlike what’s mentioned here. However, our group really enjoyed having one for a day. After getting off the bus at the top, we found an officially-trained tour guide; they all have a particular uniform and a badge.

No planning was necessary – there are plenty of English-speaking tour guides available, and they will seek you out!

The tour guide price does not seem to be fixed. That means get your negotiating skills ready. The tour guide we ended up going with, Freddy, initially offered two prices:

  • $20 per person if the 4 of us joined a 6 to 8 person group
  • $30 per person if it’s just us 4

Before landing in Peru, we had read a private tour should be around $50 for two people. The $30/person offer resulted in us talking amongst ourselves, clearly looking & acting unsure. After a couple seconds of that, he came down to $25/person, and we took that.

Massage in Aguas Calientes

Many places offer massages in AC, and my wife and I thought that sounded great after a day of hiking Machu Picchu. We looked around at a few places, and picked one that was PEN140 (~$45) for two people. Lower prices were available, including under PEN100 for two people. However, we thought we’d pay a little more, hoping that would result in a better experience.

After having the massage, we think any of the places would have been about the same. The massage was comparable to a low-cost massage in the USA, but we doubted everything on the massage table was changed / cleaned between massages. At a minimum, our pillow definitely looked less-than-spotless.

Sacred Valley, from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

We only had two days in the Sacred Valley, so we wanted a tour guide to take us to a number of places. We decided on Peru Trek 4 Good (check out their TripAdvisor reviews), and we were very glad we did. Although the name is a little strange, and their official website doesn’t look too professional, the experience was excellent.

Yure, the owner of the company, setup our trip over email before we arrived in Peru. We paid everything upfront on a website using our credit card. Our tour guide, Virgilio, took us all over for two days, and we honestly felt a little like family by the end of the tour.

A private, 1.5 day tour for the four of us cost $490 ($440 quoted price, plus additional fees when purchasing online), plus a tip. This was nearly the lowest price we were quoted. The first day was 8am – 2pm, the second 9am – 5pm, and day two included dropping us off in Ollantaytambo.

In Ollantaytambo, we went to see the ruins overlooking the town. We hired a guide at the ruins, and it cost $45 for the four of us, including tip. The tour was roughly 2 hours, and overall we thought it was worth it.

Original Art in Pisac

We stopped in the Pisac market on Sunday. We read it was the best day of the week to visit. Now that we’ve visited, we think the day of the week doesn’t matter; it’s roughly the same as markets we saw in Aguas Calientes and Cusco.

However, we found one painter – Germain Ninantay (no website, unfortunately!) – creating lovely artwork right there in the market. We picked up a 4″x6″ original for roughly PEN25 (~$9). Our friends wanted a much bigger, fairly wide painting, initially quoted at PEN700, but was negotiated down to PEN400 (~$133). Alas, my friends found out it wouldn’t fit in their luggage, so they opted for a smaller one for ~PEN200 (~$67).


We tried to arrange most of our transportation to or from airports and train stations ahead of time. Most hotels will help you arrange a ride before you arrive – contact them via email, which helps break down language barriers since both ends can use Google Translate or ask a friend to translate 😊

The way we did it, we never had to haggle with a single person over transportation cost. The price was explicit ahead of time, and nobody ever tried to bump up the price when we arrived at our destination.

Once we were in a city or town, we used Uber to get around. Funny enough, an actual taxi cab showed up as our Uber vehicle! All of our drivers were friendly, and the experience was just like using Uber or Lyft in the USA or any other country. Getting rides from your phone like this is one of those times when I truly feel like I’m living in the future.

You’ll see the price in the Uber app, but we typically got 5 to 10 minute rides for around PEN12 ($4), depending on time of day and demand.

Lima Airport

We were told Uber drivers are not allowed to pickup from the Lima airport, so we went with Green Taxi, which was recommended on some blog posts.

The cost from the Lima Airport to Miraflores was a fixed PEN60 ($20) from Green Taxi or other taxi companies in the airport, so pick whichever seems nicest to you. We sort of regretted choosing Green Taxi because one of the people for them in the airport was pretty frustrating, but our driver was lovely, so overall we were happy with them.

We didn’t book a round-trip back to the airport, but we asked our driver on the way to Miraflores if he could pick us up for our return flight. Speaking Spanish definitely helped! We did have to remind the driver that we should get a 10% off discount because we were getting the roundtrip with the same driver, and he agreed.

Another likely benefit of using an official taxi service at the Lima Airport: a quick trip through vehicle security at the airport. There’s some sort of security checkpoint, but our taxi cab went through it very quickly, and let us be picked up and dropped off very close to the terminal.


We had some lovely meals, and were quite happy with their reasonable prices.

An entree at a lower-priced spot might be PEN12 ($4), and even mid-tier restaurants will likely have some decent options around PEN18 ($6). Non-alcoholic drinks are around PEN5 (~$2), and an alcohol beverage about PEN12 (~$4). A decent meal for $15 or less is very attainable.

Get a nice meal for around PEN75 ($25) per person, including a non-alcoholic drink.

One example: at Mango’s on our last night in Lima, my wife and I paid $48 total for two entrees, a bottle of water, and a Pisco sour.

“Free Pisco sours!”

You’ll be offered “free Pisco sours!” in touristy areas. As long as you order a main course, they typically are indeed free, although they’re usually smaller versions of a full-priced drink. But this might be perfect, because if you’re drinking at elevations between 6,000 to 11,000 feet, a little alcohol goes a long way.

Coming soon: how Pisco sours (and other, non-alcoholic beverages) might impact your vacationing at Peru’s high altitudes!

Have questions about any of our other costs? Leave a comment!

A workday inside a China Airlines 777-200ER

I just spent the majority of a 24 hour period on an airplane. Sound hellish? Consider this: I was in business class on the 777-ER200, and more or less had my own little cubicle, which had a chair that folder out to 180 degrees flat. I slept – and worked – well. I have been in the business class lounge most of the time since I arrived in the Taipei airport. The airport is very clean, very quiet, and everyone is quite orderly. It feels less stressful than an American airport. I’ve seen a few things here I’ve never seen in any other airport, though I’d love to learn about other airports that might have these things:
  • a sit-down calligraphy desk, where someone helped teach me how to draw a couple names in Chinese characters. At the end, I drew her name in roman characters.
  • a library – a completely non-commercial space in the airport. They were not selling anything, but instead just had this space for people to quietly work on a computer or read, complete with walls full of various types of books.
  • a workout area, with a shower – I don’t know who could use the shower, but I assume anyone. The workout area was very spacious, although it had only 6 pieces of equipment: 3 bikes, a treadmill, and two weight machines. It was connected to a small Adidas store, but there was zero sales pressure… though perhaps the language barrier had something to do with that.
I’ve spent a long time in the Turkish airport, and this time is flying by in comparison, because:
  • a quiet space is much more calm, and the hours go by smoother there… at least, when you’re my age, apparently
  • lots of good food and drinks – I’m sipping on some single malt scotch right now before bed, and I had Bailey’s and some red wine since arriving here
  • there was a shower, complete with towels, toothbrush and toothpaste, cologne, and soap, shampoo, and conditioner… all for free, within the business lounge. Considering I will be spending over 12 hours here, it’s not too far off from a hotel experience.
Wifi is solid, food is delicious, and there’s issues of Time, The Economist, and Bloomberg to read if I get bored… which, trust me, I’m not, with all the work I’ve got to get done.

China Airlines wifi

I asked online whether wifi on an airplane crossing the Pacific Ocean would be reliable or any good. People said it was bad. I disagree. I worked for about 7 hours on the flight, from 9am central time until touchdown around 4pm central time, and the wifi – although too slow to, say, stream videos – was perfectly fine with the text chat, file downloads, and web browsing I was doing. I was committing just like I was sitting on the earth. I’m sure your results may vary depending on weather and other unexpected technical difficulties, but I had zero problems.

China Airlines Business Class

It was a great experience! Everyone was nice, the food was good, and the TV screen was huge (I drifted off to bed to Ted 2, after leaving LAX at 11:45pm). The noise-canceling headset wasn’t branded Bose, and it didn’t seem as good as some other ones I’ve used, but at least they had one, which came in useful early in the flight. Overall, it’s been a great first day of adventure … spent mostly in an airplane and in an airport lounge.

An adventure across continents and years

I am going to fly around the world.

I just took off from Boston on an American Airlines flight. We have power outlets so I can charge my laptop and phone, although they are both full of charge and don’t really need it. However, I want to make sure I have all the power I can, because my livelihood depends on a few key things:

  • my laptop
  • electricity, whether in my laptop’s battery or at a wall plugin
  • internet
  • my fingers

These things are important to me in many ways, because I really enjoy:

  • making software
  • making websites
  • playing video games, although I do it very infrequently these days
  • playing piano
  • keeping in touch with family and friends
  • learning

All of those 3 or 4 of the things above, except that last one.

That’s what this trip is all about. Learning about the world.

Why am I going on this trip?

My girlfriend Diveena asked me on the way to the airport this morning, “Why are you going on this trip?”

I have thought about this question a few times since I first thought of redeeming 275,000 frequent flier miles on Delta to get a Round the World (RTW) ticket.

Diveena didn’t ask it accusingly, nor because she has no clue why I’d go or want to go; on the contrary, she encouraged me to go on the trip, since I had talked to her about this crazy RTW ticket long before I knew Delta was eliminating the ability to redeem miles in exchange for one at the end of 2014.

Before the end of 2014, I thought I’d save up my miles for an indetermine time in the future when I would have enough vacation to simply take off a few weeks, maybe even a month or two, and see the world. I had a vague notion that I would do this in one of the following scenarios:

  • I quit a job, and take a few months before starting on my next job
  • I retire, then go see the world

That’s about it.

I’m not sure why I limited myself to just these two scenarios, but I think it’s a variety of reasons:

  • Most companies rarely give any ability to take more than 2 – 4 weeks of vacation off at one time.
  • I’ve been very busy with Third Iron, the company I co-founded in 2011, and there’s still so many things to do with the company, taking a full week off is a fairly big luxury, let alone multiple weeks in a row
  • Almost nobody I know has ever done anything like that

Without someone paving the way to do something, it can seem very difficult to do. However, I did have a role model for this: Dima, a friend I met in Iowa who has done the very thing I’m about to do. More about him in another post, though.

Seriously, why am I going on this trip?

Although I thought about why I was going close to deciding to go, and after I got the ticket, I did not ponder this question when I started saving up for this ticket. Since 2007, when I first heard about this round the world ticket things from my good travel buddy and friend Jessica Sander, I have been saving all my frequent flier miles in hopes of earning enough for this ticket. Three things helped me with this:

  • getting a bunch of miles for signing up for the Delta WorldPerks Gold American Express card
    • 30 or 50 thousand, I believe
  • preferring Delta over other airlines
    • if a flight cost less than about $50 more, I’d typically go with Delta… and because I would frequently fly out of Minneapolis or Iowa, Delta was typically the lowest priced option
  • using that Amex fairly frequently, especially for large purchases (computers, car repair, recurring bills, flights (with double points when flying Delta), etc)
  • flying
    • I really like to travel, so I certainly did fly and earn up miles that way, too!

So I just started slowly earning points, and after a couple years, I had enough for the economy-class Delta RTW ticket: 185,000 miles.

So earning the miles wasn’t too big of a deal to me, because I knew I was in no rush to go on this trip. Instead, I wanted to have them banked, so in case I lost a job or quit, I could take advantage of it.

But I never questioned why I wanted to do it when Jessica first told me about it.

Instead, my inherent thought was, “why would anyone NOT want to do that?”

I suppose I can think of a few reasons:

  • health problems
  • children
    • can be difficult to travel with them
    • taking them out of school for an extended period would be rough
  • fear of traveling alone
    • I’m lucky to be born a guy – we generally don’t have too much troubles traveling alone, but the same cannot be said for women
  • no desire to travel alone

That last one is a big one for me. I traveled alone around Germany and Austria during a two week period in 2008. I spent three weeks in Europe during that trip. The first week was spent with my work teammates, doing a multi-day presentation about the software my team was building for a helicopter upgrade we were selling to our German government customer. The next two weeks I spent most of the time alone, with a few breaks to meet my friend Amanda King, who was au pairing in Austria, and some family I never before met.

At the end of two weeks traveling largely alone, I was ready to be home and see friends. I was happy to get the opportunity to do it, but I thought I wouldn’t travel alone again for awhile.

Why, then, am I doing it now? Especially now that I have a great girlfriend?

One reason is because I have a great girlfriend. That may seem counter-intuitive to most people; why would you want to not be around your partner? In this case, though, Diveena saw that this was something I really wanted to do, since:

  • I had been saving for a long time
  • talked about it, even though I had zero plans to do it anytime soon
  • was quite unhappy when I found out Delta was discontinuing the ability to redeem miles for the RTW ticket
  • I love to travel, as does she

Diveena pointed out that I am in probably the 1% of people in the world who both want to and can do a trip like this, because:

  • I’m not married
  • I don’t have children
  • I have a job that allows me to work anywhere I have my laptop, internet, and a little electricity

Not everyone’s partner would be understanding enough to let someone live out a trip like this, let alone encourage it. I wasn’t early thinking of going, since I thought even though I can work remotely, some of my free time would be taken finding lodging, ensuring I had good internet, and I wouldn’t be able to travel with anyone else. My company, Third Iron, just seemed to have too many things going on for this to be a good idea.

Then I thought about the example my friends with children point out: there never is a right time to have kids. There is always a reason or excuse to not have them: we’re too young, our career is too overwhelming, we want to do too many other things, and eventually, we’re too old.

I thought about it some more, and since I started Third Iron in 2011, I have worked while visiting:

  • Bismarck
  • Seattle
  • San Francisco
  • Minneapolis
  • Rochester, MN
  • Boston
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Denver
  • Las Vegas

…and I’m sure a few more I’m not recalling.

I’m no stranger to working on the road. In fact, getting focused time to work on one single thing while I’m on an airplane is – however perverse this may sound – a joy to me. Throughout my working life, whether working for KB Productions, Rockwell Collins, or Third Iron, I’ve relished the time on an airplane as an environment where, free of anything else to do, it’s just me and the screen in front of me. I enjoy chatting up a friendly person in the seat next to me, but since a comfortably chatty person can be somewhat rare on airplanes, I generally look forward to them as a time to get something done… such as writing this very piece you are now reading. I believe I’m somewhere over Pennsylvania at the moment.

Seriously, you still haven’t said why you’re going on this trip

Well, I kind of did:

  • I have a girlfriend who encourages me to do the big things I’ve always thought about, but perhaps I never thought I could do
  • I have a job that lets me work where I want, and I’ve proven in the past that I’m able to handle traveling and working
  • because the world

I want to see more of the world up close.

I feel every place has many lessons to teach.

Every person you meet has a unique story, and can help you learn something new.

Putting yourself into an unfamiliar environment challenges you to reconsider what’s right, what’s pragmatic, and what’s possible.

What better way to put yourself into an unfamiliar environment than literally leaving the country in which you’ve grown up, and placing yourself into a place where people have spent generations growing up and living differently?

Some of the lessons I’ve learned in the past from traveling:

  • * If you don’t understand the local language, life gets difficult, and you rejoice when something is written in your language, or a picture, number, or symbol you understand is visible
    • After coming back from Europe the first time, I localized my Car Care iOS app into multiple different languages… it’s just so much easier when things are in your native language!
  • Plans are temporary – flexibility, and being open to change, is a cornerstone of being happy in life
    • We can’t predict what will happen – 99.999% of the world is outside of our control, so if change from something other than us causes you stress, you’re going to live a pretty stressful life
    • Don’t get too stressed out about being late – do your best to be on time, but if something happens and you don’t make it, apologize, and proceed to watch life go on
      • Corollary to the corollary: Being late for an airplane really sucks, so… try to be on time for that
  • Good people are everywhere
    • Creepy people are everywhere, too, but they’re vastly outnumbered by good people

So there’s another, and perhaps the most important, reason for going on this trip: to add to my list of life lessons.