You will spend twice your budget and there will be multiple hidden costs.
At first, I thought it was my lack of planning that made this trip more expensive than it actually was. Although poor planning was an issue, it wasn't the issue. I knew coming in that Cusco, the city in which Machu Picchu is located, is cold — so I didn't want to spend my whole week of spring break being cold (since I go to school in Chicago). I thought spending time in Lima as well as Cusco would be a good idea, and it was! I'm sure most third world countries are a tourist trap, but I guess I hadn't really experienced that before, and it caught me off guard. I didn't know that Machu Picchu was the "basic" out of all the world wonders, and to say it's expensive it's an understatement.
I'm pointing out some of my mistakes and frustrations, don't let this discourage you in any way! Machu Picchu is a breathtaking opportunity, and I hope that my experience can help you be aware of the obstacles that you may face. Hope you can learn from my mistakes, and get a better experience!
1. Prepare to spend a fourth of your budget on cab fare
There's no way of getting around without getting a cab. I mean, I could have asked and tried to get around in a bus, but even though I'm Colombian, I stick out like a sore thumb and didn't feel like dealing with people looking at me. And my first AirBnB host did not recommend Uber, she said it wasn't safe. But I ended up ubering in Miraflores and felt safe, wish I would have done sooner because it was cheaper.
At first, I didn't mind spending the extra soles (Peruvian currency name). It started getting to me when certain cab drivers would up charge the fare price. A taxi driver tried to tell me that even though a cab charged me $22 soles to get downtown, he had to charge me $40 soles on the way back (CHARGE ME TWICE THE PRICE FOR THE SAME PLACE). He tried to explain it to me with some ludicrous logic, and I proceeded to take the cab because what else can I do? I didn't travel halfway around the world to argue with a taxi driver and have that negativity around me. I bit the bullet and tried to evade an argument. It just frustrates me when people try to take advantage of tourists. I know it may seem like we are better off because we can afford to take far away vacations, but tourists are still people and work hard to afford those trips. Whatever logic someone tries to rationalize their behavior, it's still wrong; and shit like that grinds my gears.
2. Machu Picchu has hidden costs
Fast forward to our flight to Cusco. You could plan your trip alone, but it's actually very stressful, especially since I didn't really know what I was doing. I read many blogs and it talked about the scam and stress, but it didn't specify what was a scam. The prices of the trip to Machu Picchu, online, were $360 for a day, and $3,000 and above for 4 days. I'm on a college budget, so I can't afford to spend a grand a day, let alone $360 for a day. Looking online is hard because the prices will always be more expensive, I decided to wing it, and hopefully pay a better price once we were in Cusco. We bought our Machu Picchu entrance, and we paid $220 just the transportation from Cusco to Machu Picchu. $220 just on transportation is insane! Especially because of the hassle that it was!
We had to be out the door at 5:00 a.m. to get an hour bus to the train station. Once at the train station, we had to stay on the train for an hour and a half, and once we got off the train, we had to take another bus to go up to Machu Picchu. All the while every place we went said we were going to Machu Picchu, but it was a lie.
We were going to a place that got us closer to Machu Picchu, but wasn't Machu Picchu.
I really wanted to keep a positive mentality, but after a while of this bullshit, it got to me. I know Jane was having a hard time trying to be positive because it was her first time abroad, and I know it must have been very frustrating traveling to a tourist trap as your first abroad experience.
Not to sound like a Debbi Downer, but I'm used to shit hitting the fan and things not going as plan, that these inconveniences don't affect me as much as they used to. Don't get me wrong, they are still annoying asf, but it's not worth feeling angry/annoyed while you are abroad. It's different when you travel, you can't handle stress and situations the same way you normally would. You have to bounce back much quicker because if you don't it can really make or break your experience.
3. Don't make Machu Picchu you're whole trip
You are in Peru, so take advantage of it! I'm glad I didn't spend my entire time in Cusco, because there's not much to do in the actual town. There are many towns around the area, but it all cost money, and are hours away. Everyone tells you to stay in the town of Cusco, but I think it's kind of a trap. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate spending a day there with the locals, but I spent it re-charging and blogging. Once in Cusco though, you can go to Sacred Valley, Rainbow Mountain, Machu Picchu.
If you can try to explore other parts of Peru, do it! Islas Ballestas, Arequipa, and an Amazon tour are still on my list! There's so much to see within this country, and I wish it was all closer together!
Be mindful that traveling by bus is not the safest, and keep in mind the areas of conflict. I have attached a link to look up the parts of countries to avoid. Simply look up your country and it will give you an overview of the parts to avoid. I would also suggest enrolling any travel you do with the Smart Traveller Enroll Program (STEP ) to be safe.
4. Culture shock can consume you
If you like to travel, you know that this is the price you pay. Experiencing the world and feeling wholesome by taking in culture, are at the cost of negativity, feelings of anger, frustration and annoyance. You have a limited amount of time abroad, and don't have time to dwell on the things that go wrong. You must let go of the things that irk you faster than a drop of a hat. I didn't realize how much discomfort I can take until Jane pointed somethings out.
The bathroom situation is different. Bathrooms don't always have toilet seats or paper. I honestly try to avoid public bathrooms, and hold it or don't drink too much water. This is something that might really affect people, especially if caught off guard. People will also try to harass you into buying their items. Do not give in, and do not feel bad, to an extent. Be prepared to stand your ground and hold your own. Dealing with vendors can feel intimidating and aggressive, but prepare to do it and learn how to do it respectfully.
5. Try to travel with someone that is fluent in Spanish
Since Spanish is my first language, I felt very comfortable with everyone around me. Jane came with me, and having paid no attention to her Spanish classes in high school, had a hard time communicating with the locals. Hopefully, you've heard it before and know that it's rude to travel to other places and expect people to know English. You have to do your homework and know at least some common phrases. Given, Spanish is also one of the easiest languages to learn. Locals appreciate when foreigners at least try to speak their language, and it also helps in absorbing some of the culture.