Most Machu Picchu tour packages include rail tickets as well as bus transport between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu, admission to the ruins, and lodging if you plan to stay overnight. If you plan to go without a tour, it's an easy train ride from Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu (the train stops in Aguas Calientes, the town below the ruins). Most visitors board the train in Ollantaytambo, as trains leave more frequently from this station making it the best option. It is possible to take the train from Cusco’s Poroy station (which is a 20-minute taxi ride away from the Plaza de Armas) to Machu Picchu, but it is more convenient to take a taxi to Ollantaytambo and board a train there; taxis are quicker than the train, and there are more train times available at Ollantaytambo. Two train operators serve Machu Picchu, PeruRail and Inca Rail.
PeruRail is the longest-standing train operator and offers services from Cusco, Poroy, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes. It operates three trains of different classes and offering different services. The least expensive train is the Expedition. The cars have comfortable seats and tables, with sky windows for a full peek at the Sacred Valley. The next step up is the Vistadome, whose cars have sky domes for great views, snacks and beverages included in the price, and a return trip that includes a fashion show and folklore dancing. The luxury Hiram Bingham train provides a class of service unto itself (with prices to match). It leaves from Cusco's Poroy station, a 20-minute taxi ride from the Plaza de Armas, and will make a stop in Ollantaytambo if booked from there. The Vistadome and the Expedition trains depart from Cusco, Poroy, and Ollantaytambo. There is also one Vistadome per day traveling to and from Urubamba, which also stops in Ollantaytambo.
Train ticket prices vary by season and time of day. A ticket on the Expedition costs between US$104 and US$158 round-trip from Ollantaytambo; a round-trip on the Vistadome from Ollantaytambo costs between US$154 and US$190. A round-trip ticket on the Hiram Bingham train costs US$946. One-way-only rates are higher.
PeruRail's service is generally punctual. Schedules and rates are always subject to change, and there may be fewer trains per day to choose from during the December-to-March low season. A full train schedule is available on the company's website, and timetable fliers can be picked up from the one of its offices in Cusco.
In theory, same-day tickets can be purchased, but waiting that late is risky. Procure tickets in advance from PeruRail's sales office in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco; it is open every day, including weekends and holidays, from 8 am to 9 pm. The office on Avenida El Sol has extended hours, daily from 7 am to 10 pm. You can also purchase tickets online or by phone. Note that trains that include stops in Urubamba tend to fill up quickly.
Inca Rail also has trains departing from Cusco, Poroy, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes, as well as bi-modal service from Cusco throughout the year.
There are three types of tickets offered on Inca Rail: Voyager, which costs between US$108 and US$140 round-trip; the 360°, which costs between US$154 and US$163 round-trip and includes a box lunch, fresh juices, and herbal teas; and First Class, which costs US$474 round-trip and includes a pisco sour and three-course meal, a cocktail-making class, and fresh juices and teas. Coming with a group? Ask about chartering the company's Private Machu Picchu Train, which includes welcome champagne, pisco sours, a three-course gourmet meal, a special selection of wines and fresh juices, personalized cooking classes, an observatory lounge, and a private bus to the citadel.
You can purchase tickets in Cusco at the Inca Rail office in the Plaza de Armas, or by phone. It is also possible to purchase online with a credit card.
Inca Rail. Ticket Office, Portal de Panes 105, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Cusco. 084/581–860; www.incarail.com.
PeruRail. Ticket Office, Portal de Carnes 214, Plaza de Armas, Cusco, Cusco. 084/581–414; www.perurail.com.