Getting to Cusco & The Inca Trail, Peru

Jeremias Padilla Picture
by Jeremias Padilla
updated about 2 years ago

The ancient town of Cusco remains a mythical destination for fans of ruins and hiking. Arriving there can be a bit tricky but transportation to the area is not expensive with buses starting at $15 if you don't mind the long trip. Plane rides are not expensive either with tickets starting at $25 one way. Moving around is super simple as the town is not big and Uber is available at approximately $1 per mile.

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Cusco & The Inca Trail Key Information

Cusco is the birthplace and capital of the Inca civilization, as such, most people who arrive in Peru, do it with the intention to visit Cusco and Machu Pichu.

Peru's official language is Spanish, since this area is tourist-oriented, you will find people who speak English but not all the time. Learning a few phrases in Spanish will help you immensely plus the locals will appreciate it.

The tricky part

The tricky part in this area is that there's so much to do that it's important to plan ahead and do proper research on what to do and where to visit, in order to decide on your best transportation options before you begin your journey.

Most people think that Machu Picchu is the only attraction in the area when in reality, it's only one of many, and sometimes you can end up spending a lot of money and energy in this destination and miss out on other really nice places to visit.

Cusco and the surrounding areas are safe in general, the local police tries their best to keep it safe and there is no significant amount of violent crime. Pickpockets are rare but there have been instances where unsuspecting tourists have been victims of this type of petty crime so be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings at all times. There have been some reports of muggings when traveling in taxis so whenever you take a taxi, especially at night, make sure you use a registered taxi. Ask your hotel to call you one if you are unsure of how to recognize them.

Google Maps

Getting to Cusco and The Inca Trail

Most people will start their trip to Cusco, in Lima. Once there, there are three ways to get to Cusco.

  • By plane to Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport - (CUZ) which is the local airport, it just takes about 1.5 hours and prices start at $25 for a one-way ticket. However, it only receives international flights from Bolivia, the rest of international flights arrive in the city of Lima. There are flights from Lima to Cusco every day and at different times; Avianca, Sky, Latam, Viva Air and Peruvian Airlines are the main companies that operate at the Cusco airport.

  • By bus. A huge number of bus companies operate the Lima - Cusco route. If you like to travel by bus, this is a great option, however, the rugged geography of Peru makes the trip quite tedious and takes around 20 hours and costs between $15-50 for a one-way ticket, depending on the type of seat and bus you choose.

  • The third route, which is a lot more complicated, involves taking a bus to Arequipa which takes 16 hours and costs between $15-30, then from Arequipa to Puno another bus which takes 5 hours and costs $7-22. Finally, from there take a train to Cusco which takes about 10.5 hours, prices start at $200. This last route is not really that practical but if you want to spend a day or two visiting Arequipa before heading to Cusco, then go for it.

Photo by Renny Gamarra on Unsplash

The Frugal Option

The cheapest way to get there is by bus. There are a few companies that are popular such as Civa, Cruz del Sur, Tepsa, Oltursa, and Ormeño; from Lima to Cusco, it costs $15 to $50 for a one-way ticket. Tickets can be bought at the Gran Terminal Terrestre Plaza Norte and the Terminal Sur, known as the Atocongo Terminal, as well as the Yerbateros terminal of the Molina Unión transport company. Some of these companies also have departures from their own facilities.

The bus terminal is 10 minutes from the Historic Center of Cusco so you can take a taxi to your accommodation. Prices start at $3 and the taxis are waiting right outside the terminal.

The best way to get there is by plane, prices start at $25 for a one-way ticket and there are several airlines that serve the route such as Avianca, Sky, Latam, Viva Air and Peruvian Airlines.

Once there, take a taxi to your accommodation. Most hotels are 10 minutes from the airport, a taxi will cost between $3-6 (depending on your negotiation skills) and they are waiting right outside the airport.

You can also take an Uber which will cost you approximately $4

Private Transfer Options

Due to the long distance, there are no direct private transfers to Cusco, only buses, flights and trains.

Photo by Mckayla Crump on Unsplash

The Mozio Recommendation

The most practical way to get there is by plane from Lima and then taxi or ride-share from the airport to your accommodation. It's the fastest way and if you book your flight with months in advance, prices will even be similar to those of buses.

Moving AROUND Cusco and The Inca Trail

Once in Cusco, there are several options to travel around the area since it's full of tourists almost year-round. In the city, within the historical center, you can walk anywhere you need to. Keep in mind that this city is at a high altitude so take your time and always carry a bottle of water.

If you don't feel like walking or you're going somewhere a bit further, taxi service and rideshare are great options, within the historical center most rides cost between $1-2.5, slightly more expensive after midnight but available all day.

There is also public transporation available, including local minivans and small buses with fixed routes that cost about $0.5 which operate all day long.

Photo by Hoach Le Dinh on Unsplash

The Frugal Option

The cheapest way to get around Cusco and The Inca Trail is by bus. Within Cusco and from Cusco to towns in the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Calca, and Urubamba. They depart from stops on Calle Puputi (to Pisac, Urubamba and Calca) and also on Av. Grau (to Urubamba and Ollantaytambo). Prices range from $6 to $15.

If you are heading to Aguas Calientes, which is the village where Machu Picchu is located, take a bus from Cusco to Hidroeléctrica, it costs about $13, travel time is 5.5 hours then walk to Aguas Calientes which is about 10 km or 2 hours long. Needless to say, you need to be fit for this option since you will be carrying your belongings with you while you walk.

There are several companies that operate this bus route which can be found in Plaza de Regocijo, prices start at $15 one way.

A good option is to hire a driver to take you around the nearby towns and villages. Viator offers packages from $65 for a group of 3 people to visit Chinchero, Moray and Salineras and drop you off at Ollantaytambo. There are other destinations you can choose as well.

Photo by John Salzarulo on Unsplash

Are Rideshare & TaxiApps Readily Available In Cusco & The Inca Trail?

Available On-Demand Providers

  1. uber

    $1.11 per Mile

Not Available Options

  1. cabify

  2. lyft

  3. grab

  4. freenow

  5. gojek

  6. didi

  7. bolt

Car Rental Options

Renting a car is very easy. You will need your passport, valid driver's license and credit card. Parking in Cusco is rather limited so make sure your accommodation has overnight parking included. There are a few paid parking lots within the historical center. Keep in mind that drivers will not always obey traffic laws and you need to be aware at all times in order to avoid an accident.

The best options are:

  • Pickup/drop off Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport $18, 5 pax, 1 bag, compact sedan. Avis.
  • Pickup/drop off Lima Jorge Chavez International Airport $60, 5 pax, 3 bag, SUV. Budget.
  • Pickup/drop off Cusco Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport $36, 5 pax, 2 bags, compact sedan. Hertz.
  • Pickup/drop off Cusco Alejandro Velasco Astete Airport $101, 5 pax, 3 bags, SUV. Hertz
Photo by Jeremiah Berman on Unsplash

Day Trips Around Cusco and The Inca Trail

Machu Picchu

This ancient site is the most popular attraction in the area and it's almost always included in every travel plan for this destination. Take a train to Aguas Calientes, from Cusco or Ollantaytambo. From Cusco, prices start at $75 and the journey takes about 4 hours. From Ollantaytambo, prices start at $65 and the journey takes about 1:50 hours.

The two companies that offer this service are Inka Rail and Peru Rail. You can buy their tickets online or at the station.

Once in Aguas Calientes, take a shuttle bus from Avenida Hermanos Ayar which will drop you off at the entrance. A one-way ticket costs $12. The first bus departs at 5:30 am and the last one at 3:30 pm.

Photo by Nina Pascal on Unsplash

Sacred Valley

This can be done in a day and includes a visit to Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. Buses travel between them and prices start at $6 per journey. Buses depart from Cusco and the stop is at Calle Puputi.

Prebooking a private professional driver to take you there is also possible through Mozio with their local partner Daytrip with rates starting at $98.

Inca Trail

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu can be done in 2 or 4 days depending on the route you choose. It's mandatory that you go with a licensed tour operator or guide since only 500 people are allowed each day. Book at least 6 months in advance. Take a train or bus to Ollantaytambo, then walk to Winawayna, Inti Punku and finally Machu Picchu.

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