Recently voted one of the 'New Seven Wonders of the World', Machu Picchu had become so popular by July 2011 that the Peruvian authorities decided to limit the number of daily visitors to 2500. This was mainly due to concerns for the conservation of this historical sight, as the large numbers of tourists were wearing down the pathways and even the ruins themselves. Whilst this decision was arguably necessary to protect the ancient Inca capital, it can seem frustrating for tourists trying to secure one of these now limited tickets.
High season in Peru is from May to October so if you are able to travel outside of these dates - do it! There are often days during low season (November to April) when the site does not reach capacity so it is even possible to buy your ticket on the day. For those travelling during high season however, it is advisable to book your ticket beforehand otherwise you may find yourself in Peru with no access to Machu Picchu (every traveller's worst nightmare!). Although you may find alternative websites offering cheap tickets giving access to the ancient capital, it is much better to buy tickets through established links or else you will very probably end up as the victim of a scam.
1. The official Peruvian website for Machu Picchu has an English translation tool and is relatively easy to navigate. Unfortunately however, the site is currently not accepting any card payments due to an increase in credit card fraud and there is no date given for when the payment system will be working again. Even when the site does function, there are often problems with the payment system as the site only accepts VISA and no other credit or debit cards. If this method of payment is not possible for you, you can pay for your tickets at the Governmental Offices of Culture in Cuzco (Av. de la Cultura 238 Condominio Huáscar) or at any Banco de la Nacion del Peru. However, you must pay for your ticket no later than six hours after making your reservation online, so for those wanting to secure tickets before arriving in Peru, this is not ideal.
2. Alternatively, you can book your tickets to Machu Picchu through travel agencies in either Britain or Peru. This may be a little more expensive as most agencies will charge a commission fee, but it can often pay off as the agency does all the work for you. These fees vary according to the price of your ticket and of course, your tour operator, but expect to pay anything up to 50 percent more than when booking directly through the site. When booking through an agency, give some thought beforehand to what type of ticket you want. For example, there are tickets simply to the site itself (ticket name: Ciudad Inca MAPI), tickets to the site and the museum (Machu Picchu y Museo) and tickets to the site and a pass to climb the mountain behind it (MAPI ? Huayna Picchu).
3. It is also possible to ask your hotel in Peru to book your tickets for you before you arrive. This often comes with an extra charge but it allows you to avoid the hazards of trying to book tickets online and the service charge from the hotel is often cheaper than the commission charged by travel agencies and tour operators (around 20 percent service charge in hotels, compared to 50 percent commission fees when booking through travel agencies).
For the more spontaneous traveller, you may simply be able to buy your ticket on arrival in Peru. Official tickets can be purchased at the Instituto de Cultura Nacional in Cuzco and the Machu Picchu Centro Cultural in Aguas Calientes. Be warned however, if travelling in high season, it is entirely possible that tickets may have already sold out by the time you arrive. Once 2500 tickets per day have been sold, there is nothing the staff in these offices can do to help you.
Also worth bearing in mind is the possibility of taking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. This is a guided four-day, 28m trek to the ancient city which takes you through the Andes Mountains. On the final day many hikers wake up early (around 4:00am) in order to reach Machu Picchu before sunrise. This way of seeing the site is of course more expensive, but it is an experience you won't forget in a hurry!