Peru offers two train services to Machu Picchu namely Inca Rail and Peru Rail. It might be a bit daunting looking at these two options and trying to figure out which one is the best if your are booking on your own and not with a travel agency. Travel agencies tend to have their favorite train company but can bookin on either.
Note: Be sure to verify there are Machu Picchu Citadel tickets available on the date of your train. In high season, the entrances have been selling out fast to Machu Picchu.
Firstly, these services have a lot in common, with a few subtle differences. They both offer good quality tourist services, have stations departing from San Pedro (Center of Cusco) and Poroy, (just outside of Cusco), depending on your destination and choice of train. You should also expect to get similar discount percentages and they all offer different class trains based on your budget and expectations.
We will breakdown what makes each train unique and which one would be the option for you.
Peru Rail has been in operations since 1999, making it the longest service offering transfers to Machu Picchu. Peru Rail is also the only train that offers a service to locals at a very reasonable price, especially for those living in and around the Machu Picchu area. If you are looking to travel beyond Cusco, they have routes between Cusco, Puno and Arequipa. Peru Rail has the most departure times a day making them very flexible and maintain the most clientele on average. When doing the Inca Trail, Peru Rail is your only option making stops along KM82 and KM104 (the starting points for the Classic Inca Trail and Short Inca Trail respectively). They have 2 train services to Puno which are the Belmond Andean Explorer and the Peru Rail Titicaca. For a trip to Arequipa, you can catch the Belmond Andean Explorer. Finally, the three-train services departing to Machu Picchu Include the Expedition Train, The Vistadome and the luxurious Hiram Bingham.
Peru Rail departs from the following Stations in dry season (May to November): San Padro (Cusco), Poroy (Cusco), Urubamba (Sacred Valley), Ollantaytamba (Sacred Valley), Hydroelectric (La Convention) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town)
In Wet season (December to April) from Ollantaytamba (Sacred Valley), Hydroelectric (La Convention) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town)
Inca Rail is the new kid on the block, beginning operations in 2007. Even though they are relatively new, they are certainly holding their own. Their train station in Ollantaytambo has a waiting room with coffee services, live music and free Wi-Fi. They offer 4 different train services, some of which are operated on the same train just with different levels of service and amenities. Also included when purchasing a ticket is the option to accumulate Latam Pass Miles. The four different train services that Inca Rail offers are The Voyager, 360°, First Class and finally, the super fancy Private Train.
Inca Rail departs from the following Stations in dry season (May to November): San Padro (Cusco), Poroy (Cusco), Urubamba (Sacred Valley), Ollantaytamba (Sacred Valley), Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) THEY RUN A BIMODAL SERVICE (BUS AND THEN TRAIN)
Wet season (December to April) Ollantaytamba (Sacred Valley), Hydroelectric (La Convention) and Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu town) THEY RUN A BIMODAL SERVICE (BUS AND THEN TRAIN)
Expedition Train VS The Voyager
The Expedition Train, formerly known as “the Backpacker” is the most budget friendly of the 3. Do not underestimate it though. After it was refurbished, the windows are bit wider, giving a decent view of the surroundings. They have basic amenities like heating and lighting and comfortable seats. They also offer rack spaces above the seats for your backpack, four passenger seats facing each with a table in between and cheerful Andean music coming from the speakers for your entertainment.
The voyager is a budget train created to accommodate the penny pinchers. It is very similar to the Expedition train. It provides the essentials, ensuring your safe travels to Machu Picchu in reasonable comfort.
Vistadome Train VS First class
The Vistadome is totally surrounded by glass from the windows to the ceiling, giving you unsurpassed panoramic views of valley, river and mountains that grace the landscape on your way to Machu Picchu. The Vistadome Train allows its visitor to be immersed in Andean culture through its on-board live music, landscape, dance show and food prepared with local ingredients. They have leather seats that are designed to conform to your body. It is definitely worth paying a little extra for a more rounded experience.
The First-class train has more to offer than its budget option counterpart the Voyager. You will be served a delectable lunch accompanied by a cold or hot beverage of your choice. The views will be absolutely spectacular. You can also look forward to live music and great views of the valley.
Hiram Bingham Train VS The Private Train
If you are looking to travel in luxury, then the Hiram Bingham is the best option for you. Even though it’s on the pricier side, you will realize why once onboard. This train is all inclusive, from their 5-course meal catering to your allergies and food restrictions, to the cocktails and all beverages served. You will also have live music and a dance show. They have different cars like the bar car and the observation car to enjoy our breathtaking surroundings and just relax. This luxury train is reasonably priced, compared to its competitor The Private Train. Part of your price is entrance to Machu Picchu Citadel with a private tour.
The Private Train is definitely in a league of its own, you need to be a big baller to afford this. It’s guaranteed to set you back a pretty penny, costing you over $13,000(thirteen thousand dollars) for a private car with you and your friends (maximum of 8 people). You are welcomed with a complimentary bottle of Champagne. You get silver star service all the way to Machu Picchu. Experiencing the best views, a private bus to the Citadel of Machu Picchu and Gourmet food amongst other things.
If you are looking for organized tour to Machu Picchu, check out SAM Travel Peru which a #1 Tour operator based in Cusco, more information here!