Buying tix to Machu Picchu?

My son has just returned from Machu Picchu and I’m figuring out how to get there! Along the way, I’m beginning to understand why people do package tours to places like Peru. I’m usually pretty good at arranging my own trips – flights, hotels, restaurants, trains, cars but Peru in general and Machu Picchu entrance tickets in particular have been a challenge.  For Machu Picchu I figured out the train tickets (after sorting through three different rail services, each with several options of trains) and the hotel to stay  in  Aguas Calientes,  the town nearest MP. But  figuring out whether and how to buy the tickets online ahead of time has been tricky.

The official government website appears at first to be useless – thanks to an off-putting advisory translated into barely understandable English that pops up on the first page that suggests you can’t buy tickets online. (There was a problem with fraudulent credit cards, apparently.) The key is to click past this first page to the next page which does offer more hope – even if it’s also hard to navigate. For navigation purposes, I used another  website  which offers no less than 10 pages worth of instructions on how to buy the tickets.

From what I’ve read, buying tickets ahead is a good idea in general because the number of visitors allowed per day is 2500 (This was done in 2011 to protect the site.) One unanswered  question is whether I need to buy tickets in advance if I’m going off-peak in November. Some people say I don’t. But I also don’t want to make the long trip there (which involves a train trip, bus trip, and overnight stay in a town I would otherwise not visit) and not get into see the glorious Machu Picchu (witness my son’s photos adorning this post.)

View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu, showing the Hiram Bingham Highway used by tour buses to and from the town of Aguas Calientes

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