Machu Picchu etiquette

Travel Advice Machu Picchu Etiquette - The Do's And Dont's

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Don't fall foul of the strict rules at Machu PIcchu

In order to preserve the ruins and to make the experience enjoyable for all visitors, the Park has some very strict rules that you should follow carefully or you can be removed from the Park!

1. DON'T bring food into Machu Picchu

To help protect the site and wildlife that lives near it, there is a strictly enforced policy of no food or beverages within Machu Picchu. Don't try and slip food past as most bags are checked by guards at the entrance to the site. Water is allowed, however, each person is allowed only one bottle.

If you are planning a picnic along the trail, don't panic. All your food, drink and gear can be left outside the entrance gates for you to pick up on your return. There are also several restaurants outside the gates. As you may guess though, these are quite pricey given their location.

2. DO stay on the marked trails

Ruins of the Machu Picchu

Protecting the ruins for future generations should be at the top of everyone's list. This means sticking to the assigned trails throughout Machu Picchu. At over 500 years old, many of the ruins are deteriorating fast. Wandering off along random trails will not only damage the site, but could also be dangerous due to falling debris. On top of this, several paths lead out onto nothing - just a long, long drop. No one wants to go this way.

3. DON'T get naked

Being respectful isn't difficult, just observe local customs, be polite and, oh yeah, DON'T GET NAKED. It may seem obvious to many of us hardened travellers, but in recent years a certain trend or 'fad' has become popular whereby travellers strip at major tourist destinations. Although admittedly this often makes for a good story, the sad reality is that you can get into serious trouble. The Peruvian government is cracking down hard on exposed cracks and naked tourists will be detained and possibly evicted from Cusco.

4. DO respect the llamas

Meeting a lama during the Ausangate trail

We all know they're cute and cuddly looking, however, they can also be dangerous. Llamas at Machu Picchu have been known to spit, charge and bite tourists! Llamas are also not the cleanest of creatures and will often carry fleas, mites and diseases. This being said, many Machu Picchu llamas are very friendly and not adverse to a pat or two.

5. DON'T underestimate the difficulty of trekking to Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is harder than it sounds. Whilst regular trekkers will not find it difficult, those new to trekking may find the going tough. There is a serious amount of stairs and you'll cross several passes over 4,000 meters high. On the longest day you'll trek 16 km of constant up and down slopes. Many of the more unfit trekkers are fairly exhausted by the time they reach the site. This being said, it's still definitely worth it!

6. DON'T touch the ruins

When standing next to the massive stone slabs carved by hand, it's obviously tempting to reach out and touch the stone. However, it's not a good idea. Sunscreen lotions, bug sprays, fake tans and any other chemical you can think of damages the stone surface. Whilst you're probably thinking 'how is that going to damage rock?', just think what would happen if 2 million people did it... The rock would certainly get worn and change colour from the chemicals. Just avoid it.

7. DO take awesome photos

Panorama of the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu

Most people take cameras to Machu Picchu. It's one of the most photographed spots on earth in fact and, whilst your photos may not be original, they'll still be awesome! If you want the birds eye 'poster photo' that hangs in thousands of cafes and rooms worldwide, you'll need to climb Huayna Picchu. You'll need to pay a bit extra but the view is certainly worth it! When taking photos throughout the site try to be mindful of other tourists. You won't be the only person wanting some photo memories, so please be aware of other peoples angles and standing in their shots.

8. DON'T Litter

As mentioned above, Machu Picchu does not allow food or beverages into the site. This means there are no garbage bins either. If you're a rule breaking badman and managed to slip in some contraband nuts or fruit, then please don't chuck the packet away - just stuff it in your backpack till you get out. Whilst littering disrespects the site and the people who visit it, it's also incredibly bad for the surrounding environment and its inhabitants, this includes, llamas, birds, bears, rabbits etc.

9. DO respect locals

Peruvian child

Would you like someone just snapping a picture of you without asking? No. Please ask permission before photographing locals in their traditional outfits. This goes for any local Peruvian, including officers, guards and policeman. Please also respect the local religion. This is generally Catholicism or Pachamama (Mother Earth) or a combination of both. When locals celebrate on the streets or conduct worship festivals, please act respectfully during these times and observe moments of silence.

10. DON'T Forget to tip your guides and porters

Jose in Machu Picchu

A guidebook can only go so far. Real guides are the people that will bring your experience alive! Their story telling and wide breadth of knowledge means that you will come away with a much deeper understanding of the site than you would otherwise. Your guides work hard to make sure you have a memorable trip and tipping these guys is a great way to show your appreciation. If you trekked in with porters then please also tip them as they work extremely hard to set up and carry all your gear.