If you’re going to be spending time in South America, get on the e-mail list for South America Explorers Club before you go and make the investment in a membership with them before you take off. I always find some good information from them before it comes out in the mainstream news, including this little tidbit on train service in Peru. I’m going to quote their newsletter verbatim here as I don’t have any further insight on it.
Machu Picchu Train Update – The long-awaited new competitive train services to Machu Picchu have begun! Inca Rail, which has an office on Avenida el Sol runs trains daily from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. Despite originally only offering a high-end luxury train service, Inca Rail are now offering budget options and have frequent special offers, visit their office (Avenida del Sol 611) or website for further details – www.incarail.com. Andean Railways Corp, who also have an office on Avenida el Sol, hope to begin service in the very near future with a higher level of service at a comparable price to PeruRail. Andean Railways will have early trains from Ollantaytambo, leaving 7:30 a.m. with a return at 4:30 p.m., at an expected RT price of about $120; a midday service, leaving 12:36 p.m. with a return 10:30 a.m. next day would be somewhat less, around $100. The Andean Rail website is not as yet operational, but we will keep you updated as to any changes.
Now I’m assuming those prices are in Peruvian soles (about three to the dollar) as otherwise those fares definitely don’t seem like anything worth jumping up and down about. I remember paying less than $50 for my one-way trip upper-class seat from Aguas Caliente to Ollantaytambo just over a year ago after I hiked the Salkantay Trail. But if there is relief from the current monopoly, that certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing as prices have kept going up up up the past five years and the stream of visitors to Machu Picchu shows no signs of slowing.
I did have a cool experience on that train though that I haven’t ever documented before, so here’s my chance.
We’re rolling along the tracks at night, people chatting, reading, or sleeping. Next thing I know some music comes on, there’s an announcement about a fashion show, and the two attendants take turns strutting their stuff down the aisle of the train car, donning “Made in Peru” fashions that passengers could purchase. There were sweaters, shawls, scarves, and hats, all displayed on a fast-changing model/attendant. It was dark, so I couldn’t get many good photos, but here’s one of each model.
It was one of those strange experiences that’s totally unexpected, part of the joy of travel that we lose when we know everything that is going to happen in advance. It’s still very vivid in my mind as a result.