FYI, I went to Machu Picchu yesterday and there appear to be a bunch of myths out there which I can clear up. I havent found similar info on these forums yet, and I got bored looking. Also, I want to upgrade from Armchair adventurer
1) The first bus from Aguas Calientes is at 5:30am not 6:30am, so you get there in time for the site to open. This means you dont have to do a dull walk in the dark, and you can save your energy to go up Wayna Picchu, Machu Picchu itself, up to the sun gate, or all 3. You must buy the bus ticket to board the bus. The ticket office is next to where you board the bus, and is open from 5am or so. $6 US each way.
2) No food and no drinks unless in a reusable container. Well, I went in with my backpack full of water in a plastic bottle and a load of snacks. No-one checked my backpack or anyone elses, and no-one stopped me consuming the items.
3) It is possible to leave the site and return on the same day. This way you can spend $29 US for a lunch buffet at the restaurant outside the site! Or you can get your packed lunch from the left luggage place if your backpack does get checked!
4) There is no charge for going up Wayna Picchu, but there is a limit of 400 people per day. The walk opens at 7am, and you need your entry ticket to sign in and out again. Once signed in, you must start the walk. You cant come back later.
5) You must buy the ticket in advance from the INC office in Aguas Calientes if you havent already got it. The ticket office was open until 22:00, and it was also open at around 5:10am when I walked past to get the 5:30am bus, although there were about 20 people in the office trying to buy tickets. I guess it opens at 5:00am.
I got my return train ticket from Ollantaytambo for $47. I did a day trip with local buses from Cusco to Pisac and then Ollantaytambo, visiting the sites before getting the 20:15 train to Aguas Calientes. This arrives at 21:40 (hopefully) so you can get your ticket from the INC office. There was no problem finding a room either. We got quite a nice double room with ensuite for $10 US / night.
Travelling back to Cusco using the Backpacker train to Ollantaytambo:
- Many people assumed the 5:45am train would leave Aguas Calientes from the same place as they arrived. It turns out the train leaves from the main station. Check with Tourist Information when you are there.
- You can purchase a bus ticket from Ollantaytambo to Cusco for 5 soles ($2 US) at the train station when you leave. I did this and was back in Cusco by 10am.
Putucusi - A nice, free!, way of viewing Machu Picchu. We are unfit and walk very slowly. It took us 2 hours to go up, and 1.5 hours to go down. It is straightforward, but if you are uneasy with heights, the long ladders may make you turn back. Follow the rail track from Aguas Calientes towards Machu Picchu. About 50 meters past the last building is an obvious trail leading up to the right. Conveniently it has a sign indicating Putucusi. From there on there is only one trail to the top, and it does include all those ladders!
Finally, my best advice is to go to the Tourist Information in Cusco (Same place where you get the tourist ticket) and the one in Aguas Calientes to get the latest info, as these things all change!