Recently, some of Cusco’s top travel agencies were invited to visit Machu Picchu to see the new protocols post-covid, and Kuoda Travel was honored to be a part of this select group. Along with protecting visitors from getting sick, some of these protocols will also protect the ancient site itself. While these protocols may change as time goes on and we learn more about how to stop covid-19, here are some of the things that you can expect when visiting the citadel of Machu Picchu in the near future.
Getting There – Biosecurity Measures on the Train and Bus
The first significant change you will see will be with regards to the trains that bring you from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes or the start of the Short Inca Trail, currently running at 50% capacity. To be allowed on the train, you will need to have filled out a sworn declaration that you do not have the illness. When boarding, you will have your temperature checked for a fever of 38° C/ 100° F and will need to disinfect your feet and wash your hands. While onboard, you must wear your mask AND a face shield at all times, and consuming any food or drink is prohibited. Also, you are not allowed to get up to walk around at all, except to use the restroom. All of these measures are in place to limit contact between people as much as possible.
The bus running from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu is also running at 50% capacity, with only the window seats available. Again, you will have your temperature checked before getting on the bus, and while onboard, you will need to keep your mask and face shield on.
Getting Into Machu Picchu
As with the train and the bus, Machu Picchu will also have biosecurity controls in place. These will include another temperature check at the entrance, as well as a place to disinfect your shoes and your hands. Also, this is the only time you will get to go to the bathroom during your tour, so use it wisely – there are no bathrooms inside the citadel itself!
Masks are Very Important, and Very Required
During your visit to Machu Picchu, you MUST keep your mask on over your mouth AND your nose at all times – the only time you may move it (BY THE EAR LOOPS) is to take a sip of water. At this time, eating is not permitted within the citadel, and for right now, you may not even remove them for pictures. (Think of it this way… if you end up with your Machu Picchu pictures including a mask, it means you were there during a unique time in history. Embrace it!) As of the beginning of November, this rule is being very strictly enforced, and people breaking this rule may be asked to leave the site.
Also, as you may not be accustomed to walking around outside and climbing stairs with your mask on, it’s a good idea to train while wearing your mask before you get here. Also, you may want to consider getting a few athletic style masks, which will make it easier to explore archaeological sites in general.
Along with wearing your mask at all times, visitors will also be required to keep their distance from one another. Right now, the rule is to maintain at least 1.5 meters/ 5 feet from each other in the same group, and groups are required to stay 20 meters/ 65 feet from each other. They are making it easier to keep your distance by limiting the number of people allowed in each day to under 1,000 (for reference, up to 6,000 people would visit daily during the busy season and around 4,000 people during the rainy season). This rule serves to help with social distancing and helps avoid over-tourism, which can (and has) damage the citadel. Also, in areas where your group may stop for an explanation, you will find painted circles on the ground where people can stand so that each person gets their own space.
The Old Rules Still Apply
Along with these new safety protocols, the pre-covid rules are still in effect. This includes no plastic bottles allowed in the citadel (this will be more strictly enforced), and so you’ll want to have either a reusable bottle or a hydration system, like a Camelbak. Also, very large backpacks will not be allowed in, with the limit being about 20L or so – they are sometimes a bit flexible if you are right on the edge. Still, it’s better to err on the side of smaller. Large, professional-grade camera equipment is also not allowed in unless you have a special permit, which you must apply for. And walking sticks are not allowed in unless you can demonstrate a need, in which case you are permitted to bring in one rubber-tipped walking stick (this is to preserve the stones and walkways).
While this may seem like a lot of rules, the good news is that Machu Picchu is getting ready to welcome visitors again! As of today, local Peruvian visitors are starting to visit, paving the way for international travelers to follow in their footsteps. As the world opens up, we will be ready and excited to meet you here.