In order to visit Machu Picchu, you have to reserve a flight from Lima to Cusco. Well, you do have the option to travel by bus, but I’d recommend the flight. The flight takes about an hour, and the bus ride is closer to seventeen through winding roads and with a driver who is probably tired and overworked. Back when I was in my twenties, the choice was clear: Bus. These days I prefer to have adventures while sitting in a comfortable hotel drinking an iced beverage.
Back in the early 00’s you could get a flight from Lima to Cusco for ridiculously cheap. I used to fly Aero Continente and I think I once had a ticket for around $40. The scandalous rumor is that the prices were so low because that particular airline was just used to run drugs throughout Peru and any money they made on passengers was just a bonus (unconfirmed…but I think that’s a funny story).
Like with all great things, the forces of evil eventually swooped in and decided they needed to make a profit by putting the squeeze on innocent backpackers. These days the group responsible is LAN which just changed their name to LATAM (the rumor is they were facing some sort of lawsuit, so they changed names to claim they are now a different entity…unconfirmed).
Around 2005 or so, LATAM, then LAN still offered decent prices to Cusco from Lima, but the second you got to the airport they hit you with a $200 “foreigner” fee. So, you’d do your ticket search, get a good price, show up at the airport for your trip and then they’d say at the counter, “surprise sir, you purchased a ‘national’ ticket, since you’re a non-resident of Peru, you’re ineligible for this price and you have to pay $200 more.” You’d try to fight this, of course, but since they’re getting paid to stand around, and you’re in a rush because you want to get to Machu Picchu, eventually you’d relent and pay and they’d win.
Even if this isn’t a practice anymore, I have developed a permanent aversion to flying LATAM to Cusco. But that means you’re stuck with the national Peruvian airlines to chose from.
The last time I was in Peru, I flew with Star Peru, and I have to say it was solid service (I’ve flown with Peruvian Airlines before and had a bad experience).
The planes have the wings on the top, and you get loaded in through those old fashioned roller-staircases that go right to the door. The flight was on time and the staff was courteous.
Getting the tickets was a little bit of a trick. I tried using the web page at first, but eventually had to call up the office and provide the card number (this was because my credit card provider freaked out, even though I’d put in an alert that I was traveling to Peru). The phone call was handled with no problems though, and I received a confirmation email. Calling Star Peru on the phone gave me the opportunity to ask if there were any fees incurred at the airport, and the lady laughed (she knew exactly what I was worried about) and assured me there would be no further fees (there weren’t).
So, if you’re looking to get a reasonably priced ticket from Lima, to Cusco, then by all means go with Star Peru. I’ll be remembering that “foreigner tax” until the day I die (it’s bad business, and the more companies that know consumers will hold a grudge, the better).
Oh and the beverages on Star Peru were good too, Coke and Camote, what more can you ask for: