· PeruRail timetable
This is the only optional item in this list, but very helpful to have. It's just a small two-page pamphlet that's free and available at PeruRail kiosks. We scored ours inside Lima Airport, before even setting foot on Peruvian soil. The pamphlet gives times and train numbers for the Cusco/Poroy - Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes route, as well as for Valle Sagrado/Ollantaytambo - Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes, Hidroelectrica - Machu Picchu/Aguas Calientes and Cusco - Puno.
· Machu Picchu Reservation
This is the "Reserva de Espacios a Centros Arqueologicos." Easy to do on the official website, so long as you have access to a printer. If you're already in Peru, seek out your hotel's business center or concierge (as we did to get ours printed). You'll need this for the very important next step of paying to obtain a receipt and ticket.
Cost: free, but you'll eventually have to pay a fee (below)
· Machu Picchu Reservation receipt
For this, we took our printout reservation, passport and cash to the Banco de la Nacion in Cusco, just down El Sol from the Plaza de Armas. We waited in line for two hours with locals doing their banking, and paid 128 soles ($50) cash. The entire transaction took 2 minutes. Skipping this to pay online with a credit card requires a little more paperwork and 133 soles paid by Visa.
Cost: between 128-133 soles, depending on how you paid.
· Machu Picchu Entrance Ticket
This is the "Boleto de Acceso," which is your actual ticket into Machu Picchu, the site. It's what you paid for and what will be stamped after you go through the entrance gate of the site. To retrieve and print it, you'll need to input a code on your Reservation receipt into the official website.
Cost: See above, for the receipt.
· Train tickets
Average one-way rates are $62 for the Expedition (aka the backpacker train), $76 for the Vistadome and $329 for the Hiram Bingham Orient-Express. The beauty of one-way ticketing is that you may mix and match trains, as we did. All of these may be booked online at PeruRail. Each ticket prints with a double. The station agent will take one as you board, while you retain the other.
Cost: Varies, depending on the train. Do factor in taxi transfer costs for getting to Poroy train station, which is a 35-minute drive from central Cusco. Your hotel should be able to easily arrange this for you, with the option of a hotel car or a trusted taxi company.
· Bus tickets
After arriving in Aguas Calientes, you'll walk through the market (inescapable) and down across a stream to a line of buses. Don't walk to the front of the line just yet; go to a "yellow house," which is little better than a payment window and a clerk, to buy the bus tickets. Then, if you're not traveling in a tour group (who would likely already have your bus tickets all set), do go straight to the front of the line. The bulk of the waiting mass will be tour groups waiting to get all their group on one bus; you can skip that mess, hop on the first bus with an open seat, and steel your nerves for the switchback drive up to the archaeological site.
Cost: $17 roundtrip
Next up: Onboard the Vistadome train en route to Machu Picchu.
**There are other options for some things, like payment and ticket types (say, if you want to climb Wayna Picchu as well), but that's what can make all this so confusing. Here we've detailed the documents and procedures we used ourselves and which were recommended by Cusco hotel concierges as the path of least resistance.