Quick Summary in 3 Sentences
Official tour guides can be found at the entrance of Machu Picchu and can be contracted on the spot. The language skills and knowledge of guides can vary greatly, so pick carefully. A guided tour should last about 2 ½ hours and cost 140 Soles (US$ 50) based on 2 people.
Only professionally qualified and authorised guides can guide at Machu Picchu. Authorised guides must have completed a university degree in tourism and must have a valid certificate of professional qualification issued by the National College of Tourism. A photo identification card issued by the National College of Tourism should always be worn by the guide (see photo example below). Furthermore, all guides operating at Machu Picchu must additionally be certified in first aid.
Hiring a Guide / Prices
Guides can be found at the entrance gate to Machu Picchu and can be identified by a photo identification card hanging around their neck. Prices are pretty much standard amongst the guides, so don’t try to barter one off against another. The price depends on how many people are in the group, but as a general rule of thumb for a 2 ½ hour guided tour, 1 – 2 people pay around 140 Soles (US$ 50), and for groups of 3 and above 70 Soles (US$ 25) per person. If the group is large then you should discuss a better price with the guide.
Take some time to talk with a few guides before selecting who you want. Language abilities vary between guides, so make sure they are competent in English (or your chosen language) before you hand over any money.
The Custom of Tipping
At the end of a guided tour of Machu Picchu it is customary to tip the guide. Although you might feel obliged to tip, never forget that a tip is not mandatory and is only a reflection of how much you enjoyed the service provided. Roughly 30 – 40 Soles (US$ 11 – 14) per person is acceptable. As the group size goes up, reduce the amount tipped per person accordingly. A group of 10 for example should probably only tip 150 – 200 Soles (US$ 55 – 72) in total, which works out to be 15 – 20 Soles (US$ 5.5 – 7) per person.
Remember that your guide will not be able to buy your Machu Picchu Entrance tickets for you. Tickets must be bought in advance in at the Ministry of Culture in Cusco or Aguas Calientes.
Tour Guides for More than Machu Picchu
Many of the above concerns about acquiring a guide apply only to those who have not already been part of a pre-booked tour. If you plan trekking the Inca Trail, Salkantay, Inca Jungle Trek or one of the several other treks around Sacred Valley, you will already have a guide who will bring you through Machu Picchu. If you have yet to book one of these tours and want to see some of the options available to you, we recommend taking a look on the tour operator comparison website wwwfindlocaltrips.com.
For everything you need to know about seeing Machu Picchu, from what to pack to where to when to go check out the Complete Machu Picchu Guide!