I recently returned from a trip to Peru and had a wonderful time visiting Cusco, Ollantayambo and Machu Picchu. Everything from the hotels to the restaurants were great. The sole exception to the enjoyment and my satisfaction was Peru Rail.
First Issue: I ordered my train tickets well ahead of time online but still needed to pick the actual boarding passes up at their designated locations in Ollantayambo and Cusco for verification since my credit card wasn't one of their chosen cards. I'm not sure why this inconvenience is necessary since I don't need to provide the same verification for airline tickets (or anything else I ever order online). The whole purpose of ordering tickets online is to save time from having to stand in line at the stations later. Also, the ID numbers of your ticket orders need to be printed at the time you purchase them online. If you don't print them, there is no way of finding the ID later on the Peru Rail web site page later. However, you are able to track your planned train routes. Not sure why the ID numbers of the orders aren't included in the itinerary shown since it's needed later when you pick up the boarding passes.
Second issue: The space in the Vistadome train is too cramped. I'm just about 5'10 and slim and had no leg room. A small older lady sitting across from me kept kicking me since there was not a sufficient amount of space for both of us. It 's also a tight squeeze with the person next to you as well.
Third issue: From what I read on other reviews, there isn't much of a difference between the Vistadome and Expedition trains so the value is poor as well. I spent $173 round trip. Way to expensive for the service provided and I expect to get more from a "better" train.
Fourth (and the most annoying issue): I paid for transportation, not marketing theater! Here is what happened. About an hour into the return trip from Machu Picchu to Cusco, the train stops. I'm trying to sleep having been up since 4AM to hike Wayna Picchu and all of sudden, this loud Peruvian salsa techno music starts blaring on the train speakers waking me up. Then, this Peru Rail employee dressed up in a rejected Mardi Gras-like costume comes running down the aisle hooting like a wounded owl. He selects a young female passenger and starts dancing with her while continually making this horrid hooting sound. He temporarily stops and leaves. Meanwhile, the male and female train attendants for the train car begin walking down the aisles modeling alpaca clothing for the passengers to buy (everything from sweaters to scarves). When they go behind the curtains at each end of the aisle to change wardrobes to model, the costume guy returns and performs the same irritating dance, clapping and hooting. This goes on for 15 minutes (but seemed longer). Can't make this stuff up. All I wanted was some peace and quiet, but instead, I get woken up by this nonsense. For damn sakes Peru Rail, your service is to provide safe/comfortable transportation, not to hock your alpaca items onto your passengers for a few extra bucks - let alone disturbing the hell out of them while doing do. There is a time and place for that (like the many markets around Peru aimed at tourists). You'd think for the overpriced tickets being charged, this wouldn't be necessary.
Fifth issue: If Peru Rail is going to transfer passengers from their train to a bus for about half distance of the route, they should seriously think of lowering the rates until the track is repaired (or whatever the reason is for the transfer). It's not right to charge customers a full rate for a train when they are only receiving a portion of it.
Again, I really enjoyed my stay in Peru and make a point of not being too sensitive/picky on the trips I take when I know effort is being made in the service provided. Peru Rail was disappointing.
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