From the first moment we arrived in Aguas Calientes, I could tell it was a tourist trap. Not two steps from the train is a bustling market that one must walk through to get to hotels and restaurants. The market was selling many of the same tourist-y items as the markets we’ve visited in Cusco and Pisac, but at much higher prices.
In fact, everything in Aguas Calientes was more expensive—the food, the bus tickets, and the entrance fee to the ruins. To an extent, this makes sense, because Aguas Calientes is pretty isolated and goods need to be transported into the town from elsewhere. However, it was a little ridiculous. At the restaurant we chose for dinner, my vegetable soup was 20 soles. For comparison, at the Chinese fast-food place in Cusco, I bought a larger, better portion for 9 soles. Then, to top it off, we were charged some crazy additional tax that amounted to an extra 17 soles each! My so-so soup and terrible drinks ended up being 62 soles. Natalie and Oliver paid well over 100 soles each, more than twice as much as the most expensive meal I’ve eaten in Cusco (53 soles at Greens). The waitress assured us that the tax was normal and charged in every restaurant, but we were suspicious. We asked a pair of Australians behind us if they’d been charged that way and they also told us it was normal in Aguas Calientes. However, after a quick Google search and a text to the group chat, we decided that the tax was fake. TripAdvisor anecdotes call it the “gringo tax” because it’s primarily charged to foreigners unfamiliar with the tax laws in Peru.
At that point, I was mad and preparing to write my own nasty TripAdvisor review. So, I went around to the front of the restaurant and made sure I knew the name of it (Inti Awki). The waitress saw this and came out to tell me she didn’t want us looking around! It was so suspicious and strange and her behavior confirmed we’d been cheated. Fortunately, with Profe’s help we got most of the money back.
It really bothered me that a place that thrives solely on tourism attempts to cheat tourists. We were already in the restaurant paying a large bill for overpriced, subpar food and drinks, so it just seemed extra wrong to try to charge us even more. Without visitors to Machu Picchu, the economy in that little town would be terrible, if there were a town at all. They should be happy about the business that tourism provides.
P.S. I did write a nasty TripAdvisor review. Screw you Inti Awki!!!!!