Thursday, November 21, 2013

Peru Rail - What to do When You Forget to Take the Card You Bought the Tickets With

Okay, so I said I'd be covering a couple of my mistakes and what you can do to avoid them, or in the worst-case-scenario, fix them.  This was my second mistake, and it was a doozy.

The only way to get to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu, is by rail.  To carriers run trains along the same line: Peru Rail and Inca Rail.  I chose Peru Rail and purchased tickets with no trouble at all... the trouble didn't come until later.  You see, for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, Peru Rail will not allow you to purchase tickets and print them at home.  When you purchase tickets, you are given a reservation code that you have to take (along with your passport and the card you bought the tickets with) to a Peru Rail agent.  Peru Rail has kiosks at LIM, CUZ, and at the various train stations in the Sacred Valley.

When I left home I was sure that I had taken along the cards I needed for the trip: Amex Plat for lounge access, Priority Pass Card for lounge access, Barclay Arrival Card for travel expenses, Hilton Amex for Hilton charges, Venture Card (for the train), and Sapphire Preferred for restaurants.  Well, after the initial debacle getting on to the LIM-CUZ flight we were left with some time to kick around LIM.  What luck!  There's a Peru Rail kiosk in LIM!  I'll just go print my tickets out!  Oh, but it was not to be, dear reader...

I got my reservation code and my passport wallet and went to get the tickets.  But when I arrived there I opened my wallet to find no Venture card.  I tried the cards I'd actually brought with no joy.  The agent told me that all he really needed was the last 4 digits from the card and the expiration date.  I knew the last 4, but not the expiry.  After going through my bag a few dozen times and failing to find the card, I made a guess at the expiry.  Again, no joy.  (It occurred to me just now to look at my card to see if my guess was right.  It was.  So obviously just having the last 4 and expiry is no sufficient.)  The agent told me that we might be able to resolve the problem by visiting a Peru Rail station in Cuzco ("In Cuzco there is possible solution.")  Things were looking bad and Mrs. Pointsninja was not happy with her travel agent (the Points Ninja is not supposed to make travel mistakes).  We were supposed to take the train to Machu Picchu the next day, and here we sat sans tickets.

When we arrived in CUZ, I rummaged through my checked bag to see if I'd left the card there.  I hadn't.  Our driver (Sabino of DUPTours) was at the station to pick us up and I informed him of the slight change of plans:  we weren't going to the hotel in Urubamba right away.  We need to go to the Peru Rail Station.  We ended up at the Estacion Wanchaq, which is closest to the airport and is open until 5PM.  There our driver waited while we went into the ticket office at about 4:15.  As you enter the ticket office there is a line of desks on the right.  They can't help you.  You'll actually need to talk to the Customer Service Supervisor who sits in a glass walled cubicle on the left side of the office.  We spoke with her, gave her our passports and the reservation number, and explained that I didn't have the card I'd used to purchase the tickets.  She asked "why not?"  Thinking that "because I'm an idiot" probably wasn't the answer she was looking for, I just explained that I'd accidentally left it back in the States.  After a stern look, she said the sweetest words I'd heard in a while:  "Okay.  I will print the tickets for you."

At last!  The clouds parted, bluebirds sang, and, tickets in hand, we finally resumed our trip to Urubamba.

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