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Inca Trail Tours FAQs

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Inca Trail Tours FAQs

Do you need to book the Inca Trail in advance?

YES! It is recommended that you make a reservation for the Inca Trailcheck the spaces available online and pay for your entrance fee well in advance.


Book Inca Trail permits

It is very important to book this trek a good time in advance!!! 

A general recommendation on how long time in advance to book is:


If you would like to hike in December, January, March: 3 – 5 weeks in advance

If you would like to hike in April, October, November: 6 – 8 weeks in advance

If you would like to hike in May, September: 7 – 6 months in advance

If you would like to hike in June,July ,August: 6 – 5 months in advance



In February, the Inca Trail trek is closed due raining. You can still visit Machu Picchu, by train or Alternative treks


The number of trek permits is limited to 500 per day (about 200 tourists and 300 trekking staff) This includes the 2 and 4 day treks as well as the Salkantay 7 day trek. The estimate is 160 trekkers per day on the 4 day trek, 25 on the 2 day trek and 15 on the 7 day trek. 


Contact with us, if you would like see the spots available for the Inca Trail


How to book the Inca Trail trekking?

Please, it is very much important to fill out in the blanks on the attached booking form we email you with a true and updated information so we can make your bookings with the right and appropriate information, as in case of a missing passport or wrong numbers, or name misspelling, we are not able to make any corrections on the official government documents, so you then are not able to get into the park.


How long is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is 42 kms (26 miles) long. Campsites along the Inca Trail are assigned by the Ministerio de Cultura Descentralizada and for this reason it is difficult to determine the distance to be covered in a day but expect to walk 6 to 9 hours per day. 


Is it possible to do without an agency?

Since June 2002 trekking independently on the Inca Trail has been prohibited. Regulations state that each trekker must be accompanied by a professionally qualified guide. The MINISTERIO DE CULTURA DESCENTRALIZADA is the regulatory body responsible for controlling access to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Companies must meet certain basic requirements proving that they have professional guides and good camping equipment, radio communications and emergency first aid including oxygen.Their license is renewed each year in early March.


inca Trail tour companies

There are 250 tour operator for the Inca Trail.

Every year, all company get the authorization for this Inca Trail. These company need to present the quality camping equipment for travellers and porters. Once presented the SERNARP and Ministerio de Cultura provide the certification of the tour operator.


Tierras Vivas is a tour operator to Inca Trail since 2006

inca trail tour operators 2015


Is it possible to enter with different name?

No, you need to carry your valid ID (passport) to enter the trek park. Make sure you carry your passport with you and get the Machu Picchu stamp at the entrance.


Are there alternative routes to the Inca Trail?

Yes, you also have the following:

  • Cusco - Mollepata – Salkantay Trek – Machu Picchu 7 day trek – Moderate to Difficult.
  • Inca Jungle To Machu Picchu : Easy To Moderate
  • Cusco - Mollepata – Salkantay Trek – Santa Teresa – Machu Picchu 5 day trek – Moderate to Difficult
  • Cusco - Mollepata - Salkantay Trek - Machu Picchu 4 day trek - Moderate to Difficult
  • Ausangate 6 to 7 Day Trek – Moderate to Difficult
  • Lares Valley To Machu Picchu 4 Day Trek – Moderate
  • Choquequirao 4, 5 or 9 Day Trek – Moderate
  • Vilcabamba 7 Day Trek – Moderate

Are numbers of day visitors to Machu Picchu also limited, like those doing the inca trail hike? 

Yes, there are limit to Machu Picchu number of visitors 2000 per day and  Inca Trail 500 per day, everyone can visit the ruins .


How is the 2 days Inca Trail?

The shorter Inca Trail is for those trekkers with limited time on their hands or who just want to take things a little bit easier. This trail starts at km 104 and ascends to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna before continuing on to Machu Picchu. Since you don’t have much time at Machu Picchu on the first day most people spend the night at the town of Aguas Calientes and return to Machu Picchu again the following day.


This trail is subject to the Inca Trail regulations and trek permits must be reserved well in advance


What is the price of the Inca trail and where I can to book the Inca Trail trek?

Prices for the 4 day group service Inca trail trek generally range between US$550 and US$680 per person including entrance fees to Inca Trail and Machu Picchu and return on train. This price includes Peruvian sales tax known as tax which is currently at 19%. A US$30 discount is offered to students who have valid ISIC cards and to children under 16 years old. This is the standard service offered by most tour operators in Cusco and offers the most economic way of hiking the Inca Trail as part of an organized group. Although services can vary from operator to operator, generally speaking, the following services are included: Private transportation to the headtrail to Inca Trail, professional guide, assistant guide for groups of 9 and over, entrance fees (US$ 105 adult or US$52.5 student), double tent, thermarest mattress, cooking equipment, cook, meals, porters (to carry the tents, food and cooking equipment only) and return to Cusco on the Expedition train service (currently US$ 78). 

The following items are not usually included in the Inca Trail: Breakfast on day 1, snacks along the trail, tourist bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes (US$ 12), meals on the final day apart from breakfast.


Inca Trail Private Group & Inca Trail Luxury travel

A Inca Trail private group or Inca Trail Luxury travel is generally similar to the group service but usually slightly more comfortable. Additional items such as porters to carry your personal items are usually included in this service. Typical costs per person provided by a medium range tour operator are: 


Inca Trail price

  • 1 person: US$1500, 
  • 2 persons: US$850, 
  • 3 persons: US$750, 
  • 4 persons: US$550, 
  • 5 persons: US$550, 
  • 6-9 persons: US$500, 
  • 10-12 persons: US$ 500, 
  • 13-16 persons: US$500

These costs include entrance fees and return on the basic EXPEDITION train from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.


What is the cost of an extra porter an how much should you tip?

Porters to carry your personal items can be hired separately for between US$130 and US$150 for the 4 day trek.

Generally speaking if all the group have been pleased with the service then try to ensure that each porter takes home an extra US$ 10, the cook US$15, the guide US$25 and the assistant guide about US$15. 

A typical group of 14 persons with 18 porters (18 x 10 = $180), 1 cook ($15), 1 guide ($25) and 1 assistant $15) would receive a total of $122, which works out at a tip of about $9 per person.


Porter Working Conditions

Every year, thousands of people do the Inca Trail. They usually complete the 43-km trail in 4 days. For most of them, the trip is their lifetime experience and fulfillment of their personal ambitions. The satisfaction of having completed the trek and visiting the spectacular Incan city of Machu Picchu is hard to beat. Although, this feeling is even better if you know that all porters helping you along the way have been treated well and with the respect they deserve. Now, most of trekkers are organized by a local tour operator. No draughts are allowed to enter the Inca Trail, only porters. For that reason, all camping equipment (i.e. personal tents, dining tent, kitchen tent, tables, chairs, stove, bottle gas and food) is carried on backs of human porters. Prices of this 4-day trek vary significantly depending on porter´s and other staff´s wages and conditions provided by each company. However, if you try to find out if a company looks after their porters well, it can be quite difficult as porters can be instructed to tell you they receive more than they really do. They are also afraid to not lose their jobs.


In April 2002, a new law was introduced that have improved porter´s working conditions dramatically!! The law came into force due to many years of exploitation!! New minimum wage for all porters was set to USD 10 per day. In 2005, the wage increased to 43 Soles (USD 15) per day. Even though, the law exists, it is not being enforced and many companies still pay their porters as low as USD 5 per day. New maximum weight that a porter can carry was limited to 20 kg (15 kg of load + 5 kg of porter´s personal items) compared to previous 45 kg. All porters have a weight carried checked by government officials at checkpoints of the trail. However, even this system is abused and many tour operators push their Tour Guides and Tour Guide Assistants to carry lots of loads across the checkpoints and behind them, they drop the loads to be picked up by porters. Tourists, who have hired a personal porter, are frequently asked to carry their own backpacks through the checkpoints as well. If you hire a personal porter, do not accept this practice and ensure that your porter is fully loaded when he is being weighed at the checkpoints. Some of the worst companies restrict the amount of personal items, which a porter can take with him, imposing upon his personal allowance of 5 kg. Most of porters are afraid that if their blankets are too heavy or they have packed too many warm clothes, they exceed the 20 kg weight limit and receive a fine, which a travel agency then deducts from their wages. Obviously, a decent travel agency does not practice such activities!!


Tierras Vivas DOES NOT permit this exploitation!! We guarantee that our porters carry only an amount given by the Peruvian law!! There is still a long way to go when it comes to a reserve of adequate meals, backpacks and warm dry sleeping accommodation. Tierras Vivas works with porter´s laws, Tierras Vivas provides all equipment to the porter to hike to Inca Trail as you will see when you hike with us.


How you can help to Porters:

  • Hire a personal porter: This will make your trek more enjoyable giving you time to enjoy surrounding scenery. You will also provide a job to a person who really wants and needs a work.
  • Interact with your porters:

Talk to your porters, learn about their traditions and villages. Share some coca leaves. Even ask them to sing some of their local songs. Most porters suffer from low self-esteem so make the first move, do not wait for them to talk to you first.

  • Thank your porter: Show your porters that you appreciate their work. Thank them verbally and by a tip as well.

Meals & sleeping conditions:
The biggest difference between a responsible company and an irresponsible is how they look after their porters on the trek. Many porters are given very little to eat on the trail. They have to wait to see how much tourists have eaten before left-overs are divided up amongst them. Many porters end the trail tired and hungry. In general, porters sleep together in the group dining and kitchen tents. This is fine since there is warmth in numbers. However, when you are on the Inca Trail, remember not end up talking all night in the dining tent as there might be tired and cold porters waiting outside to go to bed. You may also notice that very few dining tents have integral floors to keep out the cold and damp. When it rains the floor can become like a river running through the tent. Very few porters have sleeping mats or even warm sleeping bags. They usually put one blanket on the ground and cover themselves with another one.


Porter´s culture:
Quechua´s (native Andean) people have a history of being down-trodden, first by Incas, then by Spaniards and then by landowners. Thanks to recent reforms, some Quechua´s people possess their own land, but just a few of them. Due to their long history of being dominated by others, they have mostly a low self-esteem. It is important to try to involve them into your group. So take some coca leaves and share with them. You can also try to learn a couple of basic Quechua´s words (your Tour Guide will be pleased to help you). Many of porters have amazing stories to tell about their traditions and life in their villages. At the end of the trek, do not forget to show them that you appreciate their work and thank them verbally as well as by tipping them.


How much to tip on the Inca Trail?
Tipping your Tour Guide and Cook should depend on quality of the service. If their tips are consistently poor, then they soon get a message they need to improve. However, even if the food was terrible and the Tour Guide spoke no English (which we hope will not be the case!), the Porters were probably still working hard carrying all camping equipment, so please do not forget to give them a tip. The amount you pay depends on you. Usually, it is recommended to tip every Porter with 30-35 soles (it is a combined tip from everybody in your group). Try to take plenty of small change so that you can tip Porters directly. This is much better than giving money to your Cook or Tour Guide to be divided later as this is distributed unfairly. Be careful of over-tipping also as it can be often as bad as not leaving any tip. If a Porter receives a large tip, he usually ends up drinking in Aguas Calientes or Urubamba for several days and just a little of this amount reaches his poor family unfortunately. So try to keep your tip in a reasonable amount.


When is the best time to Hike the Inca Trail?

Climate in Cusco: The highland region of Cusco has well defined winter and summer seasons. Winter days (June - August) are very sunny and warm, but the temperature drops to near freezing at night. Rainy season is from January to March. December and January are two of the nicest months for trekking with only the occasional shower and blooming flowers.


What to take for the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. If you have extra porter, the porter carry your luggage from Km82 (1st day) to Wiñay wayna camping (3th day). If you don’t have extra porter. We recommend keeping the weight under 5 kg/10lb. You will need to carry clothes, sleeping bag.

If very important your take best cover backpacker, because the weather in Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is change every date, we can’t predict it raining or no. If you don’t have, we recommended to putting your clothes, sleeping bag and other personal equipment inside the plastic bag.


Appropriate clothing along this hike to Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking pants and T-shirts are recommended during the day, complemented by sweaters, fleeces and waterproof jackets. It is very convenient to have light raingear available in the daypack (rain poncho or jacket and/or rain pants) as the weather changes easily and rains can suddenly occur. At night, warm clothing is required, down jackets can be useful, otherwise a fleece and a jacket. During the third day (if sunny) and in Machu Picchu, convertible hiking pants are useful, as can be switched into shorts if necessary. Machupicchu has a warm climate, getting only cold at night. The rest of necessary implements are included in the “What we recommend that you bring” list.


What to bring to Inca Trail and Machu Picchu?

  • Passport original
  • Original International Student Identity Card (in case you have applied for a student discount)
  • Cash in soles
  • A backpack with a change of clothes for the whole period of the trek
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants if available) or rain poncho (plastic ponchos can be purchased in Cusco)
  • Strong footwear, waterproof trekking boots recommended
  • Sandals or jogging shoes for a higher comfort while at camp
  • Warm clothes, including jacket, fleeces. Thermal clothing is also recommended, especially for Sleeping
  • Flashlight/headlamp and batteries
  • Camera and batteries (batteries consume more quickly under cold conditions)
  • Hat or cap to protect you from the sun, rain and cold
  • Sun block
  • After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body
  • Insect repellent – minimum recommended 20% DEET – no malaria risk has been reported
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Toilet paper
  • Snacks: biscuits, energy bars, chocolate, raw fruits, muesli, etc. Please note that we do provide a daily morning snack and our meal service is very complete and well supplied. This recommendation applies for all clients being used to a specific snack, as it may happen that it is not included in our selection
  • Water container and water for the first morning. Important notice: plastic water bottles are no longer allowed into Machu Picchu. Plastic water containers (ie. Nalgene) or metal ones are recommended
  • Optionally: water- sterilizing tablets in case you pick up water from streams or rivers along the route. Otherwise, we provide filtered boiled water, which is safe to drink and has not reported any health problem so far
  • Small towel
  • Swimsuit (if you wish to go to the hot springs in Aguas Calientes)
  • Optional: walking sticks or poles (rubber covers required in order not to damage the Inca Trail)

Just how tough is it? How fit do you have to be?

You have to be fit. It is a common misconception that because many people do the Inca Trail then it must be easy … it isn’t. The trail is 45km (26 miles) long and involves great physical exertion to complete. On the second day you climb nearly 1200m (about 4000 ft) in the morning. Combined with high altitude (lack of oxygen) and extreme weather (you can easily burn in the high altitude sun during the day and temperatures can drop to below freezing at night) the trek can be hard work. However all this suffering can make the final arrival at MP all the more enjoyable.


What about Altitude sickness?

You definitely need to aclimatize before heading to your trek, there is a few things that can help you to handle better the altitude, for example, chewing coca leaves or drink “mate de coca”. A good recommendation is to rest when you just arrive in Cusco, no smoking, no drinking for a few hours. 


When going to mountain areas such as on the Inca Trail, acclimatization is necessary to avoid high altitude sickness!


Altitude sickness also called acute mountain sickness (AMS) or locally “soroche” — is a pathological effect of high altitude on people due to acute exposure to low partial pressure of oxygen access. It basically appears at altitude above 2,400 metres within 6-12 hours after reaching high altitude. It manifests itself as a set of nonspecific symptoms, acquired at high altitude or in low air pressure that are similar to flu, hangover or carbon monoxide poisoning. Being in excellent physical condition does not automatically mean immediate acclimatization and altitude sickness avoiding. There are no specific factors that correlate with a tendency to altitude illness. AMS can progress to high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE) or high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which can be fatal, so immediate medical help is necessary!!


At high altitude, air density (oxygen and nitrogen molecules number per given volume) decreases as the altitude increases resulting in the fact that physical and mental alertness drops too. Dehydration caused by higher rate of water vapor lost from the lungs may contribute to the symptoms of altitude illness. The rate of ascent, altitude achieved, amount of physical activity at high altitude as well as individual susceptibility are contributing factors to the appearance and seriousness of high-altitude illness. Usually, the illness occurs following a rapid ascent (for example, by flying from sea-level to La Paz or Cusco) and can be mostly prevented by ascending slowly. The symptoms are mostly temporary and disappear within a couple of days (2-3) as a general rule.


Acclimatization to high altitude is a process of adapting to reduced oxygen amount in the atmosphere. This process differs for everybody individually.


Common symptoms of high altitude:

Headache, nausea or vomiting, lack of appetite, dizziness, tiredness or weakness, sleepiness or insomnia, shortness of breath upon physical effort, persistent rapid pulse, needles and pins, nosebleed, general malaise, excessive flatulence, peripheral oedema (swelling of feet, hands and face).


Severe symptoms:

Pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs), cerebral oedema (swelling of the brain), fever, symptoms similar to bronchitis, persistent dry cough, shortness of breath even during a rest, headache that does not react to analgesics, increased nausea, unsteady gait or gradual loss of consciousness.


How to prevent or reduce high altitude sickness:

You should drink lots of liquids, including the local remedy mate de coca (traditional tea made of coca leaves), eat plenty of sweet, avoid drinking alcohol, taking sedatives or any other mind-altering substances and heavy and hard to digest food (high-carbohydrate meals). Above all, you need to rest! Acclimatization is achieved when the heartbeat is normal at rest, you can eat and sleep well and have no headache.


How many people in the groups?

The maximum allowed group size is 16 persons. Normally the group tours are between 12 and 16 persons.


What does the trail look like in the peak season?

It could get a little bit crowded, but with the regulations in place, you have enough space for everyone.


Are there toilets on the Inca Trail?

Toilets have improved a lot in the last couple of years and all of the larger campsites have toilet blocks with flush toilets and running water. On the whole they are kept pretty clean. If you do need to go to the toilet between campsites then defecate well away from the trail and water supplies; dig a hole, or cover your faces with a rock, and take the paper with you in a bag to deposit in one of the several bins along the way. There are hot shower facilities are Wiñay Wayna on day 3, although they are usually pretty unclean.


They spelled wrong my full name on my Machu Picchu ticket, Am i going to be in troubles?

It is not only that, sometimes they sell you a ticket for another date, is that a problem?, the answer is no. Machu Picchu has no limit of visitors per day, so you can visit this awesome place whenever you want if you have a ticket. Beside that, there are several problems with names on tickets, spanish speakers sometimes hardly understand foreign names and they write it as they want, but there is no problem with that to visit Machu Picchu, the only thing you have to make sure they don’t mess up with your passport number, that’s the only thing that can’t be wrong, seriously, it can’t be wrong.

On top of that, sometimes they will sell you a ticket for a different date. Is that a problem? The answer is no. Machu Picchu has no limit of visitors per day, so as long as you have an unused ticket, you can use it whenever to visit this awesome site. Something to note- you may notice that your name is spelled horribly wrong on your entrance ticket. With the wide variety of nationalities with non-Spanish names coming through, it’s common, but also not a problem. It IS a problem if they write your passport number incorrectly, so don’t leave after purchasing until you double-check that! It won’t be valid, even if it’s one number off, so make sure!

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