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Inca Trail Tours FAQ

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Inca Trail Tours FAQ

Do You Need to Book the Inca Trail in Advance?

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


Booking Inca Trail Permits

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

The number of Inca Trail permits is limited to 500 per day (about 200 tourists and 300 trekking staff such as Tour Guides, Porters, and Cooks). This includes the 2- and 4-day treks as well as the 7-day Salkantay Trek to Inca Trail. The estimated numbers are 160 trekkers per day on the 4-day trek, 25 trekkers on the 2-day trek, and 15 on the 7-day trek. 


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

  •  If you like to hike in December, January, March:   3 – 5 weeks in advance
  • If you like to hike in April, October, November:        6 – 8 weeks in advance
  • If you like to hike in May, September:                          7 – 6 months in advance
  • If you like to hike in June, July, August:                       6 – 5 months in advance

In February, the Inca Trail trek is closed due to heavy rain and maintenance. But no worries, you can still visit Machu Picchu, either by train or via Alternative Treks.


Contact us to check on the availability of the Inca Trail.


How to Book the Inca Trail Trekking?

Click on the button BOOK ONLINE (above and below each tour). Then complete every detail of the form. We will email you all the details later, and if any of the details are misspelled / incorrect, please let us know immediately, as we need to process your booking with 100% correct information. In case of missing/incorrect passport numbers / misspelled names, we will not be able to make any adjustments in official government documents later, so you will not be allowed to enter the Inca Trail !!!


How Long Is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is 42 km (26 miles) long. Campsites along the Inca Trail are assigned by Cusco's office of the Ministry of Culture (Ministerio de Cultura) and that is why it is difficult to determine the exact distance to be covered in a day but expect to walk 6 to 9 hours daily. 


Is It Possible to Do It Without a Travel Agency?

Since June 2002, independent hiking on the Inca Trail has been banned! The regulations stipulate that each trekker must be accompanied by a professionally qualified guide. The Ministerio de Cultura is the regulatory body responsible for controlling access to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Operating companies must meet certain requirements to demonstrate that they have professional guides and good-quality camping equipment, radio communications, and emergency first aid including oxygen. Their licences are renewed each year in early March.


Inca Trail Tour Companies

There are 250 tour operators of the Inca Trail. Every year, all companies wanting to operate the trail have to get authorization for it. These companies need to present the quality camping equipment for travellers as well as porters. If a company complies, it receives a licence from the Ministery of Culture and the SERNANP.


Tierras Vivas has been a licensed Inca Trail tour operator since 2006!!

inca trail tour operators 2015


Is It Possible to Enter Machu Picchu with a Different Name?

No, you need to carry your valid ID (passport) to enter this protected park! Make sure you carry your passport with you and get a Machu Picchu stamp at its entrance.


They Misspelled My Full Name on My Machu Picchu Ticket. Will I Have a Problem?

If the name or passport number does not match your passport or identity document, you will not be able to access Machu Picchu/Inca Trail!!! All your information must be filled out carefully. Otherwise, you need to pay a penalty for the name change! For that reason, we recommend you to double-check when purchasing your ticket! 


Are There Alternative Routes to the Inca Trail?

Yes, there are. You might choose the following routes and check their length and difficulty:

Are the Numbers of Daily Visitors to Machu Picchu Also Limited, as Are Those Who Hike the Inca Trail? 

Yes, there is a limit to the number of Machu Picchu visitors: 2,000 per day. (While the Inca Trail is limited by 500 persons per day.)


How Is the 2 Day Inca Trail?

The shorter Inca Trail is intended for those tourists who have little time in hand or those who just want to take things a little calmer. This trail starts at km 104 and ascends to the ruins of Wiñay Wayna before continuing to Machu Picchu. Since you do not have much time in Machu Picchu on the first day, trekkers commonly spend the night in Aguas Calientes and return to Machu Picchu the next day.

This trail is subject to Inca Trail regulations and hiking permits must be reserved in advance too!


What Is the Price of the Inca Trail and Where Can I Book It?


Prices for a 4-day Inca Trail group service typically range from USD 550 to 680 per person, including admission to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu and a return journey by train. This price includes the Peruvian sales tax which is currently 19%. A discount of USD 30 is commonly provided for students with valid ISIC cards and children under 16. It is a standard service offered by most tour operators in Cusco and involves the most economical way of hiking on the Inca Trail as part of an organized group. Although services may vary from operator to operator, the following services are generally included: private transportation to the Inca Trail trailhead, a professional Guide, an Assistant Guide for groups of over 9 participants, admission (US$ 105 per adult or US$ 52.5 per student), a double tent, a mattress, kitchen equipment, Cook, meals, Porters (to carry tents, food and kitchen equipment only), an Expedition train service back to Ollantaytambo (currently USD 78) and land transport to Cusco.


The following items are usually not part of the Inca Trail service: breakfast on the 1st day, refreshments along the trail, a shuttle bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes (USD 12), lunch and dinner on the last day.


Inca Trail Private Groups & Inca Trail Luxury Travel

An Inca Trail in a private group or Inca Trail luxury travel is generally similar to the group service but it is slightly more comfortable. Additional items such as porters to carry your personal items are included in this type of service. Typical prices per person provided by a medium-sized tour operator are: 


Inca Trail Prices:

  • 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 prices include entrance fees and return by the Expedition train service from Aguas Calientes to Cusco.


What Is the Price of an Extra Porter and How Much Should You Tip?

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

Tipping is not obligatory in Peru, however, it is a part of the culture.

Generally speaking, if the whole group was satisfied with the service, try to make sure that each Porter takes home an extra US$ 20, the Cook US$ 30, the Guide US$ 50, and the Assistant Guide US$ 30.


A typical group of 4 persons with 11 Porters (11 x 20 = $220), 1 Cook ($30), 1 Guide ($50) would receive a total of USD$300, which is about US$ 75 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 the trekkers are organized by a local tour operator. No draught animals 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 the 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 has improved porter´s working conditions dramatically!! The law came into force due to many years of exploitation!!

  • The new minimum wage for all Porters was set to USD 10 per day. In 2005, the wage increased to 43 Soles/day. In 2020, it is 52.50 Soles (US$14.65) per day. Although there has been the law, it has not been enforced and many companies still keep paying their porters only US$ 5 a day! 
  • The new maximum weight that a porter is allowed to carry has been limited to 20 kg (15 kg of load + 5 kg of porter's personal belongings) compared to the 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 number of personal items, which a porter can take with him, imposing upon his personal allowance of 5 kg! Most of the 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 complies with the so-called Porter´s Law and provides all the equipment to our Porters to hike to the Inca Trail as you will be able to check by yourself when hiking with us!


How Can You Help Porters:

  • Hire a Personal Porter: This will make your trek more enjoyable giving you time to enjoy the surrounding scenery. You will also provide a job for a person who really wants and needs 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.
  • Give a donation to your Porters: Clothing or school equipment for their children.

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 because there is warmth in a large group. However, when you are on the Inca Trail, remember not to 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. So when it rains the floor becomes 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:

The Quechuas, the native Andean people, have a history of being trampled, first by the Incas, then by the Spaniards, and then by the landowners. Thanks to recent reforms, some Quechua people possess their own land, but only a few. Due to their long history of being dominated by others, they have mostly low self-esteem. It is important to try to involve them in your group. For instance, you might take some coca leaves and share them with them. You can also try to learn a couple of basic Quechua words (ask your Tour Guide, s/he will be surely pleased to help you). Many 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 hard 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 the quality of the service. If their tips are consistently poor, they will soon receive a message that they need to improve. However, even though the food was terrible and the guide spoke no English (which we hope will not be the case!), the porters were probably still working hard carrying all the heavy camping equipment, so please do not forget to give them a tip. The amount you can pay depends on you. Usually, it is recommended to tip every porter with 50-60 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 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. Alternatively, if you like to give them something extra, you can give them a gift such as clothes or school equipment for their children, or clothing for them or their wives. They will be certainly grateful!


When Is the Best Time to Hike the Inca Trail?

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 near freezing at night. Summer is also called the rainy season (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 on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?

Generally speaking, you should pack as lightly as possible. If you have an extra porter, the porter carries your luggage from Km82 (1st day) to Wiñay Wayna camping (3rd day). If you do not have an extra porter, we recommend keeping the weight under 5 kg/10lb. You will need to carry clothes and a sleeping bag.

It is very important to take the best backpack cover as the weather on Inca Trail to Machu Picchu changes all the time so we cannot predict if it rains or not. If you do not have one, we recommend that you put clothes, a sleeping bag, and other personal equipment in a plastic bag.


Appropriate clothing along this hike to Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Hiking pants and T-shirts are suitable during the day, complemented by sweaters, fleece, and a waterproof jacket. It is convenient to have light raingear on hand in the daypack (e.g. a 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) once in Machu Picchu, convertible hiking pants come in handy since can be switched into shorts if necessary. Machu Picchu has a warm climate, getting cold sometimes at night only. A complete list of necessary items is given below.


What to Bring on the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu?

  • Original passport!!!
  • Original International Student Identity Card (in case you have applied for a student discount);
  • Cash in Peruvian Soles (PEN);
  • A backpack with a change of clothes for the whole period of the trek;
  • Rain gear (a jacket and pants if available) or a rain poncho (plastic ponchos can be purchased in Cusco);
  • Strong footwear, waterproof trekking boots are recommended;
  • Sandals or jogging shoes for higher comfort while at camp;
  • Warm clothes, including jacket, fleeces, thermal clothing is also recommended, especially for sleeping;
  • Flashlight/headlamp and batteries;
  • Mobile phone/camera and batteries (batteries consume quicker under cold conditions);
  • Hat or a cap to protect you from the sun, rain, and cold;
  • Sunscreen;
  • After-sun cream or hydrating cream for face and body;
  • Insect repellent – minimum recommended 20% DEET (Please note: No malaria risk has been reported!);
  • Handkerchiefs;
  • Toilet paper;
  • Snacks such as 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 those clients who are 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 in Machu Picchu! Plastic water containers such as Nalgene or metal ones are recommended!);
  • Optional: water-sterilizing tablets in case you pick up water from streams or rivers along the route (Anyway, we provide filtered boiled water which is safe to drink and has not reported any health problem.);
  • Small towel;
  • Swimsuit (if you wish to visit the hot springs in Aguas Calientes);
  • Optional: walking sticks or poles (Please note! Rubber covers are required to prevent damage to the Inca Trail!).

How Hard Is It? How Fit Do You Need to Be?

You must be fit. It is a common misconception that the Inca Trail must be easy because many people do it… The trail is 43 km long and its completion requires a great deal of physical effort. On the second day, it is climbed nearly 1,200 metres (about 4,000 ft) in the morning. In combination with high altitude (lack of oxygen) and extreme weather (you can easily sunburn in the highland during the day and temperatures can drop to below freezing at night), the trek can be hard work. However, all this suffering will be rewarded by the arrival at the New Wonder of the World!


What about Altitude Sickness?

You definitely need to get acclimatized before heading to the trail!! For this reason, it is advisable to stay a couple of days in Cusco or Sacred Valley before hiking. There are a few things that might help you to handle the altitude better, for example, chewing coca natural leaves or drink “mate de coca”. A piece of great advice is to rest once you just arrive in Cusco, not smoke, not having drinks, only non-alcoholic beverages. 


When visiting highland areas such as on the Inca Trail, acclimatization is absolutely 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 humans due to acute exposure to low partial oxygen intake. It basically appears at an altitude above 2,400 metres within 6-12 hours after reaching high altitudes. It manifests itself as a set of nonspecific symptoms acquired at high altitudes 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 oedema (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 a 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 the 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 amounts in the atmosphere. This process differs for everybody individually.


Common Symptoms of High Altitude Sickness:

Headache, nausea or vomiting, lack of appetite, dizziness, tiredness or weakness, sleepiness or insomnia, shortness of breath upon physical effort, persistent rapid pulse, tingling, nosebleeds, 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 rest, a headache that does not react to painkillers, increased nausea, unsteady gait or gradual loss of consciousness.


How to Prevent or Reduce High Altitude Sickness:

Drink LOTS of LIQUIDS, including the local remedy "mate de coca" (traditional tea made of coca natural leaves), eat plenty of sweets, 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 Are in the Group?

The maximum allowed group size is 16 persons. Normally, groups are between 12 and 16 persons.


What Does the Inca Trail Look Like in the Peak Season?

It could be a bit crowded, but with the rules in force, there is plenty of room 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 faeces with a rock, and take the used paper with you in a bag to dispose of it in one of the several bins along the way. There are hot shower facilities at Wiñay Wayna on day 3, although they are usually pretty unclean.



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