Classic Inca trail FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION

Can I obtain my own Inca Trail permit?

Only tour operators like Machu Picchu USA can acquire permits. Tour operators are subject to thorough annual inspections by the government agencies that govern the Inca Trail.

Inca trail permits

In order to hike the Inca Trail you must have a permit, which we will obtain for you. To ensure your safety and keep the trail in good condition, the government limits the amount of permits issued to only 500 per day. Everyone must have a permit no matter which Inca Trail you choose (2, 4, 5 or 7 day) and even your guides and porters need permits so they go fast.

How are permits secured?

We’ve been running trips here for years, and as the world’s largest Inca Trail operator, we have an established set of protocols to best secure your permit. With years of experience, our team in Cusco is on hand to book and collect your permit in person. This means that as soon as your permit is confirmed, your spot on the Trail is confirmed. Book with confidence!

Why do I need a permit?

Before permits were introduced, there were no regulations and many trekkers camped wherever they pleased, used the ruins as latrines, and generally made a mess of the place. In 2002, Inca Trail regulations were introduced to protect the site and the surrounding ecosystem. These regulations restrict the number of annual visitors and prevent undocumented trekkers from hiking the Trail.

In the footsteps of the ancients

Follow the footpaths of the Inca to the roof of the Andes, passing ancient Tambo ruins, and breathing in pure mountain air by the lungful. Memorable moments are plentiful on the Inca Trail’s four-day trek, but none can compare to the moment you walk through the Sun Gate and catch your first glimpse of the forgotten city of Machu Picchu. It’s not just an accomplishment; it’s a transformative moment.

Why is the Inca Trail so popular?

The Inca Trail is one of our most popular trips in the region, and is ideal for travelers eager to combine the cultural highlights of the Sacred Valley with the challenge of one of the world’s best-known hikes. Since its rediscovery over a century ago, much has been done to excavate and study the site. The stretch referred to as the “Inca Trail” today is, in fact, merely the final, dramatic stretch of the Incan road to Machu Picchu. This part of the Trail is a challenging four-day trek from the floor of the Sacred Valley up high mountain passes and through cloud forests and jungle that tests the limits of mind, body, and spirit.

While it is physically demanding, the 40km (25 mi) hike remains within the reach of most reasonably fit travelers. Some parts are steep, especially the three high passes – one of which reaches an elevation of 4,200m (13,776 ft.)! The end is appropriately nicknamed the “Sun Gate,” where mist-shrouded views of Machu Picchu prove to all who make it that the climb was undeniably worth it.

Is there student discounts?

STUDENT DISCOUNT: $30 off per person

Student Discounts apply to anyone who has a valid ISIC card at the time of the trek or is 16 years old or younger. For those using an ISIC card to receive the discount, we do need to see a copy of the card at booking. For those booking children 16 years old or younger, we need a copy of their passport at booking time. Please send all to info@machupicchuandincatrail.com

How to book the classic Inca trail?

To book the Classic Inca trail trek through PayPal, we do require a $200 deposit per person. PayPal does charge us a fee of 10%, which we ask the client to cover. This does add $20 to each deposit, so a total of $220. This tax is just for deposits, the remaining, you will pay in cash without taxes in our office in Cusco.

When is the best time to go?

This is a difficult question to answer as Peru has a huge variety of conditions. We would say travelers can visit Peru any time of the year! Dry season runs from May to November and this is typically the time that is most recommended. However, this is also the cooler time of year. Nighttime temperatures can drop to below freezing at the height of the dry season. June, July and August are the most popular months to visit so you will tend to encounter much larger crowds during these months. In the wet season (December to April), you can expect showers three to four afternoons a week. For travelers that don’t mind a little drizzle and muddy trails, this time of year offers smaller crowds and greener hillsides, with wildflowers and orchids often in bloom. The shoulder seasons, April to June or September to November can often provide the best of both worlds. They typically have fewer crowds and warmer temperatures than the height of the dry season, but still tend to have relatively little rain.

What is the best thing to do in the event of altitude sickness?

Wherever possible “go down”. The important things are to have gradual ascent, time to adjust, rest days, and someone who can recognize early problems. All these requirements are features of this trek. If you are staying in Cusco, you may still feel the effects. The best advice is to sleep, take plenty of fluids or you could also try coca tea. The porters chew coca leaves wrapped around a black resin called “llipta”. When you are actually walking and active (especially on day two of the trail), this may help since it dilates the blood vessels and carries oxygen to the parts of the body that need it.

Will I get high on coca leaves?

Of course No!  Although cocaine can be extracted from the leaves, it requires a long process involving acids and distilling. Your body simply does not have the capacity to extract much from the leaves.

What should I do if there are not permits left?

In our opinion you have two choices: You could try the Classic Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu which can be hiked in four or five days, or Classic Lares trek or wait until the next season and book your space well in advance for the month you want to travel. Salkantay Trek

Do you require a deposit?

Yes. We require a booking deposit of US$200 a full deposit refund will be given if we are not able to get an Inca Trail Permit for you! Once the Government Permit has been issued the deposit becomes non-refundable

Why is the deposit required immediately?

A deposit is required immediately because we need to pay for your permit at the time that we request it. The only way to reserve a space for the Inca Trail is to secure a permit by purchasing it at the offices of the National Institute of Culture in Cusco. If you only submit the booking form and you do not complete the deposit transaction, we will not be able to secure your space for the Inca Trail until we process this payment.

What happens after I make my deposit?

Once we receive your booking information and the deposit, we will immediately request your permit from the National Institute of Culture (INC). A travel advisor will be assigned to your account and will e-mail a digital copy of the permit to you as soon as we receive it from this Peruvian Government agency. This is usually within 24 hours (business days). If you require additional services like accommodation or tour extensions, your personal travel advisor will easily arrange that for you. If you are only booking the trek package, you will need to send us detailed information about your flight arrival and accommodation in Cusco, so we can schedule the airport pick up and trek briefing.

Is the Inca Trail difficult?

You know the answer to this one: it depends! You reach 4200m on the second day after climbing for the best part of the day. Especially if you are within your first five days at altitude, this may give you headaches and shortness of breath. Generally however, you start very early and have a long time to get to the second campsite. But the key is to keep going and share your coca leaves with the porters who are carrying around 25kg. And don’t forget that even people who live in Cusco (at 3400m) still get short of breath.

What do I need to bring on the trek?

Backpack, sleeping bag, pad (we will provide you with this), rain jacket, strong footwear (walking boots are recommended as they provide support to the ankle which reduces the risk of injury especially when trekking in the wet season (December – March). However it is important that your boots are comfortable and well worn-in and not brand new. Many people prefer to trek in tennis shoes but extra care should be taken (we do not recommend trekking in sandals), one complete change of clothing, sweater, jacket (something warm), water bottle and sterilizing tablets (Micropur are recommended and can be bought in local pharmacies in Cusco), flashlight and batteries, broad-brim or peaked cap, sunblock, insect repellent, toiletries and toilet paper, selection of small snacks, chocolate, dried fruit, biscuits, camera and plenty of film. You also have to bring your original passport with you on the trek and student ISIC when applicable.

When should I hire a porter?

It is better to organize a porter before you go on the trail rather than realize halfway through that you are not enjoying carrying your pack at this altitude and want some help. Even turning up on the day of your trail and telling the agency that you want an extra porter is too late because the porters need to register in advance (support staff need permits to access the trail as well). Please inform the porter if you are taking fragile devices or need special wrapping for your equipment.

Can I wait until Cusco to hire an extra porter?

No. The restrictions on the number of people permitted on the Inca trail includes porters. Porters also have to pay a trek entrance fee and their permits need to be booked in advance. If you want to hire the services of a porter, then you must let us know at the time you make your trek booking. Unfortunately if you feel weakened by the effects of the altitude when you arrive in Cusco and feel it necessary to hire a porter at the last minute the new regulations make it impossible for us to arrange this.

Water along the Inca Trail?

At meal times we will give you teas or coffees to drink. You’ll come across a mountain spring, fountain or small stream approximately every 2 hours along the trail where you can fill up your water bottle. Take a bottle of at least 1 liter capacity per person. Although the water looks clean, it is always safer to use sterilizing tablets or a water filter. With these tablets you have to wait between 30 and 40 minutes before drinking. Bottled mineral water can also be taken from Cusco, bought at km82 (the start of the trek), at the first resting point, at Wayllabamba (first night), at WiñayWayna (third night) and at Machu Picchu (final day).

What happens if I arrive at Machu Picchu and then decide to stay an extra night, can I change my train ticket?

It is still possible to make changes to your return train ticket if you decide to stay an extra night at Aguas Calientes. You will have to take your train ticket personally to the train station in Aguas Calientes and ask them to change the return date of your ticket. You will probably be asked to pay an extra administration fee and changing the ticket will be subject to availability of spaces the following day. If you change your ticket for a cheaper service then you will not be refunded the difference.

What you do to minimize environmental impacts on the Inca Trail?

Our Environmental Management Policy and Commitment considers running our operations in a responsible way, according to the following:

  1. Selective disposal of garbage (organic & inorganic)
  2. Garbage withdrawal of Natural Protected Areas
  3. Use of flush toilets built along the Inca Trail or different communities and villages. Otherwise, we provide toilet tents with chemical toilet facilities. All garbage is disposed of outside the Natural Protected Areas
  4. Avoid fires, no smoking allowed inside the tents
  5. Use of bowls for washing purposes to avoid the soap from being thrown over to the floor or to natural water sources
  6. Avoid disturbing animals
  7. No animal hunting allowed
  8. Preservation of the flora, no orchid taking allowed
  9. Walking over the Inca ruins, walls or archaeological sites is absolutely forbidden

How much to tip the porters, cooks and guides?

Please do not forget to tip your porters and cooks at the end of the hike. We recommend a combine tip from the group of $30-$40 per porter. However, the amount should depend on the quality of the service you received. If their tips are poor they know that they need to improve. We suggest bringing change so you can give the tips directly to the porters and avoid unfairly distribution.