After reading all the questions over the Inca trail, and questions who return constantly , I decided to make a general information about the 2 and 4 days Inca trail ,with answers to the 15 most frequent asked questions
1 Do you need to Book ahead ?- YES! You MUST book ahead for the Inca Trail. During the low season this can be done with only a few days notice, the low season is from 1 October to 14 April HOWEVER, in high season from 15 April to 30 Sept you have to reserve up to 40 days, the trail fills up fast. Booking should be done several weeks ahead of time. Last year there was in August a waiting list over the 40 DAYS ! The new rule says that there are only 500 persons a day allowed on the trail , looks a lot , but in those 500 are the guides , porters ,cooks and walkers of the 2 and 4 days included .This means at the end about 280 tourist a day. You can find out on the http://www.inc-cusco.gob.pe/ government website if there are still spaces left , but be careful , if you see 45 spaces its difficult to get them !
2 Is it possible to do without an agency ? Independent permits- they don't really exist anymore. It was possible till 2000. You can book services for a private guide, meaning you won't be shuffled in with a large group, but this is really expensive, and you must book AT LEAST 35 days ahead of time, Remember too that most of the agencies in Cusco have "prefered sevice" at the U.G.M. (that's the organization that runs the trail) you cant by yourself a permit at the UGM .only official agencies can do that up to 60 days in advance .At high season , sometimes even the private groups get bumped,and don���t find spaces ,so make sure to book WELL ahead of time,There is NO WAY to do the Inca Trail without a guide, or to enter the trail without the permit .At the entr��e of the trail , and on the trail there are officials who control your permit and passport , so bring always your international passport , if you don���t bring you can get troubles ! While you need a permit for the Incatrail ,You don���t need one to visit Machu Picchu , this you can visit every day , you just have to buy a train ticket and entr��e ticket to machu picchu .
3 Cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu? The normal backpacker train cost this year 38 USD one way , but yes it is possible to go cheaper ,although its not sure,you need time and in high season there is also a waiting list .You have to go up to max 2 days in advance to the railway station in Ollantaytambo ,only there you can buy yourself ! There you can buy the train ticket for the only local train allowed for tourist , this leave every evening around 8 or 9 PM , cost around 18 USD one way and come back from Aqua calientes at 5 or 6 AM for the same price ,you still have to add 2 nights you have to sleep in Aqua calientes if you will visit Machu Picchu .The tourist train cost now 38 USD one way ,the entr��e to Machu picchu cost 20USD and the bus up and down 9,5 USD , walking is for free! If you have a valid ISIC student card its 10 USD less from the entr��e ticket
4 Is it possible to enter with different name ? This is getting onto the trail using the name of someone who has cancelled their booking, and yes, it is or was possible last year . However, seeing as most people put the trail as the highlight of their trip, very few ever cancel, because if you cancel , you lose your money. Risking a hitch may leave you disappointed. This practice is illegal .Sure that this year there gone be more controls, If they catch you, you loose your trail and money .Last year some offices get caught and had to close down !
5 Are there alternative routes-? Yes there are dozens ranging from easy, do-it-yourself routes to challenging routes that require guides and pack animals. In high season when the official Inca trail is Full , some agencies offer these trips , like the Molepatta Salkantay trip , this takes 5 days and is some harder than the Incatrail , you have to cross a pass of 4700 Mt ,for this trail you don���t need a permit ,you can start whenever you like .Its not the Inca trail but also finish at Machu Picchu ,be careful some agencies sell this as the real Inca trail while it isn���t. In winter its sometimes not possible to cross the pass because of the snow .You don���t see ruins like on the real Inca trail ,(only Machu Picchu ) but the views over the snowy mountaintops are amazing , last night you sleep in Aqua calientes and next day you go early up to Machu picchu for sunrise the price varied depending on how many persons book, between 200 and 250 USD This is .for the guide ,food ,tents ,entr��e machu picchu and train back to Cusco.Than there is also the Lares trek ,3/4or 5 days ,same till Aqua calientes ,other treks are the amazing 6 days around Ausangate snowy mountain and the less popular recent discovered Choquequirao Ruins ,at the end after digging out they are bigger than Machu Picchu ,it takes 4 or 3 days trek and cost also around 200 USD , this trek you can do cheaper yourself by renting mules in cachora and start the trek with own food and tents
6 Are numbers of day visitors to Machu picchu also limited, like those doing the inca trail hike? Or can I just buy the bus / train and entrance ticket on the day I want to go? On the incatrail is a limit of 500 persons a day ,but there is no limit to a visit to Machu picchu ,everyone can visit the ruins without limits .The best is to stay overnight in Aqua calientes and take the first bus up to the ruins , like this you see them without tourist , before the 1000 visitors of the train arrive
7 How Is the 2 days Inca trail ? In this trail you take the train till Km 104 , from there you start to climb slowly up to the Ruins of Winay Wayna ,before 1 year, The 2 days sleep at the ruins , now there are new rules that only the 4 days can sleep here .So the 2 days have to go down to Aqua calientes and come up to Machu picchu the next day ,this means that the trek its harder and longer than before , now you have to walk the first day more than before !
8 What���s the price of the trail and where to book ? That���s the most difficult one , be aware of cheaters ! some agencies ask up to 400 USD , for the same trail ,you end up with other persons who pay more than 100 USD less at the end you still have to walk yourself ;The most agencies ,put people together to complete a group .The maxima size of a group is 16 and minima 8 , if there are more than 10 persons in a group , there are 2 guides . In Cusco are more than 400 agencies .Because of the reservation you need to make in advance ,almost all the reservations for the trail now are thru internet .Control if the agency work with contracts , so you can prove something after your trail if something was wrong .I have a Belgian friend who have together with Peruvians a travel agency in Cusco who offer good service for good price www.peru-planet.net ,but you have to find out yourself on the internet , just visit many websites ,compare the prices and services ,at the end they all do the same ,the only differences are the quality of guides ,food and tents .In low season ,before 15 april you have to find the 4 days for around 195 TO 210 USD , in high season the price will be between 250 and 300 USD , look and compare !
9 What cost an extra porter an how many tip do you have to give ?
sins 2 years there are some official rules for porters , they only can carry up to 15 kg and about 4 KG from there self ,a porter for the 4 days will cost you around 60usd , don���t pay less ! they real work hard ,you now if you pay less they get less ! Than the Tip , in general in my group everybody put together around 20 usd person , this we give to the porters,cook and guide , its up to you if you find that the porters work harder than the guide. Remember, guides make about $25 per day, and most run the trail four times a month., its up to you to pay the porter more .Be aware if you find very cheap trails ,the porters and guides will have low income ! If you feel you had a great trip, tip well; if the service wasn't so great, don't. It's that easy.
10 What to bring?- temperatures on the trail range from -5 at night in the winter to 35 during the day. You will need warm and cool clothes.Winter is from may ,June ,July ,august Good walking shoes are real necessary ! You walk a few thousand stairs ,You will also need sun lotion, bug spray, a flashlight, a camera and film, and a sleeping bag. Most of this gear can be bought or rented in Cusco, but expect to pay a premium or get cheap stuff. In winter you real need a good sleeping bag ,this you can rent but they ask around 4 to 5 USD a day .Also a good poncho is necessary ,you walk the 3 the day thru a part of the rainforest
11 Just how tough is it? How fit do you have to be? T
You don't have to be in the best shape to do the Classic Inca Trail, everybody with normal condition can do it , though some parts of it can be pretty tough. It's really only the second day that gives anyone much pain, as you must climb a 4200m pass. The dead woman pass The second two passes are not so bad, especially after that first one. If your knees are in rough shape you might have a time, there are literally thousands of stairs, and most of them are quite un-even. Other than the passes and the stairs, I see no reason why anyone would have too hard a time with the I.T. Just remember to walk at your own tempo and don't push it.
12 What about Altitude sickness? Being in shape won't help much. You have to take the time to acclimate yourself to the altitude seriously. The best is to stay around 2 days before your trek in Cusco at 3400mt ,the first day of the trek is slowly going up .Drink a lot ,and drink also some Coca thee or put the leaves in your mouth .
13 How many people in the groups? In the 4 days are Minima 8 persons and Maxima 16 persons , if there are more than 10 persons ,than there are 2 guides ,so always small groups .The 2 days incatrail is with maxima 6 persons
14 What does the trail look like in the peak season, because of the new rules you still have space enough , everything is much more organized now than before !
15 Are there toilets on the trail ? The first and the last day there are some toilets on the trail , they are working to put also on the 2 AND 3 the day ,but never leave garbage behind , also take your toilet paper with you , put al your garbage in a plastic bag and drop it after the trail in Aqua calientes or Cusco .The last day ther is a communal shower , but there is just 1 , so waiting list !
I hope to help many people with these questions The most important is that you enjoy your trail ,its real worth ,the view and the feeling you get the 4 the day early in the morning after 4 days trekking is still amazing !