Inca Trail Info How to Book
Due to the popularity of this Machu Picchu hike and to protect the area, Inca Trail Permits are very hard to get! Since 2004, the number of Inca Trail Permits is limited to 500 people per day: 200 for hikers and 300 for staff. So if you want to hike the Inca Trail, the key is booking well in advance! The following tips will help you to book the Inca Trail.
When to book the Inca Trail?
For the busy season (May-August), book between 6 – 8 months in advance to be guaranteed a place on the date that you wish to do the hike. Inca Trail permits are sold on a first-come, first-served basis and since 2017, sale for the upcoming year start in October. Once all spaces are booked, NO tour operator or trekking guide in Cusco can still offer permits for the Inca Trail.
Even for the low season, it is suggested to book as far in advance as possible (3-5 months ahead). Please also note that the Inca Trail is closed in February of each year for maintenance.
How to book the Inca Trail
First of all, you have to know that you have to book the Inca Trail with an official Inca Trail operator located in Cusco. Many travel agencies in Peru are Inca Trail operators but not all.
If you book through a travel agency with a good reputation in your home country, for sure they will make the Inca trail reservation through one of those official, licenses Inca Trail Operators in Cusco.
Remember you cannot simply buy an Inca trail permit online and organise the trek by yourself, nor can guides or others (that are not an official agency) buy the Inca Trail Ticket or make any reservations for you.
Steps for booking the Inca trail
- Check availability
First, you want to check the date(s) are still available. You can check availability at our home page (or at machupicchu.gob.pe). The information comes from the Ministry of Culture and is the same for all tour operators.
The number of spaces can vary very quickly. Agencies usually book up to 30 spaces at once, so don’t be surprised if suddenly the available spaces are sold out. Once the number of available permits drops under 150, you have to be very quick and might have only 2 – 3 days (or not even) to finalise your booking. Tour operators in Cusco cannot ‘hold’ spaces for you.
- Choose a reliable Travel Agency in Cusco
Finding a good and reliable agency in Cusco that is an authorised Inca Trail Operator is not always easy. How do know that you will have a well organized and professionally guided trek and great experience in Cusco? How do you make sure that your money is in good hands and that you will have the service you paid for once in Peru? And that the staff will be paid well?
Make sure you have a valid passport
- Compare agencies
We recommend you do a bit of 'shopping' and compare agencies; there is no need to go for the most expensive one (some are very expensive) but don't take the cheapest either. The cheapest company will certainly not be the best, and the most expensive ones might be overcharging. You want an agency that provides a good service and one that suits your budget. Also, be sure that it includes all tickets and services and that there are no hidden costs.
- Note about Inca Trail prices
The Inca Trail is not cheap. All Inca Trail Tours included the Inca Trail permits (approx. $ 90), the entrance to Machu Picchu (approx. $ 45), transport to the start of the trek, the train back to Cusco, camping equipment, all meals, porters, a cook, a guide. This means that ones you have a spot, you can forget about all of this and concentrate on the fun part of preparing your trip! Generally speaking, we can say that you are safe when you book the Inca trail between $ 650 and $ 900 (upgraded service) per person, depending on how big the group (or if it is a private service), the camping materials provided, the train etc.
- Responsible Tourism
Choose a trekking company that practices responsible tourism and that pays fair wages and gives good treatment to the porters: the people that carry the camping equipment and the food during the hike. Read more about the situation of the porters of the Inca trail here.
Once you have decided, your operator will request a (non-refundable) downpayment: this is understandable as they have to put money to buy the (non-refundable) permit for you. They will also request a copy of your passport, as this is an official requirement of the Inca Trail authorities in Cusco.
Check your payment options
Inca Trail permits can only be bought by an official Inca Trail operator in Cusco, with the valid passport of the passenger. The tour operator will use the names and passport numbers that you send with your trek booking application so make sure it’s complete and accurate. We recommend you send a copy of your passport, so there can be no mistakes with the number.
- You must bring the same passport with you to Cusco and take it with you on the Inca Trail as it will be checked on the first day of the hike. If the name or number on your passport do not match with the name and number on the trek permit, you will not be allowed to start the Inca Trai (nor will you be granted a refund).
- In case you need to renew your passport between the booking date and the starting date of the Inca Trail, you must send a copy of your NEW passport to your trek operator and carry the OLD passport with you to Peru. The operator will change the number on your permit before you arrive (there is an extra cost for this).
- Student Card. If you make a booking with a student card, you must send a copy at the moment of booking and bring the original card on the trek. If you don’t, you will not be able to start the trek, nor will you be given the possibility of paying the difference in price. In some cases – especially when there is a time limit due to availability – you might need to forget about the student discount. Not all student cards are recognised so make sure your card meets the requirements.
Different Inca Trail operators offer different payment methods, and you can choose the one that works best for you. Especially when you are in a rush (due to decreasing availability), make sure you look into this on time and reassure that your credit card has funds, you have the required credit card (in Peru agencies mostly accept VISA), you have opened a PayPal account etc. When there are only a few Inca trail tickets left, a few hours can make the difference.
Contact a Tour Operator and Book!
Once you’ve made your choice and you have picked an Inca Trail operator, like e.g. Dos Manos Peru Travel, and you know there is availability and you have your passport and a valid payment option, you are ready to book the inca trail!
Contact the Inca Trail operator of your choice and wait for them to get back to you with the confirmation! Depending on the Inca Trail operator, they will ask you to book online on their website or to send a booking form by email. Some agencies will ask you to give a second date, in case the Inca Trail tickets are sold out for your preferred date.
Huayna Picchu: go for an extra mile?
At the moment of your Inca Trail booking, why not consider the option of doing the hike to Huayna Picchu? Because for the most amazing view of Machu Picchu, you need to hike the extra hour to Huayna Picchu, the mountain behind the Inca citadel. It’s a bit of a scramble, the path is quite narrow, and the steps seem endless, but the views are totally worth it!
If you want to climb to Huayna Picchu, let your Inca Trail operator know when you book the Inca Trail. This is important because they need to book an extra Huayna Picchu ticket for you that matches with your Inca trail (for the correct date and time slot) and the Huayna Picchu Tickets
are as high in demand as the Inca Trail permits.
No Inca Trail Permits left?
Waiting List Inca Trail?
There is no
waiting list for the Inca Trail. All Inca Trail Permits are personal and non-transferable. Even if another hiker cancels, the permit will not
become available. Inca Trail permits are strictly personal and non-refundable.
If the permits are sold out, this is for all Inca Trail operators. All permits are paired with an individual’s passport number, and the Government have strict control policies at Inca Trail checkpoints.
Know your alternatives
So now it’s about time to look into your alternatives. Fortunately, there are other great treks to Machu Picchu
so you should not be too sad.
One of the popular alternatives is the Salkantay trek
. The Salkantay Trek is a less-busier route, with great views and fewer tourists than the Inca Trail. Also, the price is probably about 1/3 compared to the Inca Trail price so if the classic Inca Trail is a bit out of your budget, the Salkantay Trek is a great option.
Read more about alternative Machu Picchu treks
Or consider a train tour to Machu Picchu. You can find more information about How to get to Machu Picchu here