Standard Price for Classic Inca Trail Service
for the 4 days (US$700 – US$850)
The Classic four day/three night Inca Trail Trek can cost you anywhere from US$700 to over $1300 per person. Prices in the higher ranges are usually because you are purchasing from a third party that needs to make a commission as a part of the transaction. Generally speaking, the sweet spot for a standard trek on a budget is somewhere between US$700 to $850.
Note: It is impossible to do the Inca Trail on your own. Per Peruvian government regulations only licensed tour Inca Trail operators may provide the Inca Trail. Only a selected few travel agencies are able to meet the stringent reguirements to be licensed. This is for the protection of the tourists and the Inca Trail itself.
Classic Inca Trail service typically includes:
- A maximum group size of 10 people.
- Transport to the start of the trek,
- Entrance fees for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu,
- Trekking guide,
- Sleeping tents (2 people per tent),
- Dining tent (communal tent where the group will eat meals and for the porters to sleep in at night),
- Kitchen tent (to prepare the meals and store the food), meals (and a cook to prepare them),
- Porters (to carry just the tents, food, and cooking equipment),
- Emergency oxygen bottle and basic first aid kit.
- Return to Ollantaytambo by the Expedition tourist train (current price US$70)
- And private bus from Ollantaytambo Train Station back to Cusco.
This service may or may not include:
- Pick-up from the airport when you arrive to your hotel.
- Pick-up from your hotel on the first day of the trek (you may have to take a taxi to the company’s office or another pre-arranged meeting point),
- Bus from the Machu Picchu ruins down to the town of Aguas Calientes after the trek (US$12).
- Appreciations for the trekking team
Bargain Prices for the Classic Inca Trail Service
You can purchase The Inca Trail Trek for prices below US$700. Using simple arithmetic means that these companies have to depart with a minimum of 16 people on each trek (comprising of clients from various budget tourist agencies) and they also cannot provide a quality service or pay their porters half as much as they should be paying them. Be suspicious of any such “bargains” being offered. After paying several hundreds of dollars for your international and domestic flights to visit Peru why compromise on the quality of your trek and the treatment of the porters for the sake of saving US$50!
Expect to pay more if:
- The group size is limited. Some companies offer a more manageable maximum group size of 12 people. Others offer groups as small as 8 people. The smaller the group size the more expensive the tour will be.
- You return to Cusco in a more expensive train service. The various services can be found on the Peru Rail web site www.perurail.com, The standard Expedition class is comfortable with seated only reservations. The service is not crowded and you can buy tea, coffee and snacks. After the Inca Trail most people sleep all the way back. The Vistadome is about US$67 more expensive and has slightly larger seats and glass windows in the roof.
- Extra porters are included in the price of the trek. All tour companies normally include porters just to carry the camping equipment. If you want a porter to carry your sleeping bag and clothes then you will have to pay extra. Estimated at about US$3 per kilogram per day.
- The trekking company will guarantee departure for a minimum of 2 persons or more. Many companies that charge US$500 upwards to provide the same service as the companies that charge much less. This is because the companies charging more will guarantee departure with just two people in a group.
- Companies that offer a lower price often merge their Inca Trail groups with another companys´ group to meet the minimum group size required to depart. The new companys services may not be of the same standard of which you originally booked. You are no longer trekking with the original provider of services and there is no guarantee of the quality of services, what is included in the service, and you now must deal with an unknown company if there are problems. Sometimes, a low budget company will just cancel the trek if they do not get enough hikers. They usually do not give guarantees that you will trek. This is where dealing with a trusted professional company that guarantees you will trek if they have their minimum of 2 trekkers is worth the extra price.
How to Decide Where to Buy your Trek.
Buying the trek in your own country offers the security of being able to make a reservation with a well known travel company. Most companies will send you comprehensive brochures, have toll-free phone numbers and accept payment using all major credit cards. Many of the specialist tour operators will be more than willing to help you with your hotel bookings (in the medium to luxury category) and international and domestic flights, as well as your travel insurance. Most companies will probably be able to offer you a complete package deal with fixed dates where you travel as part of a tour group. This method can often be reasonably economical, although you have less flexibility about going to different places in your time.
However, if it just the Inca Trail that you are after and not a tour package with several different tours; booking in you own country can work out to be more expensive. You will find that local taxes, overheads, and commissions make up over 40% of the trek price. If you are paying US$1200 to $1300 in your own country expect to receive a trekking service similar to a service bought directly in Cusco for between US$700 and US$850
Very few people realise that the Peruvian Goverment only grants licences to Peruvian trekking companies to operate the Inca Trail that meet their stringent regulations. Even the biggest overseas tour companies such as GAP or Toucan have to pay local companies to operate their treks. Large overseas tour operators often have very competitive contracts with local companies and the actual amount paid to the local tour operator is likely to be closer to US$600. This means that even though you have paid a premium price for your trek the service you receive is worth less than half the value and the local company’s profit margins are so low that they cannot afford to pay the porters and trekking staff reasonable wages. The other major disadvantage of buying your trek in your own country is that overseas tour operators are currently exempt from paying local taxes, so very little of your money actually benefits Peru and the local people.
Buying a trek directly with a local tour operator based in Cusco offers much better value for your money so long as you book with a reputable company. The best way to verify the company and the experiences of those person that have trekked with them is to review google, Tripadvisor and Facebook. Also, a company that offers international free contact phone numbers where you can call or chat with with a trained trip coordinator in English, Spanish or Portuguese to get all of your questions answered. Finally, review their website evaluate their services and what they include. Are they all inclusive in their services, everything you need is included or is there a list of items you still have to purchase on your own.
There are over 1000 tourist companies based in Cusco alone and the wide variety of similar sounding names can be confusing. Only 200 of those have met the requirements to be licensed Inca Trail operators. You need to be sure that the company you are using to book the service is licensed and they are actually providing the service. Especially for the Inca Trail it is important to only book the Inca Trail with only companies that are direct providers of the Inca Trail (they provide the service and not just book the service and transfer you to another company to service it.) These companies are call endosars. Otherwise you may discover you have no guarantee of the service and/or if the quality will be what you expect. You may not be unable to communicate directly with the company actually providing the Inca Trail trek or even know who they are until trek time because you are talking with the booking company not the service provider.
The obvious difference to booking a trek in your own country, is that just phoning the company to make a reservation could be expensive or a daunting task especially if you don’t speak Spanish. However, professional companies in Cusco have well organized internet sites for information and booking. They also have chat and free international phone service with their own company tour specialists that speak fluent English. These companies have secure booking services to pay with most credit cards companies and Paypal. They make booking the Inca Trail easy and worry free. Everything is guaranteed and you receive proof of booking and payment immediately.
Where small local tour agencies do not have a website, they do not have Visa or Paypal and they promote their services with people on the street and or handing out brochures. Most of their services need to be paid in cash. They are OK if you want to quickly book a local city tour or a tour of Sacred Valley when you have already arrived to Cusco.
The easiest way to find out about the various services or offers is using the internet. Although the internet is a great source of information it can also be a place full of misleading information, phantom companies and businesses that are just out to make a fast buck. Be sure to do your due diligence with review sites, referrals from friends or just call a professional company that offers all of the services described above. Buyer beware; if it seems to good to be true, it probably is not what it seems!