A Quick Guide To Booking the Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

Machu Pichhu Train

Knowing that we were now kicking off our Inca to Inuit experience in Peru, we were keen to ensure that we booked our Inca Trail experience as quickly as possible.

Simply Googling Inca Trail is sure fire way to instant confusion. Hit after hit of Inca Trail operators each seemingly offering exactly the same experience. Where to begin?

Machu Pichhu in Clouds with buildings

It took Jake and I a couple of weeks to weed through the endless search listings and guides, but in the end we were confident that we had booked an experience that suited us, with both a cost effective and ethical tour operator.

Here’re 5 pointers to ensure you book the Inca Trail & Machu Picchu experience that’s right for you.

1. Decide what type of experience you are after

As we are embarking on such a colossal adventure, it was essential for us that we could experience Machu Picchu as cheaply as possible. We’ll be travelling independently to the town of Cusco which is where all of the operated treks start from. As such we avoided tour operators which offered airport transfers or hotel collections as part of the package as this inflated the cost. Most operators offer a range of trek packages which offer varying levels of luxury and personalisation.

Plaza de Armas

Girls and A Sheep

Most common package types:

Basic Standard Service 4 day Trek – roughly ($600 – $750)

Larger groups, around 16 ppl. All basic immunities and services are included (Tents, Dining Tents, Meals, Porters). Logistics throughout the trek are covered ( Transport to start off the trek, entrance fees to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Return to Cusco by train

Mid Level Service 4 day Trek

Smaller group sizes – the smaller the group size the more expensive the cost. Return via a more expensive train service. Personal Porters to carry your backpack and gear.

Private Service 4 Days

If you’re travelling as a couple or you aren’t travelling with your own small group you may prefer to have your own private tour. Clearly this comes at a premium. Expect to pay up to $2000 per person for this level of service.

2. Choosing a company

If you choose to buy your trek online you will invariably be tempted to flick through the top 20 search results on Google. The majority of these listings are high-quality English speaking websites. Most are US based companies who have the money to pay for sponsored search listings, which in turn attracts more visits. Although these sites look professional it’s worth spending some time ensuring that they are legitimate, registered and ethical.

Quick checks to make:

  • Are they a registered company? Most company names in Peru end in either the initials SAC or EIRL.
  • Will they actually operate your trek or are they an aggregator for another tour operator
  • Read reviews (Trip advisorLonely PlanetRough Guides, Blogs)
  • How well do they look after their porters. Peru Web offers useful advice to help to select a responsible trekking company.

A great independent site offering comprehensive advice, information and recommendations is Andean Travel Web well worth a look.

3. Native or International Tour Operators

Although a large percentage of the Native tour operators have Spanish sites you can activate Google Translate which will translate the page to your preferred language. Although these sites can take longer to read through, we found that the native operators had the most competitive offers as well as making a clear point about Porter welfare, which was a big point of differentiation for us. The larger US and English tour operators offer comprehensive packages that are well suited to anyone who is travelling to Peru solely for the Machu Picchu experience as they take care of airport and hotel transfers as well as larger packages which include other nearby attractions such as Lake Titicaca.

A full list of recommended and licensed tour operators for 2015 can be found at Inca Trail Peru

4. Book far in advance

Jake and I thought we were being super organised researching our October trip in January. Unfortunately, I needed to get a new passport which delayed our booking to March, by which time all passes for October had been booked. When it comes to booking the Inca Trail you can never be too organised, so be sure to book as soon as you can

5. Have a deposit ready

The vast majority of tour operators require you to pay a 50% deposit upon booking as that enables them to secure your pass to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. A number of operators will require you to pay your deposit via bank transfers. International bank transfers can be costly, in order to avoid costly transfer charges ask your operator if you can pay with PayPal as this will remove all transfer fees.

Experiences such as this can take a fair bit of planning. Throughout planning our Inca to Inuit experience, I have found it invaluable to keep all of my research and web cuttings in one online scrapbook. I use Evernote, but there are many other alternatives out there. I like Evernote as it sits across all my devices, syncing in real time, so no matter which device I’m on I have all my saved research and weblinks available.

Lynds ruins day 3

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