Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions, recommendations on treks and more
As most of you are in Peru and trekking the Inca trail for the first time in your life, we’ve prepared some frequently asked questions and answers for you to better prepare yourself and take the most out of this unique experience. We hope you’ll enjoy it!
TREKS AND TECHNICAL QUESTIONS:
What is the terrain like? How challenging is it?
The Inca Trail trek is rated as moderate to challenging and covers approximately 45 km / 28 miles on uneven, rocky terrain with steep uphill and downhill sections and lots and lots of steps. Day 2 is the most challenging for most of the people because of the uphill and elevation – you will walk 1.215 meters / 4,000 feet in a span of 7 km / 4,3 miles to reach a maximum altitude of 4,215 meters / 13,828 feet. Prior hiking experience is recommended.
How long before should I book the Inca trail?
The Inca trail spots should be booked in advance especially from April to August, as this is busy season, and from September to January there are usually spots left. We recommend you to book your spot for high season before December ends.
• The Peruvian Ministry of Culture administers and controls Inca Trail. They are the only ones able to authorize access to the Inca Trail.
• Access to the Inca Trail is limited to 500 people per day, which includes tourists, guides, porters and cooks. Over 60% of this number is normally the personnel.
• Reservations for the Inca Trail can only be made from March to January. During February the Trail is closed for maintanance.
• The availability applies to the INCA TRAIL itself and not to any tour operators. For this reason any agency you may contact will have the same availability of permits for the Inca Trail.
What does my personal porter carry for me on the Inca trail? Is he with us at all times?
You only carry a day-pack with everything you may need for a day´s hike (water bottle, rain gear, cameras, snacks). Porters carrying your extra bag will not walk together with you. Your extra bag will meet you upon arrival at the next stop. You will be allowed to put up to 8 kilos / 17 pounds that may include sleeping bag (1.5 kilos / 3.3 pounds), sleeping pad (1 kilo /2 pounds), extra clothes for the night such as long warm underwear, warm fleece and others. If you don’t have any extra bag where you put extra stuff for the porter, we will provide you with a duffle bag and you can return it back at the end of your trek in Cusco.
What am I going to eat on the trek?
Our meals are based on organic food and we pack from the beginning all the fresh vegetables. Your lunch will be based on a quinua, pasta, vegetable soup and main course usually in a small version of buffet including rise, potatoes, white or red meat and salad such as avocado. Dinner is usually similar but comes with a dessert. Breakfast is based on eggs, omelette, pancakes, bread, cerials, oat meal and drinks. You will be very well fed and may just want to pack very little snacks with you because we will even give you snacks such a fruit and a cookie for the way.
Note: We have options for vegetarians and vegans too – in time of your booking please advise us, so we know what to make for you on the trek.
How many days should I stay in Cusco before the trek to adjust to the altitude?
The main cause of altitude sickness is going too high too quickly. Given enough time, your body will adapt to the decrease of oxygen. This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes one to three days at any given altitude. Cusco is at an elevation of 3,400 meters / 11,154 feet, so spending at least 2 days before any trek will help you a lot. You may also consider taking altitude pills. We often recommend to our clients Diamox or Acetazolamide, which are used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. This medication can decrease headache, tiredness, nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath that can occur when you climb quickly to high altitudes (generally above 3,050 meters / 10,000 feet). It is particularly useful in situations when you cannot make a slow ascent. The best ways to prevent altitude sickness are climbing slowly, stopping for 24 hours during the climb to allow the body to adjust to the new height, and taking it easy the first 1 to 2 days. Regarding any specific medications, please check about side effects, precautions, interactions or overdose or ask for an advise to your doctor.
How big my group is going to be?
We are specialized in both small and big groups, but we like small groups because that way our clients get personalized service, especially when you encounter lots of things on treks, such as Incan sites, flowers, flora and fauna – your guide spends lots of time with you so you can learn more about our culture and history.
We limit the size of our groups on treks to up to 8 people.
Of course, in case any situation requires to take more than 8 people in a group, that is not a problem at all – for example, we are happy to have a group of friends or family that is more than 8 in a single group.
Why do I need to wake up so early on the last day when I trek the Classic Inca trail?
One of the issues we always had in the Inca trail is waking up the last day really early (by 3:30 am) and not leaving the camp site until 5:30 am. So, after you pack and have the last breakfast (until 4:30 am) you will walk to check point of the camp site that is just 5 minutes from your tents, where you will line up for more than one hour until the gate opens at 5:30 am. All that is because our porters have the train that leaves really early from the bottom of the valley – it is the only train during the day they can load the equipment back to Cusco, so we thank you for your understanding.
What time do I get back to Cusco the last day?
You will be back in Cusco around 8 pm after the trek. If for any reason you have to be back in Cusco earlier than that, please advise us at the time of your booking or at least over one month before your trek begins, as we have to buy you the train ticket for exactly specified trains.
WEATHER, HYGIENE & FIRST AID:
What is the weather like on the Inca trail during the year?
Weather in the region is extremely variable and you should pack for a variety of conditions. In addition, our trek passes through ten bio-zones ranging from high altitude alpine conditions to high jungle. During a sunny day you can expect temperatures of about 18–25°C (65–77°F), however on the second day the weather is very unpredictable and temperatures can drop to 6°C (42°F) during the day at the pass (but you won’t spend a lot of time up there). The Machu Picchu area has a humid climate and tends to be warmer, since it is located at a lower altitude and near to the Amazon jungle. The average temperatures at Machu Picchu are between 23°C to 25°C (73°F and 77°F), with the minimum temperature around 18°C (64°F). The Cusco area has only 2 well-defined seasons: wet season and dry season. The wet season starts in November and ends in March. During this period, it rains almost every day for three or four hours, but also there are several sunny days. The dry season begins around March and lasts until October. June and July are the coldest months. Paradoxically at noon the temperatures can reach 23 °C (77°F), the annual highest temperature.
What happens if I get injured or get sick in the middle of the trek?
In cases of emergencies or medical problems, we follow a detailed medical protocol. All our guides have a “wilderness first aid certification”, and carry a full first aid kit, portable oxygen and radios with them at all times. In case a special medical attention is needed (the worst situations would be breaking a leg for example), the nearest medical centers are at Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes town, depending of how far away on the trek you are. In case you get sick, for example if you get altitude sickness that can not allow you to continue, you may need to return with one of our porters to the beginning of the trek and get the train to Machu Picchu where you can meet us for the rest of the tour.
Do I need to carry my own medicine or first aid?
Your guide will have a first aid kit all the time while you are on the trek, which includes some pain killers, bandages, small bandages to prevent blisters, oxygen tank, pills for case of diarrheas and similar. At any time of the trek please feel free to ask for anything you may need, however, if you need any special medication or you have a special medical condition, please contact your doctor to get the best advices prior to the trek.
What is the toilet situation on the Inca trail like? Should I bring my toilet paper?
We will provide you a portable private toilet in every campsite that will be cleaned by our staff after being used. Also, each camp has public squatting toilets (holes in the ground with flushing water) so you can use any of them as well. Regarding the toilet paper, you will need to bring your own with you. We recommend one role per each two people, but in case for any reason you will need extra, your cook will have extra roles for you. Please don’t hesitate to ask for it as they are always prepared for any emergency.
Is there any place to wash myself? Are there any showers?
The Inca trail has cold free showers in the second and third campsite so, if you don’t mind taking cold showers, you feel free to shower. Every day in the morning you will a get small bucket of warm water in your tent that you can use for washing hands, face or whatever you need. We also recommend you to bring baby wet wipes that you can use for washing yourselves.
Can I rent sleeping bag from you? What type should I bring?
We rent sleeping bags that are especially designed for cold temperatures in the treks and we offer sleeping bags for up to -15 Cº = 5 ºF. In time you are booking your trek with us, you should request the sleeping bag if you need it, as at the spot it won’t be possible to rent it. If you have one, make sure they are down and for temperatures up to -15 Cº = 5 ºF, or, even better, made for colder temperatures than that – you don’t want to be cold.
Do I need walking poles?
Walking poles are recommended for everybody, as they will help you a lot in down and uphill. Our expert guides say that they can take up to 30% off the weight of your body and pair of them is recommended per person. If you don’t have any but you want to have them on your treks, you can rent them from us as well – a pair costs US$ 15 for four days.
How big my day backpack should be?
Thirty litre backpack will be big enough to carry your belongings such as water, rain gear and extra clothes, since we will provide you a personal porter who will carry up to 6 kg / 13 Lbs of other equipment. If you already have any backpack between 20 and 40 litres, they will be good too.
How big are the sleeping tents? How many people can sleep in?
Our tents are for 4 seasons and each one is designed for 3 people, but we use it for 2 (length 2.30 cm / 0.90 inch, width 1.70cm/0.70 inch). If you are a solo traveller, please email us if you want to share a tent or you want to have your own tent to sleep in.
MONEY & TIPPING:
Do I need to bring money on the trek?
You should consider bringing money, as you may want to buy bottled water, snacks, Gatorade, beer etc. from locals that live along the way, especially on day one, as well as if you are thinking to give appreciations or tips for the porters and guides too. The last lunch at Aguas Calientes is not included, so you will need money for that as well. We recommend you to bring soles rather than dollars; there are banks and exchange offices in Cusco where you can change any type of currency.
Should I tip to the porters and guides? If I do, how much should I tip?
Our porters and guides are paid fairly according to Peruvian labor laws – that is why we don’t force our clients to tip the crew. However, most of our clients want to give them an appreciation for the work they do and the service they receive so, if you feel like giving them an appreciation or tip them, feel free to do it at the end of their work. It should be whatever you are comfortable with. For more advice please email us.
Can I pay the rest of the balance in credit card or does it have to be in cash?
We take the balance of the payment in cash, so you won’t need to pay extra fees. Of course you can use PAY PAL, or any credit card as well, but you will need to pay the fees that are usually over 6%. In the day of your briefing when your guide will meet you, one of the representatives will meet you too to collect the rest of the balance for your trek.
Will I get to see the sunrise from the Sun Gate if I trek Inca trail?
You have the chance to watch the sunrise from the Sun Gate during the dry season, that is from May to August, because on the last day of your trek in the Inca trail you will arrive there by 6:30 am right before the Sun comes over the mountains. The Sun Gate is beautiful place to see Machu Picchu in the distance, but also a perfect place to watch the sunrise. If you trek Salkantay, Lares or other treks we offer, you won’t be able to watch the sunrise from the Sun Gate but from Machu Pichu, because you will be at Machu Picchu by 6 am. It is for sure a perfect place to enjoy the Sun rising over the mountains.
Can I enter Machu Picchu with my backpack?
You are allowed to take into Machu Picchu backpacks up to 20 liters – if you have a bigger bag that you carried on the Inca trail, you can check it in by the gate of Machu Picchu before you take the tour with your guide (it costs 3 soles per bag).
Will I have any extra time in Machu Picchu after the tour with my guide?
You will be finishing the tour in Machu Picchu by 10 am and then your guide will leave you in Machu Picchu on your own so you can enjoy it at your leisure and take a bus down to Aguas Calientes anytime you feel ready to leave Machu Picchu. At Aguas Calientes you can meet everybody from the group for lunch before your train leaves.
Do I have to book Wayna Picchu mountain in advance?
The Wayna Picchu (or Huayna Picchu) mountain has a limit of permits up to 400 per day which is divided into two groups – the first group from 7 am to 8 am and the second one from 10 am to 11 am. We really recommend you to book it in advance, especially for the dry season or high season that runs from April to August. Consider booking it 2 or 3 months in advance and email us for the availabilities.
What is the electrical situation?
There is no electricity while you are on the trek – that is why we recommend you to bring extra batteries for your camera if you are considering taking lots of pictures or bring an extra portable recharger for using your phone a lot. Also, all the camps are dark so you will need to bring your head lights for organizing your stuff in your tent or going to the bathroom at night.
How do I get water on the trek?
In the Inca trail you will be provided with boiled drinking water from day 2 to the end of your trek. However, make sure you will get enough water for the first day (you can also purchase it on the way to the beginning of your trek). People usually drink about one and half litre of water per day, some even more, so you need to bring water bottles for the first day to refill them. We recommend you to bring Nalgene water bottles or camel bags so that way we can make less garbage. You will encounter locals selling bottled water along the way but not everybody is responsible, many people leave their garbage in the nature which is very sad. We need to take care of our home and nature – that is why we recommend you refilling your bottles when you can and we thank you for taking care of our green home.
Is there any age limit?
In the Inca trail there is not a minimum age or limit, any person who is prepared for trekking can do it. Inca trail is a challenging trek so there is a requirement of being fit. That is why everybody who is thinking to trek Inca trail should have a certain level of fitness – you don’t want to give up in the middle of trek, since Inca trail is not like walking in the park, but it’s also not impossible.
Is there phone signal on treks?
On the Classic Inca trail there is a signal on day one until noon and on day three in the afternoon, but day four you will get a full signal in case you need to be in touch with somebody.
What are coca leafs? Can I chew them? Do they help with the altitude?
Coca (Erythroxylum coca) is a plant from the family Erythroxylaceae, native to western South America. The plant plays a significant role in traditional Andean culture. Coca is best known throughout the world because of its alkaloids, methylecgonine cinnamate, benzoylecgonine, truxilline, hydroxytropacocaine, tropacocaine, ecgonine, cuscohygrine, dihydrocuscohygrine, nicotine, cocaine and hygrine. Many of the alkaloids contained in the leaf provide physiological effects useful for medicinal purposes. When chewed, coca acts as a mild stimulant and suppresses hunger, thirst, pain and fatigue. Coca also eases sickness due to high altitudes. So, we really recommend you to get some for your trek and it is easy to find and buy it in any stores in Cusco or along the way to the head point of the Inca trail. Your guide will teach you how to chew them.
Nutritional facts: 100 grammes of coca leaf – Organic acids: 3.2mg; Carbohydrates: 46.2g; Fibre: 14.2g; Fat: 3.3g; Moisture: 7.2g Other Vitamins: A: UI 14,000; Alpha carotene: 2.65mg; B1 (thiamine): 0.68mg; B6 (pyridoxine): 0.58mg; Beta carotene: 20mg; C (ascorbic acid): 53mg; H (biotin): 0.54mg; Nicotinic acid: 5mg. Trace elements: Aluminium: 49mg; Barium: 17mg; Boron: 24mg; Calcium: 1540mg; Copper: 1.1mg; Chromium: 0.23mg; Strontium: 204mg; Iron: 45.8mg; Phosphate: 911.8mg; Magnesium: 0.37mg; Manganese: 0.5mg; Potassium: 1.9mg; Sodium: 1110mg; Zinc: 3.8mg
Can I smoke on the trail?
No, there is no smoking allowed on the Inca Trail.