Four years ago the Peruvian Government proposed many changes to the administration of the Inca Trail in a bid to protect its fragile eco-structure from over-use. Most of these proposals have been aimed at reducing the number of trekkers on the trail, improving the quality of the tour operators and offering a reservation system whereby trekkers will be forced to make their reservations many weeks (even months) in advance.
Some of the proposals were introduced slowly throughout 2001 and 2002 but the Government started to enforce the majority of the regulations more strictly in 2003. Further regulations have been introduced at the beginning of 2004 with the main aim of eliminating poor quality operators. All trekking companies that operate the Inca Trail must have an operating license which is issued every year at the end of February.
In 2005, the main changes made the booking process even more restrictive. Now, the entrance permits have to be totally paid at the moment of the purchase. This forced the travel agencies to start the booking once all the payment has been made.
We recommend you to make the Inca Trail reservation (which means paying for the program) far in advance. In the low season (Oct-Mar). We advise you to make a reservation at least 5 weeks in advance. In May and September, we recommend you to make a reservation 6 weeks in advance and for the peak months of June, July and August we highly recommend a minimum of 6-8 weeks to make a booking. If the entrance permit has been bought, and then you want to change the date, the only means for making such change is to buy the permit again.
If you turn up in Cusco in the low season (November to April), you may still find space available with some agencies 5-7 days prior to the trek departure date. However, during May 2004 there were many people who were disappointed not to find spaces available even arriving in Cusco 3 weeks in advance. Things were even more difficult for people arriving in June, July & August with it being impossible for visitors to purchase last minute spaces on the Inca Trail upon arrival (at least legitimately anyway).
A detailed account of the Inca Trail regulations can be found below:
Inca Trail Park Regulations
The Inca Trail is part of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, a protected area managed by the Peru National Institute of Natural Resources, INRENA.
All visitors must obey park regulations prohibiting littering, cutting or damaging trees, removing or damaging stones of ruins and the Trail, removing plants, killing animals, lighting open fires or camping in the archeological sites (only authorized campsites can be used).
The following procedures must be followed:
1. Payment of entrance fees:
a. The only valid document granting the right to walk the Inca Trails Network - the Machupicchu Historical Sanctuary Network RED or SHM - is the ticket issued by the Instituto Nacional the Cultura (INC). This ticket is personal, non-transferable and includes the entrance fee to Machu Picchu.
b. Payment for the right to use the RED can only be made in the city of Cusco, and has a cost of US$62, usually included in the quote an authorized agency provides. From August 2006 onwards, this cost will increase 50%
c. Under no circumstances, payment for the use of the RED will be accepted at its registry and entry control points.
d. Payment for the right to use the RED must be made a minimum of thirty (30) days before beginning the trip and the acquisition must be made under your name.
e. The reimbursement of payment for the right to use the RED is not possible under any circumstance.
a. Reservations will be made in the offices of the Departmental Headquarters of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura in Cusco, receiving confirmation with corresponding reservation code.
Note: Reservations will be subject to the daily capacity emitted by the UGM (500 people, including guides, porters, helpers and visitors), therefore we recommend you to reserve your place far in advance.
b. The entrance permits can be bought even 360 days before the trip begins.
c. To buy the entrance permits, the Tour Operator must pay 100% and provide full names, passport numbers, ages, nationalities and passport photocopies of all those going on the trip, to the relevant authorities. The traveler must send this information and documents to us from his or her home country.
d. Wrong information on travelers will result in the non-acceptance of their entrance permits, and no reimbursement of fees will be made in this case.
e. Only people under 28 years old with valid International Student Identification will be considered as a student, entitling them to a discount on the RED entrance fee.