Standard Price for the Short 2 Day Inca Trail (US$500 – US$600) *
The short 2 day Inca Trail trek is acually the last one third of the Classic 4 Day Inca Trail. On this trail you still can see many important highlights from the Classic Inca Trail such as WIÑAY WAYNA, the magnificent SUNGATE, and of course the great CITADEL OF MACHU PICCHU. It is more economical, costing just little less than its more popular counterpart the 4 Day Inca Trail and it includes one nights hotel stay. The prices normally range between $500 and $600. If you want something more upscale the price range gets a little steeper starting at around $900.
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.
Short Inca Trail Price Service typically includes:
- A maximum group size of 10 people (Depending on the operator you choose)
- Transportation to Ollantaytambo to the Expedition Train,
- Expedition Train ride to KM 104 to the start of the trek
- Entrance fees for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu,
- Trekking guide
- 3 Bus tickets from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes & back (might be included)
- Celebration dinner in Aguas Calientes
- One nights hotel in Aguas Calientes
- Tour of Machu Picchu 2nd day
- Emergency oxygen bottle and basic first aid kit.
- Return to Ollantaytambo by the Expedition tourist train (current price US$70)
- And private van 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
- Celebration dinner in Aguas Calientes the 1st night
Bargain Prices for the Short Inca Trail Service
If you purchase The Short Inca Trail for prices below US$500. 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). Be suspicious of any such “bargains” being offered. What typically happens in these circumstances is that the quality of the service suffers and the support staff do not get fair or sufficient compensation. In some cases, tour companies will cancel your trip to Machu Picchu because they either don’t have available entrance tickets into Machu Picchu which are at a premium in high season or not enough people joined trekking group on that particular day. These companies usually provide no guarantee that “if you pay you will go” type of service. Cancellations can be last minute, and difficult to get your money back. 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 staff 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 10 to 12 people. Others offer groups as small as 8 people with an average group of 4 to 6 persons. The smaller the group size guaranteed, 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.
- 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. They have to cover their base expenses with a minimum of 2 person. Usually the quality of the service for people in a small group is rated higher because they get lots of attention.
- 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 the Inca Trail 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 Short 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$700 to $800 in your own country for the Short Inca Trail expect to receive a trekking service similar to a service bought directly in Cusco for between US$500 and US$600.
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$500. 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 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 called 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 Short 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!