What Price Should I Expect to Pay for Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2023?

By shortinca
August 17, 2022
Payments for Two Days Days Inca Trail

Standard Price for the Short 2 Day Inca Trail (US$400 – US$700) *

The short 2 day Inca Trail trek is the last one third of the Classic 4 Day Inca Trail. The short Inca Trail still passes through many of the highlights from the classic trail. Some might even argue that the shorter trail visits the two best ruins on your way to Machu Picchu: Wiñay Wayna and Inti Punku- the Sun Gate.

There are even places that the 4-day Inca Trail doesn’t visit- namely the ruins of Chachabamba and a beautiful waterfall hidden away below Wiñay Wayna.

The short Inca Trail is also cheaper than the longer trail with the added bonus of not needing to camp, staying in a hotel instead (although you can camp if you really want to). Prices typically range from $400 to $700, with the added bonus for the budget conscious that you don’t have a team of porters and chefs to tip at the end of the journey.

Please Note: It is not possible to complete the Inca Trail on your own- this applies for both the 2 and the 4 day trips. Government regulations demand that only licensed tour operators may run trips on the trail. This is for the protection of tourists and the trail itself.

What’s Included in the Short Inca Trail Service?

  1. Transport (typically private) from Cusco to the train station in Ollantaytambo
  2. The Expedition Train to KM104, the start of the trek
  3. Entrance fees for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu
  4. Guide trained specifically for hiking the Inca Trail
  5. 3 Bus tickets: From Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes & back again the next day (This may vary between providers)
  6. Celebration dinner in Aguas Calientes
  7. One night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes
  8. A guided tour of Machu Picchu (This happens on the 2nd day)
  9. Emergency oxygen tank and basic first aid kit carried by your guide
  10. Return to Ollantaytambo on the Expedition train
  11. A private van from Ollantaytambo Train Station back to Cusco
  12. A maximum group size of around 10 people (Depending on the operator you choose. Note: Bigger groups won’t necessary offer you a lower rate or better service

Check With Your Provider if They Offer:

  1. A complementary airport transfer upon your arrival to Cusco 
  2. Pick-up from your hotel on the first day of the trek- some companies only offer a dedicated meeting point, such as their office or the main plaza
  3. The bus from the Machu Picchu ruins down to the town of Aguas Calientes after the trek, and the bus the following day
  4. Fair wages for the trekking team & oxygen provided
  5. Dinner provided in Aguas Calientes on the 1st night

Bargain Prices for the Short Inca Trail Service: Too Good to Be True?

You will be able to find tours for The Short Inca Trail for prices below US$500. But is this a good deal? Tours priced at this point typically have a minimum of 16 people on each trek, and other corners are cut.

Buses and dinner are not included, you may camp instead of staying in a hotel, some might not even include lunch while on the trail, or the lunch may be just a sandwich and some fruit. Be sure that you are clear about what is included, and be aware that if companies like this do not fill their groups they may cancel your trip.

Cancellations can be last minute, and it can be difficult to get your money back as they may try to put you on a different tour, one that is not what you paid for. After already shelling out several hundred dollars for international and domestic flights to visit, why compromise on the quality of your trek and the treatment of the staff for the sake of saving US$50?

You can Expect to Pay More if:

  1. 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, the more expensive the tour will be.
  2. Your return to Cusco uses a more expensive train service. The various services can be found on the Peru Rail website. The standard Expedition class is comfortable with seated only reservations. The service is not crowded and you can buy tea, coffee and snacks onboard. The Vistadome is about US$67 more expensive and has slightly larger seats and glass windows in the roof, with snacks included.
  3. The trekking company offers guaranteed departures for groups of 2+. Many companies that charge US$500 and upwards will guarantee your departure with just two people in a group. They have to cover their base expenses with a minimum of 2 people. Typically the quality of service for people in a small group trips is rated higher.
  4. Is Your Group a Merged Group? Often to keep costs low, very low budget companies will combine their guest list with another company to meet the minimum number of trekkers required. This means that you may not be able to rely on the standard of service promised and if there are any issues you will be up against a nameless company.

How to Decide Where to Buy the Inca Trail Trek

Purchasing your trek while still at home offers the security of knowing that you have your entrance ticket. This means that you can relax and enjoy your vacation. More than ever, tickets to Machu Picchu are selling out quickly.

Waiting until last minute to book your ticket to Machu Picchu has the potential to not only disappoint you in terms of circuits, but it also comes with the risk of tickets to the citadel selling out completely. If you want to avoid these kind of problems, it’s better to book your tickets as soon as you know when you want to visit.

Any company worth their salt will be able to share their trips with you online, and offer the opportunity to call and talk about their trips if you are unsure. Likewise, a good company will be happy to help with hotels, flights, and travel insurance. Just find a few options and have a think about what is right for you.

That being said, there can be issues with booking a tour in your own country. If you are not booking with a tour operator local to Cusco, then you will find yourself paying for the comission of your travel agent. This can add up to 40% extra onto the price of your tour. Try to find a tour operator local to Cusco while booking.

It’s surprisingly uncommon knowledge that there is a specific licence that tour companies are required to have in order to trek on the Inca Trail. Even the biggest overseas companies have to use local operators to run their treks. It’s more financially savvy to book your tour with a local operator- with the added bonus that your money then benefits Peruvian directly.

You can find a Cusco based tour operator easily if you know where to look. Check out places like TripAdvisor, Google search results- even Google Maps! There are only around 250 companies in Cusco that hold the Inca Trail licence, so be sure that you choose one of these to avoid paying for a third party provider.

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.

You will probably only visit Peru once, so do it right first time around. Be sure to do your due diligence with review sites, referrals from friends or just call the company you are considering and check that it offers all the services that you are interested in.

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