Some Useful Tips – Inca Trail Trek

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Coffee Meals
Porters & Tipping
Water Icon Water
Checklist Icon Checklist for the trek
Hygiene Icon Hygiene
Health Icon Health
Security Icon Security


Coffee Meals

A typical menu during the trail consists of:

  • Breakfast: Cereal, milk, coffee, tea, pancakes, bread, butter, jam for breakfast, eggs and orange juice.
  • Lunch/Dinner: Soup, chicken, fish, pasta, vegetables, fruits, salad for lunch/dinner.

There is also an orientation before the trail to go over the menu items and any special accommodations (vegetarian menu, etc.).

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You’ll come across a small stream or mountain spring every 1½ hours along the trail where you can fill up your water bottle. Take a bottle of at least 1½ liter capacity per person.

Although the water is clear always use sterilizing tablets and follow the instructions. The sterilizing tablets ‘MicroPur’ can be bought in most pharmacies in Cusco (the further away from the plaza the cheaper they are). With these tablets you have to wait 40 minutes before drinking. If traveling in an organized group boiled water should be available at meal times. Bottled mineral water can also be taken from Cusco, bought at km82 and km88, just before Wayllabamba and at Wiñay Wayna and Machu Picchu. If you are employing the services of a porter you can afford to take the extra weight of a few bottles of water.

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Don’t take any valuables with you that you don’t need for the trek. Leave jewellery, large sums of money in your hotel safe (However you need to take your passport on the trek). Take plenty of plastic bags to wrap smelly socks, boots, underwear and wet clothes in. Don’t leave them outside your tent at night or they may not be there in the morning. Carry your valuables in a money belt or neck pouch and keep items such as cameras with you at all times especially at meal times.

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Toilets have improved a lot in the last couple of years and all of the larger campsites have toilet blocks with flush toilets and running water. On the whole they are kept pretty clean.

There are hot shower facilities are Wiñay Wayna on day 3, although they are usually pretty unclean.

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The trail is 45km (26 miles) long and involves great physical exertion to complete. On the second day you climb nearly 1200m (about 4000 ft) in the morning. Combined with high altitude (lack of oxygen) and extreme weather (you can easily burn in the high altitude sun during the day and temperatures can drop to below freezing at night) the trek can be hard work. However all this suffering can make the final arrival at Machu Picchu all the more enjoyable. In general if you take regular exercise and spend a few days in Cusco acclimatizing to the altitude you shouldn’t have to suffer too much.

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Porters & Tipping Icon Porters & Tipping

Personal porters are available for a US$100 per person fee (does not include tips). Each porter can carry up to 15.5kg of your personal belongings.

Thousands of people make trek the Inca Trail each year. They typically complete the 43km mountainous trail in 4 days. For many the experience is a trip of a lifetime and the fulfillment of a personal ambition. The satisfaction of having completed the trek and arriving at the spectacular Inca ruins of Machu Picchu is hard to beat. However the feeling is even better if you know that all the porters helping you along the way have been well looked after and treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

Hiring a porter will make your Inca Trail tript more enjoyable, giving you time to enjoy the scenery rather than looking at your boots! You’ll also be giving employment to people who really want and need to work.

Talk to your porters. Learn about their traditions and villages. Share some coca leaves. Even ask them to sing some of their local songs. Most porters suffer from low self-esteem so make the first move, don’t wait for them to talk to you first. Show your porters that you appreciated them. Thank them verbally and leave a tip.

Deciding how much to tip the porters, the cook and guide is always a difficult moment at the end of the trek. Some nationalities such as the North Americans are accustomed to tipping while others (name no names) will only find the extra money if the service has been absolutely exceptional. Generally speaking if all the group have been pleased with the service then try to ensure that each porter takes home an extra US$6, the cook US$10, the guide US$20 and the assistant guide about US$15.

A typical group of 14 persons with 12 porters (12 x 6 = $72), 1 cook ($10), 1 guide ($25) and 1 assistant $15) would receive a total of $122, which works out at a tip of about $9 per person. If you have employed a personal porter then you will have to pay his tip yourself. Remember the above figures are just a guideline. If the food that the cook served up was inedible and you couldn’t understand what the guide was talking about then don’t tip them. They’ll soon get the message and hopefully improve their services. Don’t, however, take you dissatisfaction out on the porters who were probably working hard throughout the trek.

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Checklist for the trek

  • Passport (with photocopies)
  • Student Card (if booking with ISIC card)
  • Travel insurance (with photocopies)
  • Airline tickets (with photocopies)
  • USD cash and traveler’s checks
  • Personal medicines
  • Credit or debit card (see personal spending money)
  • Any entry visas or vaccination certificates required
  • Camera and film
  • Reading/writing material
  • Binoculars
  • Cover for backpacks
  • Pocketknife
  • Fleece top
  • Windproof/waterproof warm jacket
  • Small towel and swim wear
  • 4 shirts/t-shirts
  • Sun hat
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 pairs of long trousers
  • 1 pair hiking pants/track pants
  • Hiking boots/ sturdy walking shoes
  • Sport sandals
  • Sun block
  • Repellent against mosquitoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Toiletries (biodegradable)
  • Watch or alarm clock
  • Water bottle
  • Purification tablets or filter
  • Flashlight
  • Inner sheet (for sleeping bag)
  • Wool hat, mitts or gloves (preferably waterproof)
  • Rain poncho
  • Strong plastic bags to help keep gear dry
  • Plastic bags to place your trek clothes in case it is raining
  • Sleeping bag (this can also be rented locally for approximately US$10 per day)
  • Mattress (a foam mattress is included as part of the hike; self inflating type mattresses are available for rent

NOTE: In case you rent an extra porter, you must bring a carrier bag for the clothes.

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