Peru Trekking FAQ
5-Day Inca Trail
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5-Day Inca Trail
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1. When are the Inca Trail permits available? How soon do we need to book a trek?
Permits to hike the Inca Trail go on sale at the beginning of February. There are 500 available for each day of the month.
When you know your dates for travel, contact us to book your trek. The permit is for the first day that you start the Inca Trail. Permits are needed for every hiker in your group, plus the guide, cook and porters!
If you are not sure about an arrival date or departure, you can book the trek and we can “fill in” the details of tours and side trips later. The permits for May, June, July and August sell out quickly. By the end of April, there are usually only permits available for September and beyond.
2. Can I change the date for the permit?
No, the permit is for a specific date. If you need to change your date, another permit must be purchased, and is based on availability.
Can the permit be transferred to someone else?
No, the permit is only for the person to whom it is issued.
3. What can I do if permits are sold out?
There are a variety of treks in Peru which do not require permits or which have no limit to the number of permits issued. Think about the 5-day backcountry trek to Machu Picchu, or the 3-day Quechua Villages and Inca Ruins trek, followed by two days at Machu Picchu.
The Huaraz vicinity is surrounded by the high peaks of the Cordillera Blanca (try the 5-day Santa Cruz Loop trek) and the Cordillera Huayhuash (for the 5-day Best of the Huayhuash trek). For something out of the ordinary, you may be interested in the 3-day Family Trekking with Llamas–not just for families! After one of these treks, you can then fly to Cusco and go to Machu Picchu.
4. Why do you need my passport number and birth date?
The Peruvian INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura) requires the nationality, passport number and birth date of all persons buying a permit for the Inca Trail. In addition, if AWR books the domestic flights for you, the airlines require your passport number.
5. What is “trekking”? Is it like backpacking?
Many people have experienced backpacking in their own country, hiking during the day with a backpack, carrying their food, tent, clothes and other gear. At camp, they pitch tents, prepare meals, clean up, and such. In the morning, the group breaks camp and continues hiking. This is an excellent adventure, to be sure!
“Trekking” is quite different, and a surprise to those on their first trek. For example:
- Porters or burros carry your duffel/backpack; you simply carry a day pack.
- Tents are pitched for you and ready when you arrive at the campsite; they are also taken down for you and carried to the next campsite!
- Warm water is provided for washing, and tea/coffee when you arrive at camp.
- Warm water is provided for washing, and tea/coffee when you awake in the morning!
- A cook will prepare all meals and porters will serve you. They clean up too!
6. What can I expect on an AWR trek in Peru?
When trekking with AWR, you may be assured that you have:
- A licensed and certified bilingual guide, who shares his/her knowledge of the culture, history, flora and fauna of the area, and above all, who cares for your safety and well-being. He/she will be sure that you hike at a comfortable speed and be alert for any symptoms of mountain sickness.
- A guide company that is environmentally astute and proactively works towards sustainable tourism. To this end, you will be asked at the beginning of your trek to endorse practices that conserve the natural and historical resources.
- The guide will offer a briefing each evening, so that you know what to expect the next day, and to be sure that you have what you need for the hike.
- High quality equipment: 3-person tent (for 2 people) and a thick, full length Thermarest, dining tent with stools/chairs, portable toilets.
- Quality meals, beautifully presented, with cleanliness as a key factor; boiled water is provided each day for your water bottles/hydration system.
7. What are the “special” requirements for the Inca Trail?
In an attempt to save the Inca Trail for future generations to enjoy, and to give hikers today a quality experience, the INC has imposed several rules for hikers:
- All hikers (and crew) must have a permit. There are only 500 people starting the Inca Trail (at various points) each day.
- There is a weight limit for your duffel/backpack of 8 kg. (about 18 pounds). The porters are limited in what they can carry.
- Your hiking poles must have rubber tips, while you are on the trail.
- Small plastic water bottles are not allowed; use Nalgene type or water hydration system instead.
- Hikers must have a guide and must use porters (not burros or llamas).
8. What are the meals like on the trek? Do you accommodate special dietary needs?
The meals are awesome! Yes, special dietary needs are accommodated. Let us know so that we can be sure they are prepared for you!
Breakfast includes tea, coffee, cocoa, along with a hot entree (eggs, pancakes, cereal) and rolls/bread. Cold cereal is always available.
Lunches are cooked (yes, right on the spot!) and include vegetables or salad (fresh) with a meat or possibly a pasta salad. The last day of the trek (before reaching Machu Picchu) is a picnic lunch with sandwiches.
Snacks include: fruit in season (fresh oranges, bananas, tangerines, passion fruit, e.g.) and candy bars/energy bars. Usually, the snacks are set out in the morning and you choose what you would like for the day. You carry your snacks in your pack, ready to eat at your pleasure.
Tea time (afternoon after you arrive at camp) includes whole grain rolls with butter and jam, or crackers and cheese, or popcorn….along with cocoa leaf or regular tea, coffee and hot cocoa.
Dinners start with soup, then a hot entree (stews, chicken, spaghetti, or other meat/fish (trout), potatoes and vegetables (cooked or a salad) and dessert.
Once your group gets to Aguas Calientes, you will eat in a restaurant (dinner and lunch) and your hotel (breakfast).
9. When do we visit Machu Picchu for a guided tour? Can we go in the evening?
Because you usually arrive at Machu Picchu in the afternoon, you will not have a guided tour until the next morning. Your group will take the shuttle bus 9 km to the town of Aguas Calientes, where you check into your hotel.
Your guide will encourage you to get an early start the next morning after breakfast, so that you can see the citadel without the crowds. Remember, tourists can take the train (and then the shuttle bus) to Machu Picchu for a day trip. They usually arrive around 10:00 a.m. and are there until 3:00 p.m. For the best pictures, get there early!
The Machu Picchu Sanctuary is closed at 6:00 p.m.; no visitors are allowed inside after that time.
10. Do we have burros or porters on other Peru treks?
For the Inca Trail, you will have porters carrying your gear and group equipment and food. For all other treks, you will have burros and a muleteer. For the 8-day Salkantay trek, you start with the burros, and then switch to porters when you reach the Inca Trail on the 5th day.
11. Can we hike as far as we want each day?
You will want to hike at a comfortable pace, remembering that there are many Inca steps! The Incas also did not necessarily believe in switch backs, so you will have some steep trails–up and down.
Because the porters set up camp for you at a specific site, you will need to get to that campsite by the end of the day, hopefully by late afternoon! Your guide will help your group by judging your speed and abilities and make sure that you start early enough in the morning to get where you are going in time for afternoon tea!
12. What do we do with our travel luggage while we are trekking?
The hotel where you stay in Cusco will keep your luggage that you do not need. Most hotels have a locked storage room for your use. While this is probably a safe situation, it is not wise to leave valuables! Most hotels also have a security box for a small fee.
13. Is the guide bilingual and licensed/certified?
All guides for our treks are bilingual (Spanish and English) and have received course work and graduated from a certified guide program. They are licensed by the INC. If they are doing any tours at Machu Picchu, they must have additional courses and certification to do so.
Note that most of your guides will also be fluent in Quechua, the language of the native people in rural areas. They may also speak German, French, or other languages.
14. Will the guide have a first aid kit and oxygen?
Yes, the guide will carry a first aid kit and have oxygen with them while hiking. It is a good idea for someone in your group to also have a first aid kit, with items that you normally need.
15. What happens if we get sick or hurt and cannot continue on the trek?
If someone in your group is sick, the guide will monitor that person to determine if rest is needed, a lower altitude is needed or if the person needs to return to the starting point or city for medical help. A trained assistant guide or porter will accompany this person back, if they can walk. Otherwise, the INC gives permission for horses to be used to evacuate someone. This person either gets medical help, or if he/she feels better, that person can join the group when it reaches Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes.
If there is a serious medical emergency, the guide will arrange for immediate evacuation of the individual to the nearest hospital.
16. How high an elevation will we be hiking? Camping?
For the Inca Trail, the highest point is Warmihuanusca at 4200 m (13860 ft) and the highest campsite is Phuyupatamarka at 3650 m (12045 ft).
For the Salkantay trek, the highest point is Tocto at 4900 m (16170 ft) and the highest campsite is Sisaypampa at 4200 m (13860 ft).
For the Santa Cruz Loop trek in the Cordillera Blanca, the highest point is Punta Union Pass at 4720 m (15580 ft) and the highest campsite is Taullipampa at 4075 m (13450 ft)
17. I’m traveling alone; can I join a group?
Yes, you may join a group for the 5-day Inca Trail trek, the 8-day Salkantay trek and the 5-day Santa Cruz Loop trek in the Cordillera Blanca. There are set departures available for joining a group. The groups are usually 4 to 10 people and often represent several different countries. You will probably stay in the same hotels as the rest of the hikers in your group–unless they or you have requested another specific hotel.
In addition, if you are traveling alone, you may want to take the 1/2 day Lima city tour, the 1/2 day Cusco city tour and ruins, the Sacred Valley day trip or the river rafting on the Urubamba 1/2 day trip. All of these have group departures. Let us know if you would like these options!
18. Where can I rent equipment?
You can rent a sleeping bag (with liner) from our outfitter in Peru for US$30 for the trek. If you get to Cusco and find that you need other personal gear, you can rent from a variety of outfitter/equipment companies along the main streets. Be sure to have your own hiking boots, however, as your size may be hard to find!