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Cheap Inca Trail Options: A ‘No-Frills’ Trek For Less

Alison Macallister

Not everyone can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a trekking adventure.

Some of us are traveling on a shoestring budget. In this case, you are probably looking to hike the Inca Trail as cheaply as possible.

If you are looking for cheap Inca Trail tours, we have both bad and good news for you.

The bad news is that this is one of Peru's most expensive adventures. The Good news is that there are definitely some ways to cut costs on the Inca Trail.

machu picchu cta

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Hike The Inca Trail Cheap

Why Are There No Cheap Inca Trail Options?

There are several reasons why finding cheap Inca Trail options aren't always possible for tourists.

Let's discuss some of these reasons below. 

How Many Tourists Visit Machu Picchu Annually

Expensive permits and high demand for the Inca Trail

The main reason the Inca Trail has such a high price is to regulate trail use. 

Thousands of visitors every year are a huge boost for Peru’s tourist economy.

However, this heavy foot traffic is speeding up the degradation of the unique heritage site and making cheap Inca trail options a rarity.

The Peruvian government put the following restrictions in place to control tourist activity on the trail:

  • As of 2014, it is illegal to walk the trail unguided.
  • Only 500 permits are issued per day. This number includes guides and porters.
  • Entrance to Machu Picchu limited to 2100 daily at different time slots.

The limited availability means tickets and tours are in high demand.

Compared to less-popular trails, tour operators are able to charge more for the Inca Trail. They also need to charge more to cover the permit and entry prices.

machu picchu visitors per year

Inca Trail Tours Are All Inclusive

If you are planning to do the Inca Trail, you will need to budget an absolute minimum of $450. Guided treks are generally all-inclusive. You pay once for camping equipment, a guide, meals, permits, entrance fees, and transport. 

If you had to organize all of these things on your own, you would end up paying a similar price. Companies can only offer so many discounts before it becomes unfeasible to operate.

A higher price ensures the guides, porters, and cooks are compensated properly (see Inca trail porter welfare). These guys work hard to provide you with a memorable trek. Don’t shortchange them in order to save a few dollars in search of cheap Inca trail options. 

If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you are aware of inclusions and exclusions. Tour operators may leave off important things like transport or porter fees in order to give you a better quote. These additional costs will come as a nasty surprise later on.

I recommend reading our article on the cost of the Inca trail hike.

How To Hike The Inca Trail On A Budget - The Best Cheap Inca Trail Options

But all is not lost. There are still a few ways to find some cheap Inca Trail options for your next trip. 

machu picchu environmental concerns

Avoid Peak Season

The high season on the Inca Trail is over the dry months of June-August. Not only is it difficult to get a booking over this time, but tour prices are also more expensive.

Although weather on the Inca Trail is not entirely predictable, most rain occurs around November through to March. April, May, September, and October are shoulder months. These times have good weather and fewer crowds. If your time is flexible, you can hunt for good last-minute deals in Cusco.

See best time to trek the Inca trail.

inca trail hike

Book Directly With The Tour Operator, Avoid Third Party Agencies

When you start looking around for the best Inca Trail tour agency, it is difficult to know what you are actually buying. Many of the offices outsource their tours. You can end up booking with a company you know nothing about.

Listen out for recommendations from travellers who have already done this trek. Following recommendations, you can look up and book directly with the trekking company. This saves you from paying booking-office overheads.

By talking directly with the company through email, you may be able to negotiate a discount. Most companies are happy to shave off a few dollars if it is outside of the busy season, which can help you find cheap Inca Trail options. 

machu picchu cta

Get a Inca trail trek quote

Start planning your Machu Picchu hiking holiday.

Come Prepared - Pack Your Own Gear And Snacks

Renting gear like hiking poles, sleeping bags and mattresses will add around $100 to your trek. If you can bring your own equipment - do it!

Buy your own snacks beforehand in Cusco. Some of the rest points on the Inca Trail have food and drink stalls. There are limited options and the markup is significant. If you want to save money and find cheap Inca Trail options, avoid buying these overpriced snacks.

See our Inca trail gear packing list.


Say ‘NO’ to Add-ons

When you book your Inca Trail Trek, the company will offer or at least advise you about optional extras. For example, Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu both have a separate entrance fee of $75.

Some people also choose to upgrade their train ride back to Cusco. We recommend you stick with your standard ticket.

It’s going to be disappointing when others in your group get to do these extra activities. However, if you are already stretching your budget, skip the bells and whistles to ensure you get cheap Inca Trail options. 

tipping on the inca trail

Hire an Independent Guide

You do have the option to skip tour operators and hike with a registered guide. Hiring a guide-only can work out as one of many cheap Inca Trail options.

This alternative may save a bit of money but is a lot more work for you. Only consider this option if you are an experienced trekker. You need to be willing to carry all your own food and camping gear. In this case, you will also be cooking your own meals.

If you decide to use an independent guide on the Inca Trail, you need time to find one. All the best guides are contracted with operators. Based on my personal travelling experience to this region, you will need to track down a reliable and qualified guide by word of mouth in Cusco.

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

See more Cusco accommodation options.

Choose Another Route

Peru has many alternatives to the Inca Trail. Choosing a different trail is the best recommendation for those on a strict budget in search of cheap Inca Trail options.

Travel Tip: If you are set on the Inca Trail, consider doing the short Inca Trail. This 2-day trek is part of the classic Inca trail and also a little cheaper at around $360.

Some of our other favorites trails to Machu Picchu are:

Even though these other hikes are not as famous, they are equally as spectacular. If you can’t afford to hike the Inca Trail, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the fun.

machu picchu cta

Get a Machu Picchu trek quote

Start planning your Machu Picchu hiking holiday.


Thanks for reading my article on Cheap Inca Trail Options! Now, you can plan a trek along the Inca Trail that's both affordable and memorable. 

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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  1. Hi,
    Can you recommend a registered guide that can take 4 people on 1 day hike from kilometer 104 to sun gate and machu picch?

    Thank you!

  2. Hiya my 17 year old son and I plan to visit Peru in July. Back in the 80’s I made numerous trips to Peru. I am too old now myself to re do the hike. Do you have any recommendations , a short list of folks you would leave your kid in good hands? Brian

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