In 2000 and 2001 the Peruvian government created and approved several laws to regulate the use of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Most of these rules were given to preserve and protect the park and the environment surrounding the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Before these laws were given, the entrance to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was not regulated and only an entrance ticket was necessary to be able to hike the Inca Trail. This lack of regulation resulted in many travelers’ choosing a multitude of areas in which to camp, in their failure to clean up after themselves when camping, and in their building fires with no regard for the surrounding environment. This behavior thus ended free hiking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. We hope that trekkers using other trails, such us the Salkantay Trek or the Choquequirao Trek, respect the environment and pick up their trash so that these treks remain free of severe regulations.
After the Peruvian government approved the laws that regulate the use of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, whoever wants to hike this trail has to hire the services of an Inca Trail Tour Operator. This means that nobody is able to hike the Inca Trail by himself/herself. The law established that only 500 people are allowed to enter the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu per day. This number includes tourists, tour guides, and porters, meaning that only about 200 to 220 tourists are able to hike the Inca Trail per day.
The number of tourists per day hiking the Inca Trail will depend on the place where tourists will start the hike. The Classic 4-Day Inca Trail starting at the kilometer 82 requires permits for tourists, guides, and porters while the Short Inca Trail, starting at Kilometer 104, requires permits only for guides and tourists. For instance, if on a particular day, there are more hikers starting the Inca Trail at Kilometer 104, there will be more hikers starting the Inca Trail that day.
Permits are sold by the National Institute of Culture located in Cusco, and they are sold on a first come, first served basis to registered tour operators only. At the time that a tour operator purchases a permit for a tourist, the tour operator needs to provide information such as first name, last name, date of birth, gender, nationality, passport number, and ISIC Student ID Card in cases where the student discount is offered. The tour operator also needs to purchase the permits of porters. (The information of porters does not need to be provided at that time.)
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is open from March 1 to January 31 of the following year. During the month of February the Inca Trail is closed for maintenance and because this is the most rainy month of the year.
Every year during the months of November and December all Inca Trail Tour Operators are required to apply for an authorization to operate hikes along the Inca Trail. In order to be authorized to operate, companies need to observe a few minimum requirements:
In addition, every year tour guides and porters need to be authorized by the INRENA (National Institute of Natural Resources) in order to work as an Inca Trail crew. Tour guides need to obtain their authorization to enter the Inca Trail during the same period while porters need to obtain their authorization during the month of January.
In 2005, the Peruvian government discovered that several tour operators were underpaying and abusing their porters. As a consequence, the Porter Law was approved, requiring companies to provide a fair pay, life insurance, proper equipment, and social security benefits. This law also established that a porter carries 20 kilograms (12.5 pounds). Unfortunately, the majority of companies operating the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu are not complying with these rules and are still abusing their hard-working porters.