This is why it hurts porters when people buy the cheapest Inca Trail hikes. Whether you choose the Classic 4 day Inca Trail hike or the extended 5 day Inca Trail trek, the following policy enforcements may affect rates you pay in 2020. The issue of porter weight limits flares up from time to time and we're pleased to report that park officials have implemented the enforcement of weight limits and fining operators who try to circumvent the rules. 

Here's what's happening. 

Authorities at the Inca Trail checkpoints have been charging penalty fees to any operator who allows a porter to hike with excess weight. Porters are expected to carry all the group gear and individual duffle bags used by hikers. Duffle bags are limited to 11 lb/5.5 kg per person that includes the weight of the sleeping bag and mattress which are packed in the duffle bags.

What affects the cost of Inca Trail Hikes?

While there has always been a rule that limits the amount of weight that Inca Trail porters are allowed to carry, enforcement has been inconsistent and without consequences when weight limits were violated. With fixed costs being the same for all tour operators, these are tactics employed by shameless operators to reduce their expenses and gain advantage in the competitive market. These practices ultimately have the greatest impact on the porters:

  • pay lower wages to guides, cooks and porters. Less experienced guides and cooks will accept lower wages to get on-the-job training
  • hire fewer porters and distribute the weight of the gear among the porters you hire
  • pay less in local taxes by asking customers to bring a portion of their payments in cash 
  • spend less on food and ground transport. (operators should buy enough food to feed each hiker and all their staff)
  • advertise rates based on the service of 1 porter per hiker, and upcharge people for additional porters

This explains why there is such disparity in advertised rates of Inca Trail hikes. Are these practices illegal? Not entirely. Are they unethical? Some are. Consumers can expect the quality of hikes to vary greatly from operator to operator. Some operators allow hikers to carry their own personal gear and sleeping bags, and forgo the cost of the extra porter. But most hikers choose not to. It doesn't matter if you provide your own sleeping bag or rent one. The weight of that bag is included in the porter's gear if you pack your sleeping bag in the duffle bag carried by a porter.

What Can You Do to Support Porter Weight Limits and Living Wages?

  • Avoid booking the cheapest hikes. 
  • Ask operator how many porters per hiker are included.  And find out if you're expected to carry all your own personal gear
  • Don't pay any portion of your trip in cash

How does this affect Adios Adventure Travel hikes?

Adios Adventure Travel has never been interested in offering "cheap" hikes. Our founder Vidal Jaquehua started his career as an Inca Trail porter. He understands the issues affecting porters. Our standard practice is to hire 2 porters for every hiker and provide comfort upgrades for camping. Our trail chefs take great pride in serving wholesome meals. In 2020 it is our intention to hire 1 additional porter per group. This has not been done before and how the ministry officials will respond is unknown because it requires using one of the limited 500 permits per day. The idea is to maintain our standard of respecting the load limits of porters while preserving acceptable standards of comfort for our hikers. We ask you to maintain a limit of 11 lb per person for your duffle bag. It's normal for bags to be over by a few ounces. Please ask your hotel to borrow their scale to weigh your bag before you finish packing.  

This story applies only to the hikes that require permits and include overnight camping. The short 2-Day Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu, which includes 1 day of hiking on the Inca Trail is not affected because there are no porters involved.  Other hikes including Lares Valley, Quarry Hike, Choquequirao are not affected.

You may notice a slight increase in the cost of our 4 and 5 day Inca Trail hikes in 2020. But there will not be any changes in our effort to provide the best service possible. And best of all, our porters will stay happy!

 Is there any other good news? You betcha!  Follow this link to see Machu Picchu News