Choosing an Inca Trail Agency
Introduction to the Inca Trail:
The Inca Trail is fantastic. The Inca sites are all fascinating, the history of this “ Gringo Trail”and the awesome scenery are worth it. The terrain ranges from high and cold mountain passes to wet cloud forest, and all of it is photo-worthy.
If you are in poor physical shape, consider the two day version of the hike or arriving at Machu Picchu by train. You hike (at least you should ) at your own pace with frequent stops, and the total hiking time is about six to 8 hours per day (depending on your company's itinerary) and only 2 hours on the last morning, so don’t be too intimidated by the physical challenge of it. The most difficult day is the second (everybody says that except the guides who think is the most relaxing day....!)
Before booking (please take a minute to read this)
You may already be aware of the porters' working conditions in various other popular trekking areas such as the Himalayas. The porters on the Inca Trail are mainly recruited from the poor peasant communities in the area, often leaving their farms to supplement their meager incomes. They work extremely hard to make your trail experience memorable. On January 1, 2001, new regulations concerning the use of the Inca Trail, including porter issues, were launched. However, the implementation of these rules is not yet satisfactory.
As a responsible traveler, you may want to know what you can do to support the porters' struggle for a `fair go'. The porters depend on this work, but some companies treat them better than others. Below, you'll find a few recommendations that can help make their life a bit easier:
There is a load limit of 25 kg per porter imposed on the tour operators organizing Inca Trail tours. However, this limit is not enforced, making it virtually meaningless.
• Please do not ask porters to carry your backpack on top of their regular loads, not even for additional payment. This would grossly exceed the permitted load limit.
The costs of Inca Trail tours vary greatly from relatively expensive (often, reputable companies) to very cheap (budget offers). Tours that you may book from home will still be delivered by a locally contracted company. Generally, if you pay more, you find that a better porter to client ratio is in place. However, it also means that additional items may be carried such as toilet tents, folding chairs, more food, and so on. Interestingly, the salaries paid to the porters are very low regardless of how much you pay for the trip. There are very responsible local companies trying to minimize negative impacts of tourism on the hosts and to enforce rules related to fair treatment of local tourism workers. More expensive operators may generally provide more for the porters, but this is not automatically the case. Clients should still keep an eye out for signs of maltreatment of porters.
• Please try to book through reputable companies rather than `cheapies' which often use a very poor porter to client ratio and leave the porters to fend for themselves.
Many companies give porters minimal or no food, minimal or no fuel, and no shelter for the night. Porters are usually only allowed to carry up to 5 kg for their own needs. This means, they often go hungry, drink only cold water and sleep under boulders or tarpaulins.
If you have surplus food, perhaps you want to share this on the trail. However, this should not lead to companies relinquishing their responsibility to feed their staff.
• The porters' pay is poor, and often they have to pay for their own food and transport from this money. Furthermore, many companies expect that damaged or lost equipment is to be paid for by porters at grossly inflated prices. This leaves very little to take home to their families, sometimes nothing at all.
• If you wish to give the porters a tip (normaly on the 3rd night of the classic 4 day trip), please be aware that tips given to a third person for distribution to all is sometimes not passed on. Similarly, any presents you may want to leave, such as warm clothing, may be "collected" by supervisors under the guise that the porters stole it. Try to make clear that your gifts are meant for specific people. Sick o
r injured porters maMost porters have no insurance or assistance with medical costs.
• Please insist that sick or injured porters are looked after.
Porters have little chance to complain about unfair or exploitative treatment as they would not be hired again.
• Please be kind to the porters. They are lovely people trying hard to make a living. If you notice anything on your trip that you feel does not meet the standards of decent treatment of employees, please report this to us. Also report it to the (your) overseas company if you made your bookings in your home country (prefereable to use a local company).
Basically Before Booking you should consider 3 things:
The agent (agency) you are looking into should:
1.- Be Eco - responsible.
2.- Provide a quality and safe service to the visitors.
3.- Pay fairly and look after their Porters properly.
You MUST know:
The Porters Law
Porters work is regulated by the Law Nº 27607 and its rules the Supreme Decree (Decreto Supreme) Nº 011.2005.TR; according to this Law porters have the right to the following MINIMUM conditions for work:
1.- Minimum wage of 42.50 Peruvian soles a day.
2.- 20 kilos limit weigh to carry from the agency.
3.- They have to be provided by adequate trek clothing, shoes and equipment for sleeping (sleeping bags/blankets, sleeping pads group tent).
4.- Optionally they can be provided by the agency with insurance that should cover all sort of accidents that may occur while on the trek.
Agencies that fail on fulfilling this law requirements get fined.
Something to consider:
Taking a look at the Inca Trail porters and changes
Click link below to read article
By Andrew Whalem / AP Associated Press
Inca Trail Regulations
For decades, individuals trekked the Inca Trail on their own, but hundreds of thousands of visitors -- as many as 75,000 a year -- left behind so much detritus that not only was the experience compromised for most future trekkers, but the very environment was also placed at risk. The entire zone has suffered grave deforestation and erosion. The Peruvian government, under pressure from international organizations, has finally instituted changes and restrictions designed to lessen the human impact on the trail and on Machu Picchu itself: In the first couple of years, regulations were poorly enforced, but in 2003, the government announced its intentions to fully and strictly enforce them.
All trekkers are now required to go accompanied by a guide and a group.
Prices for both the 4 day (classic) trail and the Machu Picchu ruins are:
The overall number of people permitted on the trail was significantly reduced to 500 per day (counting the 250 guides and porters!); only professionally qualified and licensed guides are allowed to lead groups on the Inca Trail; the maximum loads porters can carry has been limited to 20 kilograms (44 lb.); tourists are no longer permitted to travel on the local train from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (or vice versa); and all companies must pay porters the minimum wage (S/ 170.00 or $13.5 per day!).
These changes have cut the number of trekkers on the trail in half and have made reservations essential all year round. Guarantee your space on the trail by making a reservation at least 2 months in advance of your trip (but 3 month or more in advance for high season May-Oct; reservations can be made as much as a year in advance). Travelers willing to wing it might still find available spots a couple of days before embarking on the trail (in December and January), perhaps even at discounted rates, but waiting is a huge risk if you're really counting on doing the Inca Trail.
The key changes for travelers are that it is no longer possible to go on the trail independently and no longer dirt cheap to walk 4 days to Machu Picchu. The good news is that the trail is more organized and that hope for its preservation is greater.
Heavy load for porters on the Inca Trail
By Andrew Whalem / AP Associated Press
Tourism boom slow to advance porters on South America's famed trail
If you go:
Charging slightly higher prices, few tour operators in Cuzco give their porters fair working conditions and take steps to protect the fragile ecosystem in the scenic Andean region where they operate. Be sure to book early for the classic, four-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, as park entry permits are currently sold out through September.
Some of our recommendations include:
Llama Path: www.llamapath.com Calle San Juan de Dios 250, Cuzco, 011- 51-84-240822 51-84-240822 , An agency founded by former porter Jose, provides excellent conditions for porters (including insurance). It is Recommended by different travel books.
Inca Land Adventures: www.incalandadventures.com/ Small family-run business. Personalised service at competitive prices with good porters treatment.
Qente Expeditions: www.qente.com well based Cusco operator offering different treks at different prices.
Chaska Tours: www.chaskatours.com provides good service at a rage of prices.