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Written by
Frances McCann
Frances McCann

Inca Trail Permits: How do they work, and what if they sell out?

Do I need a permit to walk the Inca Trail?

Yes. If you are considering taking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences), you will need to ensure that you have an Official Inca Trail Permit to walk the trail. The Peruvian authorities release a limited number of Inca Trail permits each year. These permits help limit the numbers of tourists to protect the fragile environment from erosion.

How many Inca Trail permits are available?

There are 500 permits available per day (so only 500 people can be on the trail in one day), this may seem a lot but bear in mind that porters and guides also need permits, so in fact only 200 are available to tourists, and this is one of the world's most famous trails!Machu Picchu

Thank you to our customers the Shelbys for this excellent #MacsMoment photo.

Permits are released for sale once a year, often in January but it changes slightly every year and has been earlier for the last few years – for 2019 they are due to be released as early as 1st October 2018. They often sell out fast, and permits are booked on a first-come-first-served basis.

How do I get an Inca Trail permit?

Inca Trail

The sheer joy of one of the world's finest treks.

Of course, being a tour operator we'd suggest that the best way is to book your trek through a tour operator, so that your permit is arranged for you! But we really do feel it is the best way to ensure you have the assistance of reliable guides and porters, and your itinerary and permits are properly managed, with minimal stress and ensuring all the paperwork is complete. Most operators will include arranging your permit as part of the package. The good news is that tour operators cannot buy up "bulk" permits, so each permit released is for a legitimate trekker, as permits can only be bought with passport information of the person traveling provided. That does of course mean, though, that availability of the permits is not confirmed straight away, as each application must be submitted individually. When booking an Inca Trail trip through Macs Adventure (and this will be similar to other operators) you should bear in mind 3 things:

  • We will confirm your Inca Trail permits usually within 48 hours, but if you book your trip in 2018 to start the walk in 2019, we will not be able to confirm until the permits are released – we have been informed this will be in early October. The best idea is to book as early as possible, even if it is for the next year, to get to the front of the queue.
  • You should not book your flights until the permits have been confirmed. But as long as you have booked the trek as early as possible, there is a good chance we will be able to secure a permit for you.
  • The minimum number on each trip is 2, so if the trip does not reach a minimum of 2 persons we will also be unable to confirm.

Be careful when arranging a trek on the Inca Trail, there are unfortunately some unscrupulous guides who will mislead walkers about their route when there are no permits available in order to secure business. Always use a licensed guide and arrange your trek through a reputable company. We use trusted guides and partners to ensure the best possible experience.

What if I can't get an Inca Trail permit?

Walk the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The obligatory souvenirs!

Don't worry! If your application is unsuccessful and you've booked through Macs Adventure, we'll give you a full refund, or you may consider switching your booking to walk the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu, an excellent alternative which although not as famous offers tremendous views and an off-the-beaten-track way to complete a trek to one of the "Seven Wonders of the World". You can check availablity at, but we'd emphasize that for the most up to date availability, do check with us or your operator. Remember, make sure you don't book your flights until your permit is confirmed

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