Don't be confused, it may be a ingredient of cocaine, but still Cocoa leaves is perfectly legal to buy in Peru. But it is illegal in most of the neighboring countries, so don't carry the cocoa bag with you while leaving Peru and entering another country.
Boleto (Boleto Turístico General, or BTG) is the admission tickets to some sites in around Cusco. If included sites matches with your plan, it is wise to purchase the Cusco Tourist Ticket.
Inca Trail is a walking route that leads through the mountainous jungle and rich subtropical jungle above the Urubamba River, following the course of an old Inca roadway leading to the sacred Inca city of Machu Picchu. It is really a fabulous trail. Think about the time at which it was constructed! When the Spanish invaded this region, they needed three days from coast to Cusco on horse. But it was said that Inca Emperor could eat a fresh fish within three hours after it was fishing in the coast- yes we are not talking about 20th century, it was 15th or 16th century. May be that is why people like to hike this trail this much.
Inca conquests could never have been accomplished without good roads, nor could the Inca have to continue to rule over the conquered peoples for long without being able to move armies to any troubled part of the Empire with lightning speed.
New Rule for Inca trail
Inca trail is one of the most visited trails in South America. Because of its growing popularity, it was getting overcrowded. Peruvian government has introduced a new rule to protect the trail from over use. New rules restrict the number of trekkers on the trail. From 2005 all the new rules came into effect. Since then to get a space in Inca trail is getting more and more difficult. Now a day you have to reserve a place three months in advance if you are planning to visit during high season.
Peruvian government has introduced the new rule in 2002 (Resolution N° 02- 2003-UGM-CD). But government started to enforce all sections of this rule from 2005. New regulations imply that in a day maximum number of people enters to Inca trail can be 500. Of which only 200 are trekker, others are porter, cooks and guides. Another important feature of this rule is that all trekking companies that operate the Inca Trail must have an operating license which is issued every year in March. Also all the trekking companies have to be local, and have to have an office in Peru.
Since only 500 people can enter the trail each day, spaces are filled up very quickly. During the months of high season (April to September) all the 500 spaces filled up two/three months in advance. If you are thinking that once you reach Peru, you will choose an operator and hike the trail, and then you would be disappointed and may have to come back without hiking Inca trail. So you have to reserve a space well in advance.
Here I am giving you table with which you can plan your trail journey date and accordingly you know the time by which you have to book with some agency.
Must be Booked by
Trail starting date
Choosing an operator
If you are planning to visit Inca trail, fix a date and check online whether that date is available. Then you have to go through most difficult part- choosing a tour operator. There are so many operators and so many packages; it is difficult to choose one from them. But you have to choose one. As without a tour operator practically it is not possible to hike the trail. According to the new rule, if you hike independently you need to hire a professional guide. But it is difficult to get a professional guide just for yourself. Touring operators do not like to leave their qualified guides. Even if you can manage a guide, rule states that you can not take porters or cook. So you have to carry your own staff, equipments, tent, and you have to cook yourself, if you hike independently. So it is better to choose a licensed tour operator.
You can check different website and select one operator. There is around 140 licensed tour operators. Different tour operators offer different prices. It ranges from 300.00 US $ to even $ 1000.00. Some tour operators are very expensive, but their service is better also. Before you select an operator, you should know the actual expenses for hiking a trail, which items are included in the packages and which are not. Also check whether the tour operator is a local company or not, because it has to be a local company according to the rule. It may happen that you book your place with a overseas operator, but that company can not operate themselves, so they will engage again another local company. So it is better if you can choose the local company yourself.
Once an operator is selected, you have to book a date with that company. Provide them your particulars like, your name, age and passport number, then they will buy the permit for you. You have to pay booking money through pay pal or through credit card. Payment procedure varies operators to operators. Once you get the permit it can not be refunded. Since the permit is under your name, only you can travel with it. During the time of the travel at the entrance of the Inca trail, authority checks the permit and passport. Your name and passport number on the permit and on the passport must match otherwise they will not allow you to get in. So you have to be careful on small issues.
Classic Inca trail and other trails
Here is a video from you tube on Inca trail. You may like the video; it is on the experience of a 4 day trekker.
Most popular Inca trail is known as Classic Inca trail. This trail starts from some point of Cusco city. After 3 days of tedious journey, on the fourth morning you will reach Machu Picchu. You have to walk 45 kilometer on this trek. But if you do not want to walk 45 kilometer then you can hike two days Inca trail. It is a shorter version of the classic one. In this one you have to walk only 14 km, as this one will start from a closer location from Machu Picchu. So if you don't have much time to spend on or if you want to walk less you can always choose this two days trail. But don't forget still you need the trail permit in advance to get a space for this short trail. 5 days Salkantay trail (Mollepata - Salkantay - Wayllabamba - Machu Picchu) is also a good alternative.
Some tour operators offer this trail, and this one offers more variety in landscape. This trail is also restricted by the government regulation.
Suppose you are in Lima or in Cusco and you want to hike Inca trail. So it may not be possible to get a space within such short time. In that case you may visit 7 day Salkantay trail (Mollepata- Salkantay - Santa Teresa - Machu Picchu) or Ausangate, Lares Valley or Choquequirao trail. Government has not yet impose any permit requirement on this trails, hence there is no space limitations on this trails. That is why you may easily get a group on this trails.
Inca trail is getting more and more costly. You have to check the detail of the offer of travel guides. Usually they will give you a better price if you travel in a group, the more number of persons in a group, the better price you will get. Almost all the packages include price of entry to Inca trail and Machu Picchu ruins, bus fare from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes and train fare from Aguas Calientes to Cusco. But you have to ensure everything is there before you choose a Inca trail guide. You may check my page ondetail cost of the trail.
Best time to go
Best time is from June to August. But this period is the high season there, so if you travel this time it would be a little expensive. Inca trail is open throughout the year. Only in February it is closed for renovation of the trail. But don't be confused- even in February Machu Picchu ruin remains open.
Weather of Machu Picchu is good during the high season, that is from June to August. This time it is cold here. During December to January, lots of rain makes the journey through trail a little more difficult. But still lots of people visit during that part of the year.