You can easily check availability of space in Inca Trail online. Sorry, I am not any tour operator, So I can not sell you space in Inca trail. But I can tell you how many spaces available for a specific day. Actually right now Peruvian National Institute of Culture is controlling the availability of Inca Trail.
Click here for information on Inca Trail Availability. Here 'DISPONIBILIDAD' means Total availability which is 500 spaces each day and 'Fecha' means date. Here you can check every month of 2008. (Right now the Peru Government website server is down, so click here instead for information on Inca Trail Availability).
I hope you know already that you have to make registration for Inca trail long, uhh.. I should say long long ago. Specially in the high seasons you need to book with some operators three or more months in advance. Otherwise you would not find a place there. For June or July you can not wait until the last month. Also don't forget Inca trail remain closed in February (Machu Picchu still remains open on February). If you read my page on Inca trail, you already know that only 500 people can enter each day on Inca trail. So if you don't make reservation in time you may not hike the trail in your desired time. So I must say making reservation in time should be the most important part of your plan.
Usually the trend is like ..
January, March, November-December
| Make reservation 1 month in advance |
April- May & September- October
Last year spaces were filled up 3 month in advance, so for this year (2008) do it early.
June - August
More popular months. In 2007 trek permits were sold out 4 months in advance. So for 2008 , think yourself. May be you should make reservation four months in advance.
You may be curious -why you have to book so early! Why the spaces are filled up! Currently
each day maximum 500 persons can enter the Inca Trail. So people book their name as early as possible. Tour operators buy the permit from Peruvian National Institute of Culture.
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, 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.
According to the same regulations, reservations can only be made up to 365 days prior to the date of the first day of Trek and for the current season (from January to January).
Do you know that availability applies not to any agency, I mean some may try to convince you that they will make some space for you on emergency basis.. Please do not believe anyone with that lure. Any Agency you choose will have the same availability. Actually availability is controlled by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture. Only they are able to manage and authorize the access to the Inca Trail. Their web site is. www.inc-cusco.gob.pe Only problem is it is written in Spanish. But still you can check with goggle translator. Therefore, it is useless to contact another Agency if the date you want is not available.
Don't be happy if you see lot of spaces still available around your suitable date. You may think, you can finalize later. But.... do you know what will happen when you will come back to your computer later! All gone.
Some agencies group their requests together and it is very usual to see 30/40 spaces filled away in only 5 minutes. Sometimes you will find 100 spaces left and within a hour, they are gone.
New Peruvian regulations (Resolution nº 02-2003-UGM-CD), says, the access to the Inca Trail is limited to 500 people per day, including the personnel. So actually only 200 ( 40%) persons can book for a day, as other 300 spaces is for guide, cook, porter and others.
Don't forget--The Inca Trail is closed in February for maintenance; so this month is not available.
First step of booking is to choose an operator. Choosing a suitable operator is one of the most difficult part. You have to spent some time on different operators sites, check some website and see what they offer and what you can afford. Right now competition is so fierce that they are offering sometime only $400.00 for the regular four days trail. But cheap price does not always assure the quality, so you need to verify the items that are included in the packages. Though some items you can never check beforehand, like camping equipments, and arrangements and quality and quantity of foods. Some cheap companies can not provide you good guide and quality cooks. You can only find this after you start the tour. You may find the porters are not getting enough foods and are sleeping in dining tents. Anyway there are alternatives! If you must travel with cheaper price, then take some dry foods with you (if you find food provided is not sufficient, it would be very useful), and bring with you good quality sleeping bags. You may check my page on the expenses of the Inca Trail.
Once you select the operator you have to check their payment procedure. It varies with operator to operator. Now I am discussing the general procedure. Most of the operator will ask you first select a date. Once you select the date you will email them and very soon they will confirm the availability. Now you have to pay a booking money. You will be given usually 48 hours to pay the booking money. Generally you have to pay this through your credit card. Western Union money transfer is also acceptable in some cases. Now you don't have to do anything, (other than waiting for the day to come!). Once you reach Cusco you will go to their office and pay the balance, and you are set. If you don't pay the balance one day prior the hiking date, your tour will be cancelled. If cancellation happens due to nonpayment, you will not get full refund ( as they already pay your Inca trail permit, and engage the guide and porters).
Generally the payment procedure as you read above is followed by most of the operators. But detail varies. So once you select the operators, you need to check their payment process.
Salkantay Trek, with the Salkantay peak at behind
If you really do not want to wait too long, then there are some alternative trail for which there is no restriction, no permit is required. For classic Inca trail ( four days), Short Inca trail ( two days) or 5 days Salkantay trail (Mollepata - Salkantay - Wayllabamba - Machu Picchu) you must need to book in advance. But for 7 day Salkantay trail (Mollepata- Salkantay - Santa Teresa - Machu Picchu), Ausangate, Lares Valley or Choquequirao trail you do not need any permit, so you can get a space easily.