While considering an independent trip to Machu Pichu, I came across a good website for all the FAQ you might need. Unfortunately, it highlights regulations which now make it virtually impossible to do.
Full site is at http://www.raingod.com/angus/Gallery/Photos/SouthAmerica/Peru/IncaTrail/index.html
Important: as of April 2004, the Peruvian authorities have now begun strictly enforcing the new regulations introduced in 2001. The goal of the regulations is to reduce damage to the Trail by limiting the number of people allowed to walk it each day. This is clearly a good thing, but unfortunately it also means that it is now very difficult or impossible to walk the Trail independently. You must have a guide, and you must now make a reservation at least 15 days ahead (1 month ahead in the busy May-September period). This obviously favors the organized tour operators, and means that you're unlikely to be able to just show up and walk the Trail, either alone or with others. Sections 2.4 and 2.11 below have more information.
I work for a tour outfitter based in Peru, and I must tell it's true what is above. The new regulations have not only made it hard for the tourists but for the people in the business. Here are some advices to hike it without problems.
Book a tour in advance, at least a month. The authorities that control the Inca trail make sure all the tour outfitters have the proper gear (tents, first aid kit, oxygen tank, etc.). The main differences are the food, the guide (his knowledge and English) and how they treat the porters. If you book a cheap tour, be sure your porters will be badly pay and feed.
When you book a tour, provide your complete name (the one in your passport), age and your passport number. You have to show it at the beginning of the trail, and if it doesn't match with the info in the booking form, you cann't enter, despite you have a ticket and everything.
If you will renew your passport and will get a new number, don't provide your old passport number because it's possible the tour outfitter will do a mistake and book you with your old passport number, and when you show up with your new passport the authorities will not let you in.
It is very likely that the tour outfitter will ask you for a payment in advance because now they have to pay for the entrance ticket in advance to make sure they will keep a booking. What they need is 50 dollars for your ticket, maybe a little more to pay for the porters' tickets too.
If you are student, you can ask for the student discount (25 dollars), but it is only valid if you are under 27 years old and you have a valid student ID with a picture of you on it. The tour outfitter will ask you to mail a photocopy or fax it to them for the booking.
A big Peruvian hug,
pd: for more info on the inca trail visit my web site:
hi there check this out www.perutouristinformation.com mail me back for any advice firstname.lastname@example.org