Trail Etiquette 101

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There is a reason the trail dwellers of the world are drawn back out into nature, time and again, despite the bug bites, blisters, and often lack of plumbing. For me? Being on the trail is freedom, freedom from everything we place so much unnecessary value on every day; the freedom from our Instagram feeds that make our own lives seem a little less extraordinary, freedom from the pressure we put on our appearances, freedom from all the noise that clouds our minds and souls. Because the truth is, on the trail, NOBODY CARES.

The world seems to be getting a little smaller every day, places that were once hidden gems are now popping up on the internet all over the world. More and more people are getting out there and exploring because well, everything is becoming more and more accessible. This will not change, but what we can do is ensure that those who do use the trail, new and old, do their part to keep the true spirit of the outdoors alive and well, and continue to make it enjoyable for everyone.

Know the Right of Way – Is this even a thing? Yes, yes it is. There are exceptions to this, since trail conditions vary and you’ll ultimately choose the safest option, but the general rule is that the hikers going uphill have the right of way. If you need to take a break, find a location with an adequate amount of space to safely step aside and allow other hikers to continue unobstructed. When you decide to continue, keep right and pass on the left, kindly letting those in front of you know when you are passing. If there are mountain bikers on the trail, they should give hikers the right of way, however; bikers are usually going very quickly downhill or struggling to get uphill and it may be easier (more often than not) for hikers to yield to bikers.

Hike Single File – This ensures space on the trail for others to pass from behind, and ensures the safety of the hikers coming down. This also reduces the likelihood of you and your group members fumbling over one another while trying to find proper footing on the trail.

Pack out What you Pack In – I cannot emphasize this one enough, NEVER leave anything on the trails. This includes food scraps, wrappers, cans, absolutely every kind of trash. For the sake of being thorough, if you’re not sure why this is important, let me tell you. Aside from the obvious detrimental effects of litter on the planet and wildlife, trash is just downright unsightly, and it’s enough to turn a pristine environment into another human dumping ground. Nobody goes out into nature and thinks to themselves “I hope I get to see a lot of trash today”. As for the food scraps, you may be thinking, “well it’s all biodegradable, right?”, sure, but reserve that kind of thinking for your compost piles at home. By leaving around food scraps you inadvertently introduce wildlife to human foods, or foods not naturally found in the surrounding ecosystem. By doing so, you can disrupt the wildlife’s natural behaviour, make them sick, and make them more likely to approach humans. This puts everyone at risk, especially when it comes to bigger, more dangerous animals like bears.

What to Do – Bring your own trash receptacle. Nothing fancy, just a plastic or reusable bag of your choice to store your garbage in until proper means of disposal are available. In addition, knowing that you’ll likely need to carry all your garbage with you for the duration of you hike, be mindful of what you pack. Some tips include:

  • Choose the Right Container: there are a ton of options out there for reusable food bags and foldable containers. They pack small, are lightweight, and produce absolutely no trash
  • Meal Prep: This may take a lot of preparation, but on those multi-day hikes, this will certainly save you from excess garbage
  • Avoid Bones: Big one here is chicken, and the solution is simple. Instead of a drumstick or wing, choose chicken breast. There will be no waste when you’re done.
  • Consolidate your Snacks: Open all your snacks before your hike while you’re still at home, then pack them together in one or two reusable food bags. This will save you the extra litter from multiple packages.
  • Pre-cut your Fruits and Veggies: Fruit is usually the worse of the two, from apples cores to banana peels. Cutting up your fruits and veggies ahead of time and putting them into reusable food bags or plastic containers will ensure no waste.
  • Avoid Bulky Items: This includes pretty much anything in a can or bottle that isn’t your primary water bottle. Unlike wrappers and some food scraps, these are always bulky and a drag to lug around with you.
  • Unavoidable Waste: AKA human waste. There’s no way around it, at one point or another, you’re going to have to answer nature’s call somewhere in the woods. Only advice I have here is to pack special biodegradable toilet paper that breaks down quickly and do your business a good distance off the trail

Be Mindful of the Noise – This may or may not offend some people. But I’m not sure I’ve met anybody on the trail who enjoys listening to other people’s noise, unless of course, you’re the one making the noise. This doesn’t include talking, laughing or even singing amongst yourselves at a normal decibel, but does include the screaming, hollering, loud obnoxious banter you can hear from a mile away for most of your hike. Realistically, on a quieter hike, you may hear somebody else’s noise for a few minutes before it dissipates into the wilderness, but that is not the kind of noise we are talking about here. Remember that there are all kinds of people on the trail such as birdwatchers, photographers, or simply ordinary people trying to escape their already noisy lives. Simply read the situation, if the trail is busy, and there are lots of other hikers within ear shot, it’s probably best to keep the screaming to a minimum. You may be thinking, “why not let people enjoy the trail the way they want to?”, and I totally agree, until the manner in which you enjoy the trail makes it hard for anybody else to enjoy it as well.

Now on to the issue of music. Personally, I love listening to music on the trail. On a long day, especially if flying solo, music really helps me focus, push through some of the more challenging ascents, and find a good rhythm. Now, I only ever listen to my music though headphones, but some people prefer to use a small speaker. This is where the conflict arises. Your walking through the woods, and suddenly, you’re distracted by the blaring sound of Skrillex from a distance (no offence to the fans out there), now you have two choices, run up the mountain to gain some distance (and hopefully, some silence), or jam out because you love Skrillex. I’ve found myself in both situations, either someone’s music is painfully irritating, or something I’m happy to listen to until we’ve parted ways, it depends on the music and it depends on the setting. General rule of thumb, if you want to play your music through a speaker, it shouldn’t be so loud that other people can’t escape it, and more importantly, it shouldn’t disturb the wildlife. This is the great thing about headphones people, you bother NOBODY by wearing them.

Obey the Rules!

  • Fire Bans: We’ve all been there. Campfire’s are arguably the best part of camping, on and off the trail, so when you pull up to the trailhead or campground and you notice in bold “FIRE BAN IN EFFECT” your heart sinks a little. However, there is no good reason to start a fire during a fire ban. We are from Alberta and British Columbia, and know first-hand the devastation of forest fires. This year was the worst on record, with 1,250,383 hectares burned across our provinces. These wildfires have steep environmental and financial ramifications, people also lose their homes, and vulnerable populations are put at serious risk in the smog that can spread for hundreds of kilometers. Do not start a fire during a fire ban, point blank, no exceptions. When there is no fire ban, act responsibly, never leave a fire unattended, even hot embers can spark a flame.
  • Trail Markers: People love to cut the trail, and it seems innocent enough, until everyone else starts doing it to. This is especially problematic on trails with dense forest and vegetation, where the ecosystems are fragile and easily destroyed by human traffic. Sticking to the trail won’t kill you, and you’ll be doing the environment a favour. If that isn’t reason enough, those off-trail footprints can eventually erode the areas surrounding the trails, destroy drainage diversions, and ruin the natural beauty that lures us to the trail in the first place.
  • Food Storage: In addition to what was already discussed above, a multi-day hike will involve special food storage. Many well-established trails and campgrounds offer bear caches at a safe distance from camp to keep food in while you sleep, or while not in use during the day (your trash should go in there as well as it also carries the smell of food). Under no circumstances should you be storing food in your tent or near your campground where any wildlife is present. As I also mentioned above, the smell of food or food scraps may attract wildlife, and you are putting yourself and other hikers/campers at risk by failing to store food items and trash properly. If no bear cache is available, there may be designated bear poles to hang your items. For these types of systems, you will need a bear bag or bear canister and may or may not also need a decent amount of rope to hang it. Do your research beforehand on specific trail requirements and look at what is/is not provided.

Prepare for your Hike – Last, but not least. What does this have to do with trail etiquette? Simply put, how well you prepare, or don’t prepare, ultimately affects everyone when something goes horribly wrong. People don’t take this one seriously enough, and I have NO IDEA WHY. Reality is, even experienced hikers and mountaineers get into accidents, no one is exempt from doing the proper research and preparation before heading out for a hike, and yes, this goes for ALL hikes. Even an established trail, with lots of trail markers, people, and parks staff, can pose some type of risk without any preparation at all. Some things to consider before going on a hike include:

  • Do you have the proper footwear and equipment? A proper pair of shoes or boots, as well as hiking poles in some cases, can save you from a nasty fall or sprained ankle.
  • How long will this hike take? Consider the time of year, how many hours of daylight do you have? When will you have to start your hike to avoid nightfall? If hiking in the dark, do you have the proper equipment and means to navigate without daylight?
  • Do you have enough water and food for the duration of your hike?
  • Will you have cellphone service in case of emergency? What is your back-up plan?
  • Are you familiar with your route? Does it involve any technical aspects that require special experience (i.e. route finding, scrambling, technical climbing)? For multi-day hikes, do you know where you’re setting up camp?
  • What are the trail conditions? Is there snow? Ice? Heavy rainfall that can cause the trail to become unstable?
  • Do you have the proper clothing? Exposure is a real thing, either in the heat or in the cold, and in the mountains especially, weather conditions and temperatures can fluctuate significantly.

Take away message – Whether you’re new to the trail or a professional mountaineer, set an example for those around you, be an advocate for our environment and keep our parks clean and healthy for generations to come. Be safe and happy adventuring!


An Insider’s Guide To Hiking The Inca Trail

Believe it or not, the classic inca trail the world has come to know is actually only a tiny fragment of a 30,000 Kilometre trail system making up the Tahuantinsuyo Empire. This empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian history and spans across southern Columbia, western Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and northern Argentina. Unlike the early European roads that were designed for packhorses and wheels, the Incan people and their llamas were adapted to the high altitudes and demanding terrain of the Andes mountains. As a result, their roads were built over mountain passes with stone steps cut or built directly into the bedrock as opposed to the flattened switchbacks we have all come to love on those steep accents. This design, along with an ancient network of Incan settlements nestled in a diverse and lush landscape makes for an incredibly unique hiking experience.

Like the history stuff? https://www.journeylatinamerica.com/travel-inspiration/history-and-culture/history-of-the-inca-trail

The Classic 4-Day Inca Trail

  • Duration: 4-5 Days
  • Distance: 45 km (27.9 miles)
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
  • Max Altitude: 4,200 m
  • Cost: Starting at + $600 USD

One of the most famous multi-day treks in South America and an incredible look into an ancient civilization. This trek takes you along the original footpaths of the Incan people with direct passage into Machu Picchu. This trail may also be completed as a 2-day or 5-day trek.

Important Note: Depending on the time of year you wish to go, you should be prepared to book your trek AT LEAST 6 months to a year in advance. There are only 500 permits available each day for the Inca Trail, and approximately 300 of those permits will be allocated to the porters, cooks and guides that will be accompanying you and every other group on their treks. We booked in January for our trek in October.

When to Go:

Rainy Season (November – March) About 80% of the annual volume of rain, anything from a light drizzle to heavy downpour. This is also the time where the weather is at its warmest
Best Months (May-October) Blue skies, warm sun, beautifully magical misty mornings. This time coincides with the dry season.
Busiest Months (June-August) Long lines at the entrance and large crowds can make it difficult to move around. People doing DIY day tours may want to give themselves some extra time to explore. This is also the busiest time on the Inca Trail.

Day-By-Day Itinerary

*Itineraries may vary slightly depending on the tour operator, but the majority will follow the same route and make the same stops

Cusco – Ollantaytambo: Early morning pick-up on the day of your hike from your hotel in Cusco, approximately 2 hours in bus to first stop in Ollantaytambo where you can pick-up last-minute hiking essentials and some breakfast.

Ollantaytambo – Kilometre 82: Continue another hour or so in bus with your guide to the trail head at Kilometre 82 (so named because it is 82km along the railroad from Cusco)

Day 1: Kilometre 82 – Wayllabamba

  • Starting Altitude: 2750m
  • Maximum Altitude: 2950-3000m
  • Distance: 14km
  • Time: 5-7hours

After your bus ride from Cusco to the trailhead, and a brief stop at the control station to show your passport and permits, you can finally begin your hike. Day 1 was fairly pleasant by our standards, only about 200m of elevation gain, and way more rest stops than we would have ever taken on our own. Granted, there are still a few factors here that can make it challenging; firstly, altitude, if you haven’t had a ton of time to acclimatize you might have some issues here (check out “Hiking at Altitude: South America Edition” for more info on how to prepare for this). Second, heat, depending on the time of year, this part of the trail can be sweltering, bring lots of water, and as with all long distance hikes, we always recommend electrolyte tabs. There are also some small merchants along this section of the trail in case you need to buy additional snacks and fluids. Lastly, distance, 14km in a day is still a long way, and you should prepare accordingly. Our personal opinions aside, this is still the easiest day of your trek compared to the days that are to follow.

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Willkarakay & Patallaqta Qentimarka

Day 2: Wayllabamba – Dead Woman’s Pass – Chaquiccocha

  • Starting altitude: 2950-3000m
  • Maximum altitude: 4215m
  • Distance: 17km
  • Time: 7+ hours

We’re looking at over 1200m of elevation gain on this part of your trek, making it considerably more difficult than the previous day. Altitude sickness along this section of the trail is much more apparent, and can zap your energy levels quickly. Key here is to keep a slow and steady pace, avoid over-exerting yourself (particularly in the early stages of your hike), drink plenty of fluids and eat high calorie snacks. As you approach Dead Woman’s pass (the highest point of your hike), you’ll also notice a significant temperature drop (emphasis on SIGNIFICANT), be sure to keep your warm layers in your day pack and not with your porters who will likely be far ahead or slightly behind you. This section can really make it or break it for some travellers, and demonstrates the importance of trail preparation. Be ambitious, especially for something as amazing as the Inca trail, but for the sake your health and safety, and the money it costs to do this, do your research and prepare for the journey.

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Dead Woman’s Pass & Chaquiccocha Campground

Day 3: Chaquiccocha – Winaywayna

  • Starting altitude: 3600m
  • Maximum altitude: 3600m
  • Distance: 10km
  • Time: 6 hours

Personally, this was the worst part of the trek. All downhill for what seemed like an eternity, and with the Inca trail designed the way it is, it’s a lot of steep downhill steps that gets really hard on the knees really quickly. On the plus side, you get to see quite a few Incan archeological sites on this day, and is also the densest part of subtropical rainforest, perfect for spotting all kinds of beautiful wild flowers and birds. Temperatures start to come back up a little as you approach your next campsite.

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Runkuraqay, Sayaqmarka, Puyupatamarka, Intipata, Winaywayna

Day 4: Winaywayna – Sungate – Macchu Picchu

  • Starting altitude: 2550m
  • Maximum altitude: 2700m
  • Distance: 4km
  • Time: 2 hours

Wake-up call at 4-4:30 am. You’ll scarf down your breakfast and get in line for the last control station before it opens at 5:30. Once we were through control, it was pedal to the medal to get the Sungate for that first glimpse of Machu Picchu down below. Started out a bit misty, but quickly cleared to reveal the citadel with its early morning glow. From the Sungate it was another half-hour of intense speed-walking and giddy smiles to the bottom.

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For more information on Machu Picchu and alternative treks and day tours check out “Everything You Need to Know About Machu Picchu”

Booking Information: There are quite a few reputable tour operators you can book with, some based locally in Peru, some internationally, ranging from $600-$1500+ USD (these tours can get quite luxurious if you’ve got the budget). There are many great guides out there that can help you choose a tour operator, our advice would be to decide on a budget, then go from there. Key features to look for in a tour operator:

  1. Equipment: Does the company offer all the equipment you need? Tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, pillows are some of the basic necessities
  2. Food: What kind of meals will be provided? A reliable mid-range operator (between $650-$800 USD usually provide a full breakfast, lunch and dinner), don’t settle for much less.
  3. Fees: Make sure you inquire about what fees are included in the price of your trek. As a start, you’ll want to make sure the cost includes your transportation to the trailhead, all trail fees (there will be a few control stations along the trail), your Machu Picchu entrance fees, your train tickets out of Aguas Calientes, and transportation back to Cusco.
  4. Group Size: This may matter more to some than to others. For us, and for many others, your pace may significantly differ from that of the other members in your group. We would usually arrive at our campsites in the early afternoon, and still see large groups coming in after dark. Why does this matter? Despite the time you arrive at camp, you are still waking up at the crack of dawn to get moving again, and this can make an already difficult hike that much harder. Smaller group sizes usually mean more flexibility to hike at your own pace.

We booked with Guiding Peru (Cost: $695 USD ) – a newer tour operator founded in 2015 with an office in the United States and in Peru. Here’s what we liked:

  1. The company boasted small group sizes, but we were SHOCKED when we got picked up the morning of our trek and it was only the two of us. We were slightly bummed about this at first, thinking it would have been nice to have some fellow tourist companions, but it turned out to be awesome. We have done a lot of multi-day treks at home, and had been doing other hikes in Peru for about a month by the time we hit the Inca trail, so with just the two of us and our guide, we were able to really gun it up those mountains and spend a little extra time at the archeological sites
  2. Start dates were flexible. At the time of booking, we could literally choose any day of the week to begin our trek.
  3. The food was AWESOME. Best we had eaten our entire time in Peru, being on a backpacker budget and all, we were usually eating a simple breakfast, skipping lunch, then having a big dinner. On the Inca trail, however, we were eating three full meals a day, more food than I even wanted to eat, and it was all absolutely delicious, perfect fuel for a long day on the trail.
  4. No hidden fees. Everything was taken care of in its entirety, all we had to do was show up, hike, and enjoy.

What to Bring: Keep in mind, you should be leaving most your things at your accommodation in Cusco. This shouldn’t mean that you’re paying for accommodation in Cusco while on the Inca trail, many hotels, hostels, and Air BnBs offer luggage drop-off (be sure to check this in advance). If your accommodation doesn’t offer luggage drop-off, some tour operators will offer storage for your belongings at the company office (this is what we did). One other thing to note, your porters will usually only carry a certain amount of baggage per person (measured by weight), double check your tour details, but either way, be nice to your porters and pack light.

  1. Day-Pack with waterproof pack cover
  2. Water reservoir or large water bottle: (water purification shouldn’t be necessary, ask your guide or cook to boil some water the night before, you’ll have clean cold water for when you hit the trail in the mornings)
  3. Electrolyte tablets and some high calorie snacks (always a good idea on any hike)
  4. Headlamp (if getting to camp late at night or for early mornings)
  5. Poles (optional). We managed to survive all our hikes in Peru without them, but would still be put to good use on the Inca trail. There are lots of options to rent hiking poles on arrival to Peru
  6. Sleeping bag liner (optional). Not all tour operators will provide extra blankets with your sleeping bag, and the second night at camp was SUPER cold. A sleeping bag liner will increase the thermal performance of your sleeping bag, if you opt to not bring one, sleep in your warm layers and you’ll be fine.
  7. Camera/phone and accessories. Bring extra batteries or a power source for your phone, there are no options to charge anything on the trail.
  8. Sunscreen and bug spray. Those nasty little buggers don’t look like much, but they’ll make your life miserable anyways
  9. Cash (in soles). There are small local merchants along the Inca trail if you need additional fluids or snacks. You’ll also need some cash to tip your guides, porters and cooks
  10. Passport. Mandatory. You’ll need to show your passport at a couple control stations along the way, as well as when you reach Machu Picchu.
  11. Trail permit. Your guide should have all your necessary paperwork on them for the duration of your trek, or should give it directly to you (you will also need to present these documents at the control stations)
  12. Clothes. Keep it simple, you only need one outfit for when it’s cold, and one for when it’s not. We were sweaty messes on the first day, then again down in the Machu Picchu citadel, but everywhere in between was cold and wet, so pack for variable weather conditions. Absolutely musts include a rain jacket, down jacket or vest, fleece sweater, toque, sunglasses, gloves, quick dry pants, and extra socks.
  13. Hiking boots. Be sure to buy a pair of waterproof ones, the worst thing on multi-day trek is wet feet
  14. Basic toiletries. You may have the opportunity (depending on your tour operator) to take a “shower” with a portable shower system (it’s pretty much a water bag with a foot pump and a small handheld nozzle), good enough to rid yourself of any sweat, sunscreen or bug spray, but I’d leave all the bulky toiletries behind.
  15. Basic first aid supplies. Band-aids and any important travel or personal medications,
  16. Toilet paper/hand sanitizer. I mean, can you really go anywhere in South America without it?

The Ultimate Packing Guide for South America

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South America, wonderfully diverse, and a real pain in the ass to pack for. Think you could be one of those people who travels for months on end with nothing but a carry on? Well for us, the answer is simple… absolutely not. Now, depending on where you’re going and what you plan on doing, packing can be a little more straight forward, but for those who know us, they know that we like to do everything and anything, not a stone left unturned. If this sounds like you, then you’ve come to the right place.

Our South America trip includes Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil between the months of September and January. Between these places alone, you’re looking at going through the snow-capped mountains of the Andes and Cordillera Real, dry dessert heat in southern Peru; rain, humidity and temperatures in the mid 30s in the Amazon Jungle, and endless stretches of beach along the coast of Brazil. We have found ourselves needing 5 layers of blankets one week, then being too hot to even think about sleeping the next. Disclaimer, we have not received any endorsement for recommending the products listed below, we have tried and tested many great brands over the years, but these are some of the ones we’ve really come to love.

Our Packs

Osprey 65-70 L Backpacks (Ariel 65L, Aether 70L)

What We Love: Osprey has a huge line of high-quality packs in all shapes and sizes. I love these packs so much that I actually have the 10, 22, 33, and 65L packs. Both the Ariel 65L and the Aether 70L have the following useful features:

  • Internal Hydration Reservoir: This is self-explanatory.
  • Isoform Harness and Hip Belt: At the retailer, they put your bag into a heated machine that softens the foam in the harness and hip belt. You will then put the bag on, adjust to fit, put some weight in it, then walk around the store for about 15 to 20 minutes as the foam takes your shape. The purpose? Your new backpack is now perfectly formed to your body, almost completely eliminating the break-in process.
  • Convertible Top-Lid Daypack: We’ve seen a lot of other packs with a similar feature, but this little daypack is legit. It has its own reservoir for your water bladder, chest strap, mesh shoulder straps, and trekking pole attachment. When the top-lid is removed, the main-pack still has an integrated flap with buckles to protect your gear inside.
  • Main Compartment Zipped Access: This one has proven to be pretty awesome. Hate having to take everything out of your pack to reach something near the bottom? Yeah, we did to. With a large J-shaped zipper on the front of your pack, you can access everything inside, similarly to how you would use a suitcase.

Osprey 22 L Day Packs

What We Love: Lightweight, functional and with a large stretch mesh front panel and side pockets, you can really pack a lot in there. Not everyone will choose to bring an additional day pack, but for us, these packs have been essential, and we use them every day. Our day packs ensure that all of our most valuable items (i.e. the stuff we really can’t afford to lose) remain with us at all times (at least while flying or busing from one point to the next). This includes: camera gear, laptops, tablets, chargers, passports, wallets and phones. Key features to look for in a day pack:

  • Waist Strap with Pockets: Anybody who does a lot of hiking will understand the importance of a waist strap, even in a day pack, especially if your lugging around camera gear and other heavier items. A waist strap takes the weight of your pack off your shoulders and onto your hip, where you can carry much larger amounts of weight with much less discomfort and strain. When your struggling to get up to that mountain peak at 5,200 m above sea level, you’ll be thankful for any help you can get. As for pockets, they can be incredibly handy on your waist strap, it’s the perfect place to store items that you want quick access to such as your phone, lip balm, cash, important medication, headlamp, etc.
  • Comfy Straps and Mesh Panels: On a hot a humid day, no matter where you are, you’ll be glad to have a pack that’s comfortable and that breathes.

Pack Organization

Packing Cubes: This one is a MUST. We didn’t know how great these were until we started travelling, but about a week into our trip we both looked at each other and thanked God we decided to buy these. Whether you’re travelling for several months like us, or travelling for a week or two, an organized pack means one less little annoyance in the stockpile of your future travel annoyances. To get the best use out of these, buy them in a couple different colours, then pack the cubes according to use. For example, my cubes are packed for casual wear, active wear, underwear and bathing suits, and warm layers. No more rummaging through your bag and making a mess of your pack and hotel room every time you need to find something.

We Recommend: Sea to Summit Travelling Light Garment Mesh Bags and Packing Cells. They are ultra-lightweight, durable, pack flat when empty, and water resistant.

Dry Bags: Always a good idea if you have loose travel plans and may not know exactly where your travels will take you, or if you know exactly what you’re doing and what you’re doing includes WATER! Going to the ocean? Down a river? To a giant waterfall? Who knows! And who cares so long as your stuff doesn’t get soaked. Your clothes and other soft items will live, but your camera might not, and why risk it, just bring a dry bag. We brought one 35 L dry bag for each of us, big enough to line the inside of our day packs and put all our electronics safely inside. These bags have also come in handy for other random tasks such as hand washing clothing, or bringing dirty laundry to the laundry mat.

We Recommend: Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack. Durable, lightweight and rolls up small when not in use.

Compression Bags (Optional): If you find yourself needing some bulkier items (i.e. sleeping bags or down jackets) a compression bag can save you a lot of space. They can also be used for similar functions as a packing cube but I find it doesn’t offer the same organizational potential.

We Recommend: Outdoor Research Airpurge Dry Compression. These are the compression bags we use for multi-day hiking and we love them. In addition to being a compression bag, they are also waterproof and fully seam-taped, ensuring your items remain dry in the unpredictable mountain weather.

Clothes/ Accessories

Men Women
X1 Hiking Pant X1 Hiking Pant
X1 Khaki Pant or Jeans X1 Leggings and/or Jeans
X2 T-shirts X2 T-shirts
X1 Collared Shirt X1 Collared Shirt or Blouse
X4 Tanks/Sleeveless X4 Tanks (2 cotton, 2 active)
X4 Shorts (Combination active, swim and casual) X4 Shorts (Combination active and casual)
X1 Fleece sweater or Hoodie X1 Fleece Sweater or Hoodie
X1 Rain Jacket X1 Rain Jacket
X1 Down Vest X1 Down Vest
X1 Hiking Shoes X1 Hiking Shoes
X1 Sandals (Functional, waterproof with a heal strap) X1 Sandals (Functional, waterproof with a heal strap)
X1 Casual Shoe X1 Casual Shoe
X1 Sunglasses X1 Sunglasses
X1 Toque and Baseball Cap X1 Toque and Baseball Cap
X7 Underwear X7 Underwear X4 Bras (3 sport, 1 reg)
X5 Socks X5 Socks
X2 Swim Suit (One bikini, one cute one-piece)
  X1 Scarf (Buy when you get there)
  X1 Dress (Something that can be dressed up and dressed down)

Toiletries

Men Women
Hanging Toiletry Bag Hanging Toiletry Bag
Shampoo/Conditioner Shampoo/Conditioner
Toothbrush/Toothpaste Toothbrush/Toothpaste
Body Scrub Towel Travel Sized Hair Brush
Bar Soap Body Scrub Towel
Razor Bar Soap
Nail Clippers Razor
Lip Balm with SPF Nail Scissors/Stone Nail File
Skin Cream/Face Cream Lip Balm with SPF
Sunscreen (SPF 60) Face Wash
Hand Sanitizer Sunscreen (SPF 60)
Deodorant Skin/Face Cream
Insect Repellant (Min 30% DEET) Hand Sanitizer
  Diva Cup/Sanitary Products
  Deodorant
  Insect Repellant (Min 30% DEET)
  Basic Make-up

For the ladies – stay tuned for an article on “Health & Beauty On The Road” for my economical, space saving, and natural alternative health and beauty picks for hiking and travelling.

Everything Else:

Electronics Miscellaneous First Aid Kit
Laptop or Tablet Headlamp Band-Aids /Polysporin
Cellphone Travel Pillow Tylenol/Advil
Kindle Silk Sleeping Bag Liner Benadryl Tabs & Topical Cream
Headphones (Leave the bulky sets at home) Locks (Combination lock for lockers at hostels, and small pack locks for your zippers) Gravol/Pepto-Bismol tablets
Camera and Accessories Plug Adaptor Probiotic
SD Cards X2 Bug Net (If headed into the Amazon) Diamox and Other Prescribed Medications
External Hard Drive to Back-Up Photos Canteen/Large Plastic Water Bottle Tape
Headphone Splitter (If travelling as a couple or group) Travel Documents – Passport, Visas, Immunization Records, Travel Insurance After-Bite
Chargers Ear Bugs & Eye Mask Tweezers
Full Size Travel Towel

Other Purchasing Recommendations:

Travel Pillow: For those long journeys on the plane, in a bus, or in a train. We recommend the Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Traveller. It packs impossibly small, and has a multi-function valve to control firmness.

Sleeping Bag Liner: This one is optional, but something I’ve found useful on a few occasions. Super lightweight and packs to be about half the size of a paperback book. I used it primarily on our multi-day treks where we had to use company owned or rented sleeping bags. Not only do they increase the thermal performance of the sleeping bag (which comes in handy on those frigid nights at high altitude), but it also protects you from potentially sleeping in somebody else’s night sweats. I’ve also used the liner as a blanket for overnight bus trips. We have the Sea to Summit Premium Silk Travel Liners.

Canteen: I’m all about buying things will dual purposes, so naturally the Yeti Rambler was a good fit. With double-wall vacuum insulation, it keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot, and gives you the flexibility to use it for ever you decide.

Pack Towel: Now there are much smaller pack towels out there, and we use them for our multi-day hiking trips at home, but for travel purposes I opted to use a pack towel that was still lightweight but plush and nice to use for the beach. The Nomadix Go-Anywhere Full Size Towel still packs small compared to a traditional towel, is ultra-absorbent, quick drying, and anti-microbial.

Shoes: You’ll need a good pair of trekking shoes if you plan on doing any hiking in South America. We both have great boots, but really didn’t want to bring those bulky gargantuans with us for eight months of travel. What we brought with us instead are the Saloman XA Elevate GTX trail running shoes (comes in both men’s and women’s). They’re Gortex and therefore waterproof and have great traction in the sole for slippery conditions. The only thing we miss is the ankle support you get in hiking boots, but these are much more versatile and pack friendly overall.

Clothing: Over the years we have tried and tested a lot of different active wear, but we both agree, nothing compares to the functionality, flexibility, style and comfort of Lululemon and Merino Wool. We have a few other specialty brands we really love for more specialized gear but always come back to these two for our basic clothing needs.  When packing for long haul travel, you need clothing items that are going to last, that are going to wick away moisture and odours, that can be layered up to keep you warm, and that breathe when layered down. As an added bonus to all these things, both brands have always done a great job at combining style with function, so with a few strategically placed accessories, you can avoid looking like that grungy traveller we all feel like on the inside.

Hope this was informative! Feel free to send us a message with any of your packing questions!


Hiking At Altitude – South America Edition

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Now, we’re aren’t going to pretend to be expert mountaineers, but we’ve spent more time in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains than the average hiker. And after some time at altitude in the Andes mountains of Peru and Bolivia, I think we’ve got enough of a knowledge arsenal to let you in on some of the basics, and maybe save you some grief. Please keep in mind, this post will not cover health considerations for at risk populations, please consult with your physician if any of the following applies to you:

  1. You have an underlying health risk or concern
  2. Have a chronic illness
  3. Are of older age
  4. Plan to get pregnant or are currently pregnant
  5. Plan to travel with young children or infants

See http://www.altitudemedicine.org/altitude-and-pre-existing-conditions/ for more information.

Altitude Sickness: It’s pretty well common knowledge that hiking at altitude has its risks. But what exactly is altitude sickness? It is a group of symptoms that are brought on by a sudden increase in altitude. Even with adequate acclimatization prior to your hike, altitude sickness can still effect you, as it does many others.

Early Symptoms Severe Symptoms
Headache Confusion
Dizziness Extreme dizziness and vertigo
Nausea Vomiting
Trouble breathing when active Trouble breathing and shortness of breath at rest
Weakness or fatigue Pallor
Increased heart rate Chest tightness and pain

Please be advised that severe symptoms can be life-threatening, don’t try to tough it out for the sake of that view up-top, get yourself back down to a lower altitude right away. More serious forms of altitude sickness can occur where fluid accumulates in the lungs and brain, this needs to be taken VERY seriously.

See http://www.altitudemedicine.org/altitude-illness/ for more information.

What Causes Altitude Sickness? For the sake of keeping this simple and informative, IN GENERAL, what causes altitude sickness is this: The lower atmospheric pressure at high altitude results in lower levels of available oxygen in the air, and therefore lower quantities of oxygen taken in with every breath. Lower quantities of oxygen in our lungs means lower quantities of oxygen are available to be delivered by the blood to all the parts of our body. Oxygen is one (very important) component involved in creating the energy the body requires to carry out normal functions, without energy, our body cannot function as it normally does.

Our body has several magically efficient mechanisms to adjust to these changes in our environment, and this is why acclimatization is so important. Giving your body time to adjust at gradually higher altitudes before hiking several hundred metres in a day can really save you, and increase your chances of making it up that mountain. For those who think a little bit of a headache never killed anyone, tell that to someone who’s really had altitude sickness. Some Advil or Tylenol won’t take this headache away, the only real cure for altitude sickness is getting back down to lower altitude, and even then, you might still feel pretty awful that day.

I’m sure your itching for the part where I tell you HOW ON EARTH ARE YOU GOING TO AVOID THIS AWEFULNESS. But first, let me put into perspective just how drastic of a difference the altitude can be compared to home (and these are popular spots).

Location Altitude
Victoria, British Columbia 23 m above sea level
Golden Hinde, British Columbia (highest peak on Vancouver Island) 2,195 m above sea level
Vancouver, British Columbia 1-152m above sea level
Edmonton, Alberta 645 m above sea level
Calgary, Alberta 1,048 m above sea level
Mount Robson, British Columbia (highest peak in the Canadian Rockies) 3,954 m above sea level
Location Altitude
Laguna 69, Peru 4,500 m above sea level
Machu Picchu, Peru 2,430 m above sea level
Rainbow Mountain, Peru 5,200m above sea level
Ausangate, Peru 6,384 m above sea level
Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia 3,812 m above sea level
Huayna Potosi, Bolivia 6,088 m above sea level

Being the true Canadian that I am, I still have to give us some credit. A lot of the popular hikes in South America, although magnificent, do not always boast the same kind of elevation GAIN as some of the hikes were used to back home. Meaning you start at high altitude, and can reach much higher altitudes in a short amount of time without necessarily having to hike all day till your feet bleed. Unfortunately, this still won’t save you from altitude sickness.

Preventing Altitude Sickness: Disclaimer: These are simply recommendations based on personal experience and knowledge we’ve acquired over the course of our travels. This should not replace professional medical advice.

We were lucky, with the help of a well-known local trick and adequate time acclimatizing, we’ve been able to avoid taking our altitude sickness pills all together. However, not everyone will have the same luxury as we did, and by luxury, I mean weeks to months to acclimatize. We did experience some mild altitude sickness on our first couple hikes in the first week our trip, but by the time we got to Cusco to do the Rainbow mountains (peak at 5,200 m) we were running up the mountain no problem. Here’s what we’ve learned:

  1. Acclimatization Starts on Arrival: Spend a few nights if possible in the neighbouring city or town closest to your hike. While you’re there, walk! Walk everywhere! If you want to make the most of the acclimatization process you’ve got to get moving.
  2. Hydration: This may seem obvious, but it’s harder than you think. At altitude, humidity is lower and sweat evaporates quicker, and with the changes in atmospheric pressure (as discussed earlier) respiratory rate increases, increasing water loss from respiration. As a result, water loss from exertion is significantly expedited at altitude as compared to the same activities closer to sea level. To make matters worse, high altitudes, in combination with cooler temperatures, can blunt your thirst response, making it even harder to stay hydrated. The take away message? Drink up! Depending on how high you are, you may have to aim at guzzling back between 1-4 litres of water daily with added electrolyte and carbohydrate supplementation.

See http://www.altitudemedicine.org/training-at-altitude/ for more information.

  1. Ascend Gradually: If you end up doing any guided treks, you’ll notice a common trend (at least we did). Slow and steady really does win the race, especially for those multi-day treks. The goal should be to avoid overexerting yourself, especially in the early stages of your hike, getting progressively stronger as your hike continues.
  2. Last resort. The most popular prescription for preventing altitude sickness is Diamox. It is designed, in short, to help speed up to acclimatization process and therefore prevent or reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Keep in mind, to prevent altitude sickness, Diamox should be taken 1-2 days before you start your climb, not once symptoms have already begun to establish. In addition, this medication cannot completely prevent serious forms of altitude sickness and therefore you should descend to lower altitudes if you begin to show serious symptoms. Like any medication, it has its own set of risks and possible side effects.

See https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-6753/diamox-oral/details for more information.

  1. Best for last. In some parts of South America including, Peru, Bolivia, and parts of Argentina, the locals have a trick, and we SWEAR by it. Even better part is, it can come in the form of candies, and is readily sold in just about every little bodega we’ve come across so far. It’s called Coca, most commonly in the form of Coca Leaves. If you didn’t already know, this is the same plant that contains the psychoactive alkaloid that people use to make Cocaine. Don’t go thinking you’ll be flying back home hooked on cocaine if you try this, it takes about 370 Kilograms (or approx. 800lbs) of Coca leaves to make one Kilogram of Cocaine. In the form of a raw leaf, the locals have long used this plant to combat the effects of altitude sickness. Some additional benefits are said to include: increased energy, strengthened immune system and alleviated indigestion. Try as a tea, or chew on the leaves like the locals.

More tidbits on Coca Tea https://www.livestrong.com/article/478795-what-are-the-benefits-of-coca-tea/.

 

 

 

 


Everything You Need to Know About Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu, certainly on most travellers’ bucket list when visiting Peru, and for good reason. Since it’s official rediscovery in 1911, Machu Picchu has undergone some major clearing and restoration and is now a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, and one of the New Wonders of the World. It is a true testament to the sophistication and beauty of Incan architecture and culture.

Location: About 112 km northwest of Cusco, between Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu Mountain ranges in the central Cordillera of the Andes, the vista really can’t be beat, it’s a perfect mixture of the rocky mountain ranges further south, and Amazon Jungle. At 2,350 m, it sits lower than Cusco at 3,339 m. With some time in Cusco, altitude sickness really shouldn’t be a problem here, similarly if you decide to trek into Machu Picchu through either Salkantay or Inca Trail routes, (discussed later) as altitudes along these hikes may reach as high as 4,600 m.

When to Go:

Rainy Season (November – March) About 80% of the annual volume of rain, anything from a light drizzle to heavy downpour. This is also the time where the weather is at its warmest.  
Best Months (May-October) Blue skies, warm sun, beautifully magical misty mornings. This time coincides with the dry season.
Busiest Months (June-August) Long lines at the entrance and large crowds can make it difficult to move around. People doing DIY day tours may want to give themselves some extra time to explore. This is also the busiest time on the Inca Trail.

Our opinion? The best time to visit is between September and November, the shoulder season, where the days can still be sunny, the crowds are fewer, and with the rains coming in, orchids are blooming everywhere. Keep in mind, no matter what time of year you go, Machu Picchu is still part of the rainforest, and can receive fog and rain any time of year. Go when you can, enjoy it for what it is. In our experience, some of the best photographs we’ve taken have been in bad weather.

How To Get There & What It Will Cost: The answer to this varies GREATLY, but day tours to Machu Picchu can definitely be done on a backpacker’s budget. Firstly, you should note that there are two main locations to start from (whether doing treks or day tours), one is Cusco, the other, a small city called Aguas Calientes which is about 30 min by bus from the Machu Picchu Citadel. I’d also like to mention, and as you’ll soon find out, there are NUMEROUS options to explore Machu Picchu, you do not need to be an experienced hiker, fitness fanatic or die-hard traveller to enjoy this experience in all its glory. Moving forward, there are four popular ways to get there (keep in mind that despite the prices shown, there are great deals to be found for some tours when booking locally):

  1. The Classic Inca Trail Trek: To do one of the most famous hikes in the world requires some preparation, 6 months to a year in fact. There are 500 permits available each day, but 300 of those permits will be allocated to porters, cooks, and guides. Do not let this discourage you, with several Incan sites along the way, a sunrise view above the clouds, and direct passage into Machu Picchu, it is truly an amazing experience.
    • Duration: 4-5 Days
    • Distance: 45 km (27.9 miles)
    • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
    • Max Altitude: 4,200 m
    • Cost: Starting at + $600 USD

Take Away Message: Lower costs may mean larger groups sizes, poor wages for porters, and low quality food. A reliable midrange operator (between $700-$900 USD) will usually provide all the essentials for an enjoyable trek.

Other Trail Options: If you’re wanting to do a more traditional trek, but couldn’t book so far in advance, there are also the following options:

  • Cachicata Trek:
    • Duration: 4 Days
    • Distance: 25 km (15.5 miles)
    • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    • Max Altitude: 4500 m
  • Huchuy Qosqo Trek:
    • Duration: 3 Days
    • Distance: 8 km (11 miles)
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Max Altitude: 4,300 m
  • Vilcabamba Trek:
    • Duration: 5 Days
    • Distance: 60 km
    • Difficulty: Difficult
    • Max Altitude: 4,500 m
  • Lares Trek
    • Duration: 3-5 Days
    • Distance: 34 km (21 miles)
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Max Altitude: 4,780 m
  • Condensed Inca Trail: Starts at Kilometer 104 of the Inca Trail
    • Duration: 2 Days
    • Distance: 10 km (6.3 miles)
    • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
    • Max Altitude: 2,730 m
  1. The Salkantay Trek: Considered the best alternative route to the Inca Trail. This is a popular one amongst travellers, and depending on the time of year, you do not usually have to book in advance. At this time, Salkantay has no daily permit limitations, making booking on a whim extremely flexible. Many backpackers will book once they get to Cusco. If you are tight on time, look to book when your travel plans are made.
    • Duration: Usually 5 Days (Some 4-8 day treks available depending on the operator)
    • Distance: Approx. 74 km (46 miles)
    • Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
    • Max Altitude: 4,600 m
    • Average Altitude: 3,000 m
    • Cost: Starting at + $400 USD

Take Away Message: Less may not always be more on these treks, and the cost may heavily influence what is included and what is not. The hike itself is challenging, what would make it more challenging is leaky tents, skimpy meals, and shitty sleeping pads. Do your research and ask questions before booking.

  1. Day Tours (With Guide) from Cusco or Aguas Calientes: Hiking not your thing? No problem. Tight on time? No problem. There are ALWAYS day trips available to Machu Picchu, either from Cusco, or Aguas Calientes.
    • From Cusco: Approx. $350 USD and includes:
      • Local English and/or Spanish speaking guides
      • Roundtrip train tickets
      • Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
      • Entrance fee
      • Hotel drop-off and pick-up
    • From Aguas Calientes: Approx $115 USD and includes:
      • Local English and/or Spanish speaking guides
      • Bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
      • Entrance fee

Take Away Message: Day tours are easy to book once you arrive in Cusco or Aguas Calientes. With booking any tour locally, there is always some flexibility in the price. Be sure to shop around and get a feel for what people are charging, then negotiate. Booking with local tour companies in local currency can save you some money.

  1. Day Tours (No Guide) from Cusco or Aguas Calientes: This is where you can really pinch your pennies, and still have a great adventure. Important Note: As of 2018 it is said that everyone will be required to have a guide with them in Machu Picchu, whether this has been enforced or not I’m not sure, but guides can be hired on arrival at the entrance to Machu Picchu.
    • From Cusco:
      • Roundtrip private taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and return: Approx. $50 USD. Roundtrip local bus Approx. $18 USD. (This is if you choose to leave from the Ollantaytambo train station and not Cusco)
      • PeruRail or IncaRail train ticket (see details below).
      • Roundtrip Bus Ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: $25 USD
      • Machu Picchu Entrance Fee: $47 USD
      • Accommodation: As low as $12 USD/night in a Hostel or Air BNB
      • Food: Approx. $10.00 USD per meal in a local restaurant in Aguas Calientes
    • From Aguas Calientes:
      • Rountrip Bus Ticket from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu: $25 USD
      • Macchu Picchu Entrance Fee: $47 USD
      • Accommodation: As low as $12 USD/night in a Hostel or Air BNB
      • Food: Approx $10.00 USD per meal in a local restaurant in Aguas Calientes

Some Additional Tips: If you wish to pinch your pennies even further and are not with a guided tour, you can opt out of taking the bus altogether and hike up the road to Machu Picchu, this takes approximately an hour to an hour and a half. In addition, if you are staying in Aguas Calientes and have some flexibility with time, it may also be worth your while to head up to Machu Picchu later in the evening, when most of the guided groups have already made their way back down. We got to Machu Picchu from the Inca trail at 0730 in the morning, and were shocked by how many people were already there.

If you do plan to do all the booking yourself, keep in mind that although doable, a day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco isn’t ideal, and quite frankly, you’d be doing yourself an injustice if you did. With the earliest train arriving at 1000 and the last train for Cusco at around 1730, this will only give you a few rushed hours during the BUSIEST time of day. If catching the train to Ollantaytambo, you have much more time, as the last train to this station leaves at 2150, you can then take a taxi or local bus back to Cusco from there. I must also add, there are usually long line-ups for the bus going back to Aguas Calientes, and you should plan your time accordingly.

Your Day Trip To Machu Picchu:

STEP 1: Buy your ticket to Machu Picchu – It is important to note that you cannot actually buy your entrance tickets at Machu Picchu, you will need to purchase them beforehand, and in the high-season (between June and September) it is possible for tickets to sell out. If you are going to Machu Picchu through a guided trek, it is likely all your entrance fees are built into the cost of your trek, be sure to double check with your tour operator. Regardless of the manner in which you get to Machu Picchu, you WILL need your passport to enter, and as an added bonus, there is a small station in the citadel where you can add a Machu Picchu stamp to your passport.

If you must purchase tickets yourself, you may do so in person in Aguas Calientes in the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre, or in Cusco at the Ministerio de Cultura. Be prepared at both locations with your passport, credit card, and cash. Lastly, you may also purchase tickets on the Ministerio de Cultura Website.

STEP 2: Buying your train ticket – If you are heading to Machu Picchu, it is more than likely (unless you found a way to drive) that you will have to take either a PeruRail or IncaRail train into Aguas Calientes. Some things to note about these operators:

  1. Both train operators share the same track that winds along the Urubamba River.
  2. Both will bring you to Aguas Calientes where you will then take a bus or hike up to the Machu Picchu citadel.

Peru Rail: 

Service Description
Expedition Budget option. Not a huge difference between this and the Vistadome. Complementary drinks and snacks are not included. Bathroom on train. Cost approx. $54-63 USD for a one-way ticket.
Vistadome Midrange option. Offers panoramic views, complementary snacks and beverages, Saqra dances and fashion show on the return trip from Machu Picchu to Ollantaytambo and Poroy Stations. Cost approx. $86 for a one-way ticket.
Hiram Bingham Luxury option. Live music, dances and cocktails for welcome. Travel bag as a gift. Lunch and gourmet four course dinner. Alcoholic beverages and hot drinks for the entire trip. Roundtrip bus to and from Machu Picchu. Two-and-a-half-hour tour with professional tour guide. Afternoon tea at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge Hotel. Entertainment on board with local and international music. Cost approx. $415 USD for a one-way ticket. Roundtrip costs approx. $875 USD.
Departure Locations Time to Aguas Calientes Departure Times Price Range
Poroy (30 min from Cusco) 3-4 Hours First Train in – 0640

Last Train out – 1723

Approx. $63-450 USD one-way
Urubamba 3 Hours First Train in – 1030

Last Train out – 1930

Approx. $86-150 USD one-way
Ollantaytambo 1.5 Hours First Train in – 0505

Last Train out – 2150

Approx. $54-86 USD one-way

See https://www.perurail.com/ for more information and updated pricing.

Inca Rail:

Service Description
The Voyager Budget Option. Comfortable seats, folding tables, panoramic windows. Complementary snacks and a hot or cold beverage. Cost approx. $59-69 USD for a one-way ticket.
The 360 Midrange option. Taller and wider panoramic windows and outdoor observatory wagon with bar. Complementary snack and hot or cold beverage. In-train entertainment. Cost approx. $77-92 USD for a one-way ticket.
First Class Luxury option. Maximum comfort and space. Panoramic windows and large observatory with balcony. Gourmet menu with bar and complementary drinks. Live music. Bus to Machu Picchu Citadel included. Cost approx. $230 USD for a one-way ticket.
The Private Super luxurious option. Available only by special request. Entire carriage exclusively for you and your travel companions. Gourmet menu with bar and complementary drinks. Live music. Private bus to Machu Picchu Citadel included.
Departure Locations Time to Aguas Calientes Departure Times Price Range
Poroy (30 min from Cusco) 30 minutes in taxi to Poroy

 

3 hours in train

First Train in – 0555

Last train out – 1900

Approx. $63-230 USD one-way (not including taxi fare)
Cusco (by private bus from ticket office in Cusco to train station in Ollantaytambo) 2 hours in bus to Ollantaytambo

 

1 hour 40 minutes in train

First bus in – 0910 for train at 1130

 

Last train out – 1900 for bus at 2100

Approx. $69-230USD one-way
Ollantaytambo 1 hour 20 minutes First train in – 0640

Last train out – 2130

 

Approx. $59-230 USD one-way

See https://incarail.com/ for more information and updated pricing.

STEP 3: Buying your bus ticket – As for the bus tickets, they are easy to buy in Aguas Calientes, just look for the Venta Oficial de Ticket de Bus across the bridge from the train station. Buses leave every 10 minutes starting at 0530, but be careful about grabbing those extra few minutes of sleep that morning, the line-up for the first bus will start early.

Extra Tidbits: This isn’t always an option for those doing multi-day treks, as there simply just isn’t enough time in your already jam-packed tour schedule, but if you’re one of many who opt to do day tours in Machu Picchu, these day hikes may be the best thing you do that day.

  1. Huayna Picchu: About 50 minutes to summit. With Inca structures on the top at 2,693 m it is truly an unforgettable site, but the views of the main square of Machu Picchu are not something everybody gets to see, making it just that much more incredible. Limited to 400 tickets per day, and must be purchased in combination with entrance ticket.
  2. Machu Picchu Mountain: About 1.5 hours to summit. Located at the southwest end of Machu Picchu, and towers 3,050 m above sea level. Its less steep and less crowded and offers great panoramic views over Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. Limited to 400 tickets per day, and must be purchased in combination with entrance ticket.
  3. Sun Gate: Once the main entrance to Machu Picchu, this hike follows an original piece of the Inca Trail and offers stunning views of Machu Picchu. Summit sits at 2,720 m and takes approximately 3-4 hours roundtrip to complete.

Personal Note: I was overwhelmed with information when writing this article, AND I’VE ALREADY GONE TO MACHU PICCHU. My advice? And this is solely based on my opinion.

  1. Unless you’re staying in Aguas Calientes, just book the damn tour. Save yourself the headache. Especially when it comes to day tours, there are so many tour operators in Cusco I’d be truly surprised if you couldn’t find a good deal with everything you needed included and taken care. As for us, we opted to do the four day Inca trail, not our usual scene, we’re used to grueling climbs, dehydrated meals, and all our gear on our back. The fact that we had someone to carry our belongings and cook three full meals a day made us feel like royalty. Post about this hike coming soon!
  2. Stay a night or two in Aguas Calientes. If we hadn’t done a trek, this would have been plan B. The town is small, has some great local eats, a sweet market for shopping on the way to the train station, hot springs, and of course, quick access to Machu Picchu. If you’re looking to do some DIY tours, get off the beaten path, and take your time in Machu Picchu, staying in Aguas Calientes is the way to go.