INCA TRAIL PORTERS

Many times, tourists on the verge of giving up the hike have encountered encouragement by looking at the Inca trail porters. How can these guys be able to lift the heavy loads without greater effort? The question seems to arise, How could they overpass everyone by far?. There are more unknown facts that we promise to share with you so you can understand the day you will hike the Inca Trail.

Who are the Inca trail porters?

Without them, the Inca trail hike would be a miserable experience. The majority of them are Andean men who saw an opportunity to get some more income besides working only in agriculture, they come from the nearby communities in the Sacred Valley, Lares, and the Anta plains.  They may not be great, stout, nor tall men, but they do an amazing job at getting the food and everything else to camp, besides handling a variety of tasks simultaneously. They are the ones who probably work the most.

inca trail porters

How did they begin to work as Inca trail porters?

Porters´ job always took a fundamental part in so many expeditions accomplished in these regions. When the Inca trail was officially announced in the 1970s as a trekking path to get to Machu Picchu, the few operating tour companies recruited porters who have helped early Inca trail hikers to get to the ancient Incan Ruin.

Porters were often the unsung heroes, but it wasn’t until 2001 when the Government organization passed law No. 27607, so they would receive a more decent salary. Before the law was made, they had to move loads up to 50 kg. Some had to travel even by night to secure space for the group at the camp. Hard work for stingy salaries.

Female porters

Nowadays, you can´t be surprised by seeing women Inca trail porters carrying camping gear or cooking utensils. It wasn’t too long since tour companies began to hire them, and since then, women porters also became breadwinners for the family. They are Indigenous Quechua women from outlying communities and can carry about 15 kg of load. Women can’t get left behind too!!

What makes the Inca trail porters special? 

It is incredible that these men, besides leaving the camp 1 hour after tourists, hit the next camp 2 hours ahead and set up again the tends, help the cook, and so on. They manage such great strength that still their foreheads bead in sweat.

Most of the time, they speak in Quechua because this is their mother tongue, so they can tell jokes and puns laughing amongst themselves; however, some adults can´t be without their coca leave.

They speak Spanish, but yet they can feel bashful, therefore break the ice by introducing your name in a friendly manner, and they will talk to you back. They will be your friends and trip partners, and any tour guide can translate for you willingly if you wish to talk to any of them.

Tipping Inca trail porters

May tipping be their last hope to get some more income to home to feed their family or afford their children’s school budget. On average the porters’ wage is in the lowest edge in comparison the cook and guides salary, it doesn´t matter which company they are working at. 

Although tipping is not an obligation; However as anywhere on the planet, this became customary on the Inca trail as well. So, a small farewell ceremony is held on the afternoon of day three, where you have a chance to thank them; it could be a smile and a simple “Muchas gracias” or if you planned something special to tip them, do it, and they will be thankful. After that, you won´t meet again so don´t forget.

How much to tip?

It is advisable to carry some soles (national currency)  so you will be making it easy for them. An adorable tip is ranging about 70 – 80 soles per porter for the entire journey. Tipping for the Chief chef is estimated at over 120 soles and about 100 soles for the assistant. 

Important: Give them what you can afford and see, who according to you, did a better job. Any tip is good!!

Inca trail porter weight limit

In January 2001, the government regulations related to porter´s law set up at 25 kg the weight limit, including each porter´s own clothes and bedding. So that was a warning for the companies to treat better their porters before they would get a high fine. It clearly shows that before the regulations had been set up, Inca trail porters were forced to carry more weight and not necessarily treated well. Nowadays, each porter´s pack should pass the weighing process at the checkpoint at KM 82.

inca trail porters in Ollantaytambo

Pick the responsible travel company 

Some tour operators stick to the legal standards given on the law and treat their porters fairly. However, others seem to forget about ethical practices while hiring porters to work for them on the Inca trail. 

In any way, you can search for client testimonials or ask former Inca trail hikers for recommendations. The cheaper the tour costs, the more the porters are compromised to heft heavier loads, putting aside their health problems.

At AB Expeditions, by no means we can stand our backbone staff to starve from hunger or the extreme temperatures. We give them proper equipment, uniforms, padded strap backpacks, and most importantly we pay a fair wage.