The Inca trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most popular and sought after treks in the world. Thousands of travelers arrive every day with the intention of booking this trek on the spot. This is of course impossible, we’ve had some travelers call us from their hotel in Cusco trying to book the classic 4 day Inca trail for the next day. Once we explain that the government issues 500 daily spots for the trek and you usually have to book them well in advance (several months in some cases), the follow up question is always “well do you think there will be any Inca trail cancellations?”.
The answer to this is simple mostly. Can there be Inca trail cancellations? Of course and we have this happen several times a year. Some travelers just can’t make the dates or something suddenly comes up. We actually had 5 cancellations from travelers in Florida in September due to Hurricane Irma. The problem with eventual Inca trail cancellations is that the permits issued the the local government are non transferable. This means that we cannot issue the same permit for a completely new traveler, there have been times in the past when this rule was broken but in general terms it is highly unlikely.
One of the few situations where the Inca trail permit was transferable to another traveler was when they already knew each other. An older sister was transferring her Inca trail permit to the younger one due to medical reasons. This case was an exception and was still barely accepted by the Peruvian ministry of tourism.
Now on the other hand, some travelers will want to cancel their Inca trail in case they have some unforeseen issues arise. The most likely scenario will normally be that the traveler wants a refund issued. Depending on the agency this is possible to some degree. Since booking the Inca trail means having a permit issued for the agency, the cost for this permit will probably not be refundable. If you cancel early on enough though you might receive a partial refund, most agencies will look at a 45 day time frame. This means as long as you cancel 45 days before your trek you might be able to get a partial refund.
So just to close this out, if you are looking for the Inca trail, take some time out a few months before you travel and make sure there are permits available. A phone call or an email to a Peru travel agent can save you quite a bit of time and frustration.