The porters are the people that carry the camping equipment for the hikers of the Inca Trail. This is necessary since pack animals such as horses, mules and llamas are not allowed on the Inca Trail. All the camping gear (tents, eating tent, cooking tent, tables, chairs, kitchen, gas depository and food) is taken on the back of the porters. The porters are farmers and workers from around the local area who are employed to make up an ‘army’ of porters that make it possible for so many hikers to do this unique trek.
The porters may be small but are very strong and very fit to be able to do this rigorous work at these high altitudes. Even with all the weight on their backs, they are the first ones to arrive at the campsites and set up the tents, and start preparing the food!
When choosing your local tour operator for the Inca Trail, please consider that the cheap agencies, cannot and will not pay a fair pay to the porters. If you pay less, then $ 575 for the Inca Trail, porter well-being is not a priority for the company. The remuneration for porters varies greatly among the different agencies in Cusco. By choosing an agency that practices responsible tourism, the porters will receive not only a fair pay but also a good treatment.
Law of the Porter
In 2003, Peru passed a Porters Law aimed to stop the exploitation of workers who historically had little legal protection. The law states that porters can't carry over 20kg with 5kg of that reserved for personal items and that they must receive at least USD 14 per day.
Each porter is weighed at the beginning of the route and then again at Wayllabamba at the start of the second day. Companies infringing this law receive penalties and risk losing their licenses.
The tour agencies are now required to respect the rights of the porters. This means not only to pay a fair wage but also to treat them well, to give them good food (and not only the leftovers from the tourists), a decent sleeping place during the Inca Trail, to contract life insurance, give them proper gear during the trek.
You can hire an additional porter to carry your own stuff. Carrying your personal equipment can be a tough challenge, even for experienced hikers. Hiring a porter will make your trip more enjoyable, giving you time to enjoy the scenery And the porters will be happy as they need to work.
Needless to say that it’s important to show your porters that you appreciate them. This can be done verbally as well as by tipping. The amount of the tip depends on you, but generally spoken each porter in your group should take home an extra 35 to 50 soles. Try to bring a lot of small change so you can tip the porters directly. Sometimes the money for the tips for the whole team is given to the guide so he can split it up later among the porters, but in some cases, the money is distributed badly.