Best price for a Peru trek

Before I reveal the best price for a Peru trek, I need to explain a concept I’ve been mulling over recently.  When we think of the “best” rate or price for something, are we actually thinking about the lowest price?  But maybe those words shouldn’t be interchangable, especially when we’re talking about something we really want to work well.

When people ask me for the best price on a four day trek in Peru, I usually say it’s about $500 per person- I consider this the lowest cost for a decent trip.  This would be like a last-minute sale.  And at this price you’re paying for the basics, but you can upgrade a bit (like getting a private departure or hiking on your ideal dates).

However, reading through travel blogs and forums, you’ll find loads of people bragging about rock bottom prices for their treks.  This week I came across some surprising readers’ comments on the New York Times travel section.  In response to an article about the places to see in Peru, someone suggested doing the 5-day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu because “[it’s the] best $150 you’ll ever spend.”

Sounds like a great price at first, but not once you break it down.  A five-day trek at $150 means you’re spending $30 a day.  That certainly wouldn’t pay for three decent meals a day, entrance to Machu Picchu, and a living wage for your guide or porters.  In fact, that probably wouldn’t pay for a mule and a guide.  Not to mention that it definitely wouldn’t cover your transportation back to Cusco or to Machu Picchu at the end of your trek.  Wow.  Sounds like an awesome trip.

Think about it like this:  If someone offered you a Ferrari for $20, you’d probably wonder if the car used to be a meth lab or if it was stolen or if it would just fall apart in 5 minutes.  Because when it comes to a car, you’d want it to be reliable, legal and safe, and that comes at a certain cost.  So when we think about booking a trip, we should probably apply the same logic.  You especially want a trek to be well organized, safe, and fun.

I believe that you can save money in all sorts of ways when you’re traveling.  Eating delicious street food or sleeping in a simple hostel are excellent ways to save dollars.  But your trek?  I have friends who went on cheap treks where they ran out of food or the guides had no emergency medical kit.  Now I’m all for looking around for deals and comparing prices, but it’s smart to know what prices are too good to be true.

2 thoughts on “Best price for a Peru trek

  1. Dr.P says:

    While I agree that you get what you pay for, many travellers simply cannot afford anything like 100 dollars a day and so have no other option BUT to go for the super cheap option. Of course everybody would prefer to have the money to pay for a better trek with better facilities and better staff wages, however it’s simply impossible for many who are backpacking through Peru. for many people 500 dollars is their entire monthly budget.

    • Greg Findley says:

      Dr. P. I agree that $100 a day is out of the budget for many people. I am all for saving money and doing things on the cheap. I have no problem with people saving money on basic lodging and food, and using public transportation as opposed to private vehicles (crowded public transport is much better than private vehicles as far as carbon footprint).

      Where I draw the line, however, is getting things so cheap that local staff don’t get paid, there is not enough money to pay for garbage and waste to be disposed of properly, animals are not treated well, and the natural environment is damaged. On cheap trips (really cheap trips), all of these often occur. For example, before the Inca Trail permit system was put in place, I called the trail the Caca Trail. There was garbage and human waste all along the trail. Outfitters were offering cut rate trips that were so cheap there was barely money to pay guides, porters were severely underpaid and overloaded, and there wasn’t enough staff to carry out garbage or deal with human waste. Cheap trips were actually damaging the resource, and were not contributing anything to the well-being of the local people. This is not acceptable. If all a traveler can afford is a trip like this, that traveler should stay home or postpone their trip until they can afford a more positive trek or trip. Choosing a trip that causes harm and damage to local people and destinations is not acceptable.

      So, if looking for a super cheap trip, ask about their porter protection policies, their wages for guides and staff, their policies on disposing of human waste and garbage, and what they do to protect the resource you are visiting. If you don’t get good answers to these question, don’t go. And even if you do get good answers, makes sure they actually do these things on your trip.

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