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Date: 31/03/2011

Inca Trail permit change leaves expeditions in the air

The Inca Trail remains an iconic route to walk, with many people hoping to one day make the trip of a lifetime to Machu Picchu. With 2011 being the 100th year since the area was discovered by explorers, the pilgrimage is expected to be even more popular than ever. However, confusion over the permit system has left many travellers anxious and forced to book and pay for their holiday before they know if they will be allowed to walk the trail, a consequence that would not be covered by any single trip travel insurance policy.

Access to Machu Picchu is limited, with just 500 permits issued to walkers each day. Under the old system, the permits were provided on a first-come first-served basis, with the licences for the entire year being allocated in January. This means that holidaymakers booking early could be certain of their permit, before going on to book and pay for their flights and backpacker travel insurance.

The new system has changed the allocation radically with the licences being issued throughout February and March, with tour operators now being given a priority status on different days of the week. This confusion has left travellers hoping to walk the Inca Trail at the end of the year, not able to confirm until March at the earliest whether they definitely can travel. However, the hopefuls due to make the expedition in the springtime have been hit the hardest. With many tourists seeing this as a once in a lifetime opportunity, for this single trip travel insurance and other extras need to be arranged leaving many due to travel in the early part of the year in a quandary over what to do.

The change to the system was made without any consultation with UK tour operators and holidaymakers have been left with no choice but to book and pay for flights and backpacker travel insurance and hope for the best.