Hi Phil, do you know of many who do the trail solo and without registering with a guide?
When I trekked Nepal some years ago I didn't have a guide and just chatted and walked with others if I needed company. Is this realistic or do you need a guide to register?
Unfortunately The Inca Trail can only be accessed alongside a licensed tour guide as permits are not granted to independent hikers. There are alternative hiking trails between Cusco/Ollantaytambo/Mollepata/Aguas Calientes area that allows you to trek independently without pre-purchased permits or guides. Maybe check out Choquequirao or Salkantay as a couple of options. If you book a group tour for Salkantay or Choquequirao do book locally in Cusco (not online from a foreign company) to keep your own costs down and keep the money in the community. For all of these treks take altitude sickness seriously. Allow about three days (minimum) acclimatisation period in Cusco before commencing your trek to allow a more enjoyable experience.
If you're definitely wanting to hike "The Inca Trail", be aware that permits do sell out several months in advance and since permits are non-transferrable (you can't change the name of the hiker after purchase), you can't buy a last minute permit for somebody else who cancels their trek at the last minute. 6 months ago