Pura Vida Travels - A Guide To Travel In Latin America

Lima, Peru Travel Tips

US Passport - If you are travelling to Peru and you are a US citizen your passport must not expire for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Peru. When you enter Peru you have to fill out an immigration card that you give to the immigration officer when he stamps your passport. The immigration officer will keep the top half of the form you filled out and return the bottom half to you. DO NOT LOSE THIS FORM. When you leave the country you have to give them that piece of paper. I have no idea what is for or why they want it when you leave but trust me on this one...Someone ahead of me didn't have their piece of paper and it snarled the line like you wouldn't believe.

Passport Safety - You are NOT required to carry your actual passport with you at all times while you are in Peru. You MUST, however, carry some sort of identification with you. Most places in Peru that accept credit cards WILL ask for a photo id when you try to use one. This is done to combat credit card fraud and a US drivers license is an acceptable form of ID. Never carry a passport when you don't have to. Lock it up in the safe in your hotel room while in Peru.

Departure Tax - I "think" the departure tax is US $30. When I was leaving I gave them $40 and I got change back in a mixture of Peruvian soles and US dollars so I'm not really sure what it is exactly. The bottom line is that when you are leaving the country you need somewhere between $30 to $40 cash or you aren't leaving. (not that that would be a bad thing...)

Taxis - Taxis are everywhere in Lima and are generally safe and cheap. Cabs do not use meters so you have to negotiate the fare before you leave. This is difficult for a first time visitor when all you have is an address that you want to get to and don't know what the correct charge should be. Never just get in the cab and go without establishing the fare first. Once you have taken the trip you have no recourse other than to pay what they demand and they will demand at least double what the fare should have been. I had exactly 1 cab driver that spoke English while I was in Lima so if you don't speak Spanish you are going to have difficulties getting anywhere.

Water -The water in Lima is not considered safe to drink. Bottled water is cheap so stock up at the grocery store. 1.5 liter bottles of water were only $1. Bottled water in Peru is sold as either "sin gas" or "con gas" so pay attention to what you buy. Water con gas is like club soda and sin gas is just plain, old water.

Hotels - Hotels are cheap, dirt cheap, in Lima. I paid $50/night for a suite that was huge and comparable to a US hotel. Many options are available for $20/night or less. I would have stayed at the cheaper places but none of them offered Internet access which is a must have for me.

Apartments -Another option in Lima is renting an apartment. A friend of mine rented one near where I was staying and it was beautiful. The building had 24-hour security, secure entrances, and was comparable to a US high rise. For a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment he paid $200 for the week. He found it on craigslist.com.

Local Papers - Lima has about 20 newspapers. The main one appeared to be el Commercio.

Restaurants - The food in Peru is INCREDIBLE. The local dishes such as cerbiche, lomo saltado, etc. are fabulous. One thing to know is that most restaurants are empty until around 9 or 10 PM or later and many don't open before 8 PM. Lima is definately a late night town. We went out to dinner at 10:30 PM on a Monday night and the restaurant was crowded when we got there but it was PACKED at 11:30 PM. Food is also incredibly cheap. At many local places you can stuff yourself for less than $5. I took my girlfriend to one of the most expensive (Astrid y Gaston) restaurants in Lima and dinner for 2 was still only $60.

Safety - I had no problems at all in Lima but Lima can be a dangerous place. More than one local has told me horror stories about tourists being robbed, earrings ripped out of women's ears, and worse. I didn't see or experience any of that and I probably walked 70 or 80 miles while I was there. With that being said doing a few simple things can go a long way to keep you safe. Don't carry large amounts of cash, don't wear flashy jewelry, don't carry a wallet with all your credit cards in it, etc.

Cigars - Peru is not exactly a hotbed for cigars. The only ones I saw were at the airport.

Phone Service - There are a number of different options for phone service in Lima. My cingular phone worked fine at the ridiculous rate of $3.29/minute. You can buy a cell phone in Peru with prepaid minutes on it for under $50. You can also rent a cell phone. A friend of mine rented one at the airport and his bill for the week was $37 including all the international calls he made. I used my Skype phone while I was there and it worked fine except for a slight delay which caused me to hear an echo when I talked. Other than that it worked fine and is by far the cheapest option.

Dress Code - Despite the fact it is only 12 degrees below the equator, Lima never gets very hot or very cold. A light jacket or some sweaters for the nighttime are a good idea as it does get chilly at night. Jeans are acceptable pretty much everywhere but Peruvians do tend to dress nicer than many other countries I have been to. Wearing a jacket and tie to dinner at a nice restaurant isn't mandatory but it isn't unusual to see either. There's no need for rain gear in Lima. They haven't had any measurable rain since 1970. (honest) Sometimes at night there is a fine mist but nothing that will hamper any plans you might have.

Shoes - This may seem like a silly travel tip but I always wear shoes without laces when I fly. The reason being when you go through security at the airport they make you take your shoes off. Slip them off, put them through the x-ray machine, and slip them back on on the other side. No muss, no fuss, and it saves time at the airport.

Driving - Drivers in Peru have some interesting customs. A lot of people drive at night with their lights off and only flash them on and off when they approach an intersection. I rode in a cab one night and I have NO IDEA how the guy could see where we were going with his lights off but I made it home alive. Overall, I think the drivers in Peru are better than in most Latin American countries. I saw zero accidents while I was there which could have just been shear luck. The roads are well marked, lighted, and devoid of the cavernous potholes other places like Costa Rica have. I would consider driving in Peru.

Busses - The bus system in Lima is very confusing. There is no public transportation so all the busses are run by private companies. Every bus has a guy that hangs out of the bus and yells at you as they drive buy. I'm assuming (because I couldn't understand what they were saying) that his job is to convince you why you should take his bus instead of one of 20 others that are working the same street. I have no idea how you know what bus goes where as there aren't any bus schedules. I think it's one of those things that if you live there you just know what bus to take. At any rate, obviously, I didn't ride any busses in Lima.

Hiring A Driver -No Information.

Beggars - Street people are few and far between in Miraflores and San Isidro. I saw maybe 5 my whole trip. There are a lot of street children aka pickpockets running around though. The kids work in teams and you need to keep your gaurd up when you see them. A hoard of kids (6-10 year old range) will come up to you and one of them will be selling candy, nuts, etc. While he tries to sell you the rest of them will be going through your pockets. The kids are slick and they almost got me once.


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