Coming to Lima you have most probably heard or read good meant warnings about your safety. Once here even locals might warn you about dangers waiting for you at every corner. Actually most (not all) of these warnings are exaggerated and still reflect the conditions during the times of terror and lawlessness years ago. In the last decade the safety and security in Lima has improved immensely.
Today the general situation in Lima shouldn't be considered worse than in any other big city around the world, where rich and poor live closely together. If you take a little bit more precaution than at home and know which situation to avoid, you should be fine. To make you aware of tricks and traps and to avoid dangerous situations, we want to let you know what can happen and give you some tips on either to avoid these situation or on how to handle them. Not to scare or even upset you, but to sensitize you for the local situation.
To Peruvians as foreign tourist you must be enormously rich; you stick out of the crowd and are an obvious target for criminals. So already your appearance and behavior can be crucial for becoming a victim or not. Most crimes against tourists include cheating you out of money, pick pocketing, theft and robbery. Violent crimes against tourist are rare. While most people warn you about dangerous areas in Lima you might never visit, existing problems in crowded places like markets, buses ... or at night don't feel safe in the well known tourist districts supposed to be secure. While these areas are much better protected by the police, crooks go where the wealth is. Below a few tips how you should appear and behave:
- When using your camera or camcorder (preferably not the latest and most expensive model) use the hand strap and don't only hold it carelessly in your hands. Try to blend in and don't behave helpless or frightened. This makes you an easy target and there is no need for it. Be alert, but not paranoid.
- Be careful who you trust. Don't tell strangers, locals including Peruvian police and custom officials as well as other foreigners, your personal history, your income or your living conditions. This information might be used to check out if you are a good target. Don't show off! It's always better to be reserved. Use your common sense when meeting people.
- Don't discuss travel plans or financial matters in public. You could be overheard.
- If you are approach on the street and asked for example for directions or to participate in a survey, answer or not, but even if it sounds rude or impolite, never ever stop walking! You could be surrounded in seconds by scrupulous guys and be parted from all your cash and valuables. And don't tell anyone on the street your name, address, hotel or even sign something.
- Don't ever get into a car or taxi with unknown people approaching you and offering a good deal at another place; be it a shop for souvenirs with bargains, a great travel agency having especially low prices or whatever.
- Always be cautious of unsolicited offers of assistance from strangers.
- Some crooks dress as police officers. Therefore if police or security forces stop you, ask for their official identification and only tell them the absolute necessary. Probably insist on going to the next police station.
Always remember that the average income of an employee in Lima is about US$ 250 to US$ 350 per month. Few people in Lima earn much more, but many have to live on less. It's only logical that these differences lead to crimes like rip-offs, pick pocketing, theft and robbery. Therefore just think what it means to some people if you have US$ 200 in your pocket (not to mention the fact that you can afford a trip to Peru).
Would you take your whole monthly salary without any safety precautions with you for a shopping or sightseeing tour back home? We don't think so. Therefore here some tips regarding money matters in Lima:
- Only take the amount of money with you that you need for the day / trip! And don't only use a wallet! Better split your money and carry it in different pockets. This has the advantage when paying you don't have to open your purse and while searching for the right amount attract possible thieves. In the unlikely case that you are robbed you only loose a few Dollars or Soles instead of your whole travel budget.
- Only withdraw money at guarded ATM's preferable inside a building / bank! Try to avoid using an ATM at night and consider the universally known precautions when using an ATM! Be extremely cautious when withdrawing bigger or large amounts! At most ATM's you can change the language from Spanish to English, German or even French. So there is no need for help from other people.
- When paying with your credit card, have a very close look who handles it and what is done. A simple, sometimes inconvenient rule: Where your credit card goes -> you do!
- Check every banknote and coin for authenticity when exchanging money or receiving change. As most visitors are not familiar with the Peruvian currency they are easy victims to either get cheated or to circulate phony notes and coins.
- And last but not least be very cautious when people asking you for money. Most will tell you a heartbreaking story, but they are totally fabricated just to arouse your pity and rip you off. Although everything sounds so true and of course sad, don't take the chance and like many before you be fooled out of hundreds of Dollars. And don't feel safe if a "fellow tourist" or foreigner is asking you for money. Unfortunately some have adopted above mentioned dishonest behavior. They might as well tell you a piteous story just to get to your money.
For more detailed information about all money matters in Peru check out our Money Section.
Getting around Lima, especially if you are not familiar with the city, can be quite a challenging experience. But if you know how the system works and follow a few simple rules you will arrive at your destination quick and safe.
- While it's easy to hail a taxi literally everywhere in town, you should be cautious which cap you choose.
- When arriving at the airport use official taxis or have a pick up by your hotel arranged in advance.
- Only use official and registered taxis.
- Negotiate a fare before getting in and only pay the agreed amount once you reached your destination.
- Use your common sense and don't get into the taxi if you somehow feel uncomfortable.
- Don't accept drinks or food offered to you by the driver and make sure he doesn't use his cell phone informing others where you are heading to.
- Luggage should always be placed in the locked trunk; smaller bags on the floor, not next to you on the seat (that does not only apply in taxis, but all vehicles!). Unfortunately it's not uncommon that thieves wander around vehicles stuck in traffic jams or waiting at a red light and look out for passengers having their handbag, backpack, camera or other valuables in sight. They then smash the window and crab your bag before you can even react. A common place for this kind of robbery is the main route from and to the airport. So please always have your stuff either looked in the trunk or smaller things next to your feet!
Find more detailed information about Getting Safely around in Lima in our Getting Around with Taxis in Lima Section. Interesting as well our section on Public Transport, the Metropolitano Bus and the Lima Metro.
Drug possession and drug trafficking are illegal in Peru and punished with very long prison sentences. Persons found with cocaine or other drugs will face immediate arrest and imprisonment for up to 25 years. Peru's prisons don't meet international standards and mostly are extremely overcrowded. Hygienic conditions and food are on a very low level, supplies with other necessities are difficult and follow prisoners aren't always well-disposed. We are sure a prison in Peru is not the place you want to be, therefore:
- Keep your hands off any kind of drugs.
- Don't socialize with people consuming or selling drugs.
- Have a watchful eye on your luggage and bags, so nobody can hide drugs in them.
- Don't do any favors or try to make a quick buck by taking a package or something similar with you overseas. There might be drugs hidden inside.
- Take care when socializing especially in bars or discotheques. There have been reports of travelers having a great time in a bar and upon leaving with the new buddy they just had so much fun with a police man suddenly stopped them and strangely enough found some drugs in their pockets. First they were threatened with arrest, but soon the cop got very cooperative and offered to let them go if they pay x amount. Out of fear most people in such a situation pay. But believe it or not the new buddy planted the drugs and tipped off his friend, the corrupt police man. If you are in such a situation you might be happy to pay and get back to your hotel as soon as possible, the other two instead will have a big laugh and share your money.
Most men are attracted to the beautiful, young and caring Peruvian women ensnaring their counterparts by being so different to the "cold" North American and European women. While there are thousands of young and honest Peruvians looking either for the love of their life or just to have some fun, there are as well quite a few trying to take advantage of a clueless "gringo". That's why you should at least know the rules before you throw yourself into the fray and hook up.
- With Peru being a relatively poor country with limited possibilities you find quite a few women looking for a good situated middle-aged man who either sweetens their lives (and the one's of their families) with nice clothes, shoes, cosmetics, health and beauty treatments, restaurant visits, apartments or who gives them a prospect of leaving the country. While there are lots of foreigners living happily with their Peruvian girl-friend or spouse, there are as well lots of men who were and still are conned. Therefore please use your common sense when meeting a women and check out if love or other interests connect you.
- If you are just out for having some fun, be aware that some women you meet at the typical tourist bars and discotheques will be nice and sweet or even spend a night or two with you just to receive something in return for their "services"; be it you pay the drinks, invite them to a nice restaurant, buy clothes, jewelry or what so ever. If you are fine with supporting this sort of prostitution, great. If not, start thinking before leaving with the first available women who throws herself at you.
- Be suspicious when your new girlfriend suddenly asks for larger amounts of money, because her child, mother... is sick and needs immediately very expensive drugs. Check out the story before opening your purse.
- Be aware as well of the fact that some women aren't as "harmless" as the ones described above. While you are having a great time, the beautiful nice girl flirting with you, spikes your drink with drugs. As soon you are getting delirious or falling asleep you are robbed. This method is very often used when a foreigner takes his pickup to the hotel room. So watch your drinks if you don't want to wake up one day with nothing else left than your underwear.
- If you are into women, make sure the one you are picking up or paying to join you is really one. There are some great transvestites out there making you believe they are the hottest women you ever met. Once in the hotel room it's inevitable discovering the mistake. Most men are so shocked and embarrassed that they just pay any asked amount to get rid of the "lady".
- Always protect yourself against sexually transmitted diseases and against becoming an unwanted dad with condoms.
- When meeting a Peruvian women over the internet or after your visit to Peru where you met a nice Peruvian girl, be suspicious when you suddenly a few weeks or months later receive an e-mail stating that your girl friend was kidnapped and is only released when you pay x amount on a special account. Quite certainly this is a con and your beloved girl friend might be a part of it. Don't pay! Instead inform the police!
One of the most important things to bear in mind in Lima is keeping a low profile.
Dress down, don't wear jewelry (if you can't live without, prefer silver over gold) and leave your Rolex at home. Have only the absolute minimum of cash and valuables with you. If you can't avoid it, carry them discreetly.
This way you might avoid being targeted.
Peru is a relatively safe country for women traveling alone. Anyhow you should take into consideration that macho behavior in Peruvian men is a common occurrence and female foreigners are often seen as "fair game".
- Already a friendly conversation, a smile or similar could be misinterpreted. Therefore adjust your behavior to avoid uncomfortable situations.
- More annoying than dangerous are unwanted looks and stares, frequent whistles and flattering compliments by Peruvian men. The best reaction is to just ignore it!
- Above mentioned situations regarding "Men meeting Peruvian Women" apply for "Women meeting Peruvian Men" as well. So be careful who you trust and to whom you lose your heart to.
Unfortunately earthquakes can never be predicted. There are no fixed pattern and no logic in where it hits and when. Because Peru lies in a seismic zone, you should at least know what to do when an earthquake strikes. Unfortunately there isn't any perfect guideline telling us, do this and that, and everything will be fine.
Today we have two quite different approaches on how to behave during an earthquake. The American Red Cross and the Peruvian National Institute of Seismology recommend "Drop, Cover and Hold on" while one of the most experienced rescue teams and disaster management organizations, the American Rescue Team International, recommends "The Triangle of Life". Either have their pros and cons.
- Stay calm, don't panic! You need a clear mind to react proper.
- Don't scream or shout hysterically, everybody else will do that for you!
- Don't run! Walk!
- Don't use elevators!
- Avoid using the stairs! They might move different as the rest of the building and cause you to fall.
- If you are in a crowded place far from an exit, look for a safe place away from the crowd! Being in the middle of a bunch of panicking people trying to get out of one door might harm you more than staying at a safe corner.
Find more detailed and easy to understand information about earthquakes and what you can do when an earthquake occurs in our Earthquake Section.