Coming to Lima and Peru you have most probably heard good meant warnings about your safety especially in the capital. 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 precautions than at home and are aware of what to take care of, you should be fine.
Always remember that the average income of an employee in Lima is around S/. 600 to S/. 1000 per month (about US$ 200 to US$ 300) for working at least 48 hours per week. 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.
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. In fact already your appearance or behavior can make you a victim. With taking a little precaution at the right time and knowing or recognizing critical situations you can avoid them or react correctly.
To give you an idea on what to do and better not, here some general recommendations:
- Only take the amount of money with you, that you need for the day / trip!
- Don't use a wallet! Better split your money and carry it in different pockets.
- Always have some coins and small notes in your pockets!
- Don't show off!
- Only withdraw money at guarded ATM's preferable inside a building / bank!
- Consider the universally known precautions when using an ATM!
- Try to avoid using an ATM at night!
- Be extremely cautious when withdrawing bigger or large amounts!
- Where your credit card goes -> you do!
- Don't accept damaged banknotes (torn or even repaired)!
- Avoid accepting or using S/. 200 bills! They are barely accepted.
- Always take your time to count and examine your money carefully!
- Check every banknote and coin for authenticity when exchanging money or receiving change!
- Never accept counterfeit money!
- Don't take US$ 100.- bills with you! They are barely accepted (Many fake ones in circulation).
- Even if they are considered safer, reconsider taking travelers cheques with you! They can only be cashed in Lima for high fees and very bad exchange rates.
- Be cautious when people asking you for money!
First we recommend only taking the amount of money with you that is needed for the day. Don't put the main part of your money in a wallet. Better have coins and small bills spread in as many pockets as you have. This has three big advantages. When paying you don't have to open your purse and while searching for the right amount attracting possible thieves. Second, nobody can grab your purse with all the money inside when paying somewhere. And third, if the unlikely worst case scenario comes true and you are the victim of a robbery, you still have two possibilities: if it's shortly after a purchase, just give the amount of money from the pocket you paid before. You might have been watched and hopefully the robber is happy with what you give him. Or if you are mugged just open your wallet and give everything what is in there (hopefully not much, but enough to keep someone satisfied).
In the unlikely event that you are attacked please don´t act like a hero. Most thieves are only interested in the money, nothing more; so just give it to them. A few of these criminals are armed and have nothing to lose. No amount of money is worth risking your life. Always report any crime to the police! Best go directly to the Tourism Police either in the city center or in Miraflores. These officers speak at least a little bit of English.
To avoid any type of attack, we can only recommend: Don't show off, no fancy clothes, no expensive jewelry, watches, cameras and no big bundles banknotes. Don't tell anybody how much money you have with you, not even officials or boast about your wealth. Try to blend in. Don´t behave helpless or frightened. There is no need for it. Just be yourself and enjoy the scenery Lima has to offer.
Always make sure to have enough change (coins) in your pocket. Particular taxi drivers can't or don't want to change. Already ten Soles can be a problem and often smaller shops, kiosk or street vendor's just don't have enough change. Magic coins are 50 Centimos and 1 Sol. If you keep some coins in your pocket you don't have to open your wallet in the middle of a crowded street and easily can pay without any bad feelings.
Always reject damaged banknotes (torn or even repaired). No one will accept them. Even if it might be inconvenient rather ask for another one. In case you end up with a damaged banknote you can exchange it (depending on the severity) at banks, the Central Reserve Bank of Peru or the National Peruvian Mint. Genuine banknotes that have been damaged by stains, writing, stamps, tears, rips or showing patches with adhesive tape, can be exchanged at any financial institution (Bank) or the cash desk of the Central Reserve Bank if they meet the following conditions:
- Have more than half of the banknote
- Have at least one of its two serial numbers intact
- Are authentic (counterfeit bills will not be exchanged)
However, the banknotes that are missing the watermark, the color-shifting ink or the security thread will only be exchanged at the National Peruvian Mint and branch offices authorized by the Central Reserve Bank (Monday to Friday between 9:15 and 15:15 hours).