Taking a taxi in Lima is a relatively quick and affordable way to get around town, not only for Limeños, but for visitors as well. But there are a few things to be aware of before flagging down the first cab you see on the road.
From those taxis circulating Peru's capital only around a third are official and registered. The remaining two-thirds are informal, meaning literally everybody could get into any type of car, put a taxi sign on top of it and offer to drive you around the city. Therefore, be cautious about which taxi you choose.
Getting a Taxi on Limas Streets
Finding a taxi in Lima is easy. Often you don't even have to look for a cab; instead taxi drivers passing by will honk at you and slow down looking for a hearty fare. If not, just wait at the roadside and wave when a taxi approaches.
Most taxis in Lima are unofficial and unregulated. We advise only to take registered taxis. Most of them are yellow (but some could be white or black as well), have a taxi sign fixed on the roof and most important an official sticker in the windscreen from Setame, the administrative authority that regulates taxis. Some Taxi drivers even have an official ID hanging in the review mirror showing they are registered. If you can't see it, ask for it. And in case you feel uncomfortable with the car or driver, just let him go. The next taxi is only a few seconds away.
We strongly recommend not getting into two-door vehicles and small compact cars of the "Tico" type that were once very popular in Lima. You hardly see them anymore in the central areas of Lima, but in the outer districts they still circulate the roads trying to find a fare. You really don't want to be in them when an accident happens.
Unfortunately, quite a few taxis in Lima only have seatbelts on the driver and passenger seat and not in the back, where you should sit. Be aware as well of the fact that taxis in Lima normally don't meet the standard you are used from home.
Negotiate the Price and clarify the Destination before getting in...
As taxis in Lima don't have meters, negotiate a price before (!) getting in. So after you told the driver where you want to go, he will make you a quote. Be prepared that the requested price for foreigners might be higher, but you can try to bargain. Make sure you understood the price correctly by repeating it by adding the word Soles. Some visitors told us when paying the driver he suddenly asked for the agreed amount in Dollar. Please note that prices during rush hours, early mornings, late at night, on Sundays and public holidays are higher. Anyhow, if you have the feeling you are completely ripped off, send the driver to hell. Ask at your hotel or hostel what price you have to expect for a certain trip.
The agreed fare is only paid when you reach your destination. Best to have the exact amount on hand! For most drivers it's already impossible to give change for a 10 Soles note. It's uncommon to tip the driver!
While we never had a single problem when hailing a random taxi on the street, locals and a few tourists have enough stories to tell about thefts and even the one or other violent crime. Use your common sense and don't get into a cab when you somehow feel uncomfortable with the driver or the car. Some people recommend using only older drivers, as they are supposed to be calmer in Lima's traffic and know their way around. 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. Sad but true, sometimes drivers work closely together with crooks.
It is s not uncommon, especially on the main road from and to the airport, that crooks wander around vehicles stuck in traffic jams or waiting at a red light and look out for passengers having any valuables in sight. They then smash the window and in a second grab whatever they can. Therefore, we highly recommend:
- Your money and important documents should be in your pockets
- Luggage and bigger bags should be in the locked trunk
- Smaller items like handbags, backpacks, cameras, laptops, iPads, etc. should be placed on the floor, not next to you on the seat.
- To make it difficult smashing the window, open it a little.
As in whole Lima, keep a low profile and don't show off. And last but not least: Never ever get into a shared taxi!
Above mentioned recommendations are not to scare you off, they should make you alert for unusual practices and occurrences. While there are some cons in Lima trying to take advantage of you, there are also thousands of honest and nice taxi drivers, formal and informal. But they normally don't make the news. These hardworking and sometimes highly educated people, you find any profession from police officer to engineer, just want to earn a living by driving you safely around town.
Calling a Taxi
If you don't feel comfortable taking a taxi on the street, go for the safer option of calling a registered taxi company or let your hotel call a cab for you. Most middle to upper scale hotels also have their own taxi service. While these call on request services are often more reliable and secure, they are more expensive, but for North American and European standards still affordable, and you might have to wait awhile for their arrival. Here as well applies to agree on a price in advance.
There are many recommended taxi companies in Lima, some with better vehicles than others, some with first class service, some with bilingual drivers, some cheaper, some more expensive, so the decision which one is the best for you is up to you. Here just a few to give you an idea. Recommend are for example Taxi Satelital (phone 355-5555), Alo Taxi (phone: 217-7777), Women's Peru (phone: 727-6805 or 727-6806), Taxi Movil (Phone: 422-3322), Taxi San Borja (Phone: 225-8600) and at the airport Mitsui Taxi Remisse and Taxi Remisse CMV.