Lima, the capital of Peru, is one of the largest cities in South America. It has delicious food, a great culture, and plenty of things to do. But before coming to Lima, here are 10 things you should know first!
1. The currency is soles
The official currency of Peru is soles (S./), and the change rate is usually around $1 USD for S./3,35. You can easily change dollars everywhere in the city so you will have no problems with money while traveling here. It’s usually recommended not to change from guys standing in the streets, but rather go to an exchange office.
If you want to withdraw money, BCP is the only bank that doesn’t charge anything extra when you take money from them with an international card, so keep that in mind!
2. Lima is really safe … but don’t go everywhere
As a tourist, and considering you’ll probably stay in Miraflores, Barranco or San Isidro, it will be totally safe for you to go sightseeing, even at night. There are tourist police and safety guards pretty much everywhere, and people are really nice and always keen to help out.
To know more about safety traveling in Peru, read our article Is it safe to travel in Peru?
However, don’t stay in Callao, the neighborhood close to the airport, and more generally in the north of Lima. I once got refused a ride by a taxi driver because it was to Callao, and he didn’t want to risk going there. So don’t venture yourself there as a tourist, especially during the night!
3. Uber exists in Lima
Yes, Uber works in Lima! And it’s actually a really good option to travel around in the city, as it’s big and dispersed (the historic center is far from Miraflores and Barranco), and with Uber at least you have fixed prices, you don’t risk to pay a higher price than normal just because you are a tourist.
4. Traffic can make you go crazy
You WILL get sick of traffic if you ever take a taxi or a bus. First, there is always traffic, and it can be very irritating. If you arrive at the airport around 5:00 pm, you’ll probably spend two hours in the taxi to get to your hostel, because the rush hour is horrible.
Second, you’ll probably panic 10 times during those two hours, because Peruvians kind of drive like… crazy! Accidents are rare since all of them drive the same way and understand each other’s codes, but it can be very worrying for a tourist. It’s not recommended to rent a car and drive on your own if it’s your first time here, and you’ll understand why as soon as the taxi will get out of the airport parking lot!
5. Download Moovit for public transports
If you want to try public transit, which is actually not that bad in Lima, download the Moovit app. It’s the only app that seems to be able to give sense to a very incomprehensible bus system. It has all the public transports, including the Metropolitano, which is the equivalent of the train here in Lima: a bus with its own highway. A normal bus ride is around 1 sol, and the Metropolitano costs 2,50 soles, used on a rechargeable card. If you don’t have a card, you can just ask someone at the station to pay for you with their card and then you pay them in cash. People do it here all the time!
6. Free tours are the best options
If you’re planning on really visiting Lima, free tours are good options. Some include all the main tourist attractions, others only take you to the city center, but they are all really nice. It’s recommended to do this because it’s often of really good quality, and most of the guides are native Peruvians that really know what they are talking about.
7. Stay in Barranco or Miraflores
Barranco, the hipster district, and Miraflores, the chic touristy district, are the two better places to stay at as a tourist. All the main attractions, except for the historic center, are located there, and both districts are on the coast. They are both very nice.
Barranco is all about enjoying a nice atmosphere, have a few drinks, and party. Miraflores is good for shopping, eating in good restaurants, and walking on the Malecon (coast). In one afternoon, you can find a lot of cool things to do around the district of Miraflores.
8. You can buy your souvenirs here
If you are looking for souvenirs, and haven’t had time to buy some in other cities, or want to buy them before going somewhere else, don’t worry! There is a huge, nice market where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs. You can always bargain a little bit, especially if you are buying a lot of things from the same person, but not too much! If you are going to Cusco later, and have space in your luggage, it’s cheaper to buy your souvenirs there though!
9. Food is absolutely awesome
You might not know, but Lima is actually pretty known worldwide for the food it proposes. Some of the greatest restaurants in South America are there, and several Lima restaurants have received rewards. If you’re planning on eating in one of the best restaurants, think about making a reservation long in advance! And don’t worry, you don’t need to go to the top 5 best restaurants to have a nice meal, I’m sure you’ll find something that pleases you in one of the numerous restaurants the city proposes!
10. Plan all kind of clothes
Lima is a very nice city during summer, a very grey city during winter, but what doesn’t change depending on the season is the fact that the weather changes often, and a lot depending on where you are. You can be in a district where it’s raining, and the district next to it will have a bit of sunshine appearing through the clouds. So plan clothes of all type, because you never know what Lima will surprise you with!
By Julia Natri
Cover Photo David Baggins.