There were a lot of police and army around Lima when we were there. I'm not sure if this was because of the big APEC Conference (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) that was being held while we were there with dignitaries like President Bush attending, or if this is 'normal' for Lima. I'm pretty sure the police in the Plaza Mayor (and the tanks and the sharpshooters on the towers) were specific to APEC, but there were also police in the roundabouts and even police with riot gear shields.
Some areas of Lima are safer than others: Miraflores and San Isidro have large populations of well-to-do and wealthy Peruvians, not to mention large tourist groups, so they have large police presence to protect the population. Other districts, such as La Victoria, are much more dangerous. Visitors would be well advised to stay out of these areas unless accompanied by an experienced native or visiting busy areas during daylight hours. Downtown Lima is normally well patrolled but be careful anyway. Callao (the port, technically a different city) is rather rough:
Bob had thought yesterday (Sunday) that it wouldn't be a bad place to rent a car. The streets were wide and in generally good repair. But on Monday, when he saw the regular traffic, he admitted that it wouldn't be a good idea.
Lima is in an active seismic zone, with the ever-present possibility of a shake.
So be on the lookout for these helpful green signs which advise where the safest spot to be inside buildings in the event of seismic activity.
Important in city of high rises, where it is possible that construction standards may not be of the highest standard.
Of course, if you can be outside in open spaces, and NOT in a building this is the preferred location.
The linked info form INDECI is in Spanish only
Not only was seeing some of the human billboards one of my favorite things about Lima it was also one of the most dangerous. Traffic moves in Lima like there are no rules of the highway at all. Every inch and foot is coveted by drivers of cars, motorcycles and taxis.
However near the central city there are many people dressed up as billboards or clowns that suddenly appear at intersections. Some of them only appear to be advertising a product. Others are begging for money and in some cases will not leave until you either provide them with some coins or ask them to get out of the way. While being a passenger in a taxi we had several close encounters with these billboard folk who appear out of nowhere when the light changes. I didn't find them to be a threat but was more startled than anything. A coin or two given how difficult it is for some to make a living in Lima is very much appreciated.
Please be careful and do not assume you are safe.
(1) Know that if you bring more than one computer you will be taxed by customs
(2) Be careful when using an ATM machine – having your card ‘eaten’ by the machine is more common than you think
(3) Avoid displaying any valuables/computers or discussing them in a taxi
(4) Assume Taxi drivers understand English although may not speak it
(5) Before you arrive print out your embassy 24 hour emergency number.
(6) Create a Skype account; do not assume you will be able to easily make a collect call back to your country of origin.
(7) When entering or exiting your hotel and Taxi be aware of your surroundings and who is doing what. Do not be distracted with the days events.
Within 24 hours of our arrival we were robbed at gun point as we entered the hotel lobby of a boutique hotel. We will never know the truth but somewhere between the Airport and the Hotel someone took notice of us and planned accordingly.
We found walking around in downtown Lima and Miraflores really safe, and we were not even hassled by beggars or other, but crossing roads, even at pedestrian crossings is quite a challenge. Do not assume they will stop, and be prepared to sprint, gold medal style, to avoid being hit by either the newest Ford F-150, or any run down, delapidated bus. Crazy traffic. We saw also three major protest-processions, and lots of riot police, but nothing troublesome happened. A safe place during daylight for sure, and one with very beautiful, old, colonial buildings. Worth the trip!
My family and I arrived at the Jorge Chavez airport and took a taxi by the main highway outside it (Perhaps mistake #1). I was sitting by the left side window and decided to text my bf to let him know I had arrived safely (mistake #2). From time to time I noticed the driver texting but I didn't think much of it. A motorcycle came out of nowhere and although it almost hit us, it stayed behind for some time. Suddenly the car slowed down, a man ran up to my window, smashed it and grabbed my messenger bag which had been on my lap (mistake #3).
After some struggle we managed to pull it back and the thief gave up and ran off. The taxi driver, however, did not move even though we had a green light and there were no cars in front of behind. He just kept looking at his rear-view mirror. Needless we made him drive and told him to drop us off at the nearest hotel.
So, follow common sense, which I did not. Taxi drivers can be involved in these types of situations, as they probably tip off criminals, and split the money from the stolen goods. BE ALERT!
The Foreign Affairs Office and International Trade Office of Canada is a site I visit when entering a country. There recent advice on Lima is something I wish potential travelers to review. It was last updated October 28, 2011. The following is pulled verbatim from their post.
"Violent crimes such as carjacking, assault, and armed robbery are frequent. Canadians arriving at Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport should use a secure taxi service to go into the city, and should exercise particular caution en route to their hotel. You may find further information on registered taxi companies on the Lima Airport Partners Website. Attacks and robberies on vehicles occur regularly along the route from the airport, and even upon a taxi's arrival at the hotel."
As with other cities in South America it is best to speak in Spanish. If you speak in English and do not have a specific price in mind the fare can be as much as triple what a local might be charged. Be firm and willing to negotiate a price starting at what half the driver offers. While some drivers were flail their arms in the area and say "Es imposible," most will come back with a second offer.
In Lima you can imagine a higher number of crimes just thinking in the size of the city and the obviously also existing poorness of a big number of citizens.
Nevertheless I´ve never had problems with it although I´ve been walking through the streets of centro de Lima at 3 o´clock in the morning.
In general I would say, take always care of pickpockets, especially in Lima centrum and also at the beaches in the south of Lima (like "el Silencio", "Pulpos" etc)
I would NOT go to see the Nasca lines. If you do, read the report about the flying companies before you go. There has recently been another air disaster going over there. One of many.... You can go, but you might not come back ....
Of course, I do not mean to condemn all the women of Peru. They are not all bad. However, some are there with an agenda to take advantage of the foreigners.
Some will try to get you to take them to a fancy (expensive) restaurant. You be the one to decide. Don't let her push you because of her greediness. If she is sincere in meeting you, she will be happy at an inexpensive restaurant. In fact, it is a good way to weed out the gold-diggers, by purposely taking them to a cheap restaurant. If they want to meet and know a foreigner, the restaurant won't matter, because they mostly wanted to know a foreigner. If they object to the cheap restaurant, she is more interested in what you can buy for her.
If she meets you with her friend(s) or calls her friends to join you, be careful about her intention to have you pay for all her friends as well. Dump her immediately and leave her with her own bill. She and her friends are using you for a meal and/or drink. The good women are not trying to exploit you.
I met over 30 women in Peru and saw many of the tricks. Do not be trusting at first. Keep your guard up and be sceptical. If you feel uneasy or uncomfortable, TRUST THAT INSTINCT! Do not give them the benefit of the doubt at first. Be slow to trust them. Be wary of their stories, that they were robbed on the way to meet you and need money. If they are asking for money or asking for MORE than what you are offering them such as your restaurant choice, they are ungrateful and/or trying to see how much they can get out of you before you catch on. As many of the wages are low, the incentive is high to dupe a foreigner who is seen as an easy gullible mark.
Beware of unattended drinks. Some have been known to put drugs in them so they can rob you after you pass out.
Be very suspicious and untrusting of strangers approaching you to sell you something, offering to help you find girls, pretending to be your buddy. Most of the strangers soliciting you are trying to sell you something you don't need, or is overpriced, or trying to set you up to be robbed.
Need a taxi, need to buy fruit in a market or at a fruit cart? Need your fortune told (a pure scam anywhere in the world), etc get multiple quotes.
Some will charge you more simply because you are a foreigner and it is the sellers opportunity to take advantage of your naivete. The fortune teller told me 10 soles for a reading, but 3 soles to all the local Peruvians. Never mind the fact that all fortune tellers and psychics are fraudsters even if the price was free. If it worked, they could pick tomorrows lottery numbers.
Not all sellers will try to rip you off, but you have no way of knowing unless you get a few quotes. Don't be afraid to tell the first taxi driver "NO" regardless of what he quoted you. Another one will come along and you can see if his price is better or not than the first 1,2,3 quotes you received. I had some give me a quote, I said no, and kept walking. He told another driver who was willing to work for less, who brought his car to follow me to pick me up for a more reasonable price, which I then accepted. Taxi fare from the airport to Miraflores should be $10, same price to return.
Do not take a taxi that is lined up at Larcomar because its a tourist trap. Walk 1-2 blocks away and the taxi quote will be 20-30% less. It's still safe because all of Miraflores is a nicer and known tourist area so the security is one of the best in all of Peru.
As in many big cities around the world, theft and pickpocketing are a problem in Lima. Don't make yourself an easy target. Keep a tight grip on your purse or better yet, don't take it out at all and keep your money in a money belt underneath your clothes - definitely don't keep your money in your back pocket. Leave your expensive watches and jewelry at home, and keep a hand on your camera.
These pinochitos are around during holidays and protests. The gov't uses these trucks to spray the crowds when they get rowdy or begin to riot. I'm told by a Peruvian source the water is something like pepperspray. So take precautions!