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Warnings about being in Lima city central
The tourist guide books say not to be out at night in the city of Lima and therefore to stay the night out at Miraflores as its fine and safe out there at night and just travel to and from Lima central during the daylight - friends that had been to Lima not long before my planned dates to be in Lima said the same.
Right from arriving at the airport the guidebooks warn of not catching a bus to your accommodation but to catch a taxi and to be careful what taxi you use - to go to the area in the airport marked as Green taxis and not to use the taxis that are outside the airport.
I found 2 guys at a tour agency booth in the baggage hall and got a lot of help from them with finding accommodation and booking tours - tour buses for tours come right to your hotel and drop you off again at them and all tours need to be booked in advance from an office, not just the driver of the bus and a copy of your passport is required for the booking - and they also confirmed the safest taxis are the taxis in the Green area just inside the exit doors....
With all the warnings I wondered just how my 3 days in Lima were going to be!! My taxi took me to my hotel and the driver rang the bell at the gate in for me...all hotels and houses Id seen so far had high gates and electronic doors!
Great hotel - I asked the receptionist was it really as dangerous to walk around in Lima as my guideboooks suggested and therefore was it going to be okay to walk around with my good and rather huge camera to get good photos - she replied that it would be best to use a small non-expensive camera! I got picked up by a minibus for a tour of Lima city central....the guide told me to be very careful while I was sitting on the bus with the window open as I had asked him if it was okay to have a window seat so i could take photos. When we got into the city I was wondering if I was sadly supposed to put my camera away and miss out on all the good photos I could see around me! The guide then said that really it was fine when walking around in the city to use my big camera and that it was only when on the freeway that its possible that motorbikes might snatch valueable as it went past or if stopped in traffic!
He repeatedly said that really not to worry and that using my camera was fine while walking around in the city centre! There really were some great buildings and interesting people....- I wanted to book a tour for the next morning but wouldnt have got to the nearest office in time so when we were back in Miraflores the guide took me to photocopy my passport and took my cash of which he gave me a receipt for to book the tour for the next morning as he was going to the main office and would book it in for me ( which he did and i went on at tour the next day only that it wasnt the morning one, they didnt see the booking in the system in time so put me on an afternoon tour) he told me it was for sure fine to walk around Miraflores with my camera and fine to walk around prety much anywhere in Miraflores at night. He knew the restaurant that Id asked him was it in a part of Miraflores that was okay to walk to and walk back from in the night...
The next day I went on a Shanty town tour with a different tour company and was taken by the guide to an old part of town between Miraflores and the city that had once been a shanty town and said it was fine to be there with my big camera visible - and also to take photos of the locals - and it was the same when we visited and walked the largest shanty town in Lima...he said he took me to the safe shanty town of 2 million people but that it was not safe to go to the other shanty town.. The next day the same guide came to take me into Lima city - we went by bus from Miraflores and walked through the older streets of downtown Lima to the sights around the centre. He also took me to a hotel that is a tourist attraction in its own right full of amazing antiques and with great views from the roof - and recommends this play to stay at in the centre - he said he didnt believe it was any more unsafe than any other city to be out and about or stay the night in - that things have greatly improved since the guerillas were ousted. We didnt leave until quite late and it was dark by then - we walked quite a long way through the streets to find a taxi to take us back to Miraflores and as experienced its normal to be out and about at night in the city centre these days!Related to:
- Women's Travel
- Budget Travel
As in many Third World capitals, thousands of people from the countryside pour into Lima every year. They come to the big city in search of jobs and opportunities for their children. There is no place for them to live, other than in shantytowns, called pueblos jóvenes ("young towns" in Spanish), set up on vacant lots or the hillsides on the outskirts of the city.
Most of the buildings consist of poorly constructed shacks, made from any materials that the owners can scrounge from the area. They lack basic necessities such as water, sewage, heat, or trash pick-up. Most do have electricity, which is illegally pirated from a nearby electric source.
About half of the population of Lima lives in these pueblos jóvenes. The Villa El Salvador and Comas districts of the city are mostly made up of pueblos jóvenes. Most of the inhabitants are mestizos, American Indians, and blacks who have been migrating into Lima since the 1940s.
Visitors should avoid these neighborhoods, since crime is rampant, and many are controlled by gangs. The most violent crimes, theft, and drug activity in Lima take place there.
Peru, Is It Dangerous?
Peru has a bad reputation as a theft ridden country. However I found that if you watch yourself in a sensible but necessarily paraniod manner, that your trip through Peru will be highly uneventful with regards to theft.
I personally did not suffer any form of theft or violence while travelling around this country nor did I meet anyone who did. I did however hear second hand of a theft of a camera left by a tourist on a bus while the bus had stopped for a break. The warning here is to keep your valuables with you. Also be aware around the bus stations themselves. Supposedly they are rife with pickpockets but again I suffered no problem here. In fact I did not even find them in the least way threatening compared to some Eastern European places I have visited. However do not judge a book by its cover.
Be wary about walking about alone at night in Peru. Some young men did try to lure me into a park for a probable mugging while in the Lima suburb of Miraflores. Otherwise most of tourist areas are safe so long as there lots of people on the streets. If not, then I suggest that you take a taxi.
BEWARE OF PICKPOCKETS AND BAG SNATCHERS
Always be especially careful when in crowds here. Peru has a bad reputation for travellers being "Ripped Off".. Usually its pickpockets stealing from unwary travellers or the occassional bag snatch. Seems these days that tourists are really fair game for these sort of criminal activities. My friend had his bag unzipped and money removed while we were boarding the train for Machu Picchu ,and you know what!!! he wasn't even aware that it had taken place...As is most of the cases when this sort of thing happens. I always keep a stash of travellers cheques always as these can be replaced...cash can't.
ALWAYS: Be careful wherever there are crowds , especially train and bus stations..these are heavily targeted areas..along with market places and really, any crowded area like bars and restaurants.
Don't put your bag down without some form of personal restraint.
Always have it around your neck...not just over your shoulder.
Be aware of your surroundings..
REMEMBER These people are good at this....They do it for a living everyday.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Jorge Chavez Airport - Stealing tourists
Before exiting the airport, my kids had their passports and money stolen. Isolated case ? I met a few days ago someone who experimented the same thing. When crossing personal metal detector, your belonging are scanned. You get marked (just a sign of the officer, it could be touching his nose, whatever), the money and papers are identified in which bag has the money), the rest is about divertiion. In the case of my son, a woman took his little sister by the hand and as he got near her to let her she was with him, the waist bag that he was asked to remove to have it x-rayed had disappeared. To see the video, it takes a few days (enough to have it cleaned) and police will ask money (in case you still have some left) and at the end, they will let you understand that you may get your documents back but that will also cost you money (apart from the money already stolen). So when crossing whether arriving or leaving, beware as most crimes in Peru is a team effort and has sharing profit policies.
Common Sense Prevails
Lima is a big city and big city problems exist. Basic travel precautions are in order: don't carry large amounts of cash, dress down, avoid certain neighborhoods, avoid anyone trying to sell you drugs and keep an eye on valuables. Having said that, I found Lima and Cusco to be no more dangerous than any other big city. In fact, I found the people to be cordial and friendly. I never encountered a problem except for the occasional "shoe shine?", "massage?" and other characters selling "stuff". A firm "no, gracias" and they get it.
I walked around Cusco and Miraflores (Lima) at night and never felt unsafe. Just take the precautions and the recommendations of the hotel staff and you should be fine.
I took an arranged day trip into the central historic area of Lima. However, I must say that there was enough activity and people around, I would have considered it safe to do on my own.
Travel on Aero Continente is illegal for Americans
Just read this after I RETURNED from Peru. Luckily, I didn't travel on Aero Continente. Use LanPeru. It's better anyway; they're flying new Airbus A320s.
Source: State Dept. Website
NOTE: As of June 1, 2004, it is illegal for any person within the United States, as well as U.S. citizens, nationals, and resident aliens elsewhere, to fly on Aero Continente. Persons who violate this provision are subject to criminal and civil penalties under U.S. law. However, people who purchased their tickets before June 1, 2004, may request a license to use these tickets by faxing a request to the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at (202) 622-1657. Phone questions may be made at (202) 622-2480. Further information on this matter is available on the U.S. Department of the Treasury's website at http://www.treas.gov/ofac. FAA safety restrictions placed on Aero Continente (see Aviation Safety Oversight) are not related to this action.
Border crossing at Aguas Verdes
More of anannoyance than a danger is the young guy who bailed me up when I got out of the bus to walk over to the immigration office at the border.
He asked to see my passport then told me to come with him. He started filling out an immigration form and I asked him why he was doing that. I asked him three times if he expected money from me and he kept avoiding the question. He then brought me to a cambio to change my money into us dollars, no doubt he would receive a commission for this.
The cambio pointed out to me that my 100paso note was a fake (theres quiet a bit of counterfeit money, coins and notes circulating in South America). The young guy insisted I report it to the police and told me I could be locked up for possessing fake money. The policeman in the back of the immigration office had a close look at it and confirmed it was fake which didn't surprise me as it came from a very questionable source (more on that later).
I suspected that if I handed the money over to the police it would find it's way back to thecambio and into the hands of an unsuspecting gringo, so I took the money out of the policemans hand, tore it up into about ten prices handed it back and walked back toward immigration. The young guy thendemanded 10 pasos for his services, I very firmly told him I was not paying then told him to @$&" off an walked away.
He did keep the form but as it turned out the form he filled out was an entry form for Peru, I was exiting.
Just be cautious of anyone like this and don't pay for a service you didn't ask for.Related to:
- Water Sports
In the Andes, the high altitude can be a problem. In severe cases altitude sickness can cause death. It is a good idea to take it easy for the first few days until the body acclimatizes to the altitude.
The Indians chew dried coca leaves which are sold for pennies in the Andes towns. It is a mild stimulant that supposedly increases stamina in the higher altitudes. (Coca is the plant that cocaine is derived from). Try chewing the leaves for the fun of it. They taste terrible and the only effect they had on me was to leave my tongue slightly numb.
Mate is a tea which is made from coca leaves. The better hotels in Cuzco have free and unlimited mate on hand. It tastes like weak green tea, and I am not sure it helped with the altitude at all.
Take the local buses when you can.
In Cuzco as well as a lot of tourist towns, they will try and sell you tours to attractions that you can visit just as easily by local transport at a fraction of the cost. That is not the most important reason however. By using the local bus, you get to see how locals get around and see just how friendly and helpful they are. You also get to be in places when you want to be (ie. when the light is better for photos and less crowded). The best example was visiting the Sacred Valley near Cuzco. For little more than a dollar, we went to Pisac and Ollantaitambo.
Withdrawing money from banking machines
All banks seems to have agreed not to let foreigner withdraw more than $200 at a time. I complained about it )it used to be $500) I was told the block is in my bank but I double check in my bank and there is no limitation except the one the local bank set up.
After trying al almost all major bank (Continental, MiBanco, Scotia, etc) I manage to withdraw 1600 soles (about $500 us) at a 'Banco de la nacion' near 'Plaza de armas' downtown. Finally a bank who know I do NOT have a $200 limitation on by bank account as all managers would enjoy telling me despite the fact that I had it checked by my daughter here in Canada to make sure I was right about NOT having limitations.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Using large money bills (dollars or soles)
In Peru, there is a lot of false money circulating and tourist are the ideal people to pass on the money to them as they don t know the difference. If asking to change money, before handling a $100 bill for change, write down the last 3 digits of the bill numbers, so that if they hand it back to you saying they cannot change it, you can check it is the same bill and not a false one that is being handed back to you. That is true for soles or dollars as well.Related to:
- Budget Travel
Peru/Equator Huaquillas/Tumbes Border Crossing II
So you made it into Ecuador untouched and with all of your belongings. Next you need to get your enterance stamp. The immigration station is too far to walk, so walk north on the principal road (the same road with the bridge crossing) until you run into a row of yellow taxis. The yellow taxis are the ONLY ones you can trust. Do not get into one that has other passengers that are not in your group. The cost to immigrations is $1.50. Once stamped, take another yellow taxi to the CIFA terminal and get the hell out of Huaquillas as fast as possible. If you must spend more time here, please keep an eye out. The street is completely littered with smart scam artists. NEVER NEVER NEVER exchange your money in the street. I had to exchange just $20, and each bill I received was fake. It took me about 15 aggressive minutes of my time fighting to get real money, luckily succeeding. If you are just entering Ecuador to get your visa stamped for another fresh 90 days in Peru (which was my case) please keep reading. The immigrations will tell you that you have to be in Ecuador at least 24 hours before leaving. I believe this is really the law, but they say this just to bribe money from you. One person outside the immigration was more than eager to help me with this bribe, and said he needed my passport to make sure I have everything he needed. NEVER LET ANOTHER PERSON TAKE YOUR PASSPORT INTO THEIR HANDS. I could tell that he was getting ready to run, so in a split second snatched it out of his hands. Now knowing I could bribe the immigrations. I went to the office window. I told them I had $10 and they agreed. Be prepared to walk around the building and give your $10 through a small sliding window. Now you have to repeat each step to get back to Peru. Only take the yellow taxi to the bridge. Walk south about 4 blocks until you a reach a place where the collectivo sits to pick up passengers. Please make sure there are many passengers inside, if not, it is fake! Pay the 1 1/2 soles to get to Aqua Verde Immigration office. Again, do not accept advise. Go directly and swiftly into the office, get your stamp, and go outside to the main street. There will be fake collectivos waiting there, so dont get inside. Wait for one that is coming from the bridge, which should be almost full with people. Ride this until Tumbes. If heading on to Mancora, just walk south 2 blocks after getting off the collectivo. then turn right for one block. You then will be at the principal street in Tumbes. Across the street is the collectivo to Mancora. Be aware that there will be fake taxi guys in front of the small collectivo terminal saying special prices to lure you into their trap. Dont accept. AGAIN, PLEASE READ ALL THE WARNINGS ABOUT SOUTH AMERICAS MOST DANGEROUS BORDER. NONE ARE FALSE. TAKE THE CIFA BUS AT ALL COSTS. IF YOU MUST TAKE OTHER MEANS, BE VERY STREET SMART AND YOU WILL BE OK. JUST KEEP IN MIND THAT ALMOST EVERYONE IN TUMBES, AQUA VERDE, AND HUAQUILLOS ARE PROFESSIONAL SCAM ARTISTS, AND MAKE A VERY GOOD LIVING STEALING FROM PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME. GOOD LUCK! If you need more advice, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peru/Ecuador (Huaquillas/ Tumbes) Border Crossing
Before crossing this border, please feel free to email me (email@example.com). I just accomplished this challenge alone, and it was every bit how people describe it; dangerous! I am 36 male, and consider myself very street smart. First, please use CIFA buses, which stop at each immigration point thus hassle free. But please have a backup plan. There are numerous protests at the border, so it is normal that buses can not go across on any given day (as what happened in my case). Luckily, I had done my research and read about each warning ahead of time. When leaving Peru, your troubles will first come in Tumbes. As soon as you get off your bus, you will be swarmed with people in fake CIFA shirts claiming to bring you to the CIFA bus terminal. You can not trust any one of them, so just start walking north on Ave Tumbes. The CIFA terminal is no longer at the old location, and is now about 10 more blocks north. So, again, if you get to the old terminal and people in fake CIFA shirts want to take you in their taxis, decline them. Walk north until you are away from anyone that offers to help you. Please walk the 10 blocks, its the only sure way you wont get into a bad taxi. If you must get a ride, ask an older local or policeman to show you which colectivo/combi to ride in. Hopefully you will get to the CIFA bus terminal with no problems. If the bus is for whatever reason cancelled, prepare yourself for the most stressful day of your life. If you must take smaller buses, first have the CIFA agent point you to one of the honest tuk tuk drivers (be careful because there are still many bad people wearing fake CIFA shirts outside of the terminal). The tuk tuk will bring you to the honest colecivo (only 1 1/2 soles to aqua verde). Once at the Peruvian immigration office, DECLINE anyone who asks to help you. They are all scam artists. Please take this seriously, because they are very good at their job. Walk directly into immigrations, get your passport stamped, and have one of the police direct you to the correct tuk tuk to get you to the bridge border crossing. Dont just let the police point at one of the tuk tuk's from inside the station. Have him physically walk out with you and wait until a good one comes. If not, you will be bombared with professional scammers. Ok, so you made it to the border with no problems. Congratulations. Now you need to get your entrance stamp from Ecuador immigrations. For advice please look at my next warning tip titled (Peru/Equator Huaquillas/Tumbes Border Crossing Part II).
Lima is not Dangerous
The scariest part of Peru is when your in the US reading all those terrible things.
When you actually arrive the fear fades and you quickly realize it's not dangerous.
I had a hunch things were not as bad as people said when I exited the Lima Airport and hailed a random taxi along the main street and I didn't even have to haggle as the driver gave me the going rate 15 Soles(US$5) to Lima's historic center, Plaza De Armas, eventhough I was obviously a Yankee from Connecticut. (I recommend staying in the historic center as it is much more interesting than the suburbs.)
I never had anything stolen and I even brought along a laptop on my two month trip.
The worst hassle I had during my whole trip was the little kid shoe shiners in Cusco who give you a price and try to jack it up while they are shining your shoes... no need to panick, 1 Sole is fine, be firm, smile, don't get angry and if they don't accept it and complain for more just start walking and they will be happy to accept your 1 Sole.
Lets put things into perspective here folks, 40,000 people die each year in car accidents in the USA alone, but you never read warnings to stay off the dangerous roads in America.
Don't be scared of coming to Peru.
Once you arrive you will feel much safer.
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