Destination guide: Lima, Peru

Lima is the capital of Peru and is on the country’s central Pacific coast. Lima is also known as the “City of the Kings” and was formally the richest viceroyalty in South America. This important metropolis still has a beautiful colonial architecture that surprises visitors, as well as offering world-class cusine.

Purchase your flights to Lima and discover tourist attractions sich as the Pachacamac ruins, the Paracas National Reserve, the Nazca Lines and the Lima mountain range, among others.

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  • Lima - Practical Information

    Orientation

    Planted on the sandy foothills of the Andes, Lima is a rambling metropolis composed of more than 30 municipalities or districts. The city’s historic heart, Lima Centro (Central Lima), lies at a bend on the southern banks of the Río Rímac. Here, around the Plaza de Armas, a grid of crowded streets laid out in the days of Pizarro houses most of the city’s surviving colonial architecture. On this neighborhood’s southern flank, around the Plaza San Martín, the Plaza Bolognesi and the Parque de la Cultura, the city takes on a 19th-century veneer, where grand boulevards are lined with extravagant (if decayed) structures built in a panoply of architectural styles, from Victorian to beaux arts.

    From this point, Av Arequipa, one of the city’s principal thoroughfares, plunges southeast, through Santa Beatriz, Jesús María and Lince, before arriving in well-to-do San Isidro. This is Lima’s banking center and one of its most affluent settlements. San Isidro quickly gives way to the contiguous, seaside neighbourhood of Miraflores, which serves as Lima’s contemporary core, bustling with commerce, restaurants and nightlife. Immediately to the south lies Barranco, a stately turn-of-the-20th-century resort community. Long the city’s bohemian center, today it boasts some of the most hopping bars in the city.

    The airport resides in the port city of Callao, about 12km west of downtown or 20km northwest of Miraflores. The area is also home to a naval base, an old colonial fort and the pleasant seaside community of La Punta.

    The principal bus routes connecting Central Lima with San Isidro and Miraflores run along broad avenues such as Tacna, Garcilaso de la Vega and Arequipa. These neighborhoods are also connected by the short highway Paseo de la República or Vía Expresa, known informally as el zanjón (the ditch).

    Currency

    Nuevo Sol

    Budget & Costs

    Shoestring travelers watching their céntimos – by sleeping in dormitory rooms, traveling on economy buses, eating set menus – can get by on a minimum of US$25 a day. Visitors who prefer private hot showers, à la carte meals in moderately priced restaurants, comfortable buses and occasional flights will find that at least US$60 to US$100 a day should meet their needs. Staying at luxury hotels and dining at top-end restaurants will cost several hundred dollars a day. Prices are always higher if you’re doing your trip by organized tour. The most expensive cities are Cuzco and Lima.

    You can stretch your budget by traveling with a partner as double rooms are usually less expensive than two singles. Many restaurants offer filling three-course set lunches for around S7; eating à la carte will triple your bill. Many Peruvian ATMs dispense local currency (nuevos soles) and US dollars. Above all, keep your money safely stashed – an economical trip can get expensive.

    Note to adventurers on a tight budget: hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is expensive. Unguided trips are now illegal (this is strictly enforced) and the cheapest four-day trips start at around US$300 per person, not including equipment rental, tips for the guides and porters, or any incidental expenses, such as bottled water. Plan on spending US$400 if you’re going with a reputable outfitter. A day trip to Machu Picchu isn’t always cheap either.

    Sample Prices

    1 gallon gasoline: S17
    1L bottled water: S3
    Cusqueña beer: S5
    Anticucho (beef skewer): S4
    Souvenir T-shirt: S15

    Language

    Spanish (Castilian), Aymara, Quechua.

    Timezone

    UTC/GMT -5

    Visas

    With a few exceptions (notably some Asian, African and communist countries), visas are not required for travelers entering Peru. Tourists are permitted a 30- to 90-day stay, which is stamped into their passports and onto a tourist card, called a Tarjeta Andina de Migración (Andean Immigration Card) that you must return upon leaving the country. The actual length of stay is determined by the immigration officer at the point of entry. Be careful not to lose your tourist card, or you will have to queue up an oficina de migraciones (immigration office), also simply known as migraciones, for a replacement card. It’s a good idea to carry your passport and tourist card on your person at all times, especially when traveling in remote areas (it’s required by law on the Inca Trail). For security, make a photocopy of both documents and keep them in a separate place from the originals.

    Thirty-day extensions cost about US$50 and can be obtained at immigration offices in major cities, with Lima being the easiest place to do this. There are also immigration offices in Arequipa, Cuzco, Iquitos, Puerto Maldonado, Puno and Trujillo, as well as near the Chilean and Ecuadorian borders. you can keep extending your stay up to 180 days total.

    Anyone who plans to work, attend school or reside in Peru for any length of time must obtain a visa in advance. Do this through the Peruvian embassy or consulate in your home country.

    Weights & Measures

    Metric.

    Customs

    Peru allows duty-free importation of 3L of alcohol and 20 packs of cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. You can import US$300 of gifts. Legally, you are allowed to bring in such items as a laptop, camera, portable music player, kayak, climbing gear, mountain bike or similar items for personal use.

    It is illegal to take pre-Columbian or colonial artifacts out of Peru, and it is illegal to bring them into most countries. If purchasing reproductions, buy only from a reputable dealer and ask for a detailed receipt. Purchasing animal products made from endangered species or even just transporting them around Peru is also illegal.

    Coca leaves are legal in Peru, but not in most other countries, even in the form of tea bags, which are available in Peruvian shops. People subject to random drug testing should be aware that coca, even in the form of tea, may leave trace amounts in their urine.

    Check with your own home government about customs restrictions and duties on any expensive or rare items you intend to bring back. Most countries allow their citizens to import a limited number of items duty-free, though these regulations are subject to change.

    Business Hour

    Hours are variable and liable to change, especially in small towns. Posted hours are a guideline, on a Sunday, most businesses (other than restaurants) are closed.

    Most cities, however, are equipped with 24-hour ATMs. In addition, Lima has pharmacies, bookstores and electronics supply shops that are open every day of the week. There are also a few 24-hour supermarkets. In other major cities, taxi drivers often know where the late-night stores and pharmacies are.

    Many shops and offices close for a lunch break but some banks and post offices stay open. In addition, many restaurants open only for lunch, or breakfast and lunch, especially in small towns.

    Banks
    9am-6pm Mon-Fri, some 9am-1pm Sat.
    Bars and clubs 7pm-midnight, some until 3am.
    Restaurants 10am-10pm, some closed 3-6pm.
    Shops 10am -8pm Mon-Sunday.

    Telephone

    Public pay phones operated by Telefónica-Perú (www.telefonica.com.pe) are available on the street even in small towns. Most pay phones work with phonecards which can be purchased at supermarkets and groceries. Often internet cafés have private phone booths with ‘net-to-phone’ and ‘net-to-net’ capabilities (such as Skype), where you can talk for pennies or even for free.

    When calling Peru from abroad, dial the international access code for the country you’re in, then Peru’s country code (51), then the area code without the 0 and finally, the local number. When making international calls from Peru, dial the international access code (00), then the country code of where you’re calling to, then the area code and finally, the local phone number.

    In Peru, any telephone number beginning with a 9 is a cell-phone number. Numbers beginning with 0800 are often toll-free only when dialed from private phones, not from public pay phones. See the inside front cover of this book for more useful dialing codes, including how to contact an operator or directory assistance. To make a credit card or collect call using AT&T, dial [tel] 0800-50288. There’s an online telephone directory at www.paginasamarillas.com.pe.

    Cell Phones

    It’s possible to use a tri-band GSM world phone in Peru (GSM 1900). Other systems in use are CDMA and TDMA. This is a fast-changing field, so check the current situation before you travel: just do a web search and browse the myriad products on the market. In Lima and other larger cities, you can buy cell phones that use SIM cards for about US$65, then pop in a SIM card that costs from US$6.50. Claro is a popular pay-as-you-go plan. Cell-phone rentals may be available in major cities and tourist centers. Expect cell-phone reception to fade the further you go into the mountains or jungle.

    Phonecards

    Called tarjetas telefónicas, these cards are widely available and are made by many companies in many price ranges. Some are designed specifically for international calls. Some have an electronic chip that keeps track of your balance when the card is inserted into an appropriate phone. Other cards use a code system whereby you dial your own personal code to obtain balances and access; these can be used from almost any phone. The most common are Telefónica-Perú’s 147 cards; you dial 147, then enter your personal code (which is on the back of the card), listen to a message telling you how much money you have left on the card, dial the number, and listen to a message telling you how much time you have left for this call. The drawback is it’s in Spanish. The 147 card is best used for long-distance calls. For local calls, the Holá Peru card is cheaper, and works the same way except that you begin by dialing 0800. There are numerous other cards – ask around for which ones offer the best deal.

    Electricity overview

    European plug with two circular metal pins

    Electricity overview (european)

    Japanese-style plug with two parallel flat blades

    Electricity overview ( Japanese)

    Two parallel flat blades above a large circular grounding pin

    Electricity overview ( Two parallel)