I landed in Lima shortly after 5am on a Friday morning. Once I passed through customs and collected my luggage, I was filled with unbridled enthusiasm as I spotted my driver. Upon being whisked to my hotel in Mira Flores, I was even more excited to learn they were checking me in immediately! With only 3.5 days scheduled in Lima, a power nap and hot shower were all I needed to quickly rejuvenate.
Lima holds the title as Peru’s capital, Peru’s largest city and as the “City of Kings”, in honor of the three wise men that traveled to visit baby Jesus.
Lima possesses a rich history and was designed like any traditional Spanish city built around a great plaza or open square. The city has weathered significant damage from at least sixteen sizable earthquakes and approached near destruction following two devastating earthquakes. Lima has since become a metropolis with significant growth and modernization. It is renowned with for its sites, restaurants and beautiful beaches.
Although I was excited for summer to be nearing back in the United States, Peruvians were transitioning into their winter. High temperatures reached the 70s (Fahrenheit) and an evening low in the 60s (Fahrenheit). Although surfers were abundant at certain locations along the coast line, there weren’t many others flocking to sunbathe in Mira Flora’s microclimate cloud covered beaches. I understand their summers are simply gorgeous.
Lima’s historic district possesses significant cultural heritage. The buildings are constructed in beautiful Spanish architecture. The main streets, parks, mansions and old churches are all adorned in wooden balconies or benches.
Mira Flores is one of the more affluent districts in Lima. It is considered a main tourist attraction with its exclusive residential and upscale shopping.
Lima is also known for its abundant gardens. El Malecon is a six-mile stretch of parks situated along the high cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. The path is perfect for joggers, bikers, walkers or anyone who wants to stay awhile and breathe in the gorgeous views.
During my stay, the currency exchange rate varied between 3.1 and 3.3 Soles to every $1 USD. Banks and ATMs not only offer the best exchange rate, but they are the safest place to exchange or withdraw currency. Peru has been identified as a hot spot for counterfeiting currency. Since Peruvian counterfeiting has become such an issue, I highly suggest always checking money you receive. Although Peru has a “Toque, mire y gire” (touch, look and turn) identification process, the most common method is to look for the watermark. It should have a multi-tonal and three-dimensional quality. As you turn the banknote, the color of the watermark should oscillate between black and green. One of my fellow travelers received a counterfeit 50 Soles note in change. It looked and felt real in every aspect except for the multi-tonal watermark. Local merchants who refused the counterfeit banknote showed us how to quickly discern authenticity.
Taxis are a relatively quick and affordable way to travel in Lima. Protect yourself from robbery or worse. Be alert and only jump into a legitimate taxi. Fewer than half of the taxis in Lima are registered and official. Seek the yellow taxi with an affixed roof sign and an official sticker on the window from Setame. Some drivers also hang a badge from their rearview mirrors. If you do not see the appropriate certification, then ask for it.
Working with my hotel to coordinate transportation with a reputable taxi company was my preferred option. The JW Marriott had a very nice taxi service who drove Mercedes, spoke English and offered beverages. Taxis are not metered, so negotiate your price upfront in Soles. A tip is not expected or required. Considering taxi rides in Lima were costing us $3 – $4 USD per ride, I questioned the cost of the hotel’s service that cost 1,500 Soles (or $50 USD) from the airport. At that time, hotel staff revealed their relationship with a reputable yellow cab company that only charged 50 Soles (or $15 – $16 USD) to the airport. SOLD!
TIP: There have been reports of thieves who wander the roads in particular areas, including the road to and from the airport. They smash windows to steal whatever is in plain sight.
Even with all the warnings, I personally felt safe in Lima. Simply be smart…be alert to your surroundings…and be protective of your belongings as you should whenever you travel.