Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 01/24/12

Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru 01/24/12

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

I lived in Spain, Ecuador, and Bolivia before coming to Peru.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is my home base. The flight from LIM to MIA is direct shot of about 5.5 hours. It routinely costs around $600 IDA y VUELTA, unless you try to go over Christmas when the prices can be over $1,000.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years. I arrived in Lima in March 2010 and will leave in March 2012.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Families are typically afforded homes in Chacarilla, La Molina and/or La Planicie. These homes are beautiful and come well furnished. For those who have to pay their own way, rents for these houses can be around US$3-5k per month. Apartments in Miraflores near Larcomar overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean and those in San Isidro overlooking the golf course are very spacious and run around $2k per month. Just two or three blocks from these TOP PRICED apartments, one can find ones significantly smaller and cheaper around $500-$700 per month. Of course if you are concerned about cost you can find places that cost much less, but the quality of life is severely compromised and you will be in an area that is not frequented by expatriates.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Prices in grocery stores are a bit more expensive than the USA. A family of four can easily spend $150 per week on groceries in Vivanda, Metro, Wong or Plaza Vea. The way to avoid this is to buy food and veggies at local open air markets. It is also a good way to rub elbows with 'real' Peruvians and try to fit in with every Fulano, Mengano, y Zutano. It is a bit of an experience for the unaccustomed, as many of the animals are live and there are no styrofoam dishes and saran wrap to hide the undesirable sights from the patrons, but the cultural perspective that one gains from these markets far outweighs the downside.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Very good cookery for the kitchen, lots of clothes and shoes, another tennis racquet, an extra laptop or iPad, a king-sized bed, some spare car parts for easy fixes, and ...

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of 'em. McDonald's and Burger King, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, KFC and Tony Roma's, Pizza Hut and Domino's are all here. American junk food is in full presence. There are also some Peruvian varieties like Pardos Chicken and Bembos. But why eat this crap when gourmet Peruvian cuisine is readily available?

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Vivanda stocks all kind of boutique/exotic foods. There is even a kosher store for the Jewish folk who abide by the dietary customs of their religion.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Although there are no insects to report, there is a mold problem that manifests itself at certain points throughout the year. Dehumidifiers are an absolute must in closets and can be procured locally.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic Post Office.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I pay S/.50 a day for a young lady to clean the home, do the laundry and iron my shirts, occasionally cook, and run easy errands. She comes two times per week. I hear that full-time live-in maids can run around S/. 1000, although Peruvians pay considerably less (and presumably treat their household staff considerably worse).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Several chains have branches here. Gyms are very expensive, and most cost around $100 USD per month.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I took out a credit card at Banco Contiental and after two years of rather regular use, I obtained S/.700 in a cash-back scheme. I tend not to use my cards from the USA because I am too cheap to pay a 3% international usage fee to the bank :)

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There are a few of them.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable Mágico has several channels in English, but the quality of their service is poor. There is a satellite system from Puerto Rico that I heard actually runs English channels direct from the USA. I would not get Cable Mágico if I were moving to Peru.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A fair bit. Spanish is the language in Peru and those who cannot speak it will struggle with day-to-day life. In a very small enclave in Miraflores and in a small social circle with wealthy, well-educated and professional people, one can get away with only speaking English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. There are minimal accommodations for handicapped people.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No, they are not safe at all. Combis are like a cancer on the road and the atrocious manners and lack of etiquette on behalf of the drivers have contaminated the rest of the driving public. The problem of having too many vehicles on the road stems from a relatively lax automobile importation policy in which older cars can constantly enter the country. As cars are not routinely taken out of circulation, the old, tiny, colonial streets of the city are literally choked by an overwhelming number of cars. It should be noted that the new bus system, the Metropolitano, is a step in the right direction and the new light rail system purports to improve an otherwise terrible system of transit. In terms of prices, a trip on a combi is less than a sol and cabs can run S/.10 - S/.15 for a ride of 30 minutes. When you go to the airport prepare to fork over S/.45. Street cabs are a bit more dodgy, so it is advisable to call a company until you get used to the system..

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I brought a 4x4 Subaru Impreza with 250 cc for off-roading, but unfortunately, I only went off-road twice since coming here. Roads in Lima are generally paved and in decent, although not prefect, condition. Driving is a full contact sport in Lima and I would not recommend bringing a valuable or super-modern car. Drivers are notoriously aggressive and nicks and scratches are monthly events. Smash and grab robberies are common, especially when going to and fro the airport along Avenida Faucett.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Around S/.150 ($50 USD) per month. The quality and service is good.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

No personal experience - mine was provided by work - but some are pre-paid and require the regular purchase of cards.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most spouses get jobs at the embassy, although some teach at local schools, and some stay at home to rear their kids. Peru's economy has been growing steadily for the past 20+ months, so if somebody isn't working, it is due to some other factor than the lack of availability of employment options.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Peru tends to be formal in terms of dress. Americans tend to wear suits and ties at work, although some Peruvians get away with short sleeved shirts and no ties. It is better to err on the side of formality at first and then re-adjust your dress style after being here for some time.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are some security concerns. Local Peruvian news-channels tend to fan the flames by broadcasting regular stories about high-profile crimes. What local people refer to as 'citizen insecurity' is in reality a class-based conflict, in which people who live on the margins of society are sick-and-tired of not taking part in the strengthened and constantly-growing Peruvian economy. As a result, taxi drivers should immediately cause you to raise your guard and they should generally not be trusted. Going out alone at night in certain parts of the city could be an invitation for a robbery. One should be especially careful when stopped at a traffic light when driving, as bands of thieves are skillful at quick smash-and-grab robberies that catch unsuspecting motorists off guard. The ability to detect counterfeit cash is particularly useful for those who live here, as Peru is one of the countries that produce the highest amount of bogus cash. If you stay within the confines of your general neighborhood and exhibit sensible and practical common sense, your likelihood of falling prey to these con-artists is significantly, although not entirely, reduced.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Aside from sneezing, and the prevalence of people with allergies to the humidity, I know of no other health concerns. In contrast to other countries where I have been, gastrointestinal infections and their unpleasant symptoms are not quite as common.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

I am unsure whether or not it stems directly from the pollution. What I can say is that every morning right after waking up, I get a fit of about 5-7 hearty sneezes that serves as an "alarm-clock" of sorts for my wife. They say it comes from the humidity off of the ocean, but I think the poor quality of the air has something to do with it. Asthma sufferers will not enjoy this post.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

It never rains in Lima, although "garúa," or a constant and annoying mist does fall during the winter months. The weather is generally is humid and dry during the summer and humid and cool in the winter. Temperatures range from 50 to 80 degrees F. In the winter, one doesn't need more than a sweater on top of a shirt, and in summer shorts and flip-flops suffice.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Roosevelt, Newton, San Silvestre are reputed to be of good quality, but I have no experience with them.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

"Mana yachanichu" means I don't know in Quechua.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Soccer, tennis, volleyball, swimming, surf.... There are several golf courses, but the game is so extraordinarily expensive that it is not feasible to play.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Relatively large.

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2. Morale among expats:

High to very high. This is a great post.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Tons. Eating out in trendy restaurants is all the rage. Miraflores is a very cool spot to see and be seen. There are great bars and restaurants along the beach and some up by Parque Kennedy and others near Larcomar. There are some cool peñas where you can stay out to 4 am listening to traditional music and enjoying life the way the locals do. There are some cool clubs/bars where you can get your groove on at all times throughout the night. Youths will certainly enjoy "Pizza Street" where you can eat, drink, and be merry in the company of young folks and listen to loud music.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for all. Families can get lovely homes with nice yards and send their kids to top-quality international schools. Singles can live in Miraflores and enjoy good restaurants, nightclubs, and more of an urban environment. Couples without children would also likely prefer to live in the Miraflores/San Isidro vicinity. Single men will enjoy dating here, as women are attractive and particularly keen on dating foreign men.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I know a few homosexual couples and they seem to enjoy themselves when out on the town. I know of no problems that they have encountered. There is even a gay bar near the Parque Kennedy across from the Ripley in Miraflores that seems to be busy every time I go near.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Those who migrated to the city from the highlands with strong ties to indigenous communities are commonly, but disrespectfully, called 'cholos.' These are the people who live at the fringes of modernity and many times struggle to get an education and fully benefit from the economic gains that Peru has experienced over the past few years. Machismo, or the ideology that males are superior to women, is also prevalent. Machismo is present in the cities, but it is much stronger outside of the major urban centers and particularly in indigenous societies. Women at times suffer from this unfortunate masculine attitude.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Travelling, meeting other expats from other countries, enjoying the beauty of Miraflores, jungle tours in Puerto Maldonado and in Iquitos.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Lima there is tons of stuff to do: take a city tour on the double-decker buses; go on the para-sailng over the cliffs of Miraflores; bargain for trinkets and other brick-a-brac in the Inca Market; take a surfing or tennis lesson in Miraflores; take a cooking class at Cordon Bleu; take a day trip to Asia; rent a 4x4 motorbike and go on a wine and pisco tour in Lunahuana; explore the center of the city and the wonderful museum of literature; explore the colonial churches of old Lima; go to a bullfight in Rimac; head to Lima Cricket Club to see the old cricket grounds and modern hangout for English expats; take a boat tour of the Palomino Islands; head to Huacachina for sand-boarding; the list literally goes on forever...

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Silver, hand-woven articles, tailor-made suits and shirts.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The benefits of living in Peru are many. From tourism, to culinary arts, to surfing, to exploring historical cultures, this is one heck of a post. Tourism in Peru has gone viral a few years ago, not only because of Macchu Picchu (one of the wonders of the world), but also because of the Nazca lines, Paracas, Lake Titicaca, jungle tours, beach excursions, mountain hikes, etc. The multiculturalism in Lima, which stemmed from strong waves of Oriental immigration, has given way to a dynamic culinary scene, which features magnificent, mouth-watering dishes such as ceviche, lomo saltado, aji de gallina, and other yummy delights. Celebrity chefs are all the rage at the moment, and hardly a day goes by without an trendy, novo-Andean, overpriced restaurant opening in the city. Surfers enjoy the swells off the coast of Lima, and they also head up north towards Trujillo and points north of there. Ancient cultures, many from thousands of years ago, commingle with pre- and post-Incan society to form the identity of modern Peruvians. The full exploration of their culture is fascinating and one of the best reasons to consider Peru for your overseas assignment.

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11. Can you save money?

If you shop at the open air markets, avoid eating out at restaurants, take combis, don't hire a maid, and don't travel too far outside of Lima by plane, you should be able to save some money.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sin duda!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Knowledge of French.

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3. But don't forget your:

Knowledge of Spanish.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything by Mario Vargas LLosa (magical realism), Ciro Alegria (indigenous topics), Garcilaso de la Vega (colonial accounts)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

La Ciudad y Los Perros was a book by MVLL that has now been made into a movie. La Teta Asustada, translated I think as Milk of Sorrow, just won a few prizes in the international realm. Al Fondo Hay Sitio is a popular telenovela that offers unique insight into the country.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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