Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 08/01/13
Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our second overseas experience.
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?
Washington, DC. It takes about 8-10 hours to get home.
3. How long have you lived here?
A little over a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Spouse of Government Employee.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are two places to live: 1.) On the oceanfront in Miraflores in a condo or 2.) Near the Embassy in a house in Surco, La Molina or Camacho.
Perks of Miraflores: Close to all the restaurants, nightlife, oceanview housing, the magnificent Malecon outdoor space, most everything you want within walking distance or a short taxi ride.
Downside of Miraflores: In winter you don't see the sun for 5 months. Humidity is also high, so leather belts and shoes grow mold and need to be cleaned regularly. Only condos available here. Few housing options for families with 3+ kids. Far from Roosevelt School (the most popular one), although I've heard great things about San Silvestre in Miraflores as well. Commute times vary from 30-60 minutes each way.
Perks of La Molina, Surco & Camacho: Some sun during winter. Close to Roosevelt school. Short commute to the Embassy (10-30 min). Housing is primarily houses, most with backyards and pools.
Downsides of La Molina, Surco & Camacho: Landscape is more desert-like and less beautiful than Miraflores. 30-60 minutes from the ocean and all the food/nightlife in Miraflores. Far fewer restaurant choices in this area, although some well-known restaurants are building second locations over in the area. Worse pollution.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Food has been surprisingly more expensive here than I though. The Embassy has a great commissary, so it's very easy to walk in there and drop US$100 on a basket of items. Peru also has U.S.-quality grocery stores like Wong and Vivanda and while you have the selection, you'll pay high prices for imported items. Clothes and toys especially are ridiculously priced, so we try to order all that (and household supplies) from Amazon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing, between the Commissary and DPO we can get most anything.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots of fast food options (U.S. chains like: McDonald's, Starbucks, Burger King, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, KFC, Chili's, TGIFriday's). Priced similar to the U.S.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Only ants, which are annoying but manageable.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
US$20-25 a day. Widely available, quality varies. The embassy pool is used to a pampered existence, so it can be better to find one outside via an agency. Expect to go through a few. Swiping of household items is also common (toilet paper, detergent, etc). Domestic help is great to have, but it will most likely be more problematic here than at other posts you've had.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, the Embassy has one but there are other's like Gold's Gym available. They can be quite expensive, but they are available. Lima Yoga is another great option that has 5 locations and monthly packages that are affordable.
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?
ATM's are widely available and credit cards accepted most places. Many people use cash though to avoid credit card fraud.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, in a wide variety of denominations.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes to both, not sure of the costs.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Basic Spanish is needed to get around. Lima is not a major tourist destination, so residents haven't had to learn English for tourism. I would encourage all spouses/partners to take a basic Spanish class or get a tutor (Universidad Catolica or the Embassy have great programs).
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Roads and sidewalks are poorly maintained. I think it would be quite challenging to get around. Cars also go very fast and pay little attention to pedestrians, so I think there could be a safety factor as well in crossing streets.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
RSO only lets us take cabs. Small buses (combis) and the metro are off limits. Thankfully, cabs are quite cheap. A 10-20 minute ride usually costs between US$2-4. Most cab drivers are quite friendly too. For safety reasons, always take marked taxis.
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?
Most types seem to be available here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, around US$60 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring an unlocked phone and just purchase a cheap Claro or Movistar Sim card and a pay-as-you-go plan. Service is spotty, especially with all the concrete buildings.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
More than most places - schools, NGO's, etc. I know several people with non-Embassy jobs.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal at work, casual in public.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I do not personally know anyone who's been a victim of crime, but Smash n' grabs, kidnapping and pickpockets are common according to RSO. I take some basic precautions, including: not wearing my wedding ring in public, using a purse with an over-the-shoulder-strap, keeping my purse on my lap when eating, only using marked taxis and never putting my cell phone on the table.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Great medical care available, although many leave post to give birth.
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?
Better by the water, but poor as you head toward the Embassy. Lots of cars emitting lots of pollution.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is very similar to Seattle. Weather highs are between 60-80F year round. Summer is idyllic, with comfortable temps and sun. Winter, on the other hand, is almost unbearable. For those of us living on the ocean, we'll be lucky to see the sun a handful of times during the 5 months of winter. I didn't think this would bother me, but it really has taken a toll on my mood. Those who live closer to the Embassy in Surco, La Molina and Camacho do experience sun more frequently in the afternoon during winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Roosevelt School in Surco is the most popular. Has a great reputation and is excellent academically. I've also heard good things about San Silvestre in Miraflores, although I don't know any embassy members that send their kids there.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Lots of preschool options (called Nidos here). There is a big amount of pressure to put your child in a Nido as soon as they learn to walk (between 1 and 1.5 years old). Most average costs are about US$400-500 a month for a morning class.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, although I can't speak to that.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Average - the sunless winter, horrible traffic and pollution can wear on people.
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?
One of the difficult parts for me has been the social scene. I have found the embassy community to be very fragmented, both by geographic location and by agency. Tour lengths vary greatly (2 years for State, 5+ for AID and DEA) so there tend to be agency cliques that form over time for those who are here longer. It's not uncommon that everyone invited to a social outing is from a specific agency.
There is also a division based on where you reside. For example, we live on the Malecon with our young child (the malecon is more common for singles and couples) whereas most families live over near the Embassy. We never get invited to activities on that side nor do many people want to drive an hour to come see us. It's been incredibly frustrating and has made it very tough to make friends here.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is something for everyone here. There is a huge restaurant scene, loads of nightlife and great playgrounds and parks for the kids.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Spanish-Peruvians are treated as higher-class citizens than Indigenous Peruvians. You can see it in the wealth distribution and the workforce.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Eating my way through the city. Specifically, meals at world-renowned (and reasonably priced) restaurants like Central, Rafael and Astrid & Gaston. Visiting Machu Picchu and other Inkan historical sites. Attending Mistura, a well-known food festival.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit Incan sites, eat out, stroll the beautiful parks, listen to live music.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Art, gold, silver, craft items, alpaca clothing.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Incredible oceanfront living, beautifully landscaped parks, lots of interesting travel within the country and most importantly, the delicious cuisine!
11. Can you save money?
It's unlikely - Food, household help and travel within South America all cost more here. Flights within Peru are cheap (US$100-150), but try to get to Brazil or another neighboring country and you'll spend US$500-1000 per ticket. Oh, and let's not forget that you'll want to be eating out at least one night a week to sample the great food (did you know Peru is one of the hottest gastronomic capitals in the world right now with 2 of the top 50 restaurants in the world?).
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No, the fragmentation in the embassy community has soured this tour for me. The dreary winters have also affected me more than I expected.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Umbrella - it never gets beyond a mist. Leather goods - oceanfront residents will get lots of mold. Manners - Peruvian driving is ATROCIOUS. Blaring horns, cutting people off, turning from an outside lane, running lights, near accidents - all are part of a typical day's drive. It definitely takes a toll over time. Pedestrians are also largely ignored, with a hundred cars passing and no one stopping to let you cross. Line cutting is also common (both in queues and on the road).
3. But don't forget your:
Money - We have gone through a lot more money than expected. Every month we're like, "where did it go?" Camera - lots of beautiful sights to photograph. Work-out Equiptment - expect to put on a few pounds from the mouth-watering cuisine.
4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Here's a link to some great recommendations: http://www.frommers.com/destinations/peru/0814020273.html
6. Do you have any other comments?
Some of the great groups to get involved with in town include:
-The Canadian International Club of Peru
-Women with Wine
-Contact Group Lima
-American Women's Literary Club
-The American & Canadian Association of Peru