Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 09/13/15
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?
No, several prior posts
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 D.C. Maybe 8 hours with connections.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Great housing, though much of it is poorly constructed. The Embassy is split between two worlds - those in Miraflores and San Isidro apartments (sometimes with a nice ocean view), and those closer to the schools and Embassy, in houses. Commutes depend wholly on the time of day from Miraflores. The seven mile drive can be up to 90 minutes if you leave after 7:30 a.m. If you leave before 6:30 a.m., it's 30 minutes. The traffic is terrible and the civil engineering here just makes it worse. Roads and intersections are terribly designed.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There is an 18% tax on everything, which we do not get refunded. Paper products and imported items are more expensive, but the Embassy has a very excellent commissary which helps. Veggies and fruit are not cheap in the big stores, but are fun to buy and cheap in the markets.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Maple syrup, more sunscreen. Even in the grey of winter, the UV will scorch you.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All the American chains. But why the heck would you eat that in Lima? This is the capital of creative, healthy and delicious cuisine. Maybe if you get the occasional craving, but otherwise you are committing a serious crime if you go to McDonald's or Chilis. You should slap yourself in the face with those frozen baby back ribs.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap and reliable, plenty of empleadas experienced with Embassy families. US$200-300 a month. You have to give semiannual bonuses and vacation times and pay health insurance.
2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
You can use it, but make sure it has a chip. I've had my credit card swiped a couple times with random charges later. The chip technology helps prevent that.
3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A lot. English education is poor here.
4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
They are trying to improve access, but there are parts of town without great sidewalks and you have to walk in the road sometimes.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Don't take taxis from dangerous areas late at night, as there are rings of drivers who arrange attacks on people with people waiting for them in dark side streets. Also, taxis like to run scams with counterfeit bills for change.
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?
Every kind of dealership is available here. No issues finding parts. Mechanics are cheap because of cheap labor. Your car will average two fender benders a year, though.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, US$70 a month and not bad, but not by DSL, get the fiberoptic package.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cheap and easy to just buy a sim card and load up with credit every month, the data plans are cheap and fast.
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?
Not that I've heard.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty, but you have to find them. They won't find you.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes - several Embassy employees have been victims of theft or home invasions, sometimes at gunpoint. There are security restrictions on travel in some areas.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Yes. I was sick so often, I've never been sick like I have at this post. Medical care is generally good if you choose the right hospital, and not expensive. You will get food poisoning several times, or at least a few stomach bugs. Hygiene is not great and people don't wash their hands here very often, so even in a nice restaurant you can get sick.
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?
In the winter the air quality can be poor, especially away from the coast where there is more traffic and more cars. It irritated my lungs sometimes and I developed a cough at first.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Gross and depressing 9 months out of the year, especially in Miraflores. If you need sun, do not live in Lima. It is grey and does not rain.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large and generally good. Some people love it and some people hate it. Some people just do not like the people in Lima, can't stand the traffic and the weather. Some people think it's a gastronomic paradise with lots of fun travel. Depends on what irks you and how adventurous you are.
There is not much of a sense of community because traffic makes it impossible for people in different parts of town to get together with regularity. It's just not worth the effort.
Also, the Peruvian government is not very cooperative on issues of diplomatic priveleges and immunities. They do not honor reciprocal agreements on taxes, etc. The diplomatic ID issued to you can hardly be used because no one knows what it is. This isn't a big deal but can make some logistical stuff harder than it needs to be.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Movies, live music, dancing, restaurants, walking on the malecon and enjoying the beautiful pacific view (only sunny three months out of the year though), art galleries, museums, festivals.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
OK for all, best for couples - singles do OK, though people in Lima are not especially outgoing or interested in making friends with strangers so you really have to make the effort. Not a good place for introverts.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes - some racial prejudice still exists.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Eating. Seeing amazing geographic and biologic diversity in my travels.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Go where no gringos go. Go out to La Punta, go to eat fish in Chorrillos, go into the centro de Lima and just walk around. Go to undiscovered restaurants. Go to the big Mistura food festival. Enjoy theatre and nightlife in Barranco
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Art items, furniture, food
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Food capital of South America, in country travel opportunities, relatively affordable, nice standard of living in Lima (most of the time).
9. Can you save money?
Yes, if you are single. Families here don't save much.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but I would get a bigger car that has an iron grate to plow through traffic and shoots water balloons filled with paint and ketchup. Otherwise, it's been a good post. I do look forward to going to a new city that is has more of an interesting cultural feel on the street though. Lima can be quite sterile, especially where we live in the bubble. Get out of Lima, and you'll see the real, authentic Peru. Otherwise, I would definitely serve here again as long as the economy doesn't crash, which will greatly increase crime and corruption, and as long as the restaurants stay at this level of deliciousness.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Umbrella, lack of patience for traffic
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, antibiotics, parasail, surfboard
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers) and anything Vargas Llosa.
5. Do you have any other comments?
Peru is fascinating and fun in many ways because of the food, activities, and travel, and frustrating in many ways due to corruption, traffic, weather, etc. The quality of life in the bubble is pretty great. I really live for the weekends.