Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 03/09/18
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?
First expat 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?
Our home is Texas. Lima had a straight flight to Houston via United, which was 6.5 hrs long. Not too bad. From there we took a short hop to our home city.
3. How long have you lived here?
We lived in Lima from 2013 to 2017.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Working at the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We lived in a large home in a gated community in the La Molina area of Lima. The houses were spacious, and most included decent-sized yards, and pools.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Excellent. We mostly shopped at Wongs grocery store. They had a good selection of everything including American products (though these were expensive). Other grocery stores included Plaza Vea and Vivanda. Vivanda was the most expensive, followed by Wongs and then Plaza Vea. All three carried a large variety of items and had good produce. Tottus also moved into La Molina around the time we moved.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Probably paper goods. Napkins and paper towels are of poor quality. Some US cleaning supplies would be good as well, to include quality mops and dusting supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food in Lima was great! We rarely ate any fast food. Paiche (local fish), paella, lomo saltado, fruit/veggies, ceviche, chicha morada (local drink), tacu tacu....the list goes on. We really enjoyed the food choices. Of course they had the usual Burger King, McDonalds, Pappa Johns, Pizza Hut, Starbucks etc...honorable mention also goes out to the local chifa (Chinese) and pizza restaurants. We loved Pizza Bella's in La Molina.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The only bugs we had problems with were ants. We had a rat problem in our front yard until we got our dog. After he arrived...no more rats.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We used the embassy post office and diplomatic pouch. Anything shipped through the local mail system seemed to disappear for us. Going to the local post office or Cerra Post was a nightmare for us as we would experience long lines and lost packages.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help was easy to find. We had two great empleadas and a super yard guy while we were there. The empleada came three times a week and we paid her $40 per week including meals. The yard/pool guy came once a week was paid $30 for a full days work which included a cooked meal.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Golds and Bodytech. Prices were a little high, but they had quality equipment. There was a Bodytech nearby that was always busy. The embassy had a decent gym that would charge a monthly fee.
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?
We had no problems using credit cards in Peru. Just make sure the card never leaves your sight. Most businesses would bring the credit card machine to your table to swipe it. We mostly used the bank in the embassy to withdraw cash. We never used an ATM to withdraw cash. Be aware of your surroundings when using ATM's, especially around the Miraflores area. Lots of shoulder surfing goes on in the tourist areas.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
A local church in the Miraflores area had an English mass. There were numerous other churches to pick from, but English services were minimal.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You will need basic Spanish for taxis, restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and the like. English is spoken more in Miraflores (tourist area) than the La Molina area. I spoke basic Spanish and it was a struggle for me to get by at times.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, mostly due to uneven/broken sidewalks. Cobblestone parking lots were difficult to walk on without any physical disabilities. They do have designated handicap parking areas along with elevator/ramp access to most buildings. Outside of Lima would be more difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Tons of local transportation, you just have to be careful. Lima has a train system, but somewhat outside the area that expats would use. We used the registered taxis from apps like Easy Taxi, Uber and Satelital. Uber was the best followed by Easy Taxi. Satelital left us stranded on several occasions. I would avoid all the buses, as I found they were usually standing room only and seemed to be frequently involved in accidents.
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?
We had a Toyota SUV and it worked out well. We drove all over Peru and never had a need for a 4X4. I wouldn't bring a vehicle with low ground clearance due to the horrid speed bumps. They will destroy the suspension on your vehicle. Car parts and oil are very expensive, but at least the labor is cheap.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We used Movistar and Claro while we lived in Peru. 10 mb was all we really needed. You could stream Netflix and pay per views with no issues. We had our internet installed shortly after we arrived. Easy process, the embassy provided contacts to make the installation as painless as possible.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Our office provided the employee a Movistar phone, which had some connectivity issues at times. We purchased Claro SIM cards for the family which seemed to work much better in the La Molina area. Pay as you go cards could easily be refilled at most grocery stores. Getting a monthly phone plan was a huge pain due to identification issues. No one seemed to have a clue what a diplomatic ID was. It was easier to buy a car in Lima than to obtain a monthly cell phone plan.
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?
Yes, we had great vet in La Molina that was open 24 hours. There wasn't a quarantine, but your pet had to have all of the necessary shots and paperwork to enter the country. We used a private pet shipping company to ship our dog. Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have shipped our dog. He was older and the trip was very stressful on him.
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?
There are some positions available in the embassy for family members, but most will require that you have a good command of Spanish. Jobs on the local market would have low pay according to US standards and most of your check would go to pay for gas.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Numerous. Check with the CLO. I saw opportunities with special needs children, animal shelters, home building (techo build), etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Suit and tie to dress pants and a nice shirt, but depends on the section where you work. In public...anything you can think of. I didn't see many males wearing shorts though...except at the beach.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, Lima is a high crime post. It's all about situational awareness. We had friends and co-workers robbed at gunpoint. Smash and grabs on the way to the airport were a common occurrence. Cell phones were a hot ticket item. We were lucky and never had any security problems while we were there.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Cleanliness is a huge concern while eating out. The gastric issues we had in Lima were the worst, so beware of where you eat. Clean hands are not a real concern in Peru.
Medical care is good in Lima; we had friends who had babies and medical emergencies with no problems. Anglo Americana is a good clinic located near the embassy and the La Molina area.
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?
Air quality is poor in Lima. The smell of exhaust fumes is heavy in the air. Lima might be a difficult post for those with respiratory illnesses.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I did notice that some of the better restaurants in Lima would ask if any of your party had any food allergies before you ordered.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter blues are very common in the Miraflores area of Lima. Misty, foggy and overcast for several months out of the year. The La Molina area tended to have more sun. A quick Sunday afternoon trip over the mountains to Cienaguilla would also be a quick cure for SAD. The sun shines bright on the other side of the mountain.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Generally mild. Summers are hot and sunny. The winters are gray and damp, but I never needed more than a light jacket to stay comfortable. It never rains in Lima, but the winters are damp and foggy.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Colegio Roosevelt (FDR) is used the most by embassy kids and we were happy with the school. The British school (Newton) was also popular and located in La Molina.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
FDR offered soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming and track. Outside of school...anything you can think of including archery, MMA, boxing, tennis, karate, horseback riding, rock climbing, bowling, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a large expat community. We had numerous friends and always had something to do together. I would say the morale was good. There was always something to do. If you were bored, it was because you weren't looking. The CLO was very good about putting events together and we attended many of them.
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?
Family gatherings, cook-outs, movies, events at the embassy, trips to Cienaguilla or the beach during the summer. We went to concerts, food festivals, school carnivals, and sporting events.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all. The singles seemed to have busy weekends as well as the couples. Families with kids of similar ages seemed to be the busiest. Weekend road trips were also very popular. You had to get out of Lima every now and then to keep your sanity.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I observed classism on numerous occasions, mostly in restaurants and grocery stores.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Trips to Cusco, Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley,Huaraz, Puno, Tarma, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, Ayacucho and Iquitos. My favorite trips were to Cusco and Huaraz. Peru is a beautiful country with much to offer. Again, if you are bored in Peru it's because you aren't looking. Travel opportunities are endless and Lima is the gateway to them all.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Major concerts, Mistura Food Festival, Cienaguilla, beaches within an hour, Larcomar, Lunajuana, car and gold museums, catacombs, city tours, the water fountain park in central Lima, Cerro Azul...
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Alpaca clothing, coffee, chocolate, Iquitos bloodwood, Wood Flair woodworkings, wood carvings made in Ayacucho, and Peruvian artwork.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Upscale malls, easy travel from Lima airport, tons of local history, museums, first run movies in English, fresh fruit and vegetables and again the numerous restaurant choices.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The traffic. You will need to schedule almost everything around the traffic. A 20 minute trip can easily stretch into 2 hours due to a broken truck axle or minor car wreck.
The thin layer of black dust that is on everything due to the lack of rain in Lima. It's in your house, on your car, in your shoes...it's EVERYWHERE!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Probably/Maybe. We had a ton of fun, but four years was enough. On to the next adventure.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Umbrella, rain/snow gear
4. But don't forget your:
Beach blanket, hiking/climbing gear, floppy hat, sense of adventure, but mostly your patience!