Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 07/28/22
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 other large Latin American cities, Italy and India.
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?
United States. US carriers connect through Miami, Houston or Atlanta, at around 6 hours for flights. You can also connect through Panama City on regional airlines. Expect late night / early morning hours for many departure/arrival times in Lima.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Housing ranges from smaller (or larger) modern apartments in Miraflores and San Isidro, to houses and some larger apartments in the La Molina and Surco districts closer to the US Embassy. Everything has to be up to earthquake (and fire) standards, so that limits the housing pool somewhat. What you get may depend on when you arrive, but that's normal. Have not heard of any truly major issues, usually things along the lines of hot water temporarily not being available to one of the bathrooms or the like. Some people have had mold problems in Miraflores.
Commute times completely depend on the work schedule, due to fairly horrific traffic. Go in early, traffic flows and you can do it from Miraflores in 30 minutes or San Isidro in 20 minutes. Go in at a "normal" time and prepare to double or triple that.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Pretty much everything you need is available in supermarkets for a reasonable price, not all the US brands though.
3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lima is a huge restaurant/foodie city. Even the average places have high-quality food, for the most part. Delivery is available for most places as well, either on their website or via Rappi/Uber Eats/the app of your choice.
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Remarkably little. Lima is technically a desert climate, so that helps.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Post has both DPO and pouch services. Would not trust local postal services.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Many people with families have different types of maids and nannies. Some have regular driver services arranged. Wages are affordable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Many modern gyms are available - you get what you pay for - and there is an inexpensive facility on the Embassy compound.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted and easy to use, merchants use the portable wireless/contactless POS machines. ATMs are available at the Embassy. As usual, use others at your own risk, preferably in upscale and secure areas. Some of the online services/apps don't like international credit cards, so you may have to experiment.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Don't know. Lots of Spanish-language ones.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish is necessary unless you are a tourist. The Embassy has a language program but not in-person. Local Spanish and other language tutors are available and affordable (by US standards).
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Accessibility is rather random.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber and similar rideshare services are very affordable and reasonably safe (caveat emptor). Embassy policy is not to use public transportation for safety reasons, but if you know what you're doing, it shouldn't be terrible. Taxi drivers will try to cheat you, which is why Uber and other app-based services are normally the way to go.
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?
Recommend bringing something smaller - although I've seen plenty of US-sized vehicles - and that you don't mind getting dinged/scratched/banged up. Accidents are fairly common, probably less common than they should be given the atrocious traffic conditions and local drivers' total lack of consideration and/or ability (which Peruvians freely admit).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Install times vary considerably. You may get lucky if your office sponsor helps you out in advance, or wait two weeks.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Embassy provides work phones for (most?) officers. I also kept my US plan and phone active. Google Fi and such should be investigated as an option.
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?
Veterinarian services are good. Most issues with pets have to do with requirements for travel back to the US.
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?
Spouses can easily get jobs at the US Embassy. In fact, there are positions that go begging due to lack of interest. Local salary scales will amount to charity work unless you are an expat banker.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
It's a city of 10 million+ people, there are plenty.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Embassy is standard business attire most days and "smart casual" Fridays. That said, depending on your section and boss you may be able to get away with being pretty casual most days.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime threat is critical, which means don't openly display jewelry, expensive cell phones, etc. on the street. Armed home invasions so far are not a thing, unlike some other places I've lived. That said, if you're in a house lock your doors and set the alarm when you go out, because if you don't, the local criminals are likely smarter than you and may clean you out.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Local medical care is adequate at the private clinics and routine care is fine (also dental). Easily available COVID-19 testing and vaccines.
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?
Supposedly the city has bad rap for air quality, which it does maybe compared to the DC area, but it's nothing compared to India, Los Angeles, Mexico City, etc. You can look it up online.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
A lot of restaurants are proactive about asking for allergies, which is good. Desert environment (although humid) means not a huge amount of allergies, but there is plenty of (expensively watered) greenery around, if you're allergic to that. Also lots of dogs.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
SAD is probably a thing, given the relative lack of sunlight in winter (and some summer) months. Get a happy lamp and go outside during the day when you can to get your minimum 15 minutes of full-spectrum exposure. Some people have reacted better to managing COVID-19 risks than others.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Climate is relatively narrow. Currently experiencing an unusually cold winter for Lima, which means in the 50s when the sun goes down. Summer means 80s. Almost never actually rains - happened maybe once in the past year and would not have been anything to notice in the US - but fairly often mists.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
American and other foreign schools are available and people seem happy with them. In-person classes resumed around March 2022.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Will vary by school.
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?
Preschools seem popular.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Plenty of sports and other outside activities for kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community, but tends to get partly swallowed up in the Latin American megacity. A good number but not the usual level of cultural and entertainment events, because the city is still coming out of the pandemic. Expats generally like Peru, but there's also a divide between the Lima-based and provincial ones, who are often more northern California types. Not a bad thing, just being descriptive.
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?
Full range of social activities are available, although it seems a fair number of people at the Embassy are still hesitant about socializing in general, due to the pandemic.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
All should find things to do and places to go.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
The usual range of Latin American attitudes towards race, class, etc. exist. This can work multiple ways in terms of prejudicial treatment. Being polite and not going into inappropriate neighborhoods should be a successful strategy for socialization.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Lima has a large LGBT subculture, even if the national culture is rather conservative.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Cusco province and Machu Picchu live up to their reputation and offer a range of experiences (backpacker to luxury) that people choose. The Peruvian Amazon is also a popular destination, if a little more variable in terms of the experience. Important to realize that transportation strikes, political protests, rockslides, etc. can randomly disrupt travel.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Weekend trips to Ica are a good way to get out of the city and see different things, there's even a decent wine scene there along with a mini-Galapagos offshore island, Nazca lines side trips, etc.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Art is about average. Indigenous crafts are probably the standout for unique items. Don't believe that all the sweaters in the stores are "baby alpaca" though.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Aside from the traffic and a need not to display wealth in the wrong places, this is a relatively easy to live in, modern city with many conveniences, good restaurants everywhere, and people who treat you in a friendly manner.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
If your Spanish is up for it, read Vargas Llosa.
5. Do you have any other comments?
Like many places, people can choose to emphasize the positives or negatives. My advice is don't be a whiner, enjoy your free housing if you're a diplomat, and get out and do things you enjoy.