Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 06/05/10

Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru 06/05/10

Background:

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

No. Six other countries as an expat, one in Central America, several in Africa, eastern Europe and Asia.

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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?

6 hours to Washington, DC.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is generally nice. Lima is a big city that is getting bigger and the availability of houses versus apartments is diminishing. Don't count on always finding or getting a house with a big yard.

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

All the items you need are here and many of the US brands although all items are generally higher priced than the US.

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

Sports equipment, beach equipment, patio furniture.

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

Lots of fast food available and the usual US chains, Mickie D's, BG, KFC, Chili's, etc. Most folks prefer to eat at the many finer restaurants throughout the city. Just plan to muddle through traffic to get there.

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

Nothing really dangerous in Lima except there is a fear by many of spiders here. Kids should be watched for creepy-crawlies anywhere though. Termites are a big problem in older homes.

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Daily Life:

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

Local mail sucks...The embassy has DPO, and that works well.

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

Domestic help is good and reasonably priced. You'll need basic Spanish to communicate. Figure a maid living outside the house (Cama afuera) is from $350 - 500 per month if you do your duty and pay for their social security benefits and bonus program.

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

Yes, lots are available but pricey.

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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?

The ATM system is popular here but frankly there have been a few horror stories so I do not use them. Credit cards at the gas station or grocery store work fine although expect to pay a slight charge.

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

Yes. Catholic mass for sure and some protestant groups.

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

Direct TV has an English feature which is nice. The cost is comparable to the US.I read the local paper and Wash Post, NYT online.

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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?

The more the better...no Spanish at all and you will be stuck at most stores and not enjoy the culture and beauty of the wonderful country.

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

There is a half-hearted attempt at catering to the disabled but nothing one can rely on. Yesterday on a walk near the Embassy I noticed someone had broken a hole in the concrete sidewalk wheelchair ramp and planted a tree. I wasn't surprised.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are abundant and cheap. They can be dangerous, even in front of the embassy.

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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?

Bigger is better when dealing witht the macho mind of a Peruvian driver. It's not necessary though and gas is very expensive. Any sedan will work OK around Lima and most adventure trips oputside of Lima are by air, not car.

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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?

Yes, it's available but really sucks. Expect lousy reception in most areas and no one to answer your complaints. This is my second most frustrating thing about living here, traffic being the first.

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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?

Telefonica is a lousy service provider...you will never get a bill but are expected to pay every month at the bank and assume the charges are accurate. Not many choices but you need a cell phone.

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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?

No.

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

Not many kennels available but vet care is adequate and cheap compareed to the US.

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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?

Not unless you are a native Spanish speaker and know someone.

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

Business attire is suit and tie. Nothing fancy. Folks get away with jeans at even the nicer restaurants.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is typical of a large city...smash and grab, car parts are taken regularly, taxi scams giving bogus money for change.

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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?

Basic health care is adequate, relative to the specififc area of need. Liposuction is cheap and for good reason, it's dangerous here.

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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?

Air qulaity in Lima is poor. High humidity may give problems to folks with mold allergies.

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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?

Temperatures are pleasant most of the year, even during the winter months. The grey skies however do take their toll on one's attitude.

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Schools & Children:

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

Schools are generally good. Colegio Roosevelt is the English speaking "American School" and has a strong IB program. Other contenders are Newton, an Anglo-Peruvian School and the less preferred International Christian School. Families have options. The school year is based on a long South American "summer" break from December to March with only June off between academic years. The nice thing is your kids will develop their Spanish skills, if encouraged.

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

Not much at any of the main stream schools. However the Ann Sullivan School caters to children with severe learning disabilities.

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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?

Nidos as they are called are abundant and many families seem happy with the choices avaiable.

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

The schools have some sports activities but nothing like the good old USA.Horse riding is popular and inexpensive.

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Expat Life:

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

Large...mining industry, financial sector, US teachers, embassies.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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?

Lots of social activities, family parties.

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

It's city life and traffic is a pain so it can be frustrating if you are used to shuttling your kids from one activity to another. Most singles live in Miraflores near the ocean and enjoy nice apartments, good night life and many fine restaurants.

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

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

Not that is overt or that I have noticed.

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

Visiting the many beautiful regions of Peru. Cusco is the gateway to Machu Pucchu and is beautiful. A trip to the Amazon is a must. The beaches are great.

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

Beaches, hang-gliding, horses, restaurants, ancient archeological sites, movies, concerts, lots really. Peru has an incredibly high density of intersting bidlife. Bring your binos.

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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 products, alpaca goods, artwork.

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

Amazing culture, good restaurants, artwork, friendly people, lots of opportunities for sports activities.

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11. Can you save money?

It's hard...food, clothing, restaurants, in-country travel are all expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. It's been a great three years. Embassy life here is actually very good. Agencies get along for the most part and there is engaging work to be done.

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

expectations of small town living. Lima is a big city with all the benefits and all the troubles.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience when driving or dealing with Peruvain bureaucrats.

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

Check out the web site "Living in Peru" for news of general interest. It's in English.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Lima has been one of my more enjoyable tours.

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