I visited Peru with my friends, Jessi and Sara.
We arrived in Lima very late on a Friday, 11:35pm to be exact. It took us about an hour to get through immigration which was a queuing shit show (the theme of our holiday in Peru).
At the Lima airport, there is a row of immigration desks with agents sitting at them – the same configuration as other countries. There is one roped queue that leads to the desks. Pretty standard stuff so far and nothing too shitty yet.
In between the “front” of the queue and the immigration desks is an area of dead space. Instead of remaining at the front of the queue until an officer becomes available and gives you the “I’m ready for you” wave, people instead start individual queues at each desk in the dead space.
This results in a massive group of people pushed together with no way to easily see where a queue begins or ends. My advice is to pick the path of least resistance and settle in for a little pushing and shoving!
Protip: There is a Claro kiosk in the international baggage claim area where you can buy a SIM card. It is located near the arrivals hall exit – you can’t miss it.
We pre-booked a transfer from the airport to our rental apartment based on the advice we had gathered from multiple sources both for safety reasons and quality of driver/vehicle. I personally would not trust the taxi drivers at the airport who swarm passengers as they exit the airport. It is an overwhelming experience and it is difficult to tell if a driver is legit or not.
Lima has a population of 12 million people making it the second-largest city in a desert (Lima only receives one inch of rain per year). Yes, Lima is located in a desert! This along with a few other things shocked me about Lima.
- *There is no public transportation system (i.e. bus, tram, metro).
- There are no highways.
- No one smokes/vapes.
*There is a bus network that is used by locals but it is not something a tourist would spend the time to understand its routes, etc.
It took us over an hour to get from the airport to our apartment in Miraflores. We weaved through neighborhoods avoiding everything from stray dogs and cats to massive potholes to police performing impromptu alcohol breath tests on drivers. We arrived at the apartment around 2am.
My first observation of Lima was the same as my first observation of Buenos Aires. CHOKING POLLUTION.
Protip: Avoid booking an apartment rental in Lima and book a hotel instead. The biggest upside to a hotel is that it will probably have heat and air conditioning whereas an apartment will not because homes in Peru do not have central heating or air conditioning. We lasted a mere eight hours in our rental apartment before throwing in the towel and moving to the Courtyard by Marriott Miraflores. The hotel was quiet (ask for a courtyard-view room), had all of the mod cons like heat and air conditioning, and was in a great location. (Mod cons does not include flushing toilet paper which is prohibited throughout Peru.)
We had two full days in Lima which turned out to be a very long period of time. We spent the first day on a food tour where visited two markets, a ceviche restaurant, a typical Peruvian restaurant, an ice cream shop, and a coffee shop. Our tour brought us through the Miraflores and Barranco neighborhoods.
The food tour came with a steep price and a “meh” offering with the exception of the ceviche restaurant. We spent a lot of time sitting in traffic and I struggled to figure out the vibe of the city.
Architecturally, Lima is not an attractive city like Prague or Bordeaux. Miraflores and Barranco were cleaner (pollution aside) than I thought they would be but they both lacked a heartbeat. For me, Lima lacked a soul and felt dead even though it was very much alive with its plethora of tiny doors.
At a high-level, my thoughts on Peru are similar to my thoughts on Iceland. People visit these countries for their natural wonders, not their big cities. In the case of Peru, I would advise skipping Lima and going straight to Cusco in the Andes or to one of the beach towns south of Lima. Lima missed the mark completely for me. It did not have enough to offer to offset the hassle of getting to/from the airport.
We spent our second day exploring Miraflores and Barranco. We began our exploration at a lovely coffee shop/bakery near our hotel and then walked to Parque del Amor (“love park”). As with almost everything in Lima, it was underwhelming but we got a good group photo out of the visit so…
We then took an Uber from Parque del Amor to Barranco. We ate lunch and we revisited the “street art staircase” and coffee shop from our food tour the day before. We strolled very slowly to pass the time. Holidaymaking is hard when you have to abstain from alcohol! (We were traveling to Cusco the following day and it is advised to abstain from alcohol in this situation.)
From Barranco, we strolled in the direction of Miraflores, stopped at a restaurant for a glass of wine and then took an Uber back to our hotel. It was an uneventful evening as we dined on light chicken soup providing our bodies with an easily digestible meal in preparation for our stint in the Andes Mountains.
Protip: Plan to arrive at the Lima airport three (yes 3!) hours before a regional departure and four (yes 4!) hours before an international departure.
Next, Lima mythbusters.