Yay. I got another country debut – and this time I finally set foot in South America!
Peru is always on my travel bucket list and when I was in Los Angeles (yet again) last December, I figured I should visit Peru. What stopped me going there for the last couple of years because of two reasons: safety and high altitude sickness (in Cusco). For quite some time, I was told Peru was unsafe, and I could be kidnapped by drug lord the minute I walked out of the airport. After I went, I have to say Peru (at least the city center and tourist areas) is safe and not a second I felt in danger. As for high altitude sickness (in Cusco) – hmm, people reacted differently to the altitude, but 99% turned out fine (or not so many tourist visits there?). Just be prepared about some remedies (there are lots of them on the Internet – drink cocoa tea, high altitude sickness pills, move slowly, breath slowly…. maybe I will talk about them more later) and don’t go further when it’s too rough.
Once I got out of the fabulous new Boeing 787 Dreamliner operating by the LATAM from Los Angeles to Lima (& my new business class seats were great!), my Peru adventure started!
No more pull-down plastic shade! The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner has a dimming effect that shut out sunlight – it is the result of an electrified gel sandwiched between two thin pieces of glass. It is a larger than usual windows as well!
I landed at 6 am in the morning and so the immigration line was not long and the process was smooth. Once I got out of the luggage claim I was greeted by my pickup guide and driver and they soon took me to my hotel at Miraflores District.
For the first few minutes, the city looks like any other Southeast Asian cities – chaotic traffic, dusty, and shabby houses. It was soon that I saw houses and cars painted with bold and vibrant color combinations that got me excited and intrigued. When the car entered the highway by the coast I finally got to see the city’s unique feature!
The Lima Coastline
As the capital city of Peru, Lima has a rather dramatic and unusual coastline that stretches along the Pacific Ocean. The city was built on the cliff and so the coastline is developed into two levels – while the city is on the “upper” level and a highway and a coastal park are built on the “lower” level. As we were driving along the highway, I saw runners jogging on the tracks by the sea and a big group of surfers already in the water – what a great way to start the day! Apart from the coastal park and surfer’s park, the rest of the coast a man-made stone beach with recreation parks, piers, and restaurants (Lima is known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas) along the way. There are more nice beaches on the south side of the city. Somehow, the local guide told me that she doesn’t appreciate the coastline as much as most people do (maybe because of the saltiness in the wind,), hopefully, she will.
Anyway, it is just different and I would definitely suggest all visitors have a morning jog along the coast and soak in the saltiness whenever in town. Once checked in to a small boutique hotel in Miraflores (luckily, they have a spare room in early in the morning), I couldn’t wait to get outside and exploring the city! Yay!
Something about… Peru
Peru is a country will profound Inca heritage and history of Spanish colonization. Now, the economy is mainly depended on mining (gold, silver, and copper), agriculture (many, many kinds of sweet corn, quinoa, and coffee), fishing, and tourism. I repeat, Lima is known as the Gastronomical Capital of the Americas! The food scene is diverse, and there are many world-class restaurants in the city of Lima (That’s another post about my experience?). The Peruvians enjoy seafood (lots of #seafood), and they are really good at making it; Beef is not common in Peruvian dishes, while they are mainly fish and chicken, including some “unusual” ingredients such as guinea pigs, rabbits, quill, or sea urchin. Besides, Chinese and Japanese are quite common in Peru and these restaurants could be found anywhere in the city of Lima.
Some Useful tips!
I didn’t have any plan for my first day in Lima so I was just dealing with settling down. As it was my first time in Peru so everything looked new to me.
Safety and Accommodations
I supposed safety is a primary concern for many travelers. There had been a lot of discussions about traveling safety in South America, but I think Lima is generally safe. As I was walking in the city I saw security patrols and people (including taxi drivers) are generally friendly. The pedestrians are clean and nicely paved; I didn’t feel threatened walking back to the hotel after dinner. For accommodation, I would recommend staying in Miraflores. It is a classy and safe neighborhood to walk around any time of the day, and traffic is less heavy. Avenida Larco is the main commercial street, there are plenty of handicraft and souvenir stores and cafes.
I didn’t exchange for Peruvian Soles at the airport while I was told the exchange rates were bad, and it’s easy to do so in the main streets – just look for the red vest money exchangers. When I checked in the hotel the lady at the reception informed me that they are authorized, money exchangers. Besides, their rates are better than exchange rates (I compared them for the next couple of days). Most shops, hotel, and restaurants accept credit card payments and so I only got a small amount of cash for taxis and small gift purchase – but be prepared for the sightseeing spots, for example, Machu Picchu’s ticket office does not accept credit card. Besides, ATM machines are also widely available. ~
Data Phone Cards
There were pre-sim card booths for visitors at the airport with a sign that said “US$8.99 per day for unlimited 4G access”. Don’t do it! Look for shops with a Claro sign in the city. It’s basically everywhere, especially on Calle de Boza in the old town. The cost depends on your usage. I got a 700MB phone card for 25 solaces (plus another 30 for the sim card) and it’s good for 10 days. It provides data access throughout the country. Besides, Wi-Fi is widely available in cafes and restaurants. In Miraflores, the Avenida Larco is even a Wi-Fi zone (although I think it’s rather weak and unstable”).
Lima doesn’t have a subway system so all the transportations are on the surface of the road. I generally walked or took a taxi for longer travels. Taxis were rather easy to get, taxi drivers I met were friendly and the fare is fairly cheap. For a trip from the Central Plaza in the old town to Miraflores district (around 10 km) costs around 20-25 solace (or you may try to bargain a better price). Traffic in the old town and the business area could be horrendous during peak hours, and therefore, it might not be a bad idea considering using bikes. I was surprised that Lima was actually quite bike-friendly as I see bike lanes on many main roads like Avenida Arequipa and Avenida Larco, which makes bike travel do-able in the city.