Already planning that winter getaway? Lima is your one-way ticket to sunshine, selfies and savory snacks. Whether you’re a newby to South America or a seasoned pro, there are always new discoveries to be made. Here are 8 insider tips for planning the perfect trip to Lima.
Score a great flight deal.
Even if you’ve subsidized half your trip with Grabr, you’ll still want to score an affordable flight. Adam Wilson of Hot Desk International, shares a few of his shortcuts for getting the best flight deals to Lima.
“When looking for flights to Lima, always search for flights on Spirit Airlines, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines’ own websites, as they all fly there and often offer cheaper flights than you might see on aggregates like Expedia and Kayak.”
These three airlines aren’t your only options. “It’s always worth checking the despegar.com flight search engine when going to South America. It’s Latin America’s version of Kayak, so they are somewhat specialized,” Wilson adds.
Pay in cash.
While credit cards are the payment method of choice in many countries, cash is definitely preferred in Lima. Instead of exchanging money at one of the airport’s ATM machines, Wilson suggests exchanging most of your cash in the city center.
“On Calle Nicolas Pierola, just around the corner from the Gran Hotel on plaza San Martin, there’s a street lined with guys holding thousands of dollars worth of currency who change money. You get the best rates there, you will never get counterfeit notes, and it’s the safest place in the city. It’s looks crazy and is an experience, but it’s totally legit. More so than anywhere else in the city, actually.”
Choose your hotel wisely.
Booking the “right” hotel is a little different for every person. Some travelers prefer staying in a centrally-located hotel and will pay extra for the convenience while others are more budget-conscious and stay in surrounding neighborhoods.
If you’re looking for a bit of both, Wilson recommends Kamana Hotel in downtown (Centro Historico). “It’s a great budget hotel just a few blocks from the main plaza. It’s clean, cheap, and the staff is super friendly and will help you with anything you need. They also have a great bar/cafe downstairs, which is quite social. I’ve stayed here 12+ times with groups and everyone always enjoys it.”
Alternatively, look for hotels in other neighborhoods. Jacquie Whitt of Adios Adventure Travel suggests the bohemian vibe of the Barranco district. “It’s like a small town inside a big city, with it’s own identity. Plus, Barranco is easy to get around on foot, which translates into savings.”
Feast on Peruvian flavors.
Hands-down the biggest perk of traveling to Lima is getting to indulge on the city’s flavorful food. Pisco sours are the cocktail of choice (and my personal favorite drink in general), while you’ll find ceviche on almost any menu. Then there are lots of foods from the Amazon jungle—think plantains, yucca and fruits.
Jose Manuel of Shasqi grew up in Lima and has no shortage of restaurant options. “For some amazing traditional ceviche, beyond the fusion places, try Cevicheria Beto en Chorrillos or el Cantarranita in the Barranco market. I also really like la Rana Verde in La Punta, a traditional district where a number of Italian immigrants lived and quite beautiful.”
Meet the locals
When it comes to meeting locals, we decided to ask one! Manuel suggests visiting the local markets. Not only can you shop for local wares and buy Peruvian dishes on the cheap, you can meet the locals, too. Whether you’re practicing your Spanish with the vendors or striking up a conversation with a fellow shopper, you’ll find that most people are friendly.
The Surquillo market is a good starting point according to Whitt. “It’s within walking distance of Barranco if you don’t mind a 30 minute walk and it’s free to visit.” Early mornings are ideal if you want the best item selections.
Discover hidden gems.
After visiting the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio del Gobierno and La Catedral de Lima, head to some of Lima’s lesser-known attractions.
Greg Geronemus of smarTours has a few personal picks. “I’d suggest you go to the catacombs of El Convento de San Francisco. Filled with skulls and bones arranged in circular patterns it is estimated that the catacombs hold some 70,000 remains. The Museo Nacional de Antropología, Arqueología e Historía del Perú also provides a glimpse of the country’s past.”
As for Wilson, he’s a fan of Parque la Reserva. “It’s a city park which opens in the evenings with lighted fountains and a 15-minute laser show on the hour. This may sound run-of-the-mill, but it’s not—it’s really amazing and draws a big local crowd every night. I recommend hiring one of the English speaking student guides near the entrance to walk you around—makes it much more interesting.”
There’s potential danger in just about any city in the world and Lima is no exception. That said, using your best judgment is a good starting point. Avoid deserted alleyways, don’t walk around at night by yourself and trust your gut.
If you do experience Lima’s nightlife, just be aware of your surroundings. Wilson notes that Mirafores, aka Pizza Street, is the hotspot in town, lined with everything from wild bars and salsa clubs to hip hop joints. “While it’s quite a scene, keep your guard up when engaging with the locals, English-speaking or otherwise. It is not uncommon to befriend a group of locals and then get invited to go to another ‘local spot’ where you will then get robbed.”
If you’re looking for something slightly more low-key try Baranco instead. “It’s just south of Miraflores and has plenty of bars and restaurants,” he adds.
Get around on the cheap.
Great, you’ve got cash! Now what? Lima isn’t the best city when it comes to public transportation so expect a few taxi rides during your stay. Grabr user Enrique Muñoz suggests downloading Uber before your trip, if you haven’t already. Uber is cheaper to move around the city than taxis and readily available. That said, make sure to have some cash just in case.
Getting to and from the airport is also pretty seamless…or so we thought! “When you head back to the airport, tell your taxi driver to drop you off outside of the airport and just walk in. That will cut the taxi price by $10, as they charge taxis to enter the airport,” notes Wilson.
Megan is the Content Director at Grabr. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and across the United States. Megan’s work has appeared on Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, US Airways and USA Today among others.