How Safe Is Lima, Peru?
I had the pleasure of living in Lima, Peru for a year. I lived right on the coast, across the street from the boardwalk ("Malecon"). Each morning, I would wake up, put on my wetsuit, and walk down the Malecon for 5 blocks for beach acess.
I walked down the stairs to the bottom of the Costa Verda ("Green Coast"), rented my surfboard for $3 and surfed at Makaha Beach for a couple of hours, looking up at the buildings and coastline of Miraflores, Lima. After my daily quota of wipeouts I would retrace my steps back to my apartment to get ready for the day.
In the evenings, I took my wife and went for a walk to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and to grab a bite to eat or to do some window shopping near Parque Kennedy. I'll never forget those Lima nights, walking along the Malecon. The temperature was perfect, the breeze refreshing, and the culture invigorating.
Throughout my time in Lima I never felt unsafe. Not once. We enjoyed the sights, sounds, smells, and flavors at our leisure. That said, we did take precautions and you should too. Here are my suggestions.
Keep Your Wallet In Your Front Pocket
Most likely, you won't be taking any bus rides or have to navigate any huge crowds. But whether you do or not, keep that wallet in your front pocket or in a place where no one can get to without you knowing. With this simple move at least you aren't the "easy" target for pickpockets.
No Need For Cash
When I travel to Peru I never take more than $200 in cash. The only time you need it is for taxis and some of the artisan markets. All other restaurants, tour operators, and stores will take your cards just like anywhere else. Bring your credit card and leave your backup credit card and ATM card in the safe of your hotel. If you need more cash, use an ATM from a bank and just pay the $2 withdrawal fee. No need to carry around lots of money.
Stay in Miraflores
Trust me on this one. It's the nicest area in Lima. It has access to the best restaurants, shopping areas, nightlife, parks, and the beach. It is the tourist hub. If you want to stretch and go to Barranco that would be fine too but my suggestion is Miraflores. This area of Lima is safe and well-monitored. Venture into other suburbs of Lima and you don't have that promise.
Changing Money? Take the hit
When the time comes to use your cash and you're trading it into soles, this is not the time to be cheap. You can wander around the streets haggling with money-changers to save a dollar or two, but my best suggestion is to just take the crappy exchange rate at your hotel or at a bank. The idea here is to not draw attention towards yourself. It's not really worth the dollar you would be saving.
Watch Those Taxis
Your most vulnerable moment will be with your taxi rides. You don't know Lima, you don't know which route the driver is taking, whether or not you're traveling the right direction, and chances are you don't know what your driving is saying into his cellphone in Spanish. So, you play it safe. And you save money. Do yourself a favor and download Uber into your phone. You call the taxi when you need to, select cash payment, and then the driver has to display his phone, with the route, on the dashboard. You know where you're going, you know the price, and don't have to worry. As an alternative, you can also use one of the Taxi companies in Lima. Just ask your front desk at your hotel. They cost more, but they're better than hailing a taxi on the street.
Relax, and Enjoy
Lima is an amazing city. So much culture and such great food. Whatever time you have in the Peruvian capital, enjoy it. By taking the precautions above, you're ensuring that you'll have a safe, incredible time.
To prepare for the trip, make sure to download the Uber app here and I also suggest downloading the MagicApp so that you can make phone calls home via WiFi at no cost.