Is Perú safe as a female traveler?
Staying safe in Lima, Perú
Is Peru Safe as a Female Solo Traveler?
Before going on my exchange to Lima, Peru I spent a lot of time doing research about the city and the country. Every site about Lima and/or Perú had a chapter called "security/ safety" on it and I read all of them. Bad Idea. Very. Bad. Idea.
What I read terrified me a little bit - it seemed like the only way to stay safe, to not get raped, robbed and murdered was to stay in my apartment 100% of the time. Even more importantly, god beware, NEVER leave your house by yourself! Is Peru safe as a female solo traveler? Well, here it goes.
Spoiler alert: it's not that bad.
I actually felt pretty safe most of the time. So now, based on my own experiences and knowledge, here's my own version of a "Safety in Lima" Article.
When I first started talking to people who had actually been there, I got a very different impression.
First of all, yes you can (and should!) leave your house in Lima. You can even leave the house by yourself (Dear God! But, really!)! No, you're not immediately and inevitably going to get killed or robbed.
Lima is a multimillion-inhabitant city. The Key is Common Sense
Lima is a city with between 8 and 11 million inhabitants – and like in any big city, there are safe areas and not so safe areas, so listen to the locals when they tell you to avoid certain districts and areas. The key, the most important thing to do to stay safe is to use your common sense. I can't believe I have to say this, but a number of dangerous situations can be avoided if you listen to your gut. If you have a bad feeling about something, don't do it. If an alley looks shady, don't enter and take a different way, even if it might take you a few extra minutes. Indicators for rather dangerous areas are: lots of trash on the ground, few people out, no lights. This is by no means exhaustive or even applicable all the time, but it might help you assess a situation. If you want to explore an area like "La Victoria", don't go alone and in the best case, take a local with you. Trust your gut feeling – it will barely ever lead you wrong.
A few tips that served me well during my time in Lima:
- Don't flaunt your valuables around. Don't use your expensive smartphone on the street, don't flash your DSLR camera around, don't use your headphones. You'd literally be begging to get robbed.
- Don't wear expensive jewelry - use the cheap stuff while you're there.
- Avoid areas like La Victoria and Rimac that are known to be rather dangerous or at least don't go alone. Ideally have a local show you around if you do want to explore these areas.
- If you're particularly scared of being robbed, get a second throwaway purse that you put some cash, along with expired cards in that you can hand robbers and put your real valuables in your bra (as a girl) or a money-belt.
- Want to do an activity, but not too sure about whether it's safe or not? It's the days of the internet and nowadays, there's reviews or blogposts on almost everything! Find someone who has done it before you and just ask ;)
When taking Taxis:
- Do not take a taxi by yourself. If you have to, sit behind the driver, it's the safest seat as you can easily put your arm around his neck and it's difficult for him to attack you - having to turn around like that (Don't let this scare you - it's just precaution and personally, I've never had any problems). Especially at night, try to avoid taking a cab by yourself.
- I took street taxis all the time, as the "safe taxis" like satelital 3555555 would've become too expensive over time and UBER didn't really exist when I was in Peru. During my time there I never had any problems. However there are many stories of people getting robbed in taxis. Again, use your common sense. If it feels off, there is most likely something wrong, so get out of the cab as fast as possible :) If it makes you feel better, go for the "safe taxis".
- Whatever cab/ taxi/ uber/ lyft/ satelital you're taking, take down the plate number and send it to a family member or friend. Should something happen, this makes it easier to track down. If you want to be extra safe, pretend - call or actually call a friend and tell them the number, where you're going and how long it'll take you.
- There are no meters, so you have to agree on a price with the driver beforehand. 10% - 25% less than what he asks for is usually a good deal.
- Once you're in the car, make sure to always lock your door. There've been many cases in which a car or taxi was stuck in traffic with nowhere to go when thieves open the door, dash in, take people's belongings and ran away. Also, ALWAYS wear your seatbelt.
- One more thing - try to avoid the so-called "Ticos" (see picture). ANY other car is safer.
The Micro busses:
The Micro-bus-system is quite complicated in Lima, so if you only spend one or two days there, don't bother trying to understand and getting a grip on it. If you spend more time in Lima, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Have coins on you easily accessible that you can pay the "cobrador" with - the price varies between 1 sol (or luca as many Peruvians call it) and 2,50 soles. Make sure you don't have to take out your whole wallet when paying.
- Like on the street - don't use your phone or valuables on the bus.
So overall, be aware of your surroundings and use your common sense and you'll hopefully be fine. Of course, there's always some remaining risk, but that is a given in any big city like Lima. Enjoy the beauty of the wonderful people living there, their kindness and generosity, explore the colorful markets and visit the museums that exhibit art that was produced 1000s of years ago and make the most of your visit!
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