Lima is a hybrid between the new, the old and the even older! It’s a crazy, colourful, congested and cultural city which many a traveller will pass through on their pilgrimage to Machu Picchu. On our recent adventure, we spent 3 days exploring the Peruvian capital as our first South American destination on our trip. So, what should you know about this buzzing metropolis? Well, look no further because a flood of inspiration and insight is coming your way! Here’s my Lima survival guide, part one!
THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW…
Its climate is frankly bizarre;being set on the Pacific coast and not far from the equator, one would assume Lima would have quite the tropical climate (or maybe that’s just me? I’ve never been the sharpest meteorologist after all!) yet technically Lima is a desert region seeing a minuscule amount of rain each year. However, it’s not your typical desert, as despite its arid appearance, this city rarely sees the sun. So long story short, you are unlikely to be met by glorious weather when you arrive in Lima, but on the plus side, it’s also unlikely to rain!
It’s a great place to begin your Peruvian journey – Many people who plan to trek the famous Inca trail fly straight to Cusco, however, these flights are often more expensive and don’t allow any acclimatisation to the higher altitudes experienced in parts of Peru. We met many travellers who felt rotten for the first few days of their trip after plunging straight into their adventures from Cusco. So, my advice; spare yourselves from sickness and start in Lima which is much lower altitude! We took the Peru Hop bus up to Cusco via various unmissable stops along the way which made our Peruvian journey even more memorable. This company provides an amazing way to travel and have incredible flexibility to suit almost all travellers. Check out my review on our time with Peru Hop here!
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Lima is split into multiple districts, many of which as an average tourist will likely be of little interest, however, the following are a few to make note of… Old town where the spellbinding, Spanish influenced architecture resides and in my opinion one of the prettiest parts of the city. Miraflores – a popular district with the tourists and close to the sea for those who like surfing and other aquatic activities and Barranco – the bohemian quarter, home to art and music.
It’s not the easiest access city; before I go anywhere I pour over blogs and travel guides and maybe I overlooked any prior warnings in my excitement but nowhere I remembered discussed how difficult it was to get around Lima. It’s definitely do-able before I scare you all off, but I feel it’s best to go into these things with your eyes open! The truth is things are largely spread out and some attractions aren’t easily accessible on public transport which was captain cheap-skate over here’s chosen method of transportation. I’ll give you some more tips on this further down so don’t fret, Baby-vet has got you covered!
PLACES TO EAT…
Lima has an incredibly diverse food culture which needs to be sampled by any traveller! It is home to two of the world’s best restaurants, one of the world’s most unique chocolatiers and has its own unique Peruvian cuisine you can’t leave without trying. It’s a place where they are not afraid to carb-load with most meals coming with potatoes AND rice – it’s a good job there’s a lot of walking involved to burn it all off, I can tell you! Food is incredibly cheap in Peru, though you will often get what you paid for with the higher cost meals lending themselves to more quality and taste, but you can get three courses for as cheap as 5 soles (the lunchtime almuerzo is a meal to take advantage of on a tight budget!)!
If you fancy splashing out, dine in one of the world’s best restaurants. Unfortunately, with time and money not really on our side this is something we had to miss out on during our adventures, but not taking advantage of this amazing culinary opportunity is definitely one of my regrets! There are two of the world’s most critically acclaimed restaurants in Lima, ‘Central Restaurante’ and ‘Maido’ It’s about £150 for the 17-course tasting menu at Central Restaurante, so it’s not cheap, but then again you are eating in a globally renowned restaurant. A word of warning, book at least two months in advance as there is always a waiting list.
China town is a great place for a cheap eat, Peru has a thriving Chinese community who run ‘chifa’s’ – restaurants and takeaways who put peruvian spins on chinese classics. We found a Dim Sum kiosk flooded with Peruvian customers which was serving a variety of Chinese snacks for 1 sole a piece! The food was gorgeous too, if only I could remember the name of the place. My advice with any kind of food though, is go where the locals go!
WHERE TO STAY…
Lima has so many great hostels, you’re spoilt for choice, and best of all they’re cheap! Hostel World is a great platform to help you learn about hostels in the area; they give you pictures, a rating from previous guests and list the included facilities. It’s a great way to compare prices and with the hostel world app, you can keep track of your bookings really easily.
If you are travelling around Peru, it may sometimes be worth booking directly with the hostel as they often have discounts not available on Hostel World such as 20% off if you stay in two or more of their hostel chains.
Beware that some hostels are really cold, Dragonfly, where we stayed in Lima,(though we stayed in two other Dragonfly hostels which were fabulous) was particularly chilly and we really struggled to get warm as they weren’t equipped like other hostels we stayed in later on, to cope with the cold. Look at reviews as people often comment on this sort of thing.
If you’re staying in Miraflores or Barranco, you’ll need to get public transport to get into old town Lima where the majority of the city’s attractions are. Public transport is incredibly cheap and safe for tourists to use. You are best to get the Metro or a registered public bus, there are many slightly dodgier alternatives that locals use such as “collectivos” but my advice would be to stay clear as many things that are fine for locals may not be the safest for tourists.
One of the best ways to get your head around public transport is to ask at the hostels, we found the staff very helpful in directing us to where we needed to go and what bus we needed to catch. Another great way is to go on one of the walking tours as the guides babysit you and show you the ropes on public transport.
If you are using the Metro you require a Metro card, but as a tourist, it’s pointless getting one unless you are planning an extended stay. What we found was if you ask a local nicely and give them the money, they are usually more than happy to assist you, we found people to be very friendly and more than happy to help a few blundering tourists.
It’s easy to explore the districts of Barranco, Old Town and Miraflores by foot once you get there. Hostels often provide great maps to help you get your bearings. A fantastic app we discovered from fellow travellers called Maps.Me which was worth its weight in gold – Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t use the internet other than when you first download the maps, (and there’s plenty of hostel and cafe wifi spots where you can do that) so you don’t need to worry about data usage. It’s incredibly easy to use, you just put in your destination and you’re away!
So there you have it, part one of my Lima Survival Guide! I hope this has helped a few prospective Peruvian explorers learn a little more about what to expect from this bustling capital. Keep your eyes peeled for my Lima Guide Part Two, where I will be giving you guys my top activity recommendations while in the city. In the mean time, check out my blog post on Peru’s awe-inspiring desert Oasis, a mere stones throw from the capital, How To Huacachina!