Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 07/19/16
Personal Experiences from Lima, Peru
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Third expat experience - Colombia, Argentina, and Ecuador previously.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Foreign Diplomatic Mission.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Large apartment in San Isidro. Most expats have fairly large places with locations (and desirability) varying greatly. San Isidro provides incredible access to restaurants, groceries etc., and most activities can be done on foot or - for the brave - bicycle. Many people long to be located along the maleconin Miraflores. For a couple of months per year the view is incredible, after that you are living in a giant damp cloud of fog. There are benefits to being inland. For embassies that permit it, Barranco is a great neighborhood to be located in. Many new bars and restaurants are opening.
Other unfortunate souls are sent off to houses in Surco, San Borja and La Molina. It is fine for kids going to school out there, but best to make friends in those areas, because anyone in Miraflores or San Isidro won't be visiting.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost all groceries are available, some at a cost. Imported products are generally expensive, as is good quality meat. Local produce is excellent and incredibly affordable, particularly if you shop in the markets. If you are only shopping in Vivanda and Wong expect to pay close to North American prices for most of your order. Organic options are increasingly more available with specialty stores opening up. Relatively limited, but expanding selection of gluten-free products.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
For a country that has a lot of Asian cuisine, fish sauce can be hard to find. Other than that, canned tomatoes and beans, tetrapak broths, and dill pickles.
Bring lots of wine. Choices are very limited for white and rose drinkers. Adequate selection of reds from Chile and Argentina, but good wine is costly.
Lima airport has a duty free upon arrivals. This is your best time to stock up on the hard stuff.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lima is one of the best food destinations on the planet and many tourists are now coming for gastro-tourism. The options are endless. From Central (ranked in the Top 5 on the planet) to the fish guys at the market making fresh ceviche. The local food is incredible. For the irrational individuals who refuse to eat uncooked fish, there is a full range of fast food restaurants (McDonald's; KFC; Burger King; Popeye's; Papa John's etc.)
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants and moths.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I have only sent mail through the Embassy and DHL. To be honest, I have no clue on how to send a letter locally.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It is usually fairly easy to inherit household help from the expat community. Prices range anywhere from about 40 - 70 soles per day. There are two bonus salaries that have to be paid - one in July and one in December.
Quality varies and you will likely go through a few. Hygiene is a major factor and no matter how many expats they have worked for it is likely they will need a thorough training on what gets cleaned with what. Don't be surprised to see that rag used for cleaning the bathrooms on your kitchen counter. It's not the ceviche that is making you ill...
Many of the helpers will originally try to say that they don't iron or that they charge more to iron.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The core neighborhoods with expats have a good amount of gyms available. Golds Gym and Bodytech would be the biggest chains locally. Many gyms do not have A/C. There are number of private clubs that also have gym facilities. This can be a good deal for families as they give access to beach clubs and other facilities outside of town. Prices vary, but are generally at prices similar to the US.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
If you have a chip and PIN card go wild. Almost everywhere accepts cards and no one with chip and PIN has had issues that I'm aware of. I use ATMs at banks, on the street, wherever without issues.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is an Anglican church right on the edge of San Isidro and Miraflores. Many of the others likely exist too.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more Spanish you have the better. Many get by with very minimal Spanish, but you will discover more of the city by knowing Spanish.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Lima is a relatively flat city and areas such as Miraflores and San Isidro usually have side walks with ramps at most intersections. Challenges would be constantly encountered, but the city is better equipped than many others in Latin America.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are relatively safe, but almost everyone now uses Uber, Cabify or other applications. Prices are very affordable.
Buses are often subject to robberies, but the main issue is the way that they drive.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Any car works well in Lima and on the coast. There are many speed bumps though. Parking spots are of normal size unless you are trying to park an Escalade or something of similar size. Gasoline is currently at about $4USD/gallon so a real gas guzzler will hit the pocket book.
Traffic is bad and the drivers are suicidal. The best thing is to park the car and use Uber. Sit back in the back seat, bring a cocktail and play some Candy Crush.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available and service quality varies. Approximately $50USD/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
At present, Entel seems to be the least bad of the bunch. Getting a SIM card while using the exceptionally useless diplomatic ID is more trouble than it is worth. Trying to do anything with the dip ID is next to impossible.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are many veterinarians available, but I would operate based on recommendation from a pet owner you trust. Quality varies.
Most animals are able to entering with relatively few problems if all paperwork and vaccinations are in order.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Local salaries vary from incredibly poor to sky high for many professionals. Many local staff at the embassy can make more money than the diplomatic staff.
Many spouses have found telework opportunities, short term contracts with their countries' embassies, or have identified different entrepreneurial activities.
Trying to get a local work permit sounds like an ordeal so many individuals have decided to work as consultants.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are many different associations that work with underprivileged children, single mothers, dogs and cats and you name it. Not many who volunteer to clean up the garbage at the beach though...
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Most places seem to operate on a business casual dress code. Cotton pants and a dress shirt for men. Suits are needed for many events. The best is to dress fairly formally until you learn to dress for your schedule.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Petty crime is present, but not a major issue. There is a lot of fear mongering and most expats have a vested interest in making it sound more dangerous than it actually is ($$$). The area of Callao, close to the airport, presents some real security challenges and there are frequent reports of robberies of people going to and from the airport. In San Isidro/Miraflores the risks are minimal.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Amazing medical care is available and almost all procedures can be done locally by US trained physicians.
Expect to be frequently ill in Lima. I <3 Cipro. It is helpful to take a probiotic as well.
For travel to the highlands, altitude sickness is a real concern and you will not know if you are affected by it until you get there. Obese chain smokers can be fine while young cross country runners can suffer - you never know. Best to be on the safe side and take the medication and make sure to stay hydrated. It is best to avoid alcohol for the first few days.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
According to the WHO, Lima has the worst air quality of major cities in South America which I find hard to believe. The majority of the pollution is most likely centered in areas of the city that the majority of expats never see. Within close range to the ocean, air quality is fair. Houses require almost constant dusting and your car will get covered in a film rather quickly, but it doesn't seem too bad.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
If you suffer from a fish and/or seafood allergy it would be a tough place to be. For celiacs, there is little understanding of what gluten is. Peruvians use soya sauce in a lot of products so one must explicitly ask if it is in a dish.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Many people get depressed with the lack of natural sunlight.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Lima is a humid desert with no sun. Moisture is constantly in the air, but it doesn't rain. Winters can feel quite cool because of the damp air.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most foreign students attend Roosevelt school. Generally people seem happy.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is huge. A large diplomatic, private sector, international organization and NGO community. The morale is a mixed bag. From absolutely in love with everything in Peru to absolutely loathing it. Families with kids seem to have the best time.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Internations and the Lima Young Diplomats club are very popular options. People are also able to get into some sporting groups.
With the expat community being so large, almost everyone knows someone in Lima. I have found that the expats are generally open to making new friends and people inherit each others' friends. Peruvians can be a tough nut to crack. Sunday family days are pretty sacred.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Single males are probably the best placed to have a good time. Families seem to have an instant network via the schools and are generally the happiest. Peru is still a relatively traditional society so single women are often the ones who have the hardest time.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Peru is very Catholic. Peru has made less progress on acceptance and respect for the LGBT community. The next President, PPK, has promised to introduce legislation that will allow for civil unions. One major bank has come out with an "innovative" new credit product where two non-married individuals can apply for a joint mortgage - the advertisements target "roommates."
More and more places can be considered LGBT friendly and areas like Miraflores and Barranco are generally the most welcoming. There are a handful of gay bars.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Businesses are legally required to place a sign on the wall indicating that they are not allowed to discriminate. If they are required to put up a sign...
Indigenous Peruvians are usually the subjects to the discrimination.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Machu Picchu! It is impossible to accurately describe how beautiful it is.
Paracas is a nice place to escape the city for the weekend, but the price of hotel quickly adds up.
For those interested in mountain based activities it is an incredible destination with options not far from Lima. Lima is also a great place to learn to surf!
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Eat, eat, drink, eat, drink, eat.
Barranco is an area filled with gems. The annual CasaCor design fair. The old tavernas in Pueblo Libre. Surfing. The prime cinema at Salaverry mal.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The alpaca and vicuna products are of excellent quality. There is an annual alpaca outlet sale with excellent prices. I would skip most of the artesanias.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much the lack of sunshine was going to affect me. The noise levels at my apartment. How bad the driving actual is.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No. I don't necessarily regret coming here, but I am very happy to leave.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Common sense, umbrella
4. But don't forget your:
Stretch pants (don't underestimate how good the food is!); Immodium.
5. Do you have any other comments?
It's really hard to know if Lima is the city for you until you actually live here.