Lima, Peru Report of what it's like to live there - 04/11/17
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?
Second expat experience, first tour was in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Home is St. Louis. Delta has a flight connecting in Atlanta that will get me there in 10 hours. Going home isn't really too painful, and I've found good opportunities to run back to the US for short periods of time since the travel time is pretty tame compared to my last post.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Working at the U.S. embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I live in an absolutely gorgeous apartment in Miraflores, right on the coast. I'm single but got a 3br, 2.5 bath with separate maid's quarters (which I use for storage, I could never make someone live in there!) Commute varies wildly, but is always pretty terrible. Despite only being 6 miles from the embassy, the commute has been taking 1hr-2hr on any given day, each way. This seems to have ramped up lately, for reasons that nobody quite understands. The commute from closer neighborhoods is honestly just as long (if not longer), so do NOT let that be a deciding factor in figuring out where to live. Traffic is terrible from pretty much everywhere.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
I shop pretty much exclusively at Wong and have been very happy with quality and prices. Tons of US products, produce is plentiful, and there is a decent selection in Asian/Mexican supplies as well. Zero complaints.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Honestly, you can't get most things here, though if you're a stickler for certain cleaning supplies throw those in your HHE. The commissary carries them here but at a much higher price.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
More restaurants than you could visit in your life, including two restaurants that are ranked in the top 10 in the world! There's a popular delivery app (Lima Delivery) that I use pretty regularly, and tons of restaurants run their own delivery services as well. I've been able to find pretty much anything I have a craving for, except for a really good bagel. Man I really miss bagels.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I hear a lot of houses have spider problems, but I've seen very few bugs in my apartment.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use the diplomatic pouch and embassy post office, both are fantastic and really reliable. (Keep in mind things slow down during the holidays, so Nov-Dec things take a looooong time to get here, though that's not the embassy's fault.)
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Plenty of gyms available, including one at the embassy with a paid membership. (Side note - I think it's bizarre we have to pay to work out at work.) Also there are a ton of outdoor boot camps and yoga classes outside on the Malecon that you can just drop in on.
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?
I use my credit card pretty often, no issues so far. I try to only use the ATM at the embassy just in case, but on the rare occasion that I need to use one outside, it's been fine. Be careful though, I know plenty of people who've had their cards cloned and money stolen.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Coming from someone with zero Spanish who is not Latina by heritage - it's been really hard. I enrolled in classes and do my best with day to day interactions, but even within the Embassy, Spanish is essential. It really hit my morale pretty hard, I feel like the only person here who doesn't speak the language, and it makes venturing into the city pretty intimidating.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Some public transit options but I'd never recommend them. Only use registered taxis from an app like Easy Taxi, Satelital, and Uber. I never hail taxis off the street, though I know some people who do.
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?
Something you don't mind getting dinged up, it's inevitable. I have an 2009 Toyota RAV-4 and it's perfect.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I have Movistar 40mb internet which works pretty well, though at night I notice significant decreased performance when everyone is home and streaming.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I have an embassy-provided Movistar phone which gets zero signal in my building, so I got a separate Claro SIM for personal use that works well. Once you get the SIM, its simple to reload and add minutes/data.
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?
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?
There are a decent number of jobs at the embassy though with the hiring freeze, plenty of those are in jeopardy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of opportunities, watch the CLO Facebook page for ideas.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
For work I get away with dress pants and a nice shirt, but I'm in a section with no outside meetings. Today I'm wearing jeans and so far nobody seems to have noticed. In public places, anything goes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Plenty - always be on the look out for "smash and grabs." Phones are stolen constantly.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air quality is extremely poor, and Zika stays in the back of many minds. It's not in Lima yet but seems like it might only be a matter of time.
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?
BAD. I have friends who bike to work and they've shown me what their masks look like after a couple weeks. Terrible exhaust from crappy cars on the roads.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I have mild seasonal allergies here that seems to be a little more severe given the pollution, but nothing too crazy.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I hear things get pretty blue here in the winter when we don't see the sun, but being really pale myself I'm kind of looking forward to no sun for a while.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Depends on the time of year, though it's usually pretty mild. We had a hot, sunny summer, and winter will be grey and soggy. It never rains in Lima though (though areas outside the city had plenty of problems from crazy El Nino storms recently).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty big expat community, though I would say morale tends to be fairly low just due to the stupid traffic. It touches every single aspect of social interactions. The CLO works so hard to put on events but people bail because they are worried about traffic. I find that the people here that are happiest have a member in their family (either the officer or EFM) from South America that can help them make sense of a city that so often does not make sense.
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?
Plenty of bars, clubs, trips to the beach, weekend road trips to be had. InterNations was not a good experience for me.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Singles have no shortage of dating opportunities, just gotta put yourself out there. Couples seem happy. Families with kids seem a little stressed by the early start the traffic forces on their kids.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
You'll notice some classism/racism within Peru, for sure.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The food is fantastic, and once you get out of Lima, the country is a gem. I've done Paracas, Arequipa, Puerto Maldonado, and a longer flight to Patagonia. Leaving Lima is the highlight of my tour.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Nothing is all that hidden, Peru is becoming a very popular destination so grab your nearest travel book and go to town.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Textiles for sure, especially alpaca.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The food really is worth the hype.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I knew how unpredictable and stressful the traffic really was, I never would have brought a car here, and would have hired a driver instead. I can't stress enough how badly the traffic affects the level of happiness here. The airport has pretty good direct flights out of here, but the traffic sucks getting there, and the flights all leave super early or super late. It makes flying anywhere kind of a pain.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Honestly? No. It's been fine and I'll make it through my tour in one piece, but this has not been a good fit for me.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Desire to be anywhere on time, umbrella, rain boots.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor, DEET bug spray (for trips to the Amazon!), hiking boots, sunscreen, and appetite.