When living abroad it is always good to know what you are getting into before arriving to your destination. You would hate to be the only person that decides to dress casual for a formal get together. Same goes for living in different parts of the world. I have put together a list, which contains the positive and negative perks about residing in Lima, Peru.
We will start with the Pro's, then make our way down into the Con's. For every negative perk, I wanted to make sure that a solution would be present to prevent any harm to you, the reader, if you decide to move or visit.
When traveling from the first world into the third, you immediately notice a fluctuation in how goods and services are valued. Comparing the Soles to the US Dollar, it sits near 3.32 to 1. With that you can live very comfortably for a longer period of time. Your everyday commodities, such as toilet paper and groceries are fairly cheap, and if you know where to look you can get them for a bargain price. Items that require importing, specifically new gadgets and laptops, are more likely to be found at a much higher price than normal. I would suggest bringing whatever devices you need with you, or knowing of trust-worthy travelers, to bring goods back and forth for you. Keep in mind, that if it can be manufactured or bought locally it will usually be cheaper than back at home. With this you can have more money to play with.
To live in Barranco, a nice tourist district in Lima, would cost you around $500-800 (these values are for a household of two) per month. Your utilities would be minimal, at $8.00 for water, $25.00 for electricity and $45.00 for phone/internet. Excluding the cost for food and recreation, you don't have to have much to live decently. No matter where you are, Peru gives you more than you can ask for, when it comes to living costs.
One of many mercados in the district of Chorrillos, near Barranco.
Access to three markets:
In Miraflores , a well off neighborhood next to Barranco, you will have access to the nice department stores that carry a majority of your regular brand names. Down the street, you can go to a mercado (market) to get discounts on bulk food, t-shirts, shoes, pirated books, dvds and much more. If you don't like what you find, there are many tailors, shoemakers, etc. that can create whatever your little heart can imagine. And if these two types of markets can't satisfy your needs, you can find somebody who can sell forged government documents, counterfeit US Dollars, and almost any party drug that you might crave. Please Note: I am not condoning any of these "illegal" activities, I am simply stating that these things are available if you know where to look.
When the weekend comes around (parties start on Thursday evening), Barranco becomes an epicenter of the nightlife. The streets are filled with people moving from place to place, going to some popping local bar, show, house party, or club. All with the same mentality of: trying to have a good time. Parties start later in the evening at around 11 PM and can sometimes go all the way to 6 AM, depending on who is hosting. What I have experienced is that Peruvians are like locomotives, they love to drink and will keep going on until the sun rises. Be prepared to get peer-pressured to stay out longer and drinking a hell of a lot more than you had expected. I guarentee you will have a good time and meet some very wild party animals.
Relaxed Laws: (The Positive Side)
I put this one at the end of my list because it can be both a Pro and a Con. You have the ability to do as you like because the enforcement of laws are relaxed. For example, when going to purchase something with a credit card, you are required to present your valid ID. In some places though, you can still buy things even if it was expired. This can be nice if you're simply passing through and don't have the time to renew it. Another example that is often mentioned in other places, is the ability to pay or smooth talk your way out of any trouble with the police. When compared to the US's police state, you don't feel as though your being stalked by the boys in blue, which feels very liberating.
Relaxed Laws: (The Negative Side)
But because of the relaxed laws, in some areas you'll find police being bought off from mafias, muggings and rape. As tragic as it sounds, it is something that happens quite regularly. Some other important issues that are underneath this umbrella are fraudulent money, unsafe drinking water and transportation. I will touch upon how to minimize the likelihood of these problems happening to you. To prevent being a target of mugging, it's best to keep your valuables at your home in a safe and secure hiding place. Another would be to always watch your surroundings, making sure to know who is in front and behind you at all times. The best advice I have for rape, would be what I mentioned above plus going out with friends, you know and trust, and never accept any random drinks from strangers. Fake Soles can be identified by simply checking your bills and testing the coins (by dropping them on solid surface, you can easily find out if they are real or not). For water, you can boil it, use one of those Lifestraws, or simply buy bottled water at your nearest convenience store. Depending on the circumstances, you can get a secure taxi by using the smartphone app, Uber or Cabify. Personally, I have had outstanding experiences with Cabify. The drivers really put an effort to make sure you feel safe and comfortable when being driven around. Kudos to you guys!
By not knowing the language of the area you are living in, no matter where you go, you are going to have a difficult time. Making new friends, speaking with store clerks or even the random people on the streets will be a challenge and can put you in a lonesome state of mind. It's absolutely important to know at least the basics, so that you can blend in, and not be made into a possible target. A solution to solve this issue could be, looking for a translating app or use the popular language learning app, called Duolingo. Having at least one friend in the area, to translate for you, is very effective too. It is a temporary fix until you can speak to the locals and get the hang of things.
Lack of Respect:
Upon your arrival, you may find some people being very rude and constantly invading your space. What I mean by this, getting pushed around and being sold something you don't need in an uncomfortably close manner. I have experienced a few times people cutting me in line, while I have been waiting patiently to be served. Another time, I was being sold what I thought was a music album... and felt as though I was going to be stabbed or mugged. One last thing you should know about is "Peruvian time". When hiring, for example a plumber, to fix an issue by a selected time, you will often find the handyman arriving up to three hours later . It can become burdensome and often frustrating when needing to get tasks done in a punctual manner. Don't think this only applies to a specific group of services, it is in fact a very universal concept. Unfortunately, the only solution I have to these issues is simply being aware of these types of things and being firm when appropriate.
I hope this gave you some insight on life in Lima. Exploring for just a day, you can see a variety of economic classes all jammed together in this populated metropolis. It is a lively place, that won't disappoint you; which I am grateful of being able to explore everyday.