This is a question we often get. Is Lima dangerous? Will I get robbed? What should I do with my belongings? Is it safe to walk alone at night in Lima? What if I’m a solo female traveler?
Lima, as the capital city of Peru, and like any large city, has its share of crime and safety concerns. However, it is also a vibrant and culturally rich city with many things to see and do. While there are certain areas of Lima that are more dangerous than others, there are also many relatively safe neighborhoods and tourist areas where visitors can enjoy the city without much risk if typical big-city precautions are taken, such as avoiding walking alone at night and being aware of your surroundings.
Theft and street crime in Lima
Theft is probably the biggest threat for most tourists while visiting Lima, and Peru in general. Street crime in Peru can sometimes be violent and we do not recommend to resist, especially if held at gunpoint.
To reduce the risk of being robbed in Lima, we recommend to avoid walking alone at night, staying in well-lit and populated areas, being aware of your surroundings, not carrying large amounts of cash or valuables, and keeping your passport and important documents in a safe place. It is important to remember that Peru is a country with big inequalities. Showing of the latest smartphone or an expensive watch in the street could unfortunately make you a target for thieves. But if you keep a low profile, you should be fine!
Do not chat on your phone or look things up on any electronic device while walking or standing at a pedestrian crossing point – these are the favorite situations for robbers who can leverage the speed of their motorbike to take out your phone or bag in a fraction of seconds.
Be extra careful in crowded areas (outdoor and indoor) such as markets, festivals, and public transportation where pickpockets may be lurking. Try to keep your wallet, phone, and other valuables out of sight, such as in a front pocket or inside a bag that zips shut. Additionally, RFID-blocking wallets can prevent electronic pickpocketing, where thieves use devices to steal credit card information from your wallet.
This applies to all areas, including Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro and the Historic Center.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to research the areas you plan to visit, and ask locals (front desk at your hotel, or your Airbnb host) for advice on safe places to go and avoid. Furthermore, you can take additional measures such as hiring a tour guide or joining a group tour to minimize the chances of being targeted – we can help with that of course!
These are obviously general safety tips that can apply to any major city in Latin America and beyond – it isn’t just a Lima thing.
Scams in Lima
Tourists can be targeted by scammers in Lima, especially in popular tourist areas, with Parque Kennedy and Larcomar being the preferred locations.
Fake currency: Be aware of fake currency, especially when exchanging money on the street or in informal settings. Always exchange money at authorized exchange offices or banks.
Overcharging: In some tourist areas, prices may be inflated, and vendors may try to overcharge tourists. Make sure to negotiate prices in advance and be aware of the fair market value of goods and services.
“Free” offers: Be wary of offers for free tours, drinks, or other services, as they may come with hidden costs or strings attached.
Fake taxis: Be careful when taking a taxi in Peru, as some unlicensed taxis may overcharge or take longer routes. Always use licensed taxis or ride-sharing services. These might also be used as a way to steal your belongings – or even worse for solo female travelers. At Lima’s airport, make sure you book your transfer with a reputable provider.
“Helpful” locals: Some locals may offer to help you with directions or information, only to demand money for their assistance. Be cautious of anyone offering unsolicited help or advice – even in perfect English – there’s an infamous South African lady portraying herself has a tourist in need in Miraflores – and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
Tour package scams: Be careful when booking tours or packages online or through street vendors, as some may be fraudulent or not deliver on their promises. Use reputable tour operators and do research before booking. We would advise against booking any tour with a company not registered with Peru’s Ministry of Tourism as they most likely do not comply with all legal requirements to operate in the industry. The registry can be consulted here.
Traffic accidents in Lima
Lima’s traffic can be chaotic and dangerous, with high rates of traffic accidents. Pedestrians should exercise caution when crossing the street and obey traffic signals. Do not assume that cars will stop, even if the light is green. Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid listening to music when crossing the street.
For all these reasons, We do not recommend bike tours in Lima – there’s a good reason we don’t operate them.
Earthquakes in Lima
Lima is located in an area of high seismic activity, and earthquakes can occur at any time. It’s important to be aware of the earthquake safety procedures, such as taking shelter under sturdy furniture or in doorways. If you are staying in an apartment, we would advise prioritizing modern buildings as it’s more likely that they have been built under more strict anti-seismic norms.
Pollution in Lima
Lima’s air quality can be poor due to high levels of traffic and industrial pollution. Visitors with respiratory problems should take precautions such as wearing a mask or limiting time spent outdoors on high-pollution days.
Tap water in Lima
Tap water in Lima is generally not considered safe for drinking, as it may contain contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy-metals and pollutants. To ensure safe drinking water, it’s recommended to drink bottled water or water that has been properly treated and purified. Most hotels and restaurants in Lima will provide bottled or treated water, and it’s also widely available in stores throughout the city.
Demonstrations and political unrest in Lima
There have been instances of political unrest in Lima and throughout Peru in recent years.
In November 2020, Peru experienced a period of political turmoil that led to the impeachment and removal of President Martin Vizcarra, followed by the appointment of interim President Manuel Merino, and then the subsequent resignation of Merino after widespread protests.
In December 2022, after the attempted coup of Pedro Castillo, Dina Boluarte took office. However, there have been protests and demonstrations both in support of and against the government’s policies that lasted a couple of months, particularly related to economic and social issues. That being said, in this case Puno, Cusco and Arequipa have been much more affected than Lima
In addition to these recent events, Peru has a history of political instability and protests, particularly in response to issues such as corruption, economic inequality, and environmental concerns. These protests can sometimes turn violent, so it’s important to stay informed and avoid areas where protests are taking place. In Lima, most of these take place in the Historic Center, starting at 3 PM in most cases.
If you are planning to visit Lima or Peru, it’s a good idea to monitor the news and keep up-to-date with any developments in the political situation. It’s also a good idea to register with your embassy or consulate, so they can contact you in case of an emergency.
So, is Lima safe?
Not less than any other Latin American city! If you follow the tips present in this article, you will most likely be fine. If you have any questions though, we are only an email away!