As some as you know, I’m no stranger to Peru. I spent half of 2017 here, and I plan to be back real soon.
So, I figured I’d do a post on what it’s like to live in Lima.
(I know, I know, I’ve done one before, but I wasn’t even half way through my stint when I penned that one)!
I’ll talk a bit about quality of life, women, cost of living, safety, weather, food, infrastructure etc. All the basic stuff you might want to know.
After reading, you should have a decent idea of what to expect from “The City of Kings”, a city that is all to often overlooked by tourists and digital nomads.
Let’s get it going.
Quality of Life
Like any city in Latin America, quality of life here will vary based on the amount of money you have. And, like any city in Latin America, the poor live very hard lives whereas the rich have a pretty damn good life in Lima from what I’ve seen.
With that out of the way, as a foreigner, what can you expect?
You’ll be happy to know that Peru has all of the comforts of an American metropolis. You’ll have no problem finding Internet, modern plumbing, UBERs, world-class restaurants, museums, well-equipped gyms, fully-stocked supermarkets, good cafes or dynamic nightlife. Unfortunately, the water isn’t potable (and bottled water is surprisingly expensive!) but meh, can’t win ’em all.
It’s also safer than most other major Latin American cities. I’ll talk a bit more about that in the safety section.
However, it isn’t the cheapest destination in the region. I’ll talk about that a bit more in the cost of living section.
The biggest frustrations regarding your life in Lima will likely have to do with traffic. If you need to commute to work, or head down to The Beach In Callao, you’ll have to deal with constant stop and go, along with some foul exhaust fumes. That, and bureaucracy. If you have to deal with banks, get a SIM card or basically do anything more complicated than buying groceries or catching a cab, expect longer lines and way more paperwork than back home.
But, overall, Lima offers an excellent quality of life assuming you’re not broke.
As for how much money you’ll need here to make the best of things?
Let’s talk about that now!
Cost Of Living
One thing that surprised me upon my initial return to Lima was how expensive it had gotten! In a few short years, coinciding with the beginning of the country’s economic boom, prices in Lima shot up considerably. What was once a much better bargain than Mexico City or Bogota is now 10-15% more expensive than the Mexican and Colombian capitals.
The good news is that it is still reasonable. A single man or woman can live a good life here for $1500.00 USD a month. But I wouldn’t go much lower than that unless you’re familiar with the city. I’d say that if you want all the comforts of home, a nice meal or two out a week, a few dates here and there and a couple nights on the town while still saving a few shekels, aim for a figure closer to $2000.00 a month.
Like anywhere, once you figure out the lay of the land and where to get the best deals, you can get by on less. But for first-timers to the city, make sure you got $1500-$2000 a month to live off of.
Uber rides will generally cost you somewhere between $3 and $9 USD, cocktails will almost always be about $7 or $8 USD in clubs and a decent one bedroom apartment in a nice neighbourhood will be around $700-$1000 USD. Fruit and vegetables are cheap, meat/cheese is about the same as in the US, wine is about the same as in the US, with the absolute cheapest bottle here being about $5.00
There are affordable options as well – Menu restaurants usually run about $3 USD and include 2 courses and a beverage. The food at these places is relatively healthy as well, and the portions are big. There are plenty of these $3 meals available, even in Miraflores.
Gyms are expensive in the nicer neighbourhoods. Expect to shell out roughly $50 a month for anything that actually has weights.
In short, anticipate to spend between $1500-$2000 USD each month. If you have more than $2000.00 a month to spend, you’re golden.
***If you’re looking for cheaper apartment rentals, but still want to be close to the action, look for apartments that are on the border of your neighbourhood of choice. For instance, the border of Surquillo/Miraflores, the border of Lince/San Isidro or the border of Surco/Barranco. Lince, Surquillo and Surco are safe enough for foreigners. (I plan to look for a place in Surquillo when I’m back in the city).
The weather in Lima is boringly predictable. In the summer, you’ll get sunny skies every day, with temperatures between 20- 30 degrees celsius. Basically, it’s perfect.
However, in winter, Lima is grey and overcast for six months. It never gets very cold, but night temperatures can drop to about 15 degrees celsius. Plan your trip accordingly if you want to get a tan! Even though it’s overcast in winter, it never rains (it pretty much never rains in Lima. Ever).
The best weather will be from January to June. If you want sunny skies, don’t come before that! It’ll be largely overcast from June right through December.
This picture (snapped by yours truly) is a good representation of Lima in winter – note the grey sky.
In terms of safety, Lima is pretty good by Latin American Standards. I’d rather be stranded alone here at night than in Bogota, Rio de Janeiro or even Quito.
But that isn’t to say there are not bad areas.
The neighbourhoods around centro do indeed feel sketchy. For instance, due to My E-Commerce Business, I had to spend some time in the neighbourhood of La Victoria, for instance, and I always feel a bit on edge walking the streets. And that’s during the light of day!
At night, you’re going to want to steer clear of, well, a lot of neighbourhoods. Like in most cities in South America, centro is not a place you want to be walking around aimlessly after night falls.
What Lima manages to do exceptionally well, however, is keep its affluent areas safe. It does this better than any other major city I’ve ever been to in Latin America. The upscale neighbourhoods of the city, including San Isidro, San Borja, Barranco and Miraflores (the latter two neighbourhoods are where most tourists end up) are well-lit and well patrolled. I’ve walked numerous times at night in these areas and never once have I felt unsafe, let alone been robbed or assaulted. I mean, sure, you could get unlucky and shit could go down, but I can say with confidence that these four neighbourhoods in particular are among the safest you could hope to find in Latin America.
So, if you want to live in Lima, I can assure you that it is one of the easiest big cities in Latin America to stay safe. If you stick to the neighbourhoods I mentioned, you can sleep easy.
Other than that, watch out for bag snatchers if you’re walking or taking taxis around centro, stay away from, for example, the barrios altos, San Juan de Lurigancho, La Victoria, Ate, Callao (except for the beach, which is fine), San Martin de Porres and avoid getting too drunk or dressing too flashy and you’ll be alright.
Best on the continent!
Seriously, the seafood here will blow your goddamn mind. As will the Lomo Saltado, Pisco Sours, Pollo a la Brasa, Rocoto Relleno, Anitcuchos, Causa or whatever else you happen to pick from the menu.
Lima boasts many of the best restaurants in Latin America, and you would seriously be at fault for not trying one just in the name of saving a few bucks.
Absolutely no complaints on this front.
…well, except for one: there isn’t a huge street food scene here. Sure, you can get some anticuchos, Venezuelan arepas or orange juice from stalls in the more middle/lower class neighbourhoods, and occasionally you’ll see a few street stalls dotted around Barranco, but if you’re living in San Isidro or Miraflores, you’re shit outta luck for good street food. The only stalls they seem to permit around here are those selling churros or popcorn in Parque Kennedy.
Times like this I miss Mexico.
Anyway, small gripe. No big deal.
One of the best things about living in Lima is that you don’t have to break the bank to get good food. As I mentioned before, even in the affluent areas of Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro, you’ll be able to find Menu restaurants that won’t cost you more than 10 soles ($3) a meal. In the more middle-class neighbourhoods of Surquillo and Lince, you’ll pay even less – about 8 soles ($2.50). Eating at Menus is relatively healthy (if you skip the sugary beverage that’s included) and will cost you the same or less as preparing your own food.
If you want to try a wide spread of Peruvian food all in one go, I recommend the La Bistecca Buffet.
Being a big city, the party scene in Lima is respectable. Most of the bars and clubs are going to be in Miraflores and Barranco, but there are some upper-end spots dotted around Surco. Logistically, this is good for tourists. If nightlife is a priority of yours, as long as you’re staying in Barranco or Miraflores, you’ll be in the middle of the action, and you won’t need to worry about going thirsty!
I found drink prices in bars and clubs here in Lima to be slightly more expensive than Bogota or Mexico City, but not terribly so. Expect to pay 20-25 soles (between $6 and $8) for a cocktail in a bar, and about 10-15 soles (between $3 and $5) for a beer. If you stick to backpacker bars, prices will be a bit cheaper…just Watch Out For Bricheras! 😉
Quality wise, I’d say it ranks ever-so-slightly below Bogota or Mexico City. There’s a bit more variety and the party tends to get a bit crazier in the two latter cities.
That being said, if you want to get your drink on in Lima, I doubt you’ll be disappointed!
***It just so happens that my friend recently wrote An Excellent Post About Lima’s Nightlife. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re looking for more detailed information about partying in Lima.
This is one area where Lima sort of lags behind some other Latin American cities. From what I saw, the infrastructure in Lima is worse than Sao Paulo, Mexico City or even Bogota. Its transit system is lacking for a city of its size, some of its old buildings could use a serious refurbishing, the Internet, while decent speed, tends to cut out a lot. City planning isn’t great; as I mentioned before, traffic is a problem (as it is in most major metropolises in LATAM, to be fair) and it lacks parks and public spaces. Many roads aren’t in great conditions, either. I was surprised to observe that Quito has much better roads than Lima.
However, if you’re living in an affluent area like Miraflores, Barranco or San Isidro, it mitigates some of these frustrations.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete nightmare or anything, but considering that Lima is more expensive than Mexico City or Bogota, you might expect its infrastructure to be at least on par with those two cities. But it’s really not.
It would be cool to see this improved. Considering the city is relatively safe, has an amazing food scene and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, a little boost in infrastructure would make this An Ideal Place For Expats Or Digital Nomads.
Final Thoughts on Life in Lima
Alright, folks. I hope I’ve given you an idea about life in Lima. If you have any doubts about coming here, get rid of them! This is quickly turning into a world-class city, and it’s likely to get more expensive and more touristy sooner rather than later.
Check it out before that happens.
As always, leave any thoughts, questions or statements in the comments below!