Let’s take a look at Lima, the Peruvian capital … is it dangerous or not?

In this post I try to answer a question that, since my return from the magical Peruvian lands in September 2021, has been asked to me several times. Is Lima dangerous for a tourist?

A quick comparation

During my Peruvian travels, especially when I was in smaller towns such as Chachapoyas or Huaraz, the tourist guides and hotel managers frequently told me “here you can go anywhere, our city is safe, it’s not like Lima!”. Well, as you can understand, this statement represents, in its own simple way, a reality.

Is Lima dangerous? if the answer to this question is quite complicated for the city center, it's a little bit easier for some neighborhoods. In fact some area of Lima are practically abandoned by the state. Very poor services (no water, no electricity) and the people living there doing their best to survive. While the tenacity and resilience of a large part of the peruvian population is admirable, going there as a tourist is definitely something you should avoid, unless you have a specific reason or are accompanied by a local.
Is Lima dangerous? if the answer to this question is quite complicated for the city center, it’s a little bit easier for some neighborhoods. In fact, some areas of Lima are practically abandoned by the state, with. very poor services (no water, no electricity) and the people doing their best to survive. While the tenacity and resilience of a large part of the Peruvian population is admirable, going there as a tourist is definitely something you should avoid unless you have a specific reason or are accompanied by a local. In this picture, the name written in red, Castillo, refers to the actual much discussed president of Peru.

Big cities are usually more dangerous than smaller ones, big surprise you say. I know… this is a reality that unites Lima to all the great metropolitan cities of the globe, and, in the end, it does not tell us much if we want to answer the question “Is Lima dangerous?” from which we started. Now we know that Lima is more dangerous than Huaraz or Chachapoyas, but the sheer size of the city should explain this pretty well.

The only exception to this rule was the comparison between Lima and Trujillo, with the latter playing the part of the “most dangerous city” in more than one discussion. As the two or three people who follow me here or on IG already know, I did not have this impression of danger in Trujillo. Honestly, I found the northern city quite interesting and charming (there’s a post about what to see and what to do in Trujillo but it’s in Italian).

Is Lima dangerous? let’s start from its historic center

Lima is, I think I can say, a typical South American metropolis. There’s a resemblance to Bogotà, excluding the Monserrate mountain, that you find in Bogotà and not in Lima, and the sea, which is obviously nowhere to be seen in Bogotà (big geography expert myself).

As with the Colombian capital, the historic center of Lima is also a relatively popular and very lively district. What I call the “historic center” is the area between Rimac river and expres Grau, Plaza Ramon Castilla and Estacion Grau. Here you will find the usual crowd of street vendors, beggars, jugglers, time wasters, busy businessmen and a culinary panorama that is very much declined in terms of simple local restaurants on one side and tourist restaurants on the other (in particular in two small pedestrian streets on either side of the majestic Plaza de Armas).

Lima Plaza da Armas
Lima Plaza de Armas with the presidential palace in the background

The historic center of Lima, during the day, is not dangerous. It certainly remains a place where you to be careful and where the classic tips on not waving around watches, cell phones and money are paramount. Remember, don’t get tense, just keep your eyes open and remember that on the street as a tourist you are never going to find good deals, at least in my experience.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t feel like recommending the choice of accommodations in the historic center. Miraflores, Barranco, or at most San Isidro, offer more comfortable, safe solutions and in areas where the panorama of nightlife and restaurants is much more interesting, at least for a tourist.

From the historic center to the south, Lince and Jesus Maria

If you walk from the historic center to the sea the two districts that you will meet immediately are those of Lince or Jesus Maria (unless you go even further east, in the district of La Victoria, which I cannot say much as I have not been there).

lima plaza san martin 2
Lima, plaza San Martin

Lince and Jesus Maria are popular neighborhoods with some corners that are a bit sketchy. Walking around during the day you can see a lot of people going about their business and you can feel pretty safe, while I think it would be different if I had to walk there on foot and at night (in any case, taxis are very cheap, why not use them?).

The golden triangle of Lima: San Isidro, Miraflores and Barranco

Continuing south we arrive in San Isidro, the neighborhood that hosts none other than the Lima Golf Club, a clear sign that we are in the heart of the Peruvian gentrification / upper-middle class with a, as we say in italian, “la puzza sotto il naso” . San Isidro is also the embassy district, another confirmation of the upper-middle-classness of this neighborhood. Let’s say that walking around here you’ll meet mostly Peruvian bourgeoisie and black servants cleaning the master’s Bentley.

Lima San Isidro
Lima, San Isidro district

Unless you are traveling with a golf set I see no particular reason to stop and choose an accommodation in San Isidro, which, by the way, is a very very quiet, safe and clean neighborhood.

Finally we arrive in Miraflores

Miraflores is Miraflores, the arrival point for all Peruvians (literally and metaphorically speaking) and a stopping point for almost all tourists. A lot of police and private security (serenazgo), maintenance of the green areas as if you were in Oslo, clubs and nightlife, bars, restaurants, walks along the seaside promenade and fancy shopping centers (Larcomar in particular). Airbnb and Booking are full of offers for Miraflores which, however, costs a little more than Barranco.

Lima, parco Meliton Porras
is Lima dangerous? Miraflores, Meliton park

I do not want to give you the wrong impression. I like Miraflores and in the end it’s probably the place where you want to stay.

Is Lima dangerous? The black sheep, Barranco

In the golden triangle of southern Lima, Barranco is the reckless brother, the one who comes home at 4 in the morning drunk and vomits on the carpet.

A little more let go, the experts would say bohemian, I would say decadent, Barranco is the latest arrival among the good neighborhoods, and borders on the south with Chorrillos. It has a descent to the sea with the famous bridge of sighs, a decent beach (weather permitting), many interesting bars and restaurants (including the exceptional Central by Virgilio Martinez). The two of the restaurants/bars most popular in September 2021 were the Dada and Ayahuasca).

Lima spiaggia Miraflores

Barranco is a neighborhood that I liked a lot, probably more than Miraflores, and it also seems to have more competitive prices than the latter. To be clear, at the time of my trip (September 2021), an apartment in Miraflores on Airbnb was about 40-50 euros per day. A two-room apartment in Barranco can instead cost between 25 and 35 euros per day. Keep in mind that the was low season and the pandemic had just abated.

Barranco, with its nightlife and decadent feeling, definitely has some dangerous corners. Also, it appears that taxis in Lima are for the most part unlicensed. Some people told me they got robbed just by taking a taxi in Barranco. For this reason, relatively safe apps like Cabify and Uber are popular. Think about it even though I have had several problems getting payments to work on both.

Lima spiaggia Barranco
Is Lima dangerous? here the beach of Barranco in a perfect beach day.

It goes without saying that alcohol, night, women and maybe some drugs can make life complicated (euphemism) for anyone, anywhere. Don’t be surprised if when you are drunk, after having a “heated debate” with the boyfriend of a Peruvian beauty, you find that someone is waiting for you outside the club (if you are a woman and you are reading this I don’t really know the female version of this event, but let’s talk about it).

So be careful but remember to have fun!

Is Lima dangerous? let’s talk about Callao district

Following some requests, I decided to add a small paragraph about Callao, another district of Lima known by tourists. Known because, if nothing else, it is the neighborhood where the capital’s airport is located (Chavez airport, in my humble opinion too small for a city like Lima and above all without public transport connecting it to the city center, which I find quite disturbing, although the taxi drivers there are very professional, kind and unexpensive).

Lima Airport
Is Lima dangerous? in this photo taken from Wikipedia you can see the Chave airport which is located right in the Callao district. The black cars in the front row are taxis. At the moment there is no public transport connecting the airport with Miraflores and Barranco. However, in non-pandemic times, there was a reliable bus service.

Callao is also the port district of Lima, an indication that in itself could make you realize that this is not the safest place in the city. There are many busy streets, above all Av. Guardia Chalaca and the Nestor Gambetta, but there is also a rather interesting tourist area near the Fortaleza del Real Felipe and the Naval Museum of Peru.

The blocks between Av. Manco Capac and Constitucion are another point of interest for the tourists, with several art galleries, exhibition spaces, bars and some cafes. As some locals summarize, in this area Callao has made an effort to switch from knife to brush, trying through art to recover an area of ​​the city that has long been off-limits for many, especially for tourists. Excluding the fortress area and these art spaces, the rest of Callao is not exactly tourist-friendly.

For this reason, if you want to walk around Callo, always ask very well how things are at the moment and consider carefully the areas and times in which you will find yourself in Callao.

Conclusions…is Lima dangerous?

Answering the question about the danger a city poses for a tourist is always something quite difficult, with no simple answer. Attitudes that I take for granted, behaviors that I practice without even thinking about it, may not be so immediate for many. Some people may therefore have nasty surprises in places that are not even dangerous in themselves.

Lima miraflores visto dal mare
LIma, Miraflores district. This is the tennis club of Miraflores. Sea view and skyscraper left and right

Lima is certainly not an easy city and for most of the people who live there (excluding Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco) life could be quite tough. Lately, many Venezuelan immigrants have arrived in Peru and with few ways of integrating they often find themselves on the streets as peddlers or beggars. Some of them, of course, commit petty thefts. The social alarm, subtly raised by a Peruvian television that as a whole looks like a Spanish version of a trashy TV channel, is quite high. Whether the data can confirm this alarm remains to be seen.

In the end, my opinion is that Lima is a complicated city where your life is not in danger. The most recurring facts are, like in every big city, thefts, muggings and small robberies, all events that can almost always be avoided with a certain degree of attention.

I hope my answer to the question is Lima dangerous? is sufficiently clear, now if you want to continue reading I leave here a bunch of links:

Is it safe to travel to Colombia? and what about the districts of Bogotà, the colombian capital?

Is Egypt dangerous for a tourist?

Quito, the ecuadorian capital, is dangerous for a tourist?

The carnival of Las Tablas and Chitre

My 5 reasons why you have to travel to the caucasus

Colombia Ecuador border, the San miguel crossing

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