Lima, with nearly 10 million inhabitants the largest city in Peru, can be quite a challenge, especially for visitors not familiar with the capital. This combined with the warnings and sometimes unfounded horror scenarios visitors keep hearing, unfortunately often results in instinctive extreme wariness and uncertainty.
Nevertheless, taking a taxi in Peruvian cities is a relatively quick and affordable way to get around town.
Finding a taxi is usually easy. Quite often you don't even have to look for a cab; instead taxi drivers passing by will honk at you and slow down looking for a good fare. If not, just wait at the next bigger intersection and wave when a taxi approaches.
But there are a few things to be aware of before flagging down the first cab you see on the street. Only about a third of taxis in Lima are official and registered. The rest operates informal, meaning literally everybody can get into any type of car, put a taxi sign on top of it and offer to drive you around the city. Therefore, you should be cautious about which taxi you choose. Below some useful tips and advice on getting safely around by taxi in Peru.
Please note: Following recommendations aren’t supposed to scare you off and don’t want to contribute to the general hysteria – quite the contrary: they should make you alert for unusual practices and occurrences and help you to avoid or deal with the one or other problem that might occur. While there are a few cons in Lima and other big cities in Peru trying to take advantage of you, there are also thousands of honest and nice taxi drivers, formal and informal. But they normally don't make the news. These hardworking and sometimes highly educated people, you find any profession from policeman to engineer, just want to earn a living by driving you safely around town.
- From and to the airport you should exclusively choose an officially registered taxi available within the airport facilities or arrange a pick-up / drop-off with your hotel.
- It is highly recommended to only using officially registered taxis. Most of them are yellow (but some could be white or black as well), have a taxi sign fixed on the roof and most important an official sticker in the windscreen from “Setame”, the administrative authority that regulates taxis. Some Taxi drivers even have an official ID hanging at the review mirror showing they are registered. If you can't see it, ask for it. The official taxis not belonging to a company or syndicate have a stripe with a yellow/black or black/white checkerboard pattern on the side of the vehicle. And in case you feel uncomfortable with the car or driver, just let him go. The next taxi is only a few seconds away.
- As taxis in Peru usually don't have meters you must negotiate a price before (!) getting in. After you told the driver where you want to go he will make you a quote. Be prepared that the requested price for foreigners might be a bit higher, but you can try and should bargain. Make sure you understood the price correctly by repeating it adding the word Soles. Some visitors reported when paying the driver, he suddenly asked for the agreed amount in Dollars .... No way brother, the currency in Peru is Soles, even though most drivers agree to be paid in Dollars (have small notes on you and come to an arrangement before getting into the taxi). Please note that prices during rush hours, early mornings, late at night, on Sundays and public holidays are generally higher. Anyhow if you have the feeling you are completely ripped off, send the driver to hell. The agreed fare is only paid once the destination is reached – occasionally a driver will stop at a gas station to top up a few liters and might ask to get paid there; if you want to reach you destination you might want to consider giving him the few Soles for the ride so he can pay his gas. Nevertheless, best have the exact amount on hand! For most drivers it's already impossible to give change for a 10 Soles note. It's uncommon to tip the driver, but in case he was extremely helpful, 1 Sol or even two surely makes him happy.
- Before getting into a taxi on the street, have a close look at the car and driver. If you have a bad feeling about something or doubts in any way, listen to your gut feeling and take another one. It is highly recommended to not take a taxi on the street at night!
- Never ever get into a taxi where already other supposed to be passengers are seated.
- Don’t accept drinks or food.
- Accusing you of paying with fake notes is a popular rip-off. After you paid and got out of the taxi, the driver shouts after you and says you gave him a phony bill. Don’t fall for it. While you didn’t pay attention to him, the driver swapped your bill or coin for a faked one, hands it back to you and expects to be paid again. Be very clear that you are aware of his foul play and send him to hell. If necessary, threaten him with Serenazgo (the municipal police) or the tourist police. Walk away.
Too much to remember and feeling confused and wary? If you feel uncomfortable getting a taxi on the street numerous taxi companies such as Uber, EasyTaxi, Cabify and others operate in Peru for quite some time now. They can be booked through their website and / or app on your smartphone. Prices for the ride with them are fixed and can be seen before you even get into the cab.
Nevertheless, please still remember to have your money, valuables and perhaps documents in your pants- and inside pockets. Suitcases and other bigger items belong in the locked trunk. Smaller items such as handbags, backpacks, cameras, laptops, iPads, etc. should be placed on the floor next to your feet, not next to you on the seat.