What to do (traveling solo) in Lima, Peru

So I’m off to Lima, Peru in a couple of weeks. Why you may ask? Well my ex-girlfriend is down there working for a number of months. I don’t need to into details about the ex as there is a thread on that and, really, not the point here. So I was going to cancel the trip but then I said what the heck. When will a get a chance to go to Lima?

I’m only going to be there for a few days so Machu Pichu (sp) is out. I’ll be staying in Miraflores. So, any thoughts on what to do?

Some background:

My Spanish is woeful. Actually, I have no Spanish.
I’m a 6’0 blond haired white guy.
I enjoying drinking.

Any Dopers in Lima? Any and all advice is appreciated.


I was there in 2002. I’ve heard that they’ve cleaned up downtown Lima quite a bit since then, but when I was there it was pretty sketchy. There’s the church with all the catacombs. If you’ve never seen catacombs, it’s completely worth it. Some monks went ahead and arranged a bunch of human bones into artful patterns. Pretty freaky. There’s the Museo de Oro del Peru (Peruvian Gold Museum) which has an unbelievable Arms museum that is part of it. A truly amazing collection of guns and armor.

Miraflores was kind of dull. It was modern with some hipster nightclubs and seemed really safe and boring. Go to Arequipa, spend a lot of time in Cuzco (do the hikes on the outskirts of town) and definitely hike the Inca Trail.

Oh, and inspect your maps very carefully when traversing Lima. The Carretera Panamericana or Pan American Highway skirts Lima and goes through some very dangerous parts of town. Choose your routes carefully. Miraflores to the old town is straightforward.

I thought the Nasca plain was worth checking out. Drink as many Pisco Sours as you can and try the fluorescent Inca Soda which tastes like Sarsaparilla.

This is great, thanks. Will my total ignorance of Spanish get me in trouble? What’s the dress code insofar as I don’t want to look too touristy.

The trail sounds interesting, safe enough?

Will definitely try the drinks, great suggestion.

If you are not Hispanic, you’ll probably look kind of like a tourist regardless. I’ll go with the assumption that you are a white gringo. If this is the case, I’d go with classic backpacker attire. Convertible pants, t-shirts, and a really good pair of walking shoes/hiking boots. A fleece jacket and a unlined Goretex shell should be perfectly adequate to keep you warm and dry. You might want to bring a pair of decent pants (black Dickies are my choice) and a nice button down shirt (or buy it there) if you want to go out clubbing in Lima. You’ll be able to get by without speaking Spanish, but every little bit helps. I did run into some problems on the previously mentioned meandering on the Pan American Highway as no one on the public transportation bus spoke any English or was able to decipher my half-assed attempts at Spanish.

The Inca trail is a 4 day trip (I think). I’m an old fart and I paid a porter an extra $30 to haul most of my crap. I went with the cheapest tour group out of Cuzco and it was fine. They packed all the cooking gear and food. They cooked every meal for you. Little kids came up in the remote spots and sold you beer. I’m pretty sure you have to sign on to a tour group to do the hike, as it is not allowed to be done independently. The hike is pretty easy, although the elevation is pretty high. I think it’s about 80km. I went during the rainy season and I couldn’t see a damn thing when I came over the crest looking down at Machu Picchu. It was still completely worth it, and you should absolutely do it. Also, if you do the hike, you are allowed to hike around Machu Picchu before the bus crowds show up so it’s a bit less hectic. Make sure you climb the crazy peak Huayna Picchu which towers above, so long as you don’t have much of a fear of heights.

Lots of places to drink in Miraflores. Some nightclubs. Try the Pisco Sour. Miraflores is fairly touristy and you could get by with English there, less so elsewhere in Perú.

If you are only there for a few days, you won’t be able to do the Inca Trail (requires four days hiking and reservations on advance). It would be neat to go to Cuzco or to the Nazca Plains but this would require a seperate air trip, e.g. on LAN. Might not be able to do it in a few days, and if you could you could do Machu Picchu too. Arequipa and Lake Titicaca are further from Lima than Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

The gold museum, national museum (Museo de la Nación), etc. in Lima are okay. There is a complex of pyramids and palaces 30km south of the city called Pachacamac which would make a nice day trip; this complex predates the Incas by 1000 years. You can go paragliding from the cliffs of Peru from $25. Lots of good seafood in Lima. Don’t waste your money at the flashy casinos. Plenty of good watering holes, and lots of ex-pats to talk to if you hang around Miraflores. Take standard safety precautions – money belt, no back pocket wallet, passport photocopy, use the hotel safe, only carry as much money as you need, don’t keep cameras in a visible location, don’t carry your credit and debit card in the same place.

If you go to Cusco, one place to avoid if you want to keep your innards where they belong is La Bodeguita Cubana.

It’s Inca Kola and it tastes like bubblegum! :smiley:

Lima isn’t the most pleasant of Latin American cities, to say the least, but it has its good points. Barranco is the area to go to for drinking, live music and atmosphere, at least when I visited fourteen years ago.
You can get to Machu Picchu in a couple of days without doing the Inca Trail - if you take a plane to Cuzco and tourist train to the ruins.
I second (third?) the gold museum and IIRC there are ruins in the areas around the city of Lima as well.

I love this message board.

This is some great advice. Will definitely do the runs south of Lima. Interesting that they predate the Inca’s by 1,000 years. Will also check out some of the bars and see if I can find an ex-pat or two.

By runs I of course mean ruins!

But thanks guys, making what might have been a slightly depressing trip a lot better.

Last time I was there was during the cholera outbreak. I thought “maybe I should let him know it’s over.”

I’m getting old. I was there 11 years ago.

And while I had a great time, I can’t tell you much, as my great time basically consisted of being found by a Peruvian girl in her early twenties and becoming her personal property for about ten days.

Yeah the Spanish is going to be a bugger!Phrasebooks are your friend.

Go into every Gold Museum you get chance to.

When you get to Cuzco look for the Crossed Keys pub.

Late at night, when you see street food vendors, look for ladies serving deep fried, looks like a perogie, but it’s not. I believe it’s made from potatoes, and I believe it’s stuffed with fresh peas and onion and served on the daily newspaper with some sort of very spicy sauce. Do not look closely at vendor, oil, food prep area. Eat and enjoy!

Great, now I’m hungry.

Oh, and always carry a flashlight on you, especially if you plan to take the train. When I was there, it was quite common for the pickpockets to bribe the trainmen and, for no reason, the lights would mysteriously go out as the train pulled into the, also curiously dark, train station. Pocket flashlight will come in very handy for many things.

Have a great time!

Rats, I know it’s Kola! Sarsaparilla does taste like bubblegum!
When I was there, the bus was a real bitch to get to Cuzco. Definitely fly.

The tourist train is cool. It has the classic Andes switchback hill climb. The train is a short passenger train and goes back and forth and back and forth in order to make it up a pretty steep grade. If you do the Inca Trail hike, the normal itinerary is taking a bus to the start of the hike, hike to Machu Picchu and then take the tourist train back.

Also, try the coca tea. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems a little different than caffeine ;).

I know this is too much to do on your trip, but Bolivia is right next door.

Lake Titicaca is definitely worth a look see. When I was there, they put our bus on this barely floating barge with something like a 5HP engine. They’ve got floating islands made out of reeds that people live on. La Paz is the world’s highest capitol. You cruise along this desert plain, go through the poverty stricken town of El Alto and then go down the craziest freeway you’ve ever seen in your life to descend into the amazing crack in the earth that is La Paz. Also, you can do the bike ride down the Death Highway.

Chiming in late. Some pretty good suggestions here,downtown is nicer than it used to be when we moved here nearly 2 years ago and they’ve put a lot of money into assuring tourists that they’ll be safe and see some near stuff. You can go watch the changing of the guard at midday outside the Presidential Residence( Palacio de Gobierno) which is kind of like the U.S. White House except the president doesn’t have to live there. There are frequent city tours that do both a day and a night thing so you can compare the two views of the city. It’s called the MiraBus and it picks up in Parque Kennedy in Miraflores. Ask at your hotel. What some friends of ours who’ve visited have done is to pick up a cab and ask the driver for his daily rate and get taken around to see things and go shopping. If you do this, have some idea as to what you’d like to see as otherwise you’ll be shopping at his cousins and friend’s shops all day.

The Gold Museum is worth the money, but for the arms collection. The actual gold is less than 30 percent of the whole museum. The National Museum is worth the trip and you can hire bilingual guides for 15 soles (about 5 USD) for the whole day. Miraflores is nice but can be sterile, Barranco is funkier but more run down. Downtown Lima (Cercado de Lima) isn’t worth visiting except for the Supreme Court, Palacio de Gobierno and the pirate markets. Fake shoes and clothes are on the outside, food court downstairs, DVDs and electronics everywhere, porn in the back left corner.

Chinatown is not worth the time; go to one of the close beaches and try paragliding off the cliffs. There are good local restaurants. We know the founder of aexpat portal site and it’s a pretty good intro to Peru:

You might want to take a look at the official tourist bureau website as well: