When I first moved back to Lima, the first thing everyone told me was to be careful. It was as if I had voluntarily put myself in a situation of danger. One that was omnipresent, and most definitely, not under my control. Eventually, I learned that people in Lima live regular, normal lives. And that while the crime rates sometimes seem abysmally high, especially because of the media that portrays it, it is generally just a matter of not exposing oneself to otherwise obviously dangerous situations.
So, in order for me to give you some general recommendations about keeping out of danger in Lima, let’s start by addressing the following factual matter: the perception of crime in Lima is one of the highest in the region. The victimization rate in metropolitan Lima, meaning the frequency by which the inhabitants of Lima perceive themselves as possible victims of crimes, is that of nine out of ten inhabitants. In other words, ninety percent of all inhabitants feel that they could be victims of a crime throughout any part of the city. However, if we compare this data to the actual crime rates per district, we will notice there is a severe difference between these two related indicators. What can you do to prevent yourself from falling into this spiral of paranoia? Or to remain safe from actual danger? Well, there are a couple of measures you can follow. Here are a few of them.
One of the most common situations where crimes such as theft and pickpocketing take place is while transporting around the city. It used to be a very prevalent situation, especially during rush hour, that you would get on a crowded bus and once you got down, your phone, wallet or other valuable possession would be missing. Now, while this is not something that happens every day, you do not want to be the person to whom it happens that one time. The best solution you can find this is to avoid taking public transportation during rush hours. This goes double if you haven’t learned the routes and directions of the complex transportation system that exists in Lima.
Another important example of moving around Lima and keeping safe comes in the matter of choosing the right cab to take. Unfortunately, Lima is one of the few capital cities in South America where taxis have never implemented the use of taximeters, nor are supervised by a specific governing body that keeps a registry of all the operating cabs in the city. While, this is one of the great tragedies that has befallen this city, technology has provided a solid, yet not definite solution to this problem. There are now many digital transportation companies operating in Lima, such as: Uber, Beat, and Cabify. These have quickly become a mainstay for locals. And you should make use of them too. Out of the three, Uber is the most widely used. Its fares along with Beat’s are also the most economic. While Cabify does have some added bonuses: their units tend to be cleaner and in better condition, their drivers are properly identified; their prices are also higher and they have fewer units operating in the city. Whichever the company you decide to use you cannot go wrong with any of them, especially when making trips to well-known locations such as the airport or the historic center, or to destinations which may be difficult to get to.
Finally, one of the best recommendations for keeping safe in Lima is probably one of the most obvious ones also, but as a golden rule: if you are not sure about a place, ask a local! This cannot be stressed enough. But if you are staying in a hotel, relaxing in a café, or dining at a restaurant, chances are that whomever you are interacting with has a pretty good idea of how to get around the city. I know countless cases of backpackers and other types of audacious travelers that decided to “wing it.” Don’t ever “wing it.” Especially when going to a place that you have no references about. You don’t want to be that guy sitting on a busy Lima street with a sign that says: “Passport and documents were stolen, need money for embassy paperwork.” Because that guy most likely “winged it.”