(Note: I traveled Peru from 8 August to 17 August 2015 )
The day I arrived in Lima City was the many of my-first. First time in South America soil, first time in Peru, first time in Lima, and first time of still-being-excited-of-all-the-first-time-although-haven’t-slept-for-two-days. So it was pretty special day. But doesn’t all each trip always bring such excitement?
Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport is such a pack and crowded airport. Once we got our luggage, we immediately discuss the next important things after oxygen: (1) Peruvian soles, and (2) Prepaid Sim Card. On the arrival hall where we grab our luggage, there are several ATM Machines. The common one that almost available in strategic places are global net and BCP (Banco de Crédito del Perú).
But be careful of where you withdraw some cash, since they charge fees per withdrawal (Global net charges S/ 14,5 and BCP charges S/13,5) and have limit amount for each withdrawal. BCP has bigger maximum amount per withdrawal (S/ 700 if I’m not mistaken) and Global Net has maximum S/ 400 per each withdrawal. Meaning, the bigger the limit for each withdrawal, you’ll get charged the least for the next withdrawal you make. So we only took one time on Global Net for urgent necessities, and took some more on BCP ATM in the Lima city. As for the prepaid sim card, we cancelled our plan to buy Claro in the airport since it’s a bit expensive for the data plan (we bought Movistar in downtown Lima for S/ 20 that evening).
Where we stayed on Lima
My friends did some researches and picked Hostel in Miraflores namely B&B Tradiciones Miraflores. The hostel offers pickup service from the Airport for US$ 25 per pick-up. I couldn’t be happier with the choice of hostel.
Well, room wise, the room was okay and I slept really well although the bathroom have a trouble with the hot water pipe and could use hard fixes. But aside from that, Angelo the owner of the Hostel offers warmth and hospitality a traveler could never imagine. He’s such a nice guy who knows very well about the culture, food, and everything you need to know in Lima, especially in Miraflores. The day we arrived was in the morning 9 am. Most hostel offers strict policy of not checking in after 12 -2 pm, Angelo let us in (this is also because the room was available at that time), AND he offered us BREAKFAST a la Peru. When you have traveled for 2 days all you need is warmth welcome and hospitality and B&B Tradiciones Miraflores Offers more of them. The hotel staffs were also very kind and helpful during our stay.
How we get around the city
Since we only had half day to explore Lima, we quickly took shower and headed to Lima Central. We took a cab which immediately available right outside our hostel since our hostel stands on a main road. The travel to Lima central took about 20 minutes and cost around 20 soles.
There are two kinds of taxi in Lima, those that are officially registered and those that aren’t. The official one has a sign TAXI on top of the car and has an official logo stamped on it. The bad news is that all of them have no meter, so we have to negotiate the price before entering the taxi. But the good news is that after several time stopping taxis, I can say that the price the driver mention for the first time is usually the “normal” or “proper” price for your destination. Should you like to bargain, you can get few soles cheaper. It’s not like they give you twice of the normal price and you should bargain it by half.
The craziest (and thrilling) part in Lima is how they drive the car like professional stunt for Hollywood action movie. They knows no brake, and swerve in unexpected occasions. For those of you who’d like to enjoy the scenery from inside the Taxi: Just make sure you put your seat belt on and make sure your hand hold on to something ;)
Places we visited
It’s hard to tell in Lima if it’s afternoon already just by looking up the sky. All day round on most days are gloomy and cloudy. So if you dream of great blue sky picture, I suggest not to chase that or you’ll be disappointed.
For only half day, we only managed to stroll around downtown Lima. Thanks to Lonely Planet, we followed its 2 hours self-walking tour starting Plaza San Martin to Barrio Chino. We started around 2 pm in Plaza San Martin, which basically a garden with a monument of the Peru Liberator, Jose de San Martin. The park was relatively crowded, surrounded by historical buildings. It was a great first touchdown point to get the “sense” of Lima.
After that, we walked through Street of Jiron de la Union, where we stopped by to buy sim card, and window shopping. This street pretty much remind me of Istiklal Avenue in Turkey with lots of shops and small restaurant on both of the street, flooded by pedestrian. On that street I found a very beautiful Church, Iglesia de la Merced. The massive entrance door are carved very beautiful and sophisticated. The ornament not only showcase the art and the meaning of the building, but also a promise of what majestic treasure lies inside.
At the end of the street, we arrived at Plaza de Armas (Main square) – Plaza Mayor. Every big cities in Peru has its own Plaza de Armas. Things I like the most about the city setup. I believe every citizen in the world has a right to sit down, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere of their own city or simply getting lost in a crowd. In Indonesia, most of empty spaces have been conjured up to concrete jungle or housing area. Although some parks are built for picnic or family outing, they are mostly located on suburb. A nice park in the middle of the town can be refreshing for any pedestrian or city wanderer.
Plaza de Armas in the night offers great view of lights. Be it from the park lighting or from the buildings that surround it. My favorite buildings are Archbishop’s Palace of Lima, Cathedral of Lima, and Municipal Palace of Lima. The neo-colonial buildings in Lima is very unique and so Peruish. It has balcony that stands out like a crown of the building. They are also very colorful and make a perfect blend with the surrounding, and the night.
It was tiring day indeed, but I was more of excited and scared of what tomorrow will bring when I arrive to Machu Picchu, the ultimate destination for this trip.