Friday, October 31, 2008

Cultural Centers in Peru

Updated 1 May 2017

If you're going to be in Peru you should really learn about Peruvian culture. There are a couple of cultural centres in Peru where you can study Spanish, another language, see plays, enjoy a night of music, go to art shows, or even discussions on a variety of topics.

The best way to find out about these events is to either call the cultural centre or go to their websites. Many send out free calendars of events via email or post. And all of them post their monthly events and information on their websites.

Some of the larger cultural centres, such as Britanico, ICPNA, and Alizanza Francesa charge admission for some of their events, such as classical concerts or plays. But many of the smaller centres offer free events or charge a small fee.

Peruvian cultural centres
There are a number of Peruvian cultural centers, the most famous are:

English speaking cultural centres
  • ICPNA 
  • Britanico (go to centro cultural and click on agenda cultural).

Other cultural centres


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Forums and Facebook Groups about Peru

Updated 1 June 2017

A large number of expats live in Lima. Nowadays, you can easily talk to expats all over Peru online. Simply put, Expat Peru and Living in Peru are where English speaking expats go. I've been in Peru for almost four years and didn't find these sites until almost a year ago. I have to confess that now I'm addicted and a bit upset that I didn't find them earlier. The discussion forums are a favorite of mine. Maybe it's because there are a few of us regulars and since most of us are in Lima, we see each other both on and offline. Although both sites are great, they are famous for different things.

Expat Peru
Expat Peru has an active discussion forum, visa info and free advice from a lawyer. Everyone on the boards is helpful, especially when giving advice about Immigration issues, which can be a headache due to the endless paperwork, long lines and constant changes.

I recently posted a question regarding the foreigner's tax and had a couple of replies within the hour. They have a couple of forums, such as jobs and travel. I wanted to find day trips from Lima as it's always nice to be able to get away from a while and they suggested a couple of natural parks, the beach, and a thermal bath. They also have visa info in English.

Living in Peru
Living in Peru has a news section that's updated daily. You can get the latest news from sport to politics to entertainment and leave your comments about it as well. Besides the news section, they have a useful Business Directory. I was looking for a church to go to and found a couple of listings. It's much easier to navigate than the Yellow Pages and you can read ratings from other users.

On Facebook
Two great groups are Expatriates in Peru and Living in Lima – Expat Support. Both have a large community of people who have already relocated to Peru. If you are an entrepreneur, you can also consider joining Expat Entrepreneurs in Lima.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Peruvian Food and Drink

This post has been moved here. Please update your bookmarks.


Hitting the Markets in Lima

Updated 1 July 2017

Markets are the best place to go shopping. Not only can you can find unique items but you'll also get good deals. In general the shops in the front charge more than those inside. A tip, if you're going to a market, make sure you go with old clothes, no jewelry, and hid your money well. Bargaining is a must, so be sure to ask for a discount and you can usually get a couple of soles knocked off. Every little bit helps, a sol here and a sol there add up. Look for more saving tips in Lima on $500 a month.

Polvos Rosados is usually where tourists go, but if you cross the streets to Polvos de Higuereta, you'll find better quality, cheaper prices, and a cleaner atmosphere. Next to Polvos Rosados is CC de los Altos, which is right on Ovalo Higuereta in Miraflores. There are lots of little kiosks that sell clothes and shoes. You'll also find loads of hair salons inside.

El Hueco on Abancay and El Mercado Central are huge markets located in the center of Lima You can find good bargains both inside the shops and on the sidewalks outside of the shops.

Perhaps the most famous market in Lima with people coming from Chile and Ecuador is Gamarra. It's a sprawling market with blocks and blocks of shops. Although in the past is was a bit dangerous, it's been completely cleaned up and is probably the best place in Lima to find a bargain.

If you're looking for furniture, a good place is Plaza Hogar in Av. Angamos in Surquillo. We just bought a dresser and closet there for about $200. Things are often made by hand (even sanded by hand), and you can choose from different woods and varnishes. So if you're in Lima, take a day and go to the market, it's an unforgettable experience and you'll be sure to find what you need. For more info on where to shop, check out these guide books on Peru.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Culture Shock, General Info, and Maps of Peru

Updated 1 July 2017

In theory, you should carry your passport with you wherever you go. I would recommend caring photocopies or legalised copies instead. It’s unlikely that you will get stopped, but ID checks may happen on buses between cities. If you do get stopped and don’t have ID, you have a few choices:
  • Speak to them in English. This will usually make them leave you alone.
  • Pretend you didn’t know that you needed ID.
  • Lie and say that your school, embassy, etc has it.
However, you should know that by law the police can take you to the police station and keep you there until they figure out who you are. People who obviously look like foreigners may be stopped. I know of foreigners who have been stopped without ID and they’ve never needed to bribe the police. They simply explained the situation and the police move on to the next person.

Some people choose to register with their consulate or embassy and by doing this receive updates on situations, such as strikes or holidays. It's usually not required and is up to you whether you decide to register or not.

General Information

There is no Daylight Savings Time. Electricity is 220v and 50/60 cycles. Sockets are fitted to accept both flat and round plugs. The metric system is used except for gasoline, which is measured in gallons.

Every neighbourhood has a local park, but be aware of traipsing through the grass and it is usually just for looking at, rather than playing on.

Laundry can either be done by hand (most building have a place to wash clothes on the roof), at home with a washing machine, or sent out to be done. Local laundries are all over the place. There are coin laundries and those where you leave your clothes and they put them through the machines for you. The second usually charges by the kilo. Driers are also at laundries, but most homes do not have them, instead, they put their clothes outside to dry.

All furnishings that you need can be bought here. There is a cheap furnishing market in Villa El Salvador, but it’s quite far from away. You could also try going to Plaza Hogar in Angamos in Surquillo. Both places have hand made furniture at good prices. You could always buy furniture at department stores such as Ripley’s or Saga.

Peruvian Holidays
  • January 1- New Year’s
  • February 2-Candlemas
  • February- Carnival
  • March/April- Holy Week
  • May 1- Labour Day
  • June- Corpus Christi
  • June- St. John the Baptist Day
  • June 29- St. Peter and St. Paul Day
  • July 16-Virgen of Carmen
  • July 28/29- Independence Days
  • August 30- St. Rosa of Lima
  • October 8- Battle of Angamos
  • October 18- Lord of Miracles / Mes Morado
  • November 1- All Saint’s Day
  • November 2- All Soul’s Day
  • November 5- Puno Day
  • December 8- Immaculate Concepcion
  • December 25- Christmas
Here is a website that explains more about Peruvian holidays.

The library of the University of Austin Texas has a great online map collection. The Peruvian Instituto Geografico Nacional also has a variety of maps, including maps for driving. More info can be found in Latin American Links. The American and Canadian Association in Peru also has information regarding Peru.

Good street maps for Lima, can be found in Planos de Lima and Guia Calles. As well as at Telefonica (go to planos). Lima 2000 also has some for various cities in Peru.

Culture Shock
Moving to another country can be difficult, but there are some things that can help you make the adjustment. There are many books on how to deal with culture shock. Even if you speak Spanish, you’ll find yourself going through culture shock. It starts with fascination with everything and seeing things through rose coloured glass and then goes to not being able to accept anything. Though people usually grow to accept things over time, even with years in Peru, small things might still frustrate you, but with time and effort, you can get over culture shock. Learning the language is probably one of the most important steps you can take. 

Culture shock can be difficult to deal with. The best thing to do is to be aware of culture shock and how to deal with it. Having pictures from home, talking to people in your native language, talking a walk in the park, or even sleeping can all help with culture shock. Remember, that although you may be experiencing culture shock, you still need to be a respectful traveller. Read, Respectful Travel: Look Mommy, A Gringo! for more info. The following websites can give you more insight on culture shock and how to deal with it.
Latin America is known for its laid back lifestyle, but this could be too much of a good thing. This lackadaisical attitude meaning that planning is thrown out the window and things are done in a slipshod manner. This goes for roads, bridges, buildings as well as the future, such as planning for retirement. However, you have to take things into stride and try to understand more about Peruvian culture.

In addition, it means that laws are shades of grey rather than black and white. Some people like this because it means they can overstay their visa easily and just pay $1.25 a day fine. Some who have overstayed their visa for weeks, months, or even years have even bargained down the fine. In the long run, this hurts people who want to stay here legally since fewer employers want to get their employees visas since they know that working on a tourist visa isn't that bad. This in turn causes laughable wages, zero benefits, and no chance for things to get better in the future.


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peruvian People and History

Updated 1 July 2012 

Peru is very diverse, here you can find many people of Chinese and European descent. Contrary to facts, some Peruvians, especially those from the mountains, are blonde-haired and blue-eyed. In bigger cities, many people will have studied English, so they might be able to help you. Reading up on the Peruvian history and culture is interesting and will help you a lot.

However, you should still try to learn some Spanish so that you can get by. You'll be treated differently than if you speak English all the time, it'll help you assimilate to Peru, and it'll be easier to talk to the immigration officers.

Please remember, that although you may be experiencing culture shock, you still need to be a respectful traveller. Read, Respectful Travel: Look Mommy, A Gringo! for more info.

Many Peruvians are short compared to North American and European standards, however, they are much thinner than a typical American. Be aware that if you’re tall you will probably stand out.

Peruvians are very open people who enjoy socializing. Family plays an important part in their lives. Some people still work 10 hours a day and may work half a day on Saturday, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have time to relax. Personal space is much closer here, so don’t move back if people stand close to you. When meeting, men will hug or shake hands with other men. Women will give an air kiss on the right cheek when meeting men or women. Time here is flexible. For example, if you meet a friend, they will show up 15-30 minutes late. And when going to parties, people will show up about 2 hours late. If you go out with friends that they saw “te invito”, it means that they will pay for you. Don’t try to split the bill, simply pay for them the next time you go out.

In general, Peruvians are more formal and will more often than not say “buenos días” if they enter a shop or a room with people. This means that shorts and halter tops aren’t common here. You may see Peruvians wearing these types of clothes, but they will get looks, whistles and catcalls.

People here tend to get married young, and unfortunately some get pregnant first and then get married. So this means that many married couples have a few children after being married for a short time. If you’re in your mid-twenties or above and single, you’ll probably be asked when you plan on getting married. If you’re married with no children, you’ll be asked when you plan on having children.

Peruvians Abroad

Most people know that the Incas lived in Peru and left behind many cultural artifacts (such as Machu Picchu) and then the Spanish came and conquered them. Peruvians finally won independence because of San José de San Martín. Alan Garcia caused the economy to plummet in the 1980s and has just won re-election. Alberto Fujimori held control of the country for 10 years in the 1980s-1990s, making Peru a dictatorship. Recently they’ve had border problems with Chile and Ecuador. There are a number of good books about Peruvian history, such as the New York Times Best Seller: Turn Right at Machu Picchu and The Last Day of the Incas.  Some sites that have history are:


Friday, October 10, 2008

Safety in Peru

Updated 1 May 2014

Your opinion of the safety in Peru depends on your experiences, your physical appearance, and the way you behave. In Lima the tourist police speak English, so if you have a problem, you can call them on 3133773.

General Tips
In general, if you look and act like a gringo, you are probably at a higher risk to be robbed than those who don’t. Don’t carry your passport or lots of money with you. Same goes for credit cards or important documents. Also, don’t flaunt expensive items, such as fancy cameras. Make a copy of your passport and carry that with you if you like, though it’s not necessary. Ask the restaurant staff to get you a cab or call one. Keep bags near you. Be careful in crowds. Dress down. Do not carry all your money and ID in the same place. Make yourself bigger: swing your arms when you walk. I also hook my thumb around my purse's shoulder straps and stick my elbow out and swing the opposite arm, anyone coming too close gets elbowed or hit with my swinging arm.

Terrorist attacks on the USA and UK have shown use that in this day in age, terrorism can happen anywhere. Peru has a bad rapt because of some problems with The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso and MRTA Movimiento) and Revolucionario Tupac Amaru.

They both led a number of terrorist attacks in the 80s and 90s. However, the leaders and most terrorists have been caught and have been in prison since 1992, so there is not much to worry about.

At home
Safety tends to be a concern for anyone moving to a new country. Here in Peru, homes usually have walls around them and may also have a neighbourhood security guard. Windows on the first couple of floor usually have bars on them and doors have a couple of locks. All this security does not mean that Peru is not safe. It’s just a safety precaution.

In a car / on a bus
You'll also have to be careful when you're in a car. Here are some things to remember. Put things in the trunk or under the seat. Roll up your window. Don’t buy things at intersections. Don’t use mobile while driving. If someone bumps you from behind, do not get out of your car. Go to the police station if necessary. If a police officer stops you, don’t get out of your car, insist on going to the nearest police station. You can find more safety info about transport in getting around.

Beggars are another matter. Unfortunately, beggars are a common scene here. You will see country people, old people and children as young as 2. You can either give them money or not. If you give them money, it should only be about 10 or 20 centimos. Also, have the money ready and easily accessible, in a pocket separate from your bills. You don’t want to be taking out your wallet when you give money to beggars. If you don’t want to give them money, simply ignore them. They may follow you and pull on your clothes. Be careful of their little hands that reach into pockets.

Common Tricks
As always, it's better to be safe than sorry. Being aware of scams will help you be alert. Below are some scams that are commonly used.
  • Distractions: One scam is when someone puts something, like ketchup on you, and while you’re cleaning it off, another robs you.
  • Making you take a taxi: People will try to get you into taxis. Don't get into taxis with unknown people, no matter what they tell you.
    • I was downtown in a nice area looking for flights in travel agencies. As I left one another woman left after me. When we were outside she asked if I was looking for flights. I said yes. She said she worked for a travel agency. I asked for her card. She didn't have one with her. She then offered to take me to the travel agency in a taxi. I said thanks and walked away. 
    • Another way to get you into a taxi is posing as someone from a business. I got a call from some at my bank. She said that they were having a breakfast in order to ask me my opinion about the bank. She wanted to get info from me, such as where I lived, what I did, etc. Don't give out info over the phone, even if they say that they are from a place where you have accounts. She told me that the breakfast was free and a taxi would be provided. I then called the bank and they said they there was no breakfast. People inside the bank or company sell info to others, that's how they know you're a customer there.
  • Peasant won the lottery: Another ploy is the "ignorant peasant who won the lottery." A campesino  wanders up to strangers, carrying a note he can't read. The note says "this guy has a winning lottery ticket" or an insurance judgment, or something else that means he's going to get a lot of money...but he needs help with the bureaucracy, as he can't read. To help him make his claim, and receive a share, take him to _______ (A street address.) Don't. If you can, when you run into these people, talk to the police, security guards, or locals who can arrange to move him on out of your neighborhood.
  • Take a survey: Be sure to be street smart. Don't answer surveys on the street if they ask for personal details, or a signature.
  • Shine your shoes?: Be aware of shoe shine boys. They will charge you much more than they say and if you refuse to pay they will gang up on you.
  • ATM safety: When you use an ATM, be aware of who’s near you. Often women will try to get your card, money or PIN number. You can find more safety info about banks in money matters.
These are just some of the ploys, I'm sure there are more. Always be aware. One reason why foreigners usually fall into their traps is because they’re busy looking at the tourist attractions.

Emergency numbers
  • Fire 115
  • Police 105
  • Alcohol Anonymous 442-9412
  • Family Planning 442-7440
  • Family Violence 261-1556
  • Child Labour 261-8562

It’s also helpful to know the number of your local police station and you can find this information in Paginas Amarillas by looking under Comisaria. Your neighbourhood may also have a neighbourhood watch, or Serenazgo that you can also call in case of emergency.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Transportation (Getting to Peru)

Updated 1 July 2012

The majority of international flights will arrive in Lima, Jorge Chavez International Airport, LIM. After arriving, you can fly (if your destination is a big city) or take the bus, see getting around and tourism for more information.

Vacations aren't cheap. Try taking a look at how to find cheap flights and the best travel hacking guide so that you can save money when you travel. Many airlines are only allowing ONE check in bag when you LEAVE Peru. They will let you take two, but you will have to pay a fee. Be sure to check with your airlines.

If you're trying to get a low fare, try the following. Book in advance. Stay over a Saturday night. Travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Ask about promotions and if you’re flexible, give them a variety of dates when you can travel. Look for flights between Monday and Wednesday because fares often go up on Thursday.

You can track airfare through sites like Yapta and Airfare Watchdog. Try booking online, places that compare flights from different airlines, like Kayak are great. More tips can be found in the article, Cheap Flights to Latin America.

Airport Transport

Low Cost Carriers / Budget Airlines
LCC means basic. You can find some great deals, but you often have to pay for any little extra, such as meals, water, blankets, pillows, checked luggage, choosing your seat, etc. That being said, they will save you a lot of money. If you're looking to travel to various countries, try Air Passes.

Latin America
If you're looking for Peruvian airlines, check the getting around link.

Flight links 


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Weather and Climate in Peru

Updated 1 July 2012 

Peru has three parts: the coast, the mountains and the jungle. Here in the southern hemisphere, summer is from November to February and winter runs from June to August. Although in the north, summer can start in September and end in May, in the south it may start in December and end in February. Contrary to fact, it’s not always hot here.

Peru is, however, at risk for earthquakes, you can find out more from the Instituto Geofisico del Peru. Here's the direct link to the earthquake page.

In the mountains the seasons are the same as in the northern hemisphere. The climate is hotter in the north than the south, cool in the mountains, and hot and humid in the jungle. Lima is usually very cloudy and wet. See Weather or Semahi for the weather at the moment. There are 12 hours of sunlight year-round, so it does get cold at night even though it’s close to the Equator.

El Niño hit Peru pretty badly in 1982 and then in 1997, but it wasn’t as severe as in 1982. Earthquakes are common, they are usually mild, however, in 1971 there was a 7.7 one in the north.

Beating the Humidity
If you live in Lima, especially in Miraflores, you’ll be battling with humidity in the winter and this can cause mold. However, you can beat mold and it's not too expensive. Some tips are to buy potpourri bags or “bola seca” (they're little round white balls) and put these in your closets and dressers to help absorb the moisture and smell. Other people have uses peppercorns or rice. You can also try Desiccant Silica Gel bags (the things that come inside shoe boxes). You can get them in Wong imported from Japan. If you use any of the methods above, be sure to change them often. If you need to clean leather, try a 50/50 mix of pure alcohol and water.

Also try to keep the closet doors and dresser drawers open for air to circulate. Try airing out your house everyday as well. More things to try: buy metal tubes that you plug in (put these in your closet), buy a dehumidifier, or buy a heater. You might also try putting clothes or bedding inside airtight vaccum sealed bags. All of these can be found at Hiraoka, Ace Hardware, or Sodimac. They may cost between 100 and 600 soles, but it’s worth it.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Moving and Storage in Peru

Updated 30 March 2014

Moving is hard enough, but when you have to move to a different country, things can really get stressful.

Useful links
Here are some companies that have experience with moving in Peru.
When you move from one place to another inside of Peru, you need a moving permit. Some people get these, others don't. The list of requirements to get the moving permit is long, so many people just don't get the moving permit. However, if stopped by police, you'll be in trouble. Info about this can be found in this post.

Finding storage here in Peru is usually more difficult than in other countries. If you can't leave things with friends or family, try contacting Ransa. They are a reputable storage company.

Shipping Crates / NVOs with Freight Forwarders
Shipping by boat might be an option if you have lots of things. Usually you will get a crate and can put your things inside. To give you an idea, most people can fit the contents of a small apartment in a crate. NVO is used when you have less things to ship. Freight Forwarders are the companies that do the shipping. Here are some recommended ones below. They can help you move things to or from Peru. Be sure to also check the Yellow Pages in your home country for freight forwarders, international shipping or shipping crates. (thanks to mammalu for the links). You can also compare rates by using Compare International Movers.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Studying Spanish in Peru

Updated 1 May 2017

Studying in-country gives you an advantage over those who simply stay at home. Not only will you practise Spanish while in the classroom, but you’ll get added real-life practise while doing daily activities, such as going shopping or even asking for directions. If you decide to come to Peru to study Spanish, you’ll have three options available to you: studying in an institute, studying an a university, or studying with a private teacher. There are pros and cons to each of these options.

You’ll find that there is no shortage of Spanish schools here in Peru. There are two types of institutes, private ones and cultural ones. Let’s look at the private sector first. No matter if you want to go to a big city or out in the country, you’ll be sure to find an institute or two to choose from. The good thing is that classes tend to be small, start often, and you can meet people from all over the world. Flexibility is often key as well. Institutes usually have course that range from an hour or two a day to complete immersion courses that are eight hours a day. In addition, most will provide home stays at an additional cost. The downside tends to be the cost. People usually do intensive study for a couple of weeks, so prices tend to be high. The quality of the programme also tends to vary greatly. A good place to look for institutes is through Study Abroad.

Next are cultural institutes. ICPNA and Britanico are the main ones here in Peru, they offer classes at more affordable rates and classes are usually longer than the private ones (which tend to be a week in duration). Programmes are pretty structured at these institutes. The downside can be the schedule as these classes are targeted at long-term residents who are only looking for a bit of Spanish a week. However, you can easily meet local expats at these types of institutes, but this may also be a downside, since you won’t be forced to practise your Spanish skills. If you want to study at a cultural institute, you’ll have to contact that institute directly.

Language Exchanges
And don’t forget about trying to set up language exchanges. Find a Peruvian that wants to speak your language and you’re good to go. Arrange to meet at a café and spend half the time speaking in your language and half the time in Spanish. Try looking at Conversation Exchange to find a language partner.

On Your Own
Fluenz Spanish Latin America works so well that it is being used by the US Navy, senior personnel at the UN and UNICEF, executives of Fortune 500 companies, students at Harvard Business School and other leading universities. Rosetta Stone is a tried and true method that has been around for a while and consistently gets good reviews. Living Languages allows you to learn Spanish completely and is backed up by linguistic studies.

Private Tutors
Lastly, many people find that a private teacher is the way to go as the teacher can tailor the lessons to your needs and schedule. Cost might be a factor, but it might be well worth it. The downside is finding a private teacher is you’re only going to be in Peru for a short time. Most teachers want you to sign up for a month’s worth of classes and will often have the classes in your home. Another downside is finding a reliable teacher. If you’re interested in finding a private teacher, try asking around at Expat Peru or Living in Peru.

Studying at a university is another option available to those who want to study in Peru. Private universities are the way to go and there are usually a couple of prominent ones in cities around Peru. The positive side is that there’s a structured programme and often people involved in these classes are exchange students. Prices tend to be decent as well. The negative side is that you might only receive a couple of hours of instruction a week and that many studying at a university are college-aged students taking a semester abroad. Universities in Peru can be found at Universia, Universidad Peru, and Bulter.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lord of the Miracles: Mes Morado in Peru

Updated 4 July 2012

October’s known as the purple (morado) month here in Peru, due to the large number of believers who don a purple tunic for the entire month. Mes Morado is also known as the Lord of the Miracles (el Señor de los Milagros) because of an image of a black Christ that was drawn on a small hut. It was drawn by a slave and stayed up even after many people tried to get rid of it. It even survived a major earthquake when everything else around was left in shambles.

A major procession is carried out every year. Lasting 24 hour, the streets fill with devotees who come from all over Peru and Latin America to participate in this event. The procession passes by slowly as people take turns to shoulder the large heavy image weighing 2 tons, of the black Christ. Although people may only carry it a couple of steps, it’s considered an honour to shoulder the weight and people young and old can be seen carrying the Lord of the Miracles. Smaller processions are carried out in towns all over Peru as well.

In addition to prayers, hymns and processions, October also means turrones, which are a sticky sweet desert sold throughout the streets in October. Doña Pepa is the most favourite brand and well worth trying. Find out more about Peruvian food in this article. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are plenty of other amazing trinkets that you can find, ranging from rosaries, images of saints, candles and medallions. If you get the chance to go to the Lord of the Miracles procession, it’s definitely something that you don’t want to miss.


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