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.



  1. Yes, the things described above are true but they dont happen everyday. Actually the ratio may be 1/1000 maybe? It sounded like it was the norm of life in Peru and it is not.

    Please if you see a beggar give them more than 10 or 20 cents. I think it is an insult if you are foreigner here and you give someone only 1 cent of your currency. It would be better not to give anything. Sure, you may be creating a cycle but at least that person (and the children) will eat today. There nothing such as food stamps or shelters for homeless here. You are poor, you are done.

  2. I saw a robber walking with a slow moving bus in Lima under an open window where there was a lady on her mobile phone. As soon as the bus started to speed up the man jumped up, snatched the phone and walked hurriedly to the opposite direction. I had scams like showing some badly done stitches on his body and show you a note from his doctor stating that he needs another operation or to buy medicine. Usually the note is a photo copy with a fresh date. You can read out loud the name of the doctor and ask the scammer when he got this note. Then say that you know the doctor personally and that he has been on holiday since last week. This will confuse him and he will go away. Once sitting in a private car with windows rolled down, a guy banged on the car and as I looked back another pulled the radio face out of the car with his hands rubbing with my face. Bad experience; this happened in Arequipa. In Lima a guy pretended that we hit him with our car and another one slid his hands through the driver’s window, lifted the lock of the back door and stole our new purchased things. We did not realise it then! I love Peru and the people but I hate the thieves and yes please if you have to give money try 2 soles to adults and a sol to children minimum.

  3. I personally try not to pay attention to people giving out papers, saying that they have been in prison, hospital, etc.


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