Lima, Peru’s vibrant capital, is a collision of old and new. Skyscrapers abut quaint colonial architecture and multinational businesses sit side by side with local traders. Backpackers only tend to spend a few days exploring Lima, thanks in part to the city’s reputation for being unwelcoming and impersonal.
But is Lima safe to visit?
While the answer isn’t a clear-cut yes or no – it rarely is in South America – there’s plenty to be aware of and precautions you can take to ensure your trip to Lima goes as smoothly as possible!
Related: (links open in a new tab)
Safety in Lima
Is Lima Safe for Tourists?
As long as you’re sensible while visiting Lima, the city is safe for tourists. Like many cities in Latin America, Lima has both good and bad neighbourhoods. Knowing where to avoid in Lima will go a long way to keeping you safe. That’s not to say crime never spills into tourist areas but by staying away from the worst spots, you’re stacking the deck in your favour.
As Lima is Peru’s capital, protests are not uncommon. And trust me, Peruvians are very good at showing their displeasure en masse. Protests in Peru can turn violent quickly, so to stay safe, you should avoid them.
Crime in Lima
Crime is relatively common throughout Lima. However, violent crime is more heavily concentrated in dodgy neighbourhoods.
Pickpocketing and petty theft are common, even in the safest areas. After all, this is where all the tourists hang out – and tourists are easy targets! Pickpocketing is most common on public transport or in popular spots like the Plaza de Armas but it can take place anywhere. Always be aware of your surroundings.
The most common crimes affecting tourists in Lima are scams. These can range from dodgy taxis overcharging customers to credit card skimming and counterfeit bills when changing money. Some scams are unavoidable, and others you can save yourself from by being sensible. Only change money with official changers and opt for a ride-sharing service like Uber or InDrive to avoid taxis.
A large police presence in parts of Lima is a good sign. The safer and area, the more police there will be – whether the safety is a symptom of a large police presence, or certain officers looking for an easy life, I’ll leave you to decide!
SafetyWing is the travel insurance of choice for scores of backpackers!
- Subscription style insurance
- Cheap and flexible
- Available after your trip has started
Safe Neighbourhoods in Lima
The safest, and most popular neighbourhoods in Lima are Miraflores, Barranco and San Isidro. These neighbourhoods are all connected, so you can walk between the three without worrying too much about safety. Even at night, these areas are usually safe but we always recommend using Uber after dark in Lima – just to be on the safe side! It doesn’t take much to stumble just a little too far and end up somewhere sketchy!
Lima’s historic centre is also a popular spot with tourists and backpackers. During the day the area is safe from violent crime but pickpocketing and petty theft is common. After dark though, the area can take a turn. On all sides, Centro Histórico is surrounded by rough barrios and crime can easily spill in from these. Going out alone at night should be avoided.
When checking into a hostel in Lima, ask the staff whether the surrounding area is safe. They’ll warn you of any nearby areas to avoid – especially useful if you’re staying in the Historical Centre!
Are Taxis Safe in Lima?
Proper registered taxis are safe in Lima. However, unless you know what you’re looking for, these can be hard to distinguish from less scrupulous taxis. Never hail a taxi on the street. Instead, ask your hostel to call you one. You can also ask a restaurant to arrange one for you.
Rather than faffing around with taxis in Lima, we recommend using Uber or InDrive. These ride-sharing apps are much safer and more reliable than taxis. Plus, they tend to be cheaper!
Is Lima Safe for Solo Travellers?
Lima is as safe for solo travellers as the rest of Peru. As long as you take some precautions and follow general safety tips, you’ll be fine when visiting Lima alone. Be careful at night and avoid carrying anything flashy or expensive with you. Never walk around with your phone in your hand and be very careful when withdrawing money. You should head straight back to your accommodation after you’ve been to an ATM. This will save you carrying a wad of cash all day!
It’s also worth noting that if you want to party, you should try and find a group to go out with. Bars and clubs in Lima are prime spots for pickpocketing, drink spiking, assaults and muggings.
Is Lima Safe for Female Travellers?
Female travellers in Lima will find it as safe as other towns and cities in Peru. However, this is only if you exercise caution. Avoid going out alone at night and make sure you know which areas are safe to walk through. Never hail a taxi on the street and don’t accept drinks from strangers in bars. You may be catcalled in Lima – it’s more common here than anywhere else in Peru – but until we see a massive mindset shift, there’s very little that can be done except ignore it and walk on.
Is Lima Airport Safe?
Lima’s Jorge Chavez airport is the busiest in Peru, with both domestic and international flights serving more than 20,000,000 travellers a year.
Inside, the airport is perfectly safe but it’s located in the Callao neighbourhood which is unsafe for tourists to walk around – especially if you’re tired after a long flight! When flying into the airport, you should always get a taxi to the city centre. Use the taxi companies with official desks outside arrivals. If anyone approaches you offering a ride, ignore them and book it through the proper taxi ranks.
You can try to book an Uber from the airport but as they’re not licensed taxis in Lima, they may not be allowed through to pick you up. It’s easier to use a taxi.
Safety Tips for Visiting Lima
When visiting Lima, you should follow these tips to reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime!
Put Your Phone Away
Don’t walk around the city with your phone in your hand. It’s way too easy for someone to grab it. Snatch and run crimes are one of the most common in Lima. If you need to check a map, either go into a shop or café, or find a bench you can sit on to check the route quickly. When you’re done, put your phone away and carry on.
Keep Your Bag Secure
As we’ve mentioned, snatch-and-run crimes are common. Make sure your bag is securely against your body, not just slung over one shoulder. If you’re concerned about slash-and-grab thefts, consider getting a theft-proof backpack.
Keep Valuables Hidden
This includes your phone. Don’t flash expensive items about when you’re on the street. Keep your wallet, phone and other important items well hidden. While you shouldn’t carry a lot of cash, if you need to, we recommend using a money belt or alternative to ensure it stays well hidden!
Ask at Your Accommodation About Safe Areas
Your hostel will be able to tell you which neighbourhoods are safe and where you should avoid. Many hostels in Lima provide maps with areas in red and green noted on them. Red areas should be avoided – especially at night!
Take a Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours provide an excellent way to see Lima with a guide and in the safety of a group. There are different tours depending on where you are, including Miraflores, Barranco and the Historic Centre. Guides will also point out where to avoid when exploring by yourself.
Never Carry Anything in Your Back Pocket
Back pockets are the easiest for a thief to get into. Often, you can have your wallet or phone lifted without knowing anything about it. Back pockets should be reserved for receipts and leaflets.
Never Withdraw Money at Night
When visiting an ATM, make sure it’s during the day. ATMs make an easy target for thieves wanting to relieve unwitting tourists of their cash.
Safety in Lima – A Round-Up
Lima is an underrated location on Peru’s backpacker trail. The city has everything from glitz and glamour to ancient history and amazing food. But with over 8,000,000 residents and a huge disparity between rich and poor, there are always those looking to prey on tourists. Make sure you keep your wits about you and avoid the more dangerous neighbourhoods when visiting!