During a 20-minute bus ride, you'll get a taste of Lima culture and a brief city tour © Karol Moraes / Shutterstock
Notorious for its chaotic traffic culture, Lima is a sprawling metropolitan city that can be intimidating for newcomers to navigate. Once you move past the culture shock of near-constant car horns and optional-at-best turn signals, however, getting around Lima can become a manageable adventure.
These four modes of transportation will let you navigate the coastal capital safely and effectively – go with the Lima flow and discover which is best for you.
Take the scenic route on a city bus
One of the first observations a traveler will make about Lima's public transportation is the variety of buses. Size, shape, color, model and smoke emission – these are all variables in the makeup of the city's buses.
Considering the probability of accidents and pick-pocketing, it is best to avoid the small, usually white vans known as combis or colectivos. Slightly safer are the large, school-bus-sized buses, which come in myriad colors and are painted with street names that signify their distinct routes.
Though bus stops throughout the city are clearly marked (look for the blue signs that read paradero), there is no set bus schedule, nor maps dictating the routes of these buses. In other words, you will constantly have to ask locals which bus to get on, when to get off and how much to pay.
If you’ve never been to Lima before and are on a budget, your best bet is to use the relatively new bus system, Corredor Azul. The four available routes stretch from Barranco to the easternmost district of Rimac and can be found on the website, along with designated bus stops. To board, wait in line and have your coins at the ready to pay the flat fee of S1.50 (US$.40).
Unfortunately, the safer the bus system, the longer it takes to get from point A to point B. If you are in a hurry, taking the bus in Lima is not for you.
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Similar to subway stations, Lima's Metropolitano passengers await the bus at elevated platforms © holgs / Getty Images
Hop between districts on the Metropolitano
Also referred to as simply the metro, Lima’s Metropolitano is a rapid-transit system and the first of its kind in Peru. Linking 12 districts, including the more touristy neighborhoods, this fleet of bi-articulated buses runs along the Paseo de la Republica expressway in its own designated lane – a great option for those based in districts such as Barranco or Miraflores who want to get to the historic center.
Before you board, you'll need to purchase a rechargeable card (S5/$1.40) from any metro station, then load it with credit. The fare is set at S2.50 ($.69), no matter the route, and all transactions must be made with cash. Once your card is loaded, simply swipe it at the turnstile and continue to your platform.
Similar to subway stations, passengers await the bus at elevated platforms. Each station has a customer information booth, and the metro's website is straightforward, with comprehensive details on transit lines and stations.
Should you need to travel from one Lima district to another, opt for a rideshare app like Uber or Cabify © Christian Vinces / Shutterstock
Splurge on a taxi once in a while
Though getting around Lima by taxi is by far the most costly form of transportation, the exchange rate is on your side if you're traveling on the US dollar, typically valued at nearly four times the Peruvian sol.
Should you need to travel from one district to another, opt for a rideshare app like Uber or Cabify. Taking an undesignated or privately owned taxi from the street is not recommended, not only because of theft but also because drivers may increase their fares simply because you are a tourist. Be conscious of your use of taxis and embrace the local way of life by walking to neighboring districts or taking public transportation.
A handful of Lima's neighboring districts can be reached via the scenic coastal malecón © Iryna Kurilovych / Getty Images
Explore on foot along the malécon
As the second-largest desert capital in the world after Cairo, Lima certainly doesn’t read like a pedestrian-friendly city on paper. That said, many travelers tend to circulate within just a handful of districts that neighbor one another, many of which can be reached by using the scenic coastal pathway known as the malecón.
From Surquillo, a humble area with perhaps Lima’s best food markets, touristy Miraflores is just minutes away by foot. After shopping or grabbing a bite to eat, enjoy a 20-minute walk to Barranco for amazing museums, galleries and boutique cafes.
Looking to laze away the afternoon in a slightly more natural setting? Bike, jog or walk along the malecón until you find the grassy patch with your name on it. Stretching from Barranco to the edge of San Isidro with Magdalena del Mar, the malecón makes eco-friendly transportation between popular Lima neighborhoods a breeze.
Along the malecón, municipalities have started to roll out fleets of bikes for rent. It’s a big step for a city that is still lightyears behind when it comes to bike culture. Official bike lanes beyond the coastal path are few and far between, and cyclists should take caution when pedaling near heavy traffic.
Accessible travel in Lima
As the capital of Peru, Lima has a long way to go in terms of inclusive access and conveniences for travelers who are hard of hearing or vision-impaired. Only the latest shopping centers in Lima are equipped with elevators, sidewalks can be narrow or overly packed, and there is an embarrassing absence of signs in braille for the visually impaired.
The only public transportation with wheelchair access is the Metropolitano – nearly all of the stations have elevators to the platforms, and designated spaces for wheelchairs aboard the bi-articulated buses are clearly marked. By law, and as clearly stated at each metro station, passengers are obliged to give preferential access to those who are disabled.
For more information, check out Lonely Planet’s accessible travel online resources.
Why I love Lima’s city buses
Musicians, salespeople, stand-up comedians, beat-boxers – the next act to grace your commute is always a mystery aboard a city bus. During a 20-minute ride, you can get a taste of Lima culture, a brief city tour and a chance to (literally) rub elbows with locals and spark up a conversation. For the most authentic Lima transportation experience, one go on the city bus is a must!
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