How to come through in Lima as an International Student
What participates in the diversity of our world, which is the most enriching criteria to evolve as a human being, is the culture. In fact, we do all have different ways of expressing it; by the food, the time you have lunch, the language or a a physical feature.
Meeting new cultures and new ways of thinking changes your life forever by helping to discover yourself. That is what makes traveling so unique. However, adapting to a new culture can take some time, mostly if you are from another continent-which is my case and the case of most of the international students that come to Lima.
This is my first time in South America and I can feel the big change. I have to admit that I was scared before coming to Peru. People would tell me: “you are a blond girl with blue eyes, it is definitely not safe for you” or the mainstream phrase “there is too much violence over there in South America”. The more time I am in Peru, the more I realize that those comments were inaccurate if you take precautions. Every country have spots that are not safe. How to take a first precaution? Informe yourself and ask locals about these spots and just don’t go there. That is all.
Here are some tips that I would like to share in order to help you prepare for your life as a student in Lima, Perú. You might find the tone of the writing to be discouraging and might give you doubts about coming to Peru, but NOT AT ALL! These tips are for you to have prevention like anywhere in the world, so you can have a great time in Lima-the same way as myself, having the best time of my life as an International Student.
TIP 1: FOOD AND WATER
When you go to a new country, the excitement of discovering new things will give you the desire to taste everything that looks eatable. However, from a country to another, the food can be really distinct and become a serial killer for your stomach. First, never ever drink the tape water if you don’t want to meet “Mr. Tourista”-a mean guy that will make you go to the restroom every second of your life. Not really glamour, right?
This also involves the ice made out of water coming from the faucet. I know that it feels good to have a fresh drink on a terrace with some friends, but it is a big risk to add these ice cubes. You are better of by using filtered water from bottles or ice bags purchased at reliable supermarkets.
Secondly, be careful with raw vegetables (avoid it in low-cost restaurants) and milk. Don’t buy anything from the stands in the streets or people who are offer you some cakes while you are walking. If you are used to “exotic” food you can explore more of the local restaurants, but if this environment is new for you, like in my case, be patient and take your time. Also, it is really important to hydrate in order to help the digestion.
TIP 2: TRANSPORTATION
You will see that a lot of taxi drivers will ask you to hop on their cars, but if you do want to have their services just say “NO GRACIAS”. Some taxis can be “fake ones” (the ones that do not have any lantern marked as “Taxi” on the roof) and you can risk a lot such as being stolen. If you really do need to take a taxi make sure he has official documentations. However, the only way to ensure you will be safe is to use the “Uber” app. In comparison to Europe, this app in Peru is really easy to use, cheap and it is an official company.
The bus will be your essential public transport to move into the city or to travel and it will save you money. When taking the public bus, keep your bag/purse always with you and do not use your cellphone inside for too long or you will get distracted and be a target for pickpockets. Some buses can stop wherever you want if you make a sign and ask, and other buses have designated stops. Furthermore, get ready and wait in front of the exit door of the bus when getting off, because the bus driver will not wait for you. Upload the app “Moovit”, it will help you with directions.
Be prepared and patient as public transportation here is like a roller coaster; at the beginning you think that you will die, (too many people fitting in one bus!), but after some time you will become a real Indiana Jones.
TIP 3: PARTIES
If you are a real partygoer like myself, you have to take some precautions in order to be safe.
You would want to become “loco” and taste the local drink Pisco Sour, and trust me after one glass you will not want to stop. However, you do also want to spend a great night without any dramas. Right? So drink responsibly.
First, take some cash so you don’t have the risk to come home without your international credit card. I will be a pain in the ass to get a new one from back home.
Second, do not take any important papers such as your passport, but use a photocopy.
Third, keep in mind that Peru has a reputation for drugs. Do not take your eyes away from your drink like you would do with your crush to make sure no one is going to put some drugs in it.
Fourth, don’t come back home by yourself. It is better to return with a group of friends or to take an Uber. You never know who you could meet in the streets.
TIP 4: MONEY AND PERSONAL BELONGINGS
When you just landed in Lima, don’t get too exited and exchange all your cash to Peruvian Soles at the Airport. It is better you exchange just few bills, like for the taxi and the food for the day, because the rates in the Airport are not the actual rates of the market and you will be getting less Soles than you should. Exchange currency shops are usually in main streets. Go to the ones that are in crowded avenues or where there is commerce going on, and shop around (usually there are more than 2 or more exchange currency shops in the same area) asking for the exchange rate since some of them might give you a lower exchange rate since you are a foreigner. Try to avoid banks for exchanging currencies since they will usually give you less Soles as well.
A lot of pickpocketing happening in South America. Be careful when you take out some cash. Do not accept people who will ask you to change money in the street. Go to an official agency. Moreover, when you are taking out some cash at a bank do not accept any help from anyone. Also, verify that nobody is looking at your security code and call a security guard if you do have any problem.
Remember to keep your bag close to you. If you have a backpack, wear it like a kangaroo (in front of you) and not in the back. It is not stylish, but it is smart if you want to keep your personal stuff. Try to get a bag that is closed with a zip so it is less accessible for pickpockets.
Do not forget that Peru is still a developing country and there are some areas with huge economic problems which might lead to an increase in criminality. Unfortunately, we are not living in a Disney Movie, but nowhere in the world right?
Other extra tips:
-Don’t extent trust easily on people. Be open, but cautious. -Wear casual clothes and do not try to show off that you have the latest technologies or luxury brands.
If you are aware of your surroundings and follow the tips in here, you will live the best experience of your life, I do promise. Peru is a wonderful country that has a lot to offer.
Be a responsible adventurer.