If you’re spending a few days visiting in Lima, Peru, chances are you’ll be looking for taxis to take you around town as your main form of transportation. While buses are plentiful and inexpensive, they are a bit confusing for the uninitiated – not to mention slow, crowded and not very well maintained. For most business or tourist travelers, hailing a cab is the best mode of local transportation.
Finding a taxi is usually pretty easy, especially if you’re on a main avenue. Taxis will often slow down and honk the horn or flash their lights at you, whether you’re actually looking for one or not! While there are thousands of cabs on Lima’s streets, only about one third of those taxis are registered. There are many people who drive as an extra way of making money, apart from their main occupation. Unfortunately, not all of these undocumented taxi drivers are honest, so it’s best to stick with registered taxis.
It’s important to note that Peruvian taxis don’t have fare meters. Before you enter a cab, you’ll need to negotiate a price with the driver. If your Spanish skills are lacking, this will put you at a disadvantage. It helps if you have a general idea of the typical rates – you can ask at your hotel how much you should pay to get from spot A to spot B before you go looking for a cab. A general rule of thumb is you can expect to pay about 2 soles per kilometer. If you feel a taxi driver is overcharging you, just say no and walk away – another taxi is most likely waiting in line behind him and will give you a better rate.
Remember also that many taxi drivers don’t carry a lot of cash with them, and often will be unable to make change for anything more than ten soles. While the dollar is still used for many larger purchases in Lima, you will have to pay for your taxi in soles.
Because of the danger of undocumented drivers and the possibility of being overcharged, often your best choice is to call a taxi company. If you find a taxi driver you like, ask for his business card. Many drivers will be happy to drive you around for several days for an hourly or daily rate. Some drivers also work as tour guides, and have set rates for taking out of town trips to nearby locations. Your hotel may also have drivers that they work with on an ongoing basis, and can recommend someone for you.
Finally, a few words about safety: If you have any odd feelings about a taxi driver, don’t get in the cab. Avoid the small ‘tico’ cabs; they’re extremely unsafe in an accident. Never get in a shared cab, and if your driver stops to pick up another fare, get out! Although there have been improvements in car maintenance over the last few years, there are still many very poorly maintained taxis on the road. If a taxi doesn’t look well maintained, don’t get in. Make sure there are seat belts for all passengers.