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My fear of traveling to Peru

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In January, 2016, I booked a flight to Peru on a whim.  Originally my plan was to go to Thailand and Bali with a tour group with a couple of travel friends I had met in Cuba a few years back.  But last minute, I decided to bail on that trip because there was just something that wasn’t sitting right about it.

First off, the tour was going to cost about double, if not triple what I could have paid, had I gone and winged it myself.  But, I was not fully prepared to travel to South East Asia alone, as my friends were gung-ho about going with the tour group.

Peru had come to my attention one day, so I called up a friend who was born and raised there, she said her and her husband wanted to go to, and we booked our flights the next day – just like that, I was committed!

Once the original excitement wore off, fear set in

I had never travelled to south America before.  I’ve heard that it was dangerous in different areas and of course, I read all sorts of travel advisories about kidnappings, robbing, diseases, you name it, I read about it.

I also have a lot of friends who have moved out of different countries from South America, who have told me stories about how bad the violence is, and how people will rob you if you flash too much money or jewelry.  So those stories only furthered my fear of going there.

If you have ever planned on travelling to Peru, and have done some online research about things to be weary about, I’m sure you have read all about the same things that I was fearful about prior to my departure.

Since I have come and gone from Peru, I have compiled a list of different warnings that I had read about, and I will debunk ALL OF THEM! And also provide some insight and helpful tips on how to be safe when travelling there.

1. Driving in Peru is insane

I read this EVERYWHERE! If you google “driving in Peru” you will come across dozens of sites talking about how crazy everyone drives.

Sometimes I can be a little bit of a nervous Nelly when it comes to being in a car driving through bad traffic, especially when people tailgate during high speeds.  But I never felt nervous my whole time being in Peru.

Yes, they do drive crazy. Yes, no one follows the rules of the road.  Yes, I almost seen a few accidents and I’m pretty sure we almost got smoked by a few cars in 10 days, but NOT ONCE was I scared!

Compared to North American roads, people do drive pretty slow in comparison. Everyone seems to know what they’re doing and their system seems to work.

I personally do not recommend renting a car and driving around Lima if you are not familiar with their rules of the road.  But if you just sit back and relax, watch the scenery and make sure you have your seatbelt on, you will be perfectly fine!

2. Cab drivers will rob you

This was another fear that I had going into my trip. I was told how you cannot go in any can as they will rob you if they know you are a tourist. Then I read that you should only take the yellow cabs that have numbers on the side.

One thing you should know about LIma, Peru – every other car you will see in that city, is a cab! There are 250,000 cabs in LIma, and every car has a cab number on the side of it.

I think I rod in about 30 different cabs during my stay, and not once did I ever get robbed, or felt scared at all.  The drivers were like cab drivers in any other country.

My friend who I was with even forgot her cell phone in one of the cabs that we took.  Since there are so many cabs and we didn’t know which company it was, there was no way to call and find out where it was.  We thought it was gone for sure  The cab driver ended up seeing the phone in the back, called the last number to tell them that she had forgot her phone in his cab.  He ended up coming and picking us back up to drive us back to the condo we were renting and gave her back the phone.  All of this only cost us about $20US!!  You don’t see that happening every often in large cities!

3. Don’t bring out your cell phone

Here’s another good one.  I was told that it wasn’t safe to bring out your cell phone in pubic because people get robbed for them or shot for them all the time.  Probably another urban legend, but I’m sure it does happen sometimes in certain areas.

I had my new Samsung S6 out the whole time taking pictures, and no one even cared or looked at me.  I’m pretty sure most people had even better phones that I had.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no doubts that there are places all over Lima and other parts of Peru where you could very well get robbed for your cell phone.  But, if you decide to visit those places, you should take caution on everything you do there!

4. Don’t walk around with a lot of money

As much as this one is another great myth about how you will get robbed if you have more than $100 PEN on you, it is really all about common sense here.  If you’re flashing out your gangster roll money clip and making it rain every store you go to, yeah, someone might see and want to rob you.  But if you are discreet with your money and keep it close by, you will be perfectly fine.

I always had a lot of money on me.  I needed to have cash in order to buy things as most places don’t take credit cards, and of course, when I was getting money out of the machine, you have to walk around with it to your next destination.

I was never worried when I had money on me or when I was pulling cash out of the machine.  Now there are police officers at every bank standing outside.  I’m not sure if they are there to make sure you don’t get robbed after you pull out your money, or to make sure that you do not rob the bank – but either way I felt safe seeing them there.

Other myths that might be true:

I did read that Peru does have diseases such as Yellow Fever, Malaria, Zika, just to name a few. And while I personally did not get any vaccines or contract anything when I was there, I’m not going to say for sure that there is no chance that you can catch these viruses.  I didn’t go anywhere in the jungle or travel to any of the “outbreak zones”.  When I do go back to go to the jungle, I may however, look into getting some preventative shots.

You might also hear rumours about the police stopping people for bribes. This is in fact true and does happen regularly.  It happened to us on our way back from Ica to Lima.  We were stopped at a random “spot check” and the police was trying to find reasons why our drivers papers were not sufficient.  He ended up letting us go without needing a bride.  Maybe it was because our driver had a car load of Canadian tourists, or because he knew that we had everything in order, who knows.

And like any other country in the world, you do have to be careful with watching your drinks, and what street food you choose to eat.  Not everything is by code that is sold on the streets and you cannot always trust that no one is going to put something in your drink – especially as a female tourist.

Final thoughts…

The age old travel advice: if you exercise the normal precautions you would in your own country while travelling abroad, you will be fine!

People can get shot, stabbed, robbed, kidnapped, scammed and drugged anywhere in the world, and you don’t necessarily need to jump on a airplane to have that happen.  It can easily happen in your own hometown or city.  Always be smart, and don’t act like an idiot when you’re out in local bars.

While there is so much information out there about the dangers of the world, once you get our there to discover it for yourself, you will see that it really is not as bad as people make it out to be. There is good everywhere and people genuinely want to be kind to you.   People love having tourists in their country (for the most part), visiting and enjoying their culture.

So don’t let the fear of any of these sort of dangers prevent you from going out and seeing what this beautiful world has to offer.  Especially the magnificent Peru.  It is truly an outstandingly amazing country that everyone at some point should see!

8 thoughts on “My fear of traveling to Peru

  1. Moneysavingmama

    I have always wanted to travel out of the country but because of the stories Peru and South America were not on my list of places. They seem beautiful and now based on your review I want to add this to my list of places to see. It sounds like you should take the same caution as you would in any large city. I did notice that under the section about the bribe with the cops I had to read it a few times because it says bribe and then bride. I wasn’t sure if you were about to get married to the cop. Ha! I look forward to my travels to South America now and know what to be on the look out for.

    1. Nicki Post author

      hahaha good catch! No, I did not marry a cop, but I will make those corrections. I completely missed that in my proof read lol

      Yes, south America is amazing. There are a lot of dangers there, depending on where you go, but most of that crime is all drug and gang related. As long as you keep away from the sketchy areas and stick to sightseeing safely, you will be fine. I can’t wait to go back and see more. And I am totally comfortable even going there alone! I’ll just have to work on my Spanish first 🙂

  2. Margaret

    I have traveled overseas a couple of times and was shocked at the things I was told to beware of. I flew to London and then toured around Europe. We were warned about Gypsies and beggars and pickpockets. These are unheard of in Australia and I was shocked. My friend lost his wallet in Paris to a pickpocket. He had it in the front pocket of his jeans and it wasn’t easy to get out but somehow the thief managed without him noticing. I was also disturbed by the number of beggars we saw. I don’t think I will leave my country again.

    1. Nicki Post author

      oh wow! I have also heard a lot of the same thing about Europe as well, but from friends who have actually been robbed and pick-pocketed. I do want to see Europe at some point, but I will exercise extreme caution there. Thanks for your story and I’m glad there is none of that sort of thing in Australia as I am heading off to there in October 🙂

  3. Jake

    Nice post, it’s cool you made the decision to go there and followed through. I know what you mean about some of the crazy things people say about certain countries. I’ve traveled in Southeast Asia and been constantly surprised at how untrue some of the things people said about it were. Peru seems really cool though, I’ll have to check it out some time.

    1. Nicki Post author

      Hi Jake! Yes, I actually just had a friend who just came back from Peru and even he said he was surprised at how different it was from what he was told. It’s not scary at all (of course that means exercising normal precautions). But he was surprised by the amount of Police Officers that were around Lima. It is true that they are standing outside of all bank machines and the entrances to the banks. But Lima is a very touristy area, and the extra police are just for the safety of the tourists.

  4. Mithra

    I’ve always wanted to explore South America. But I’ve a hard time convincing my Mom that I’ll be safe there. Every time I I talk about travelling to a south American country, my Mom picks up these random sites explaining how unsafe South America is. I’m glad that you wrote this post. It settles a lot of my concerns and hopefully, I can finally convince my Mom.

    Is there anything in particular that you would suggest a solo female traveller should be concerned about in Peru?

    1. Nicki Post author

      Hi Mithra,

      I was terrified as well about travelling there because of all the stories I had heard.  But you can’t believe everything you hear.  You always have to be very cautious anywhere you travel – especially as a solo female.  As long as you stick to the major cities, tour groups, or touristy areas, you will be fine.  Like anywhere, I would not suggest carrying a lot of money on you as there is always that risk of being robbed.  I would definitely brush up on your Spanish if you are not fluent already.  There is not a lot of English there, so to be able to navigate around, being able to understand a bit will help.  The only real dangerous places are in the jungle closer to the Colombian boarder.   But other than that, you will be perfectly fine.  I never felt unsafe the whole time I was there. There are just as many horror stories in your own neighborhood as there are in foreign lands.  Pleasant journey! 🙂

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