Staying Safe in Peru


There’s a long standing argument over just how dangerous it is to live or travel in Peru. Certainly, reported crimes have been on the increase over the last five years. And it may also be true that as foreigners we are more frequently targeted.

Peruvian police women. © Renegustavoil78590

We’ve all heard stories of people who arrive in Peru and are robbed in the taxi from the airport to the hotel. But for every story like this, there are stories of other people who have lived here for years without problem. Many of the dangers are exaggerated, but that’s not to say you don’t need to be alert. The odds of you falling prey to criminals can be greatly reduced by making yourself aware of the dangers and by being careful.

  • By far, you are at more risk of being pick pocketed in the larger cities and towns than any other crime. Having your bag or backpack taken from you – sometimes violently – is another danger. Prevention here means making it difficult for the bad guys. Wear a hip pack or backpack that isn’t easy to remove. Keep your wallet in your front pocket.
  • When out in restaurants or clubs, don’t leave belongings sitting on the table; put them under the table, in your lap or use the straps that are often provided to clip your purse to the chair. Don’t leave your purse out when you go to the bathroom – take it with you. .
  • Don’t get drunk when you’re out. Criminals are like any other predator, and they prey on the sick or injured. Being drunk puts you dead in their sites. If you are out partying, stay with a group with at least one person you know and trust. Herd animals know – there’s safety in numbers.
  • If you’re out, don’t leave a drink sitting at the table or bar if you go to the bathroom. Finish it before you go, or take it with you.
  • When riding in a car or taxi, put your belongings in the trunk or on the floor, out of sight. Don’t leave valuables in plain sight.
  • In fact, keeping a low profile is pretty much the name of the game, whether on foot, in a bus or in a car. Keep jewelry and finery to a minimum. Don’t flash cash or expensive electronics.
  • Keep an eye out on anyone who seems to be paying an unusual amount of attention to you. While in some areas, it might just be because they don’t see many gringos, they also might be sizing you up.
Rough areas in Lima, Peru. ©Alex Proimos
  • Be careful as well of groups of young kids that might surround you asking for change. While one has your attention, another might be lifting your camera.
  • If you’re renting a home or apartment, have all the locks changed as soon as you move in. Buy the locks and have them installed yourself. Make sure no one takes the keys to make copies. Only give copies of the keys to people you know and trust 100%.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel or hostel, invest in a small door alarm. They’re small and inexpensive. Also, hide items in your room. Don’t leave your iPod or laptop sitting out on the dresser. Hide it under a chair cushion or similar spot. People robbing hotel rooms are generally in a hurry – they won’t usually take the time to search.

Most of these tips should be second nature to anyone who does a lot of traveling. Safety in Peru really isn’t different than safety in any other developing country – in fact studies suggest that Lima is one of the safer cities in South America. So in closing, Lima does have a higher crime rate that comes with being a very large city in an undeveloped country. But you can take steps to protect yourself and lessen the odds of you becoming a victim.

We’d like to hear from you. If you have any safety tips you would like to share to others in Peru, post about it in our forum topic: Staying safe in Peru .