Friday, July 17, 2009

Survival Tips for Traveling by Taxi in Lima

I thought for this week's blog I would do something useful, so here are some hints for taking a taxi in Peru.

1. Before you step to the curb, know where you are going and about how much it should cost to get there. Remember, there are no meters in these taxis — you must "haggle" with the taxista to find a price that makes you both happy.

2. Step to the curb and wave your hand, about three taxis will pull over, so don´t worry if you don't like the first one because there will be another and another and another. DO NOT jump in the taxi right away. You must first ask the driver through the window if he knows the place you are going. There is a chance he will tell you he does even if he doesn't, but I can't help you there! Anyway if he knows ask him how much. Since you are from the United States, he is most likely going to tell you something ridiculously pricey. Don't be afraid to say no. Negotiate and if he doesn't cooperate, go to the next one.

3. After settling your price, you can get in the taxi. If you are in the front seat, put on your seatbelt. If you are in the back, its a good idea but not required. Also LOCK THE DOOR. This is to prevent the door being opened and someone grabbing you or your bag at red lights.

4. I forgot to mention if a tiny little car pulls up that says tico on it anywhere don´t get on it unless you have to! It is a tin can on wheels. Tin cans and normal-sized cars, plus high speeds equal unhappy passengers.

5. Pay attention to where you are going, watch for familiar buildings etc. just to be sure the taxista really does know where you are going.

6. Do not be surprised if the taxi driver does any of the following:

a. Drives down the middle of the road,

b. Honks his horn incessantly,

c. Drives as fast as he can,

d. Squeezes past and in between other cars.

He is only driving down the middle of the road to make sure that if one lane opens up he can get there without having to completely change lanes. He is honking his horn at other drivers that cut him off and pedestrians who try to cross in front of him. He will also honk because you are coming to a crossroads with no stop sign or red light. The horn will alert the drivers coming from the crossroads to maybe stop or to accelerate, so that he has to stop. Either way, everyone is blowing their horns. I'm also pretty sure that they occasionally just do it for fun.

If he is driving as fast as he can, you can be sure that not only have you just gone over a speed bump, but another one is coming up. They use the space in between speed bumps to practice going from 0 to 60 and back to 0 in short distances. Also don't be alarmed if he squeezes between cars and buses. The drivers here in Lima act a lot like children in line at the ice cream shop — they are all trying to get there first. But, this is a perfectly normal behavior, so don't worry.

7. When you reach your destination pay, check all of your belongings to make sure you didn't leave anything before you get out. EXIT ONTO THE SIDEWALK NOT INTO THE ROAD. They do not stop for pedestrians here.

Well, I think that is everything you need to know for successful taxi travels in Lima, Peru. I deeply apologize if I left any questions unanswered and promise to do better next time! By the way, some of these tips come from the Peruvians themselves and some of them are my own insight — in case you were wondering how credible they are.

* Katelyn is participating in a study abroad program in Lima Peru, organized by Valdosta State University's International Programs and Modern and Classical Languages.

No comments: