Having a good time when money is not an issue is no problem. However, when I arrived in Lima in June 2017, I was almost broke and the only way to change this was living on a tight budget for a while. Well, and Lima on a budget is definitely possible.
How much money do you need in Lima?
My accommodation cost US$400/month and I decided not to spend more than US$10 a day. This worked well although I lived in Lima’s most expensive neighbourhood Miraflores. If US$700 still sounds much to you, try to find cheaper accommodation. That’s possible but I chose that room because it had a private bathroom, was very central, had great internet and I was sharing the apartment with just one person. That was the little bit of luxury I needed.
The minimum wage in Peru is currently a little less than US$300, so it’s not uncommon for Peruvians to live on that amount of money I assigned to myself for food, toiletries and occasional visits to a café. Like everywhere, life in Lima is certainly more expensive than in other parts of the country.
Costs for food
With US$10 a day, you won’t be able to eat out every day but even when you’re such a bad cook as I am, you don’t have to starve. There are three big supermarket chains (Wong, Vivanda and Metro) and they have buffets where you can choose your food. And unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, the choice is pretty all right, varying from typical Peruvian food like Camotes fritos to Chinese or Italian dishes. Price is per 100g and as I don’t eat that much, I usually paid around US$2 per meal. Add another US$3 maximum for something to drink, some bread etc and you’ll be totally fine. When hungry while walking around, I would often buy an empanada (90 cents).
Free activities in Miraflores
Apart from food, you don’t necessarily have to spend money in Miraflores. It’s absolutely possible to spend a couple of great days here without ending up broke. This is even more so the case if you like to walk and would like to enjoy some nature – which is not always easy in big cities such as Lima.
Visiting the malecón parks
My first AirBnB in Lima was situated directly at Malecón Cisneros. I arrived quite late on a Saturday night and was totally stunned when I took the first walk on Sunday morning. First of all, the view onto the Pacific ocean is stunning, of course. And the parks make the experience even better. You can do sports there, have a picknick, take a walk or just recover from Lima’s stressful and noisy traffic situation. The parks are situated on the cliffs and there are several opportunities to descend to the beaches. Lima is a surf spot, even in winter. However, it doesn’t have pretty beaches, just stones and it’s noisy, too as there’s a main road directly at the coast.
Barranco is situated south of Miraflores and considered to be Lima’s most bohemian neighbourhood. Depending on where in Miraflores you are, it’s approximately a 30-minutes walk, perhaps a bit longer when you follow the Malecóns. Barranco is great when you enjoy strolling along streets. It has a lot of old buildings and cute little cafés.
Visiting the cats of Parque Kennedy
Parque Kennedy is the centre of Miraflores. You will find a lot of restaurants, cafés and shops around it. However, Parque Kennedy is also the home of a bunch of cats which are looked after by volunteers. They’re very tame and can be stroked. You will see most of them when you take a stroll through the park in the evening.
Centro Cultural Ricardo Palma
The Centro Cultural Ricardo Palma is situated at Avenida José Larco 770. They offer touristic activities like guided walks for free or for a very low fee. I’m just not sure if it’s suitable for people who don’t speak Spanish. Well, if you do speak Spanish, here’s a link where you can download their current programs. The PDF’s are updated monthly.
Low-Cost activities in Miraflores
Miraflores is very touristic and you can certainly book a tour with one of those buses which show you around. Might be an option if you have little time but it’s something I normally don’t do at all because I prefer to explore my surroundings by walking around a lot.
As I really needed to save as much as I could, I only participated in two paid activities during my time in Lima. Yes, I admit I’d rather spend some bucks on a cappuccino ;-). However, the two things I did were really great and I totally recommend them.
Huaca Pucllana is an archaeological site in the middle of Miraflores. It is open from Wednesday to Monday between 9 am and 5 pm and from Wednesday to Sunday from 7 – 10 pm. During the day, the entrance fee is 12 Soles (app. US$ 3.60) which includes a guided visit to the site with either an English or a Spanish-speaking guide. Apart from telling you the history of the people who once lived there (the oldest part of Huaca Pucllana is more than 1,500 years old), they’ll also show you some native plants and animals. There are guineas pigs (“cuys” as they’re called in Peru and yes, you also find them on the menu of many restaurants), llamas and alpacas. The tour lasts about one hour. I’m not sure how many tours they offer a day, I had to wait for about half an hour before mine started and used the time to have a look at the tiny museum and the souvenir shop (where the prices are quite affordable, too).
It’s actually not really a museum but rather a chain of stores/cafés which also offer information about the history of the cacao beans and the chocolate production. In Lima, they’re located downtown and in Miraflores (Diagonal and Calle Berlín). However, they also have stores in other Peruvian cities and countries such as Mexico or Nicaragua.
They offer various workshops and I opted for the mini-workshop in Calle Berlín. The workshop cost 30 Soles (about US$9.00), lasts nearly 1.5 hours and also takes place when you’re the only participant. The instructions are given in Spanish and English. I had my workshop with a 6-years old girl from Texas and told the instructor that it would be fine if she only spoke English. I would have preferred it in Spanish but it wouldn’t have made much sense.
So we made some chocolate with different flavours. I made the mistake to add coca powder to one of my chocolates. Huge mistake indeed, it tasted horrible. But well, I was curious, of course. While our chocolates hardened in the fridge, our instructor showed us around and explained a lot of things. Afterwards, we could take our chocolates home.
Taking a Metropolitano bus is the best way to get to downtown Lima. You need to purchase a travel card for S./5 and then each journey costs S./2.5. You can recharge as much or little as you like. The bus takes about 20 minutes from Miraflores to downtown Lima but be prepared that it is full. Often very full and it’s not uncommon that you cannot board the first bus because there’s simply no space for more passengers. Getting off the bus is not always an easy task, either. The doors seem to close automatically and I’ve already seen people who didn’t manage to get off in time. I always stayed as close to a door as possible and preferred not to sit down even if a seat became available.
Parque de la Reserva
The Parque de la Reserva is situated next to Lima’s national stadium (Estadio Nacional), so that’s the Metropolitano stop where you have to get off. You have to pay an entrance fee of S./4 (app. $1). The so-called Magic Water Tour (Circuito Mágico del Agua) consists of 13 fountains, some of them with special effects and all lighted at night. There are also walk-in fountains, so you may want to bring your bathing suit in summer. The park has changing rooms, all very well organized.
You won’t starve, either as there are small vending stands all around where you can buy water, coffee or Peruvian street food such as picarones or churros. In summer, it’s quite crowded. I went once in April at night and on a gray and cloudy September afternoon. The first experience was better but I didn’t manage to take good photos of the illuminated fountains.
The closest Metropolitano stop to the historical centre of Lima is Jr. de la Unión, two stops after Estación Central. I never felt unsafe in downtown Lima but unlike in Miraflores, it happened a couple of times that some guy approached me and tried to talk to me. When this happened for the first time, it took me about 10 minutes to get rid of him because I was much too polite. Later on, I simply ignored all advances or bluntly told the person to leave me alone if he wouldn’t stop following me. Well, take a closer look at your belongings, too. Same precautions like in other big cities and crowded places. Common sense.
Must-sees in the Centro Historica are the Plaza Mayor and the Monastery of San Francisco. Take some food and water with you if you want to avoid the rather pricey tourist cafés near Plaza Mayor. However, just like in Miraflores, there are also lots of cheap options to get something to eat.
Have you been to Lima? Or do you plan to go there? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and tell us about your experiences and plans.
Liked the article? Share the post and pin it! Big thanks.