Saturday, March 28, 2009

On Money, Shopping, Tipping...

Store/Office Hours
Most stores are open M-S, 10.00 to 20.00 hrs. Department stores like Ripley, Saga, and other main stores also open on Sundays. Some small business or specialties stores close for a couple of hours at lunch time.

Bank hours vary depending on the season. Most banks are open M-Sat., 9.00-18.00 hours (better get used to military time).

Most museums are open M-Sat., 9:00-18:00 hrs. Some close at lunch time.

Prices in stores as fixed but you can "regatear" (bargain) in open markets and handicrafts stores.

The national currency is the Nuevo Sol (S/.), comes in bills and coins. Do not get fooled by the size of the coins, a 5 soles (size of an American quarter) can get you a sandwich or a nice ice-cream. The Sol is divided in 100 cents and the coins are of 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1, 2 and 5 soles. Bills are in denominations of 10, 20, 50 and 100 soles. Be aware of counterfeited money.

Even though major credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and stores, always bring some cash with you. If you are going to pay with a credit card, expect to be asked for your passport, and don't get mad or argue, because this is just the way it is. Personally, I do not recommend traveler's cheques, as in Europe, they are just a pain. You can pay in US$ dollars in most places according to the daily exchange rate; you will receive your change, if any, in Peruvian money.

Currency Exchange Rate
You can exchange money with the "cambistas", who are registered exchange agents, and can be found in the main streets of Miraflores. We recommend you go to a bank or currency exchange place. Hotel charge high commissions.

Major credit cards accepted in most businesses: Visa, Master Card, Diners and American Express.

Tip: We usually bring some cash with us, and change on a daily basis because the exchange rate varies from day to day (at this posting the ER was 3.10 soles/1 dollar). But we mainly use our credit and debit cards. There are ATMs all over the place and you have the option of making your withdrawals in Soles or US$.

- Country Code Peru: 011-51 (if dialing from USA)

- City Code Lima: 1

To make long distance calls, you could buy pre-paid cards. We offer our guests two "pay as you go" cell phones, that can be charged at the Vivanda Supermarket. No pesky PIN needed.

There are tons of Internet cafés or "Cafés cibernéticos". There is one across Vivanda, a block away. You can check your emails for 1h/1US$. We offer Internet connection at the apartment.

Airport - Miraflores: Usually 40.00 soles (around 15 bucks).
Around town: 5.00 - 15.00 soles, depending on distance.

We offer our guests transport services to/from the airport. Our driver is a serious and trustful person. You can also make direct arrangements with him if you need transportation in Lima.


There is a 18% VAT added to all purchases and services, it is already included in the price (unlike the States).

It does not matter how many countries I have visited, I always have problem with how much is acceptable. By rule of thumb: 8% - 12% is acceptable in most restaurants, I leave more if it is a nice place and service has been good. Porters/Bell boys: US$1 per bag. I always tip taxi drivers, it's a hard job. Tourist guides and drivers: 5 to 10 soles per day.

USA, Canada and UK citizens only need a valid passport and a round trip ticket for a 60 days tourist visa. Other nationalities check requirements.

Documents: We recommend to make a couple of copies of your main documents, in case something happens, it is always easier to get a duplicate that way. Some people carry around a legalized copy of the passport with them and leave the original in the safe (yes, we have a safe at the apartment).

Tip: Always carry around a card/paper with the apartment address and main point of reference: Jose Galvez 651, Miraflores, across from the Canadian Embassy, Block 6 of Pardo Avenue.

Tourist Information in Miraflores:
Oficina Turística Municipal de Miraflores (San Martín 537, Miraflores, Tel. 447-9539 444-3915) Open M-F 8:30-5.

There are tourist information booths in the main parks and areas of Miraflores. There is also a double decker bus tour. Lots of fun! The bus departs daily from the Kennedy Park (six blocks from the apartment).

Most airlines offices are in Av. Pardo, two blocks from the apartment.

Airport: The airport is a good 30 min. ride from Miraflores. Jorge Chávez (Tel. 01/452-3135), You can check flight info in the airport web page. Please be aware that you will be required to pay a departure tax for domestic and international flights. The departure tax for international flights is US$30.00 a person (the only airline that includes the tax in the fare is American Airlines, that I know of) . So save some money.

Customs/Immigration: You will get in line to go through immigration first, don't complain if the line is long. Miami Zoo (oops, Airport) is worst, keep that in mind. Believe me, and nobody likes nagging tourists. Do not lose the white card, since it's your visa, and you are supposed to return it at your departure. The same safety travel procedures apply. Once you go through immigration, pick up your suitcases, check not only on the carousel but also around it, before you go running to report that they are missing. There are free luggage carts (unlike Chicago). After you collect your luggage, get in line to clear customs. You have to press a bottom, red light, too bad, you have to open your bags (no big deal). Green light, go ahead, and enjoy your trip.

Do NOT bring in or back any illegal substances. Jails in Peru are not pretty. Everyday they catch people trying to smuggle drugs out of Peru. You have been warned, and NO, we will not help you.

Electricity: 220 V, 60 Hz. You don't need a transformer for your laptop.

Bring a wall adaptor, we have a couple at the apartment.

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