Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Embassy Lima does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIMA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Peru-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
Armed robberies, assaults, express kidnappings, carjackings, burglaries, and petty theft are common in Lima. While gratuitous violence committed against foreigners is infrequent, assaults and robberies involving violence have been increasing over the last several years. According to the Peruvian National Police, 157,786 documented robberies occurred in 2016. The number of murders in Peru increased from 1,533 in 2015 to 1,914 in 2016.
U.S. and foreign visitors are often perceived as relatively wealthy and may be targeted for their valuables. Counterfeit currency is a serious concern; travelers should exchange currency through hotels and banks rather than through the numerous money-changers that operate along city streets.
While U.S. Embassy personnel and foreign residents normally reside in affluent areas where private security and local police are more effective, they may still find themselves victims of crime. Residential burglaries are most common when houses are left vacant, but thieves will also target occupied residences by breaking in or using a ruse to gain entry. Theft of vehicles and vehicle parts from parked cars is relatively common.
Incidents involving incapacitating agents have been reported in the Lima area. Criminals debilitate the victim with a drug to facilitate theft/sexually assault. It is advised to purchase one’s own drink and never leave it unattended. If for any reason the beverage is left unattended, drinking it is strongly discouraged.
Credit card fraud is prevalent, and many travelers have reported the theft of their card numbers. The Embassy advises travelers limit their use of credit cards to payment for hotel expenses or purchases at well-established businesses; most reputable locations have portable card devices and slide the credit card in full view of the card owner. Travelers should keep their credit cards within their sight while making transactions.
Additionally, travelers should exercise caution when withdrawing money from ATMs. Criminals have been known to stake out banks, and after identifying an individual who has withdrawn cash, either immediately assault them or follow them to another location before committing the robbery. There have been instances of ATM card cloning, where thieves make a copy of an ATM card and withdraw cash from that person’s account.
Cybercrime is a concern, just as in most countries.
Other Areas of Concern
From time to time, the government of Peru declares states of emergency in areas of natural disaster or to curb crime/social unrest. These areas may change frequently, but they generally do not affect the most popular tourism destinations. Travelers to areas off the beaten path should visit Lima’s consular information sheet for the most recent information.
The remote area of the VRAEM (Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene, y Mantaro) experiences a high level of narcotics trafficking and some activity by remnants of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path, SL) terrorist group, presenting an increased risk to travelers. Travelers should avoid the VRAEM, which is difficult to access. The only tourist attraction within the VRAEM is the Inca site of Vilcabamba. Visitors should check the latest security information in order to make an informed decision regarding travel to this area.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
The road network is extensive, but road quality varies. The Pan-American Highway that runs along Peru’s entire coast is generally in good condition, but due to Peru’s difficult terrain, roads heading inland vary from newly surfaced roads to dirt tracks. Inadequate infrastructure often contributes to dangerous driving practices, such as passing slower vehicles with limited visibility.
Traffic in Lima is often very congested and minor collisions, usually due to inadequate infrastructure and driver impatience, are very common.
Traveling outside of Lima by road at night can be hazardous due to poor road conditions, inadequate lighting, and criminal activity. Criminals will frequently block roads at night in order to rob passing cars/buses. With the exception of the Pan American Highway immediately north and south of Lima, the U.S. Embassy prohibits most nighttime road travel for U.S. government personnel and contractors outside urban areas.
Public Transportation Conditions
Tourists should try to travel in groups and use radio-dispatched taxicabs rather than public transportation. There are a number of radio-dispatched taxi services available in Lima, all of which provide generally reliable service in late-model sedans. These “radio taxis” offer a higher degree of security since criminals, operating in groups or individually, have been known to pose as taxi drivers and prey on visitors. Particular care should be exercised when traveling to/from Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima.
Bus companies service almost all areas in Peru. The more expensive companies employ security measures to keep their clients as safe as possible. Theft of valuables from buses is common, though, so travelers are advised to keep a careful eye on their belongings and to monitor the status of any stowed luggage when the bus is stopped for loading/unloading.
Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima is safe and modern. Traffic to/from the airport is usually very heavy, so allow ample time. Peru has a number of airlines serving cities throughout the country.
There have been numerous smash-and-grab incidents affecting vehicles on the roads to/from the airport. Thieves smash vehicle windows and grab any personal belongings that are unsecured, primarily on the passenger side of the vehicle. Travelers should put their bags in the trunk or at their feet on the floor of the vehicle.
Most taxi companies with booths inside the airport have security film, or lamina, on the windows of their vehicles, and using their services is generally much safer than trying to hail a taxi outside the airport.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIMA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
Peru struggled with a serious domestic terrorism problem throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Much of this activity has subsided, and Peru faces a terrorism problem in the VRAEM, where small remnants of SL remain active and target security forces in support of narcotics traffickers.
Regional and international terrorism are not major concerns in Peru, although authorities are closely monitoring any reports of transnational terrorist groups and the transit of migrants from countries with a recent history of terrorist activity.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED LIMA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
There are often strikes/demonstrations due to political, social, or labor issues. While the majority are peaceful, there may be episodic violence. Strikes may occur in tourist areas that affect transportation or access to areas of interest.
Peru experiences daily earthquakes, although most are quite small. However, there have been destructive earthquakes throughout Peru’s history; therefore, travelers should be aware of the risk and take appropriate precautions.
During the rainy season, landslides and flash floods are prevalent in mountainous areas.
In jungle areas, especially in the Madre de Dios region, there is a significant amount of illegal logging and gold mining. These activities severely damage the local environment. Social unrest and crime in these areas could affect independent travelers, although using established tour companies and lodges should help minimize risk.
Peru is one of the top two producers of coca. In areas with intensive coca cultivation (mainly the VRAEM), criminal activity may pose a threat to travelers.
The Peruvian National Police (PNP) is the nation-wide police force responsible for providing citizen security. They have a mixed record with assisting victims of crime, and as of early 2017, the government of Peru was trying to improve both the performance and the public’s perception of the PNP. Corruption is a problem, but some units, such as the high mountain rescue unit and the tourism police, have done an excellent job assisting U.S. citizen visitors.
Under Peruvian law, all persons must carry at least one form of valid photo identification. Due to the large trade in stolen U.S. passports, travelers are cautioned to avoid carrying their passports. Original passports should be locked in a hotel safe or another secure location. Travelers should carry a photocopy of the data/biographic page, the page containing the visa (if needed), and a copy of the Peruvian immigration form received at the port of entry. Additionally, some type of valid original photo identification (driver’s license) must also be carried.
Crime Victim Assistance
Foreign visitors who become victims of a crime should contact the Policia de Turismo (tourist police), which can be found in major tourist areas, are among the more knowledgeable police units, and are more likely to speak English. The tourist police are charged with crime prevention and investigation of crimes against foreign tourists. They are assigned to the main tourist areas and hotels in Lima and principal provinces of Peru. These officers receive training on how to interact with tourists, some of whom are fluent in English and other languages.
In case of emergency, a 105 line is available 24 hours a day, although the response time is not optimal due to the lack of personnel, vehicles, and coverage.
There are several competent private security businesses operating in Peru, many of which offer a wide variety of services such as executive protection, private investigation, guard services for large events, armored car transport, and physical security for both work and residential locations. The RSO is available to discuss security concerns with OSAC members and other U.S. organizations traveling to Peru.
High-quality medical care is available in Lima. Medical facilities for treating serious medical conditions outside of Lima are inadequate. American medical insurance is never accepted, so travelers need to be prepared to use a credit card or pay cash to obtain medical services.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Many popular and often remote tourist destinations require travel above 10,000ft. The high elevation of many tourist destinations, including Cusco, causes many altitude-related illnesses. Altitude-related illness, or even death from severe physical reactions at altitude, is a hazard. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report “Traveling in High Altitude.” Please consult the CDC’s information page on altitude related illness.
The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Peru.
OSAC Country Council Information
The Lima Country Council currently meets quarterly and has approximately 35 members. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions or to join.
Prospective members can obtain further information from the American Chamber of Commerce at 011-511-241-0708 or by e-mailing RSOLima@state.gov.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Embassy Lima, Peru
Avenida La Encalada cdra. 17 s/n
Surco, Lima 33, Peru
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri, 0730-1700
Embassy Contact Numbers
Telephone: (51-1) 618-2000
Fax: (51-1) 618-2397
U.S. citizens should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to ensure that they receive security messages and notices from the U.S. Embassy. Registration allows the embassy or consulate to more easily locate U.S. citizens in the case of an emergency.
Peru Country Information Sheet