Day 005 – July 27, 2011
I may have mentioned once or twice in these ramblings that the driving situation in Lima, Peru, is unlike anything seen in the States. Line markings on the road are merely suggestions. We have seen cars make left-hand turns from the right-hand lane of a three-lane street. The roads are swarming with privately owned “buses”, nicknamed “combis”, that start, stop, swerve, and generally act like they operate solely on the principle of Brownian motion (although there are those who enjoy their charm).
For myself and the family, our method of transportation around Lima is the taxi. When I say “taxi”, you may be thinking of those yellow four-door sedans that ply the asphalt canyons of New York City. Erase that image from your mind right now. Taxis in Lima, Peru, come in all shapes, styles, colors, and physical condition. It is a Dr. Seussian plethora of taxis…
Un cab, dos cab, gris cab, tos cab
negra cab, malva cab, vieja cab, nueva cab
While many taxis are independently owned and operated, we use one of the many cab companies in the city. It’s a simple process where you call a phone number, tell the dispatcher where you are and where you want to go, and then they tell you how long to wait. Well, at least it’s easy for my wife to call a cab because she speaks the language. Whereas I have to have the dispatcher repeat everything for me twice because I can never be sure if the person on the other end of the phone has asked me for my address or is trying to sell me a puma.
When I mentioned that cabs here come in a variety of styles, I should have been more specific because one style that they definitely do not come in is van-sized. We’re a family of five and when ever we go anywhere in a taxi, our youngest child (who is 7), has to ride on my lovely wife’s lap in the back seat.
(Yes, I can hear all the safety-obssessed parents, which is redundant, cringing at the thought of a seven-year old riding around without a seat belt, and trust me, I share your cringing, but we’re not in Kansas anymore.)
Another oddity that I have found when employing our dispatched taxi of choice is that the driver never knows where we are going when he arrives. We always have to tell the driver our destination. It’s as if the dispatcher neglects to tell the driver where the fare is headed.
Peru Travel Tip #005: Peruvian taxis are not metered. Therefore, before entering the taxi and going on your merry chauffeured way, always ALWAYS ask the driver what the fare will be. Haggling is permitted, but not extensive haggling.
Since our car is not here yet from the States and since I am in no hurry to attempt to navigate the chaotic Lima streets, I am more than content to continue to hack away with Peru’s taxis.