Lima Airport: An Overview
Jorge Chávez International Airport, Lima, is one the busiest and most modern airports in South America. Since 2001, there has been major reconstruction work, and consequently Lima Airport has received many awards, including “Best Airport in South America”.
Despite only containing one terminal and thus being relatively small in size when comparing it to other international airports, Lima’s airport is a major transport hub. Each year, it receives between 16 and 18 million national and international passengers.
Lima Airport is situated in the district of Callao, which is 10km from the city centre, and over 17km from the touristic neighbourhoods of the city, which is where most visitors choose to stay throughout their trip.
The journey time can be anything from 40 minutes to 2 hours, depending on whether you travel during peak hours or not. The traffic around the airport gets very congested, so be prepared to experience delays in the arrival time to your destination.
1. The Arrivals Procedure
On the plane, you’ll receive a Customs Declaration Form to complete before you pass through customs. Here you should declare any restricted goods you might be bringing in.
The first stop you will make after landing at Lima Airport is Migration Control. Make sure you request the amount of time you’d like to stay in Peru, the maximum being 183 days. This is stamped on your passport.
- Baggage Claim – This can take a while.
- Customs – Show your customs declaration form and put your luggage on the belt to be scanned.
- Transport and Services – Here you’ll find the transport desks, including taxis, car rentals, and the official Airport Express Lima bus (AEL).
What about transfers?
- Domestic Transfers – Pass through migrations, luggage collection, and customs. You’ll need to collect your baggage and check it in again to your connecting flight.
- International Transfers – Don’t pass migration control – instead, go to the International Departures zone on the second floor and find your boarding gate.
- You’re allowed to exit the airport, but you’ll be charged a fee to re-enter.
- If you want to sleep at the airport, go to the seating by the food court, or to the departure areas.
- If you prefer to stay in a hotel/hostel close to the airport, a couple of options are: the Costa del Sol Wyndham Lima Aeropuerto (pricey but on airport grounds), or Pay Purix Backpackers Hostel (economical but outside of airport grounds).
2. The Departure Procedure
Like any airport, you will need to go to the check-in counters first. They are located centrally. After your check-in you can continue on to the departure gates on the second floor.
If you have problems with a document or have overstayed your visa, be aware that you’ll be delayed at security and customs. Arrive extra early to sort out these problems. Overstaying your visa will cost you $1 for each day that you have overstayed in Peru.
3. Inside Lima Airport
- Despite only containing one terminal, Jorge Chávez International Airport boasts many shops and services, with most of them being open at all hours. The airport itself is open 24/7. You’ll find:
- Money Exchange and ATMs: Remember, you can use USD in Peru for most things.
- Wi-Fi: The first 15 minutes using the network WIGO.AeropuertoLima are free.
Facilities Before Security (open to the public):
- Tourist Information.
- Medical Centre: Open 24/7.
- Lockers: Prices for a locker start at S/8 for an hour.
- Baggage Storage: Prices start at S/4 per hour per item.
- Luggage Wrapping: Costs S/35 (about $10).
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- Souvenir Shops: Including Britt Shop, Kuna, and Sol Alpaca.
- Food Court: Open 24/7.
- Massages, Spa, and Showers: $10 for a shower.
- Books and Magazines.
- Postal Service: Serpost, the Peruvian postal service.
- Phone rental.
Facilities After Security:
- In the International Flight Area, you’ll find seating, places to eat, duty free shopping, and two airport lounges.
- In the Domestic Flight Area, you’ll find a café and some shops, an airport lounge, and a place where you can purchase Peru Rail tickets for Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.
4. Transport Between The Airport and Lima City
Journey times vary depending on whether you travel during peak or off-peak hours, the busiest times being between 07:00 and 10:00 and 17:00 and 21:00.
It can take anything from 40 minutes to 2 hours, so allow extra time when planning your journey in case of delays.
Airport Express Lima official bus
The official airport bus to get to or from Lima Airport is the luxury service Airport Express Lima. Airport Express Lima is the safest way to travel, and you avoid the extortionate fees charged by the taxis.
Recently launched, it links the main touristic neighborhood of Miraflores and the business district San Isidro to the airport, stopping at 12 spots within Miraflores and San Isidro. Over 150 hotels and hostels are within walking distance to these stops, so you can be sure of a safe and hassle-free trip.
Their on-bus facilities include TVs, USB charging ports, and free Wi-Fi. There’s a toilet, leather seats and no baggage limit, making for a comfortable and easy journey.
This service departs from Lima’s Airport over 60 times per day, and you can buy your ticket inside the terminal or online. If you’re looking to buy on arrival, just go to the Airport Express Lima desks, one located next to the international arrivals area, and the other in the domestic arrivals baggage zone. The price is reasonable at $8 one way and $15 for a return.
- From the airport to the city:
There are many taxi desks found inside the airport, making it a very convenient – but expensive – option. The prices here are fixed, so you won’t be able to negotiate with the driver – it’s roughly $20 to Miraflores or San Isidro. These are all registered taxis, and it is recommended to take one from here rather than heading outside of the airport, where the unregistered taxi drivers are waiting.
It’s not uncommon for people taking unofficial taxis to be victims of theft, so while it may be cheaper as the prices are negotiable, it’s not worth the risk. It’s also strongly unadvisable to leave the airport grounds in search of a taxi, especially at night.
The authorised taxi companies which run from Lima airport are: Taxi365, Taxi Directo and Taxi Green.
- From the city to the airport:
It’s advisable not to take just any taxi off the street, as many taxis aren’t registered. Stay safe and ask your hostel or hotel to call an official taxi for you. The price will be around S/50 (about $15) if you choose this option. On the street prices drop to S/35-40.
Public Bus Service – Combis
The other buses which provide transport between Callao and the rest of the city are known as ‘combis’. These are mini-buses which are privately owned, and there’s a network of these which provide transport all over the city. There’s no set schedule, but they run very frequently. It costs about S/2-S/3 to get to the touristic districts.
Bare the following in mind:
- The area where you take combis from is unsafe.
- Make sure you get on the right combi. It is really easy to take the wrong combi as they sometimes bend the truth to get you on the bus.
- Do not take a combi that has you transfer in an unsafe area. Some parts of Lima are genuinely unsafe for foreigners.
- Watch out for pickpockets as you’re squashed close to other passengers with your belongings.
- There is no space for big bags on a combi unless you’re incredibly lucky.
- There are no direct routes to Miraflores or San Isidro.
- They take forever to get to the centre.
Private airport transfer companies, such as Peruvian Shuttle and Lima Transfers Co. charge around $30 for a car. This price normally increases with more passengers. Ask your hostel or hotel to help you book.
At the domestic and international arrivals zones, you’ll find various companies. Ask around and find the best price, the minimum being around $100 per week.
If you’re considering this option, be aware that the roads in Lima (and the rest of Peru) aren’t always well-maintained, which can result in damage to the vehicle. The drivers in Lima have a bad reputation and this creates chaotic conditions.