Taking Taxis in Peru: Safety, Tipping and Trust

Taxis in Plaza San Martin, Lima.

Taxis in Plaza San Martin, Lima (photo © Tony Dunnell)

Taking a taxi in Peru should be a simple process. You normally don’t have to wait long before a taxi passes by, and Peruvian taxi drivers tend to be chatty, friendly guys. But that doesn’t mean you should hop in the first taxi that comes along, nor believe every word that a taxi driver says…

Quick Tip:  If traveling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima  bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as Free WiFi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travelers.

Getting Where You Want to Go

If you’re an organized backpacker, you probably have a hotel or hostel booked in advance when you arrive in a new city. Good, just tell a taxi driver at the airport or bus terminal where you want to go, explain that you’ve already booked a room, negotiate the fare (see below) and off you go.

If you don’t have a room booked, then choose a recommended hostel from a guidebook/website/blog/TripAdvisor/whatever and go check it out. Be prepared, however, for some taxi drivers to try to change your mind.

Taxi drivers in Peru — and throughout South America — are often paid a commission for taking passengers to specific hostels and hotels. It’s not uncommon for a taxi driver to say that the hotel you want to go to closed down a few months ago. Or it’s full. Or it’s being renovated. Or it burned to the ground. Or there are rats in the kitchen and the owner is a psychopath, so you really shouldn’t go there. They’ll then recommend a great place, which could actually be great, but could equally be a dubious shit hole frequented by amorous young couples who pay by the hour.

If you really have no interest in checking out the taxi driver’s recommendation, then stand your ground and tell him to take you to your hostel of choice. Even if it is owned by a psychopath.

Negotiating the Price of a Taxi in Peru

Peruvian taxis don’t run on meters, so always agree on the fare in advance. I repeat: always agree on the fare in advance. And if you know the fare is inflated, look for another taxi or start haggling. Taxi drivers in Peru almost always try to overcharge (especially with foreign tourists), so you need to negotiate if you want a fair price.

If you have no idea what a reasonable fare should be, then ask someone (a hostel staff member, a waiter) before flagging down a cab. At least then you’ll have a rough idea of the price.

Tipping Taxi Drivers in Peru

No need! Seriously, you don’t need to tip taxi drivers in Peru. Peru isn’t much of a tipping nation, and taxi drivers don’t expect a tip unless they go out of their way to help you (if they help carry all your bags to your hostel, for example, they might expect a small tip).

If your taxi driver is super informative, riotously funny, or generally memorable in any other way, then feel free to give him a tip or tell him to keep the change — he’ll certainly appreciate it. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Safety Tips for Taking Taxis in Peru

Dodgy, dubious and dangerous taxi drivers are unfortunately all too common in Peru, so you do need to exercise caution, especially when flagging down a cab in the street.

All officially-licensed taxis should display some kind of documentation. This isn’t always easy to spot at first, and not all cabs have obvious taxi markings (in Cusco, for example, many of the taxis look like ordinary cars; at Lima Airport, the nicest taxis often have no taxi markings on the car’s exterior). If upon closer inspection you see no signs of a license or official paperwork, be very careful as you might be walking into a scam or worse.

Solo female travelers should be particularly careful when using taxis, as they are more often the victims of muggings and rapes at the hands of taxi drivers (or people pretending to be taxi drivers). Ideally, ask your hostel or hotel to call you a taxi, and travel with a companion whenever possible. If you are arriving at Lima Airport, use one of the official taxis inside the airport car park; do not go out onto the street outside the airport boundaries.

Alternative Taxi Services in Peru

For extra security and efficiency in Lima, you can try using a taxi service such as Taxi Satelital, Alo Taxi, Taxi Real or Taxidatum (which also operates in Cusco).

You can also find taxis in Peru using apps such as Uber and Taxi Beat.

Taxis in Chiclayo, Peru

Small yellow taxis in Chiclayo, Peru.

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