Sunday, September 23, 2012

Transportation in Lima

So you're traveling to Lima, probably on your way to some guidebook paradise.  It's a big city.  How do you get around?

Well, you have a few options.

Yes, you can in fact walk.  Lima is not a walking city.  It's a place where the car is king and therefore its not always the most pedestrian friendly.  They give right of way to highways meaning you can lose a sidewalk here and there.  But fear not, because Lima has poor people and poor people walk. So when the sidewalk ends, just look for a goat path and there will be people who have blazed their own trail.  Oh, and get used to the smell of exhaust.  It's like the natural scent of the city.

These are buses.  They look like buses and there's a driver who takes your money.  They don't seem to be run by the city, so they're all different colors but usually have the destinations on the side so you can figure it out.  Good idea to have a map to point to so you can make sure the bus doesn't take any crazy turns.   


These are small buses.  And there's a lot more of them, and they're all private so there's some competition.  They have two employees.  One is a driver.   The other is the guy in the photo.  He is way too calm in this photo.  Basically as the Micro approaches a stop, which is where more than 1 person happens to be standing.  Even if they're only there because they had to fart and they were scared it might be a shart so they stopped to compose themselves.  As the Micro approaches 20 mph, the side door opens and this guy hangs out of it yelling and screaming random destinations and self-help slogans.

Honestly, I would pass on these.  I'm sure they transport thousands of Limenos safely to their destinations every day, but as someone who's Spanish isn't great, its a lot of pressure.  These things are wild.

El Metropolitano

As mentioned earlier, this is the brandy-new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Lima.  And it's really popular and is able to bypass lots of traffic.  Which is good, because Lima has a lot of traffic.  You pay the fare at the above ground station and then walk down to the platform which is located in the median of the highway.  Some tips:
  • Have cash.  Preferably small bills.  No one like the guy in front of him at the Dunkin Donuts that pays with a $100.  These people don't either. 
  • The card costs 4.5 soles, so if you buy one with a 5 sole note, that means you only have .5 soles credit.  One of our guides lied and said that the card was 5 soles and came with 2 one-way rides.  Mentiroso! 
  • The ride is 1.5 soles each way.  So budget accordingly.  
But the bus goes from the city center through Miraflores and San Isidro to Barranco, which is where most people are going to spend their time.  So it's a good deal if you're there for a few days.


This is by far the most popular way to get around Lima.  The cabs are everywhere and some seem to just be personal cars.  But the important thing to know is that cabs in Lima do not use meters.  So you MUST decide the fare before you get in.  Cabs understand this and will actually queue behind each other while you discuss costs so they can try and make a better deal than the guy in front of them.  The general rule is 8-10 soles for most medium distances.  However, because traffic in Lima sucks they might charge more which makes sense.
This is a photo I took from my hotel balcony.  It's like a parking lot.  But that doesn't stop the horns.  A second on this.  Horns or Klaxons en espanol, in Lima are like an urban soundtrack.  People honk because they're angry, happy, or have gas.  There's really no rhyme or reason to it.  I recorded the noise to go with this photo, here. 

Peru is still viewed as a dangerous place, so Western hotels will take advantage of this and offer you the services of their taxis which can be nice Camrys or Audis.  These vehicles do not have turbo boost though and have to sit in the same traffic as the yellow deathbox shown above.  The hotels want 50 soles to take you to places that regular cabs will charge 8 soles for.  So here's the deal, never take the hotel cabs, unless you're a single female or wear suits of money.  The way I look at it, even if you get ripped off by your cab driver at 25 soles for the trip, you're still coming out ahead of the hotel gouging.

Oh, and you should look for these cabs as they're widely agreed by Limenos to be the most safe and reliable company.  


There's a subway in Lima, but it doesn't go anywhere that useful, and its not underground.  There is a second line being built underground, but the folks down there are skeptical what with the earthquakes and all.  So I'm not including it here because I didn't take it and it seems like I wasn't missing much.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lima: It's Not Just a Layover

Allyson and I just returned from Lima, Peru.  And the number one question we got from people was, "Where are you going after?" See, most people only visit Lima as a stopover on their way to Cuzco and/or Machu Piccu. They don't see much use in visiting a city of 10 million people when there are Incan ruins and Andean mountains to visit in the same country.  I can understand that.  But to visit ruins is to visit a country in the past.  The way past.

I think that to understand a country, you need to visit it's cities. I'm an urban traveler, being a city kid myself.  I have nothing against sights outside cities.  But I find it odd that people would skip over a place they have to go through anyway.  It would be like not spending time in London, and proceeding straight to Stonehenge.

Lima is a city of 10 million people.  Larger than any US city.  Also wild when you realize that Lima had only 1.2 million people in 1960.  You can see that the city has had trouble building infrastructure to meet the demand.  They recently started a BRT system call El Metropolitano that takes you across the city in special lanes without any of the traffic.  They also have a subway, which isn't really a subway, but more of a light rail.

So why visit Lima?  Well, that can be answered quite easily.
Oh, and also....
So, food and drink is king in Lima.  And it's cheap.  Now, let me define cheap.  You can eat Pollo a la Brasa in Lima for around 10 soles.  That works out to be around $3.  But you can also pay more for a great dinner with incredibly fresh seafood for around 100 soles per person.  That works out to around $40 each, which might not seem cheap.

It's funny when you travel internationally to countries with a weaker currency than yours.  You end up comparing costs in their currency.  I was all "200 soles for dinner?  That's crazy!" but then I realized that $80 for wine and incredibly fresh seafood and dinner is a steal.  You hear that Americans! Stop trying to be cheap, because you'll end up eating stale churros and saving all your money to then spend double it in America.

People still think Peru is dangerous.  They remember the Shining Path, who were eliminated over 10 years ago.  While they were active, it was common for many people to hire private security for their homes or stores.  That tradition continues meaning that there are men in uniform all over the place, some armed and others not.  This sadly means that most tourists only stick to Miraflores and Barranco which are the two neighborhoods that all of the guidebooks recommend.  Lima is more than that.

I had the opportunity to take a tour with an outfit called Capital Culinaria run by a couple named Samantha and Lucas.  You pay $125 and spend about 5 hours eating food, trying new fruits and vegetables and also making cebiche and pisco sours.  It was awesome.  And highly recommended.  It really opened our eyes to the culinary destination that is Lima and helped shape our trip for the remainder.  Also, Sam and Lucas are really wonderful people and Allyson and I had dinner and wine with them the night after the tour.

That's really what travel is all about.  Building relationships.  I hope to post more specifically about different areas of Lima.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Ask A Cop: The Wire

So ever since I took the job as a cop, I've answered various questions about being a cop.  Many after current events, like police shootings.  So I thought it might be a decent idea to start a feature where people could ask questions and get them answered.  And in asking the good people of Twitter and Facebook for ideas for the feature, the leading question was, "Is the Wire realistic?"

For those not in the know, The Wire was a TV series that ran on HBO that centered on drug dealing and responses to it in Baltimore. It ran for 5 seasons and each season centered on a different area, like the docks or the schools, etc.  The most important thing about this show and its authenticity is where it came from.

The Wire was the creation of David Simon.  Simon grew up in Baltimore and covered the city for the Baltimore Sun, their daily paper.  Simon wrote a book about crime in Baltimore called Homicide: Life on The Killing Streets, which followed the Homicide Division of the Baltimore Police.  The book was then adapted to a show called Homicide: Life on The Streets which many people called "the greatest show nobody ever watched," Filmed on location in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, the set was so realistic that many people stopped in to file police reports, thinking it was real.  The show also challenged the notion that every murderer is captured in 45 minutes.  The cases spanned several episodes and sometimes seasons, and I'm not sure audiences had the patience for it.

Not having been a Baltimore cop/drug dealer/teacher/politician/reporter, I can't really say with absolute certainty whether the show was real.  But I will say it's one of the most realistic shows I've seen, along with Barney Miller and NYPD Blue. Sure, I've never waked a cop at a bar.  And I've never had sex with a prostitute to make a case.

But I have been the victim of COMPSTAT and of asshole bosses, and I've been really drunk with guys I worked with, and might have damaged my vehicle under the influence. I also recognized that some of the most important decisions of my police career were where to go to eat.  The Wire is not a procedural drama so its hard to compare to actual police work.  However, it is a character drama, and this is really where the comparison rings true.  Police officers, especially cops in large cities, are characters.  These are not the guys who were jocks in high school and pushed around the nerds and then became cops.  These were guys who were Elvis Impersonators, electricians, from all different nationalities.  Learning how to understand Jamaican or how to expertly curse in Spanish were very important parts of my law enforcement development

So yes, the Wire is realistic.  Not really for all the stuff that happens in it, but for the way it feels and the  ease in which the cops talk to each other and work together.  There are 1,000 Hercs in the NYPD and more than a few Bunks and McNultys.  And we have plenty of lesbians as well.

If people liked this, I'm happy to continue.  Feel free to put additional questions in the comments, if you have them.