I've often entertained the idea of living in Lima.
The girls are sweet, the food is excellent and it boasts a reasonably low cost of living by Latin American standards.
During my recent trip, I decided to check out the real estate. I wanted to see how much it would cost to rent an apartment in Lima, and how difficult it might be for a foreigner without residency to accomplish such a thing.
Here's what I discovered:
How to Rent An Apartment in Lima, Peru
Where Should You Live?
Lima is a massive city and, to be honest, a lot of it ain't that pretty. As a foreigner, you are going to want to focus your apartment hunting efforts on the 4 following areas (in this order):
3) San Isidro
4) San Borja
These districts are all safe and offer access to everything to make your life comfortable (grocery stores, movie theatres, gyms etc). If your budget allows for it, Miraflores is a no-brainer - you'll be walking distance to beautiful ocean views, nightlife and shopping centres.
Unsurprisingly, it's the most expensive area of the city.
Barranco is a close second. It has more character, and is slightly cheaper with an impressive number of bars and clubs for an area of its size.
San Isidro and San Borja are a bit farther away from the action, but they are secure, upscale neighbourhoods. I wouldn't, however, suggest these areas if you're young and single.
What Will it Cost?
I was surprised to find that it isn't all that cheap to rent an apartment in Lima. In fact, overall, it's more expensive than both Mexico City and Bogota.
Apparently, this wasn't always the case. Only a few years ago, Barranco used to be about 30% cheaper. But foreigners (like us!) have moved in and upped prices. Also, I believe the strength of the US dollar has something to do with it - US dollars are used widely here for currency-stabilizing purposes.
But, back to the point.
If you want to rent a one bedroom apartment in one of the nicer areas I've listed above, you're looking at least $650 USD/Month. I know, I was shocked too, but I couldn't find anything for less. This is where a local Peruvian friend might come in handy.
You can obviously cut your costs by living with a roommate or two. But if you go this route, don't expect to pay less than $400 USD.
How To Find Your Apartment
I recommend the following six resources for finding an apartment in Lima:
6) Walk around and call listings.
The first three are typical apartment rental sites. Number 4 is a Facebook group for people searching for roommates (a good way to find cheaper options but it's a closed group so you'll have to hassle the admins to let you join). Number 5 you've all heard of, and number 6 is the old-school option that's a good last resort.
If you plan on staying in Lima for 3 months or less, I'd suggest using Airbnb and negotiated a cheaper rate upon arrival. Yes, you'll pay a bit more, but it will save a bunch of hassle.
Worth it in my opinion.
A Word of Caution
This being Latin America and all, you will encounter some dishonest landlords. A common thing they do here is ask you for a 2 month security deposit without ever intending to give any of it back. Even if they have a contract it won't mean much unless you're willing to take it to a Peruvian court. If you sense your landlord is going to pull a fast one on you, demand that they take your last month's rent out of the security deposit instead of paying it.
Before you sign an apartment contract, make sure you get a good feel for the landlord. Ask them lots of questions and gauge their responses for honesty. Usually, this is good enough to screen out the good ones for the bad ones. And if something feels fishy during the process, walk away from the deal.
Is This A Good Idea?
I will say right off the bat that Lima is not my first choice of cities to live in Latin America. My main gripe with this city is that it should be cheaper. The infrastructure pales in comparison to Mexico City and even Bogota and - apart from the ocean views - the scenery doesn't exactly make up for it. Yet, it is about 10% more expensive than the aforementioned destinations. Admittedly, this is a rather negligible cost difference when one can live off of $1000 a month, but I'm still reluctant to pay more for less.
That being said, Lima is probably the best choice for a first-timer in Latin America. It's relatively safe, a lot of young people speak English and Peruvians are generally friendly and helpful.
Another good reason to choose Peru is because of it's location. It borders both Colombia and Brazil, and you can fly to Bogota or Rio de Janeiro for cheap. It's a great place from which to explore the rest of the continent.
All in all the process of renting an apartment in Lima seems pretty straightforward. A co-signer is usually not required, and many places accept US dollars, which are easily attainable from any ATM in the city.
My first course of action upon arriving would be to find a trustworthy Peruvian friend to aid you in the process. They will be able to provide you with additional information and resources, and let you know if you're getting a good price. I try to befriend a lawyer or someone who knows one if I'm going to stay in a place for any reasonable amount of time.
And there you have it!
Hopefully this will make things slightly easier if you're thinking about renting an apartment in Lima, Peru.
...And who knows, I might see you down there one day.
Until next time,