Too often missed by travelers who rush off to Cuzco or Machu Pichu from Peru's capital, Lima is a city that rewards patient exploration. Beyond the magnificent colonial architecture of its central plaza and the treasures of its archaeological museums, the more subtle charms of Lima are found in its bustling seafood markets, the thrilling drumbeats of its Afro-Peruvian music and in the tranquil seaside plazas where friends gather in the late afternoon. Be warned that visitors who get to know the more intimate side of Lima often stay longer than planned, so it's best to pack accordingly.
The Arid Tropics
As you might have guessed from the surrounding sand dunes, Lima is a famously dry city – receiving on average less than 0.3 inches of rain each year. On the dry Pacific trench of the Andes, when other tropical areas enter the rainy season, Lima is simply engulfed in a misty coastal fog, known as the garua, with rare and exceedingly light drizzle. This foggy season occurs during the cooler half of the year from April to November, but the humidity can make the city feel hotter. Overall, Lima's weather is on the mild side of tropical, with averages around 75 degrees Fahrenheit between December and March and around the mid to high 60s from April to November.
Dress for the Season
While visitors to Lima won't need an umbrella, they should prepare to be comfortable in warm and sometimes humid weather. Natural fabrics that breathe well such as linen and light cotton are always a better bet than synthetics or jeans. Shorts and T-shirts are acceptable in Lima, but most locals prefer loose-fitting long pants and buttoned shirts that can be adjusted throughout the day. Women will be comfortable in sundresses or pants and blouses but might opt not to wear very revealing skirts or tops so as to avoid unwanted attention. For slight chills at night, layers with long-sleeved shirts or a light jacket come in handy. Finding laundromats should be no trouble in Lima, so you don't have to pack an outfit for every day of your stay. Try neutral and light colors that keep you cooler in the sun and combine easily to expand your outfit options while saving room in your suitcase.
Accessorizing for the City
Sandals can seem tempting in the heat, but unless they are hiking sandals the bumpy streets of central Lima make comfortable closed shoes a better option. Lima is best appreciated on foot, so be prepared to walk – especially if you want to visit the ruins of Pachacamac 45 minutes outside the city. From December to March, a good day trip is a visit to the beaches south of the city, so bring a bathing suit and towel. Even off the beach, Lima's open plazas and wide avenues can get very sunny, making it necessary to pack sunblock, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Air conditioning is rare is central Lima, but locals often carry a handkerchief, and hand-held fans are popular among women.
Violent crime is relatively uncommon in Lima, but pick-pocketing can be a problem in tourist districts. A jacket with inside pockets or a money belt is ideal for safely storing valuables and photocopies of your passport or health insurance information. Above all, try to avoid excess attention with your clothing. Heavily branded or visibly expensive items such as designer clothing or jewelry draw unwanted attention. Personal presentation is important in Lima. Even in humble neighborhoods, you'll find the locals are clean-shaven and well-dressed. To fit in, dress simply but make sure your clothes are clean and presentable.