Lockdown

On Sunday, October 21st, the whole of Peru is under house arrest. Nobody may leave their home; no business may open; even the homeless will be rounded up and confined to sports stadiums. Police and military will patrol the streets to enforce the “immobility order”.

The reason for this unprecedented measure is the National Census, run by the governmental statistics institute INEI. In one day, they plan to gather information on all of Peru’s estimated 27 million inhabitants.

Tourists and business travelers will not be exempt from the measure, which will be in force from 8am to 6pm, and the Ministry of the Interior has recently reversed a previous decision and stated that anyone found out of their home will be fined.

The only exemptions are for businesses considered of absolute priority, such as hospitals and power stations. No supermarkets or stores may be open during the hours of curfew, and all transport will be suspended.

In previous declarations, INEI stated that international and internal air transport will proceed, and that taxis will be permitted to operate to and from airports – but not for other routes. However, a communiqué issued today calls that into question, stating that “aircraft… may not transit… national territory”.

Foreigners present an unusual situation, and INEI have yet to respond to The Lima Bean’s inquiries regarding how the rules apply to them. We advise that all tourists and business travelers ask their hotels what arrangements will be made.

Given that all stores and restaurants will be closed, INEI have advised that anyone who will be in Peru on the 21st of October stock up on food and other necessities a few days in advance, to prevent shortages due to sudden buying.

In addition, the purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages will be outlawed for 24 hours, starting at 6pm on Saturday October 20th.

UPDATE

The directors of INEI have informed The Lima Bean that no exceptions will be made for foreigners, be they residents, tourists or business travelers. All persons must remain wherever they spent the night of October 20th, until 6pm on October 21st. They may leave and pass freely on the streets on the early morning of the 21st, but must then return to their hotel, where they will be allowed to leave only in case of emergency such as fire, or if they have a confirmed outbound ticket on an international flight. There will be zero tolerance for anyone found outside without permission.

Persons staying at hotels classed with three or more stars will be assessed by hotel staff, while those staying at other establishments or in private homes will be assessed in the normal manner.

In rural areas, the census will take place from October 21st to November 4th.

Hope for poverty reduction in Peru

Peru’s Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo yesterday announced that half a million Peruvians have “escaped from the shadow of poverty” thanks to the country’s sustained economic development.

He stated that the country’s overall level of poverty has dropped from 48% to 44% of the population, while recognizing that some regions are harder hit – for instance, 88% of people in Huancavelica region live below the poverty line.

To help address this problem, which is shared by neighboring Andean regions such as Ayacucho, he announced a new law that relaunches Agrobank, a state-run entity that offers credit to small-scale farmers to help them develop their income.

Peru defines poverty as the economic inability to maintain an adequate food intake.

Machu Picchu train company fined under monopoly law

The Trans-Andean Railway Company, responsible for rail transport to Machu Picchu, has been fined over $185,000 for operating an illegal monopoly. The company has also been ordered to cease its practice of refusing to sublet trains and other equipment that it rents from the state.

According to its contract, it is obliged to rent these units to other companies that wish to operate rail service along the route. The only rental contracts that it has accepted in the past were to its own subsidiary Peru Rail, while it rejected applications by any company that was not linked to it.

This landmark ruling, the first of its kind in Peru, is hoped to bring in new completion for transport along the route, and reduce prices for tourists travelling between Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Huanuco gunfight leaves three police wounded, three missing

A gunfight between Peruvian National Police officers and cattle rustlers in the Huánuco region left three officers injured and three more missing yesterday morning.

The six policemen were dispatched to investigate reports of livestock theft in the community of Palca in the Lauricocha province, where locals had reported a series of thefts.

They were ambushed at around 5am by a gang of criminals armed with shotguns and other firearms, as reported by the wounded officers.

Three officers have been transferred to Huánuco city hospital suffering from gunshot wounds, while the remaining three remain unaccounted for and are officially listed as “disappeared”.

The regional police force has responded by sending in further operatives, backed up by police aircraft in an attempt to locate the missing officers and arrest their attackers.

Cusco airport modernizations to “triple connectivity”

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Modernization work to Cusco airport will triple its connectivity and allow enhanced connections with international flights into Lima, according to Chamber of Tourism chairman Daniel Ratti.

He said that the installation of new runway lights and a satellite-linked landing system will allow aircraft to land during conditions of poor visibility and at night time.

The improvements, scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, will make the airport able to accept flights 24 hours a day, greatly adding to its connectivity.

“Starting in 2008, tourist arriving in Lima at 6pm on flights from Europe will be able to connect directly to an 8pm departure for Cusco, rather than having to wait until the next day,” said Ratti.

He added that efforts are underway to procure the same system for Lima’s international airport, which is currently often closed due to low-lying fog.

Renting a car in Peru

 

Many visitors to Peru are keen to rent a car and use it throughout their vacation. In much of the developed world rental is the best or even the only way to get around, but in Peru there are generally better ways to see the country.

The standard international rental agencies operate from Lima’s international airport, but their prices are high even by international standards. In Peru, it can be cheaper to take on a car with a driver than to rent from Hertz. However, you can expect international quality service and well maintained vehicles from all of these companies — which also tend to charge about the same rates. In terms of specific recommendations, the only solid information that we have is that Aldisa Rent a Car is apparently a disreputable, unsafe, and unrealiable outfit. We have never received any favorable reviews of this operator.

There are also smaller, cheaper companies renting cars, particularly in Lima, at very reasonable rates. However, with these there is no guarantee of the quality or maintenance record of the vehicle, and the legal formalities are often not complete, leaving you open to fines (or more realistically, having to hand out bribes) to traffic police.

You can expect to be stopped frequently and have all your documents checked; and don’t forget, the standard tourist visa that you get on entry does not give you the ability to sign documents; effectively, you signature is worthless unless you upgrade your visa. This may well mean that your rental contract is not valid.

Road signage is generally inadequate, as most road users already know the routes. It’s easy to get lost, especially as road maps often omit major highways while including routes that have yet to be constructed. Most of the country’s roads are unsurfaced, and demand a different skill set to the driving conditions that you may be used to.

There is also a very different style of road use here; pedestrians may leap in front of you, and you cannot expect other drivers to use their indicator lights or to respect stop signs. Road traffic accident rates are about 10 times those in the developed world.

Finally, the distances involved are very long. From Lima to Arequipa is a comfortable overnight bus ride, or about 1000km of driving along the Panamerican Highway through the coastal desert.

So, what are the other options available? Fortunately, public transport is excellent. Within cities taxis are cheap and generally very reliable. For longer routes, all major cities are served by safe and comfortable long distance buses that cost far less than even the fuel used by an economic car over the same route, and every road that exists in the country will have reasonably priced public transport options. There is also a decent network of internal flights serving major cities, with Lima as the hub.

If, despite all the disadvantages, you are sure that renting a car in Peru is for you:

1.       Get a good quality map; the LIMA2000 map is one of the best, but still not totally reliable for minor roads

2.      Make sure you know how to perform simple maintenance on the car

3.      Check that you have all of the necessary documentation, including and international or interamerican drivers license and insurance, to drive the car legally

4.      When using minor roads, talk to local transport operators about the route and the condition of the road before starting. Landslips often close roads while maintenance crews work on them; strikes and roadblocks are also fairly common, and should be avoided

5: be courteous and unhurried when dealing with transport police. Generally, they just want to check that everything is in order and will then let you carry on unmolested. Treat them with respect, and act as though their questions are intelligent even when they’re not. If it comes to it, 20 soles is the standard bribe. 

 

Independence day holiday set to up hotel and transport rates

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Independence day celebrations around July 28th are expected to bring record numbers of Peruvian tourists to popular destinations within the country. In particular, many of Lima’s estimated 9 million residents will use the holiday to get out of the cold and grey winter weather and travel to the provinces.

Destinations popular with Peruvians include the Junín region, Cajamarca, Lambayeque and Ayacucho, as well as the destinations popular with international tourists. Prices for transport and accommodation will skyrocket over the holiday, returning to normal at the beginning of August. Travelers are advised to book ahead so as to ensure accommodation over the holiday period.