Navigating Lima is a complicated and time-consuming task, made difficult by the city's sprawling character (many of the best hotels and restaurants are far from downtown, spread among three or more residential neighborhoods), heavy traffic and pollution, and a chaotic network of confusing and crowded colectivos and unregulated taxis.
Taxis hailed on the street are a reasonable and relatively quick way to get around in Lima. However, taxis are wholly unregulated by the government: All anyone has to do to become a taxi driver is get his hands on a vehicle -- of any size and condition, although most are tiny Daewoo "Ticos" -- and plunk a cheap TAXI sticker inside the windshield. Then he is free to charge whatever he thinks he can get -- with no meters, no laws, and nobody to answer to except the free market. One has to counsel visitors to be a bit wary of taking taxis in Lima, even though I personally have never had problems greater than a dispute over a fare. (If you're not fluent in Spanish, and even if you are but you have an obviously non-Peruvian appearance, be prepared to negotiate fares.) Limeños tell enough stories of theft and even the occasional violent crime in unregistered cabs to make hailing one on the street inadvisable for older visitors or for those with little command of Spanish or experience traveling in Latin America. If you hail a taxi on the street, taxi drivers themselves have told me, try to pick out older drivers; many contend that young punks are almost wholly responsible for taxi crime. If the issue of getting into quasi-official cabs makes you nervous, by all means call a registered company from your hotel or restaurant -- especially at night (even though the fare can be twice as much).
Registered, reputable taxi companies -- the safest option -- include Taxi Amigo (tel. 01/349-0177), Taxi Móvil (tel. 01/422-6890), Taxi Line (tel. 01/330-2795), and Taxi Seguro (tel. 01/275-2020). Whether you call or hail a taxi, you'll need to establish a price beforehand -- so be prepared to bargain. Most fares range from S/8 to S/15. From Miraflores to downtown, expect to pay S/10; from Miraflores to San Isidro or from San Isidro to downtown, about S/8; and from Miraflores to Barranco, S/10. Note that when you hail a taxi on the street, the fare requested will surely be a bit higher; it makes sense to try to haggle.
Lima Taxis: The Runaround -- Besides the issue of safety, there's another cause for concern when getting in a taxi in Lima: The drivers very often don't know where the heck they're going. Many are notoriously ignorant of the city they drive in. I once tried to get one in Miraflores to take me to Barranco, the next neighborhood along the coast (5 miles away) and the most popular nightlife destination in Lima. The driver looked at me blankly. "You've never heard of Barranco?" I asked, incredulous. "Perhaps you can lead me?" he asked. Yeah, and perhaps you can pay me. Time and time again in Lima, I, a resident of New York, have had to give taxi drivers directions. The reason for such unfamiliarity is that many taxi drivers are newly arrived immigrants from mountain villages and other cities across Peru, and they're about as unfamiliar with the city as you are. They come to Lima, rent someone's vehicle and a TAXI sticker, and become taxi drivers without so much as a glance at a map. Yet another reason to have your hotel or restaurant call an official cab.
Micros and combis are very inexpensive means of transportation in the city. Routes are more or less identified by signs with street names placed in the windshield, making many trips confusing for those unfamiliar with Lima. Some do nothing more than race up and down long avenues (for example, the bus labeled TODO AREQUIPA travels the length of Avenida Arequipa). For assistance, ask a local for help; most Limeños know the incredibly complex bus system surprisingly well. Although they sometimes seem to hurtle down the street, because they make so many stops, trips from the outer suburbs to downtown can be quite slow. Most micros and combis cost S/3, and slightly more after midnight and on Sunday and holidays. When you want to get off, shout baja (getting off) or esquina (at the corner).
From Lima Centro to Miraflores, look for buses with signs in the windows indicating LARCO-SCHELL-MIRAFLORES (or some combination thereof). From Miraflores to downtown Lima, you should hop on a bus headed along WILSON/TACNA. Buses to Barranco have signs that read CHORILLOS/HUAYLAS.
Lima can be navigated by foot only a neighborhood at a time (and even then, congestion and pollution strongly discourage much walking). Lima Centro and Barranco are best seen by foot, and, although large, Miraflores is also walkable. Between neighborhoods, however, a taxi is essential.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.