Planes, trains and get that guy’s butt out of my face….

I had read about the hordes of taxi drivers at the Lima Airport. I had also read how the “official” taxis were at best trying to charge you double what a normal taxi would. With that information I believed we were ready to handle the gauntlet. I was almost right. Mere seconds after we exited the baggage area we were approached the entire way outside by drivers promising a good deal. The one driver we actually stopped to ask the fare of had one of our bags in the trunk before we even agreed to take his cab. His price was 20 dollars which sounds reasonable when you think of it in comparison to taxis in the States. This translates to roughly 60 soles,  the actual going rate of the regular taxis just outside the airport gates was 30 soles. The driver looked non too pleased when I pulled our bag out of his trunk and we told him we’d pay no more than 30. Not five minutes or so later we got a driver to take us where we needed to go for our 30 sole limit.

Bargaining for cab fare is par for the course taking taxis in Peru. They have no meters, they may or may not be licensed,but they are willing to take you where you need to go. This is how the game works: you ask the driver how much to your destination, he tells you a price you would pay if you were a sucker, you look offended and offer him slightly less than you’re willing to pay. Now he either agrees and you are on your way, or you begin walking away from the cab and he relents. There are the few drivers who won’t drop to your price but there are five to replace him that will. It’s a fun system and you think all is fine and dandy. And then you get in the car and he starts to drive.

I believe that Peruvian taxi drivers must have learned their skills from the following: playing racing video games, watching demolition derby, growing up to believe traffic rules are only suggestions at best and the show Pimp My Ride. Allow me to explain. There are lanes per se but taxis will move in and out of them at will using their horn to signal “I’m changing lanes now”, “hey don’t come in my lane”, “why are you breaking” and “I’ve got a horn”. If you’ve ever walked on a crowded sidewalk dodging bicyclists, walking around and cutting in front of people to have to suddenly stop when some jackass pauses mid stride…just imagine you’re doing that in a car and you have the Peruvian taxi experience. The drivers typically decorate their dashboards with some sort of fabric and have photos and icons of saints strategically placed, most likely to remind them that there is an afterlife so why worry so much about letting the bus merge when you could just swerve right around it.

To be fair we never saw an accident and took taxis pretty much everywhere. They also have mini buses called “combis” or “collectivos” which are basically someone with an 8 seater van that is willing to stuff 18 people in it. They run pretty much everywhere and you can get a 45 min ride out of town for 30 cents. They’ve got destinations of where they run through/to painted on the sides. You can pretty much get off wherever you please by yelling “baja aqui” and they will stop, damn the traffic behind them. Usually they’ll stop completely before letting you off and pulling away again, sometimes not. They also have no objection to people bringing whatever they feel like on the bus. I saw an old guy waiting for a combi with a large container labeled Ammonium Nitrate. I’m sort of familiar with what it is and am quite sure it shouldn’t be riding on the bus next to an old lady with her groceries.

I took a short video of one of our rides but it didn’t quite capture the chaos adequately enough. We’ll start posting more blogs entries and photos very soon.

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