Taxis are one of the main forms of public transport in Peru, especially in urban areas. They come in various shapes and sizes, from standard cabs similar to those in the USA to smaller varieties known as ticos (typically 796 cc Daewoos).
Peruvian taxis don't run on meters, so you need to arrange a price with the driver before accepting the ride. Taxi drivers usually try to overcharge, especially when confronted by a foreign tourist. If you have no idea how much the fare should be, try reducing the driver's price by a small amount (if the driver says 12 nuevos soles, offer 10 or even 8). It's always a good idea to ask someone beforehand, such as a hotel receptionist, how much a taxi to your destination should cost.
Tipping Taxi Drivers
You don't need to tip taxi drivers in Peru. The locals don't do it, so you certainly shouldn't feel obliged to do so. If a driver is particularly friendly or carries your bags into your hotel, then a small tip is a nice way of saying thanks.
Getting to Hotels and Hostels
Taxi drivers hang around at bus terminals and airports (including official airport taxis, such as the expensive cabs at Cusco's airport), so you won't have many problems finding a cab when you arrive in a new town or city. Your next stop will likely be a hotel or hostel. If you have a reservation, state the address and off you go.
If you don't have accommodation plans, prepare to receive a list of taxi driver recommendations. Drivers earn commissions from hotels and hostels, so their promotion of various establishments can be irritatingly persistent.
If you pick out a hotel from a guidebook, your driver will often try to dissuade you with a bunch of lies -- it no longer exists; it closed three years ago; it burned down; the rooms are full of rats. It's possible he's telling the truth, especially if your guidebook is out of date, but insist on going anyway.
On the flipside, driver recommendations are sometimes quite helpful if you don't already have a place in mind. Explain what kind of place you're looking for and how much you want to pay, and let him show you a few options.
Always use officially licensed taxis in Peru. At the very least, there should be some sign of documentation in the front window or on the dashboard. Unmarked or unlicensed "taxis" are a potential security risk -- corrupt drivers have taken both tourists and locals to isolated locations to be mugged, raped or worse.
Here are a few more safety tips to bear in mind when taking taxis in Peru:
- Avoid using old and battered taxis, particularly in the chaos of Peru's big cities. They are more likely to break down and offer very little protection in the event of an accident.
- Snatch theft is common in Peru, so be careful if you're stuck in traffic with your windows down. If there are people walking among the cars, close your window or keep a good grip on your belongings -- traffic jam thieves might be on the prowl...
- Keep your luggage with you whenever possible. If you need to jump out quickly to look at a potential hotel room, either take your bags with you or ask a hotel staff member to keep an eye on them. Seeing a taxi driver drive off with all your belongings would be heartbreaking.