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Driving from Lima Airport to Paracas

Driving from Lima Airport to Paracas

Old Jul 8, 13, 7:40 pm
  #1  
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Driving from Lima Airport to Paracas

On the road from Lima (LIM) to Paracas
I came across a wide variety of experiences from other members while researching on the forums on how to get from Lima to Paracas. There were stories of hired taxi drivers “stopping to pick up their cousin”, expensive hotel transport and corrupt police extracting the “gringo-tax” during their routine traffic stops. Finally, after reading Pedro M’s report back in March this year about his uneventful drive, I decided to go ahead and try it. Here’s my notes from the drive while things are still fresh and unclouded by Coca Sours …

The Logistics
I rented the car from Hertz at Lima Airport (LIM). There are counters at both international and domestic departure, right after baggage claim. Don’t expect the speedy 3-minute pickup drill we’ve come to expect at US airports. End to end, it took me about 30 mins before I was in the car driving away. The car condition check was very detailed with every item (spare tire, jack, vanity mirror) carefully detailed, every scratch (over 15 on the car I picked up) and the part I loved best, I was given a comprehensive list of speed cameras/radars in the Callao/Lima area and made to acknowledge that I have been duly informed not to exceed the speed limit!

They did not have good maps at the rental counter. Not even of Lima or how to get from the airport to the Panamerica Norte/Sur (PN / PS). I had downloaded a cache version of Google Maps of the region on my phone and it proved to be spot on. All the way from Lima to the Hotel Paracas. That’s the way to go.

The Route
- From airport rental car exit, take circle and head west on Tomas Valle.
- Tomas Valle to Panamerica Norte. Head south on Panamerica Norte.
- Panamerica Norte loops around Lima, becomes Panamerica Sur.
- Panamerica Sur south all the way to a little pass Pisco.
- West on Carretera Paracas to Paracas.

The Drive
Overall, I would say the drive was rather straightforward and pretty easy. Much less hassle than I expected. I was rather wary initially but after the first 15-20 minutes, I realized that it was not different than driving through any large city and then getting on the freeway for a destination 3-4 hours away. And as disclaimer, I have driven extensively in North America and various European and Asian cities. I would rank the experience somewhat like driving in Thailand (you encounter everything on the road) or Southern Europe (congested cities). Ok, all that said, I think I’m going to try and detail as much as possible about the entire route for folks who may be keen to try this.

Road Conditions
The first 5km or so you are on local streets from LIM until you get to the Panamerica. City driving, congested streets. Road condition is mixed with potholes, some fairly large. Occasional lights and impatient drivers behind you. You can’t go too fast anyway so just take your time. Once you get on the PN/PS, it is a divided 4 lane freeway (at least 2 in each direction) for the next ~200km, until you get to Chincha Alta. It is a tollway (actually 3, administered by different agencies, total tolls s 17.5). Great road surface, sealed blacktop, well striped, reflectors on both sides, hard shoulders and good signage. There are reststops and gas stations along the way probably every 10-20 km. Get gas, a Choripan (hot dog), soda, bathroom breaks, you know the typical drill. In fact, I find it almost exactly like driving from the SF Bay Area to say Sacramento. At Chincha Alta, the toll way stops and for the last 70km or so, it becomes a 2-lane (1 each direction) undivided local road. Road condition worsens and is a lot more congested. You either drive patiently or learn how to pass safely.

Couple things to note about road conditions. While on the tollroads, the local buses/vans also do see to stop at random places to pick-up/drop-off passengers. Keep alert for them on the shoulder, usually near a small collection of houses or some other site. People do run across the street. Drivers in general seem to practice good courtesy and not road hog. The slower vehicles are in the slow lane. Duh! Why can’t we seem to do this in California? On the local road after Chincha Alta, watch for people and animals sanding real close on the shoulder. Yes, they will run across the road or sometimes get halfway in the middle and wait for you to pass before completing the cross. In the US, you may be tempted to stop for them but I suspect in Pisco or Paracas you will get rear-ended in a hurry!

And finally, The Police.
I ran into a total of 5 police checkpoints along the way. They were either a couple cops on motorbikes pulled over the side of the road or something a little more formal with a larger number of cops right after a toll station stopping every car for a look-see. Lights on, insurance, rental car documentation, driver’s license. Knock on wood I was not hassled beyond what other drivers had to do and was not held for ransom. Let’s hope my luck holds out.

As always, happy to answer any questions.

Cheers,
SF
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SometimesFlyer is offline  
Old Jul 17, 13, 12:57 pm
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SF - I enjoyed reading your report and I'm happy to read that you didn't encounter any problems driving to Paracas and back. Seems that you were well prepared for the trip. Driving in Peru is certainly different that driving in the U.S. and unless you have a good map it is easy to get lost or to take the wrong exit from the highway. On the other hand, I'd take driving in Peru over being stuck in traffic on the 101 at rush hour! (I've been in the Bay area at least twice a month so far this year.)

Good thing you didn't have any problems with the police roadblocks. Sometimes they try to find something wrong to force you to 'facilitate' your way out of an imaginary violation.
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Old Jul 17, 13, 6:58 pm
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Originally Posted by Pedro M View Post
SF - I enjoyed reading your report and I'm happy to read that you didn't encounter any problems driving to Paracas and back. Seems that you were well prepared for the trip. Driving in Peru is certainly different that driving in the U.S. and unless you have a good map it is easy to get lost or to take the wrong exit from the highway. On the other hand, I'd take driving in Peru over being stuck in traffic on the 101 at rush hour! (I've been in the Bay area at least twice a month so far this year.)

Good thing you didn't have any problems with the police roadblocks. Sometimes they try to find something wrong to force you to 'facilitate' your way out of an imaginary violation.
I found that GPS on my phone with a cache version of Google Maps worked really well. Almost turn by turn and tracked very well.

No kidding about 101. As the economy here improves, it becomes more like a parking lot.

I've dealt with ambiguous policing situations around the world and I guess if you are prepared for it and take it all in stride without getting too upset, things will be ok. I was ready to sneak s10 - 20 over with my driver's license but never had to do it.

Cheers,
SF
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Old Jul 17, 13, 10:32 pm
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Originally Posted by SometimesFlyer View Post
I found that GPS on my phone with a cache version of Google Maps worked really well. Almost turn by turn and tracked very well.

No kidding about 101. As the economy here improves, it becomes more like a parking lot.

I've dealt with ambiguous policing situations around the world and I guess if you are prepared for it and take it all in stride without getting too upset, things will be ok. I was ready to sneak s10 - 20 over with my driver's license but never had to do it.

Cheers,
SF
No, no, please no coimas (bribes), not necessary and a really bad idea on many levels. Not saying there are no corrupt police, but gringos can just stare them down. I once insisted one take me to the Commiseria to the bemusement of my Peruvian friends because he then was off road and hence missed other opportunities. But that is my only example after many years. I think it a bit of a myth or exaggeration that police shakedown tourists in Peru – more fertile ground with the locals. I guess your experience sort of proves my point.
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Old Jul 18, 13, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by bingocallerb22 View Post
I once insisted one take me to the Commiseria to the bemusement of my Peruvian friends because he then was off road and hence missed other opportunities.
I had something similar happen to me many years ago. The policeman insisted my DL was fake and said he would need to take me to the comisaria. I responded "sure, let's go" and he immediately started saying that I would have to spend a lot of time there while they verified my license. I said I had nothing planned for the day and that I wouldn't mind going there, and I even offered to drive him there. After going back and forth between him insisting how much time I would waste, and me saying that I didn't mind wasting time, he finally said I could leave - not before him saying one last time: 'But I know your license is fake'. He probably realized he wasn't getting a penny from me.
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Old Jul 18, 13, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by bingocallerb22 View Post
No, no, please no coimas (bribes), not necessary and a really bad idea on many levels. Not saying there are no corrupt police, but gringos can just stare them down. I once insisted one take me to the Commiseria to the bemusement of my Peruvian friends because he then was off road and hence missed other opportunities. But that is my only example after many years. I think it a bit of a myth or exaggeration that police shakedown tourists in Peru – more fertile ground with the locals. I guess your experience sort of proves my point.
Agree. At one of the roadblocks, when I handed over my California ID, he kind of looked surprised, stopped talking, shrugged his shoulders and waved me on. I do think it is more of a local shakedown than tourist thing.

As long as you have your ducks in a row, sit tight and let it ride.

Cheers,
SF
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Old Jul 21, 13, 1:21 pm
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We had a similar good driving experience in Peru a few years ago. A local who helped arrange our trip told us we might get stopped by police expecting bribes. He told us the standard amount that would set us on our way, or that we could fight it and contact our embassy if necessary -- up to us. We only had one stop where it seemed like there was an issue. But our Spanish was so poor as we tried to understand what was being said to us that he apparently decided it was not a good use of time and sighed and waved us on. The only other thing I would mention, probably obvious: carry toilet paper, none of the restrooms along the road will have any.
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Old Jan 28, 14, 1:29 pm
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Having recently (early Jan) made the drive, I would just add a couple of points to SometimesFlyer’s very thorough report:

- It seems that in the high season on Sunday from noon, (Jan/Feb, but maybe longer) in order to avoid congestion on the road back to Lima, southbound traffic on the Panamericana South is single lane only from Lima to around Pachacamac, and then completely diverted to the old Panamericana until Playa Santa Maria. It gets very congested and added about 45 mins to our drive time. I would advise against heading there on a Sunday.

- We only saw police checks between Chincha Alta and Paracas, and quite a few of them. We were not stopped, as kept to the speed limit and had headlights on. Locals were being stopped, so clearly they didn’t seem to be targeting tourists.

And yes, the Hertz delivery inspection at pickup was very painful at 1:00AM, checking for items like vanity mirrors and ashtrays. I wonder if it’s just them, but certainly will try another company next time!
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Old Feb 14, 14, 11:06 pm
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Originally Posted by RafKa View Post
Having recently (early Jan) made the drive, I would just add a couple of points to SometimesFlyer’s very thorough report:

- It seems that in the high season on Sunday from noon, (Jan/Feb, but maybe longer) in order to avoid congestion on the road back to Lima, southbound traffic on the Panamericana South is single lane only from Lima to around Pachacamac, and then completely diverted to the old Panamericana until Playa Santa Maria. It gets very congested and added about 45 mins to our drive time. I would advise against heading there on a Sunday.

- We only saw police checks between Chincha Alta and Paracas, and quite a few of them. We were not stopped, as kept to the speed limit and had headlights on. Locals were being stopped, so clearly they didn’t seem to be targeting tourists.

And yes, the Hertz delivery inspection at pickup was very painful at 1:00AM, checking for items like vanity mirrors and ashtrays. I wonder if it’s just them, but certainly will try another company next time!
I've rented in LIM on a number of occasions during the past year, although not from Hertz. I second these observations. My biggest problem driving in LIM has been navigation - no maps from the agencies, or very unhelpful ones. No issues with policia. I was also warned about speed cams but I don't drive like a local so no issue there.

All agencies take an age to inspect the cars and make sure they do...my last AVIS rental reminded me how important this is.
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