This is part 10 of a series of posts devoted to our whirlwind tour of Peru & Chile.
- Less than $1,000 per person all-in for our 11-day tour in Peru & Chile
- How you can use <75,000 points to replicate our itinerary to visit Machu Picchu, Easter Island, and more
- How to prepare for altitude sickness in Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca
- What to bring for your trip to Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, and/or Easter Island
- How many different sets of tickets do you have to buy for that one-day visit to Machu Picchu?
- How to Create Your Own Machu Picchu “Inka Trail” Experience in One Day
- Using the Tambo del Inka, a Starwood Luxury Collection Resort, as Your Base for Your Visit to Machu Picchu
- Tour Guide #1 – Sabino for Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Peru
- Tour Guide #2 – Silvia for Puno, Lake Titicaca, Sillustani, Peru
- How We Did Lima, Peru in One Day
- Tour Guide #3 – Sergio for Easter Island, Chile
- Taking Advantage of an Airport Hotel for Our Walking Tour of Santiago, Chile
- Airport Lounge Access + LAN International Business vs. Economy
- Budgeting for Your Next Big Dream Vacation
- You Won’t Believe What Happened on Our Way Home!
TravelWhimsy is not a big fan of cities and would have skipped Lima in a heartbeat, but I insisted that we not waste a free stop-over in Lima while connecting to our early Wednesday morning (1:20am) non-stop flight to Easter Island (twice a week from Lima, so you can avoid paying $160 per person for the Chilean visa).
After a delightful tour of Sillustani, we arrived at the Juliaca airport in time for our late-afternoon 1.5-hour non-stop flight to Lima (LAN lets you check in 48 hours prior to departure, so I used the check-in kiosk in CUSCO to get two sets of boarding passes). The three of us initially belonged to boarding group 7, but I asked the gate agent to add my AAdvantage membership number and was able to board first (Updating your frequent flier number for one segment on the same LAN itinerary does NOT carry over for other segments)! [Shortly before our trip, we took advantage of the one-day free status match AA was offering to United elite members and got ourselves matched from UA Gold to AA Platinum. How we got UA Gold will have to be covered in a future post.]
The flight was uneventful. Besides beverages, all LAN short-haul flights we were on also served snack boxes containing local chocolate snack bars and Ritz crackers.
Our pre-trip research on Lima warned us of the dangerous possibility of ending up in the wrong taxi and getting robbed, so we went straight for the “TAXI GREEN” counter upon arrival at the Lima airport. Prices are fixed – 55 soles (~$20) for Miraflores and 45 (~$17) for Sheraton Lima (located at the historic center). When we got into the taxi (a new Toyota Corolla), we felt a little uneasy, because there was no visible taxi sign on the exterior of the car. It was not until we were on the busy streets of Lima did we realize that reputable taxi companies in Lima had nicer, newer cars with no taxi signage.
The taxi ride was about 30 minutes, and we arrived at the Sheraton Lima shortly before 8pm on a Monday night. I booked our one-night stay using 1,600 Starwood points + $30 (instead of 4,000 points). For some reason, when booking the room in November 2011, I had the option of securing a room on the Club Floor for the same cost (it was available for booking even if I hadn’t gotten my complimentary gold status via American Express). Normally, hotel chains would NOT let you book a room on the Club Floor without charging extra points. That same room would have cost over $250. Book your award stay at this hotel as early as you can, if you want to score a room on the Club Floor.
The hotel might not be new, fancy, or in the best part of town any more, but we thoroughly enjoyed all it had to offer and would not hesitate to return next time we find ourselves in Lima. Here is a quick list of the benefits we took advantage of:
- Free FULL Breakfast for Two: Given our Club Floor room, we were invited to have breakfast at the lounge OR the restaurant in the lobby for a full buffet.
- 6pm Check-out: We were automatically offered 4pm check-out, thanks to my comped gold status, but the hotel graciously agreed to extend the check-out time to 6pm when I asked the following day (our red-eye flight to Easter Island was leaving after midnight).
- Complimentary Shuttle Service: The hotel operates a free shuttle to/from Lacomar in Miraflores (1-10pm). [There is also a shuttle service run on weekday nights to take guests to restaurants in the city, but we did not get to use it.]
- Complimentary Internet: In-room WiFi is free for elite members, but there is a large internet cafe/business center in the lobby with at least 5 terminals, printers, and free WiFi for everyone. The Club Lounge also has two computers and two printers.
- Complimentary Food & Beverage: The Club Lounge is closed for a few hours in the afternoon, but offers all-day snacks, appetizers, desserts, bottled water, etc.
- Two Free Pisco Sours at the Hotel Bar: Two vouchers were given to us at the time of check-in, and I am not sure if this was an elite benefit or not.
- Two Free Coffee or Tea at Hotel Restaurants: Again, a voucher was given to us at check-in. We did not had a chance to use it, and were not sure if it was an elite benefit.
I could not wait to try the authentic Peruvian ceviche, so I dragged TravelWhimsy to the hotel restaurant, despite our brief visit to the lounge. She was just going to keep me company and watch me eat, but could not resist joining in on all the fun! Here is the late-night 3-course “snack” we shared around 10pm! If you love sushi/raw fish and sour food, you will love Peruvian ceviches.
A restful night of sleep later, while mom opted for her usual morning coffee with pastry, TravelWhimsy and I headed down to the restaurant breakfast buffet. We particularly enjoyed the Japanese station with congee, grilled fish, and all the other fixings; coincidentally or not, there was a large group of Japanese tourists.
Our original plan was to do a bus tour with Mirabus, but did not do adequate research on the tour schedule. By the time our taxi arrived at the Kennedy Park in Miraflores around 10:30am, the 9:30am tour had left. [Tip: Instead of overpaying for your taxi to Miraflores, take the hotel elevator to the basement and walk out to the shopping mall “Real Plaza” next door and get a taxi with Taxi Speedy. We paid 14 soles (~$5) including tip, instead of double or triple that rate had we gotten a taxi at the hotel.]
If you are interested in doing a Mirabus Tour, here are pictures of the bus and the ticket booth. You can pay with a credit card.
If you don’t want to do a Mirabus tour or miss one like we did, don’t forget to ask for a free map.
After quickly checking out the Virgen Milagrosa church next to the ticket booth, we started walking down Oscar R. Benavides (which becomes Malecon Balta) towards the Pacific Ocean. The walk along the cliff/coast presented us with beautiful views of the ocean and delightful gardens and parks.
Before catching the 2pm hotel shuttle back to the historic center, we got to enjoy people watching at the vibrant LarcoMar area. If you happen to stop by Lima before visiting Machu Picchu, you could get your Peru Rail tickets in LarcoMar, too.
It took us a while to find the Sheraton shuttle, so for your future reference, here is exactly how to find it.
After a smooth ride back to the Sheraton, around 2:30pm we embarked on our own walking tour of the historic center of Lima, thanks to the free Mirabus map.
We turned left when exiting the Sheraton, walked along Carabaya, passing by Plaza San Martin and Plaza de Armas, and saw all the major historic buildings. Along the way, there are plenty of local eateries, where you can try all the local favorites for just a few soles.
Our final (real) stop was the San Francisco Monastery, and 7 soles (~$2.5) per person got us a free one-hour guided tour of the grounds (really, including the underground catacombs) of the famous site.
We managed to walk very fast back to the Sheraton, and squeezed in a shower for everyone before checking out at 6pm. Never once did we have to reset our room key, despite the truly late check-out (Kudos, Sheraton Lima!).
Mom, a vegetarian, had some local food earlier, so she waited in the lobby, while TravelWhimsy and I walked 5 minutes to a local cevicheria recommended by our wonderful shuttle driver. The place is called Puerto Norte, which is right behind the Sheraton (2 right turns from the Sheraton will get you there). TravelWhimsy is not a big fan of raw fish, but she still enjoyed the delicious ceviches (66 soles including tips, ~$25). [We later found out that locals would only eat ceviches in the morning; no wonder both servers at the Sheraton and Puerto Norte gave us THAT look when taking our orders. Everything still tasted wonderful, nevertheless!]
We topped off our ceviche pit stop with two pisco sours at the Sheraton Bar before heading out of the hotel. Confident that we could save another 50+% with Taxi Speedy next door, the stall was no longer staffed around 7:30pm. Luckily, we kept the phone numbers of our morning taxi driver and the previous night’s airport taxi driver. With the help of an agent at the nearby LAN office, one of the drivers (Segundo from the previous night) came through and picked us up in front of the Sheraton around 8:30pm, ending our ceviche-filled adventure of 24 hours in the city of Lima!
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