Everything you need to know about Lima’s airport
You’ve already planned your dream Peruvian vacation and visions of Machu Picchu have been dancing in your head. But, as the departure date approaches, your excitement is paired with some pre-travel nerves…
Get through Lima’s airport like a pro
Making your way through Lima’s airport can be a daunting task, particularly if you don’t speak Spanish. To help you master Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport, we’ve compiled the information you need to know to make it through like a pro and get onto more important business – like enjoying your vacation!
The Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima is located in the district of Callao, 7 miles (11 km) from the center of Lima and about 14 miles (22 km) from the most important districts. The airport has become an increasingly important hub for the larger South American and Southern Pacific regions, having served a total of 6.4 million international arriving passengers that registered around 150 thousand flights served- including domestic ones- in 2012.
Logistics & Infrastructure
A detailed timetable of arriving and departing flights can be found both online and at the main check-in area.
The airport is open 24/7, although many of its facilities only run during regular office hours. Most international flights arrive late at night, between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. (GMT -5) and hence this turns out to be the busiest time for transiting through customs and immigration.
Whether you are in transit or if Lima is your final destination, the airport offers facilities typical of a large international airport, including a handful of good restaurants and shops to make your stay comfortable. There are also a couple of business lounges usually available for frequent flyers and some of them are accessible to everyone upon paying a fee. Sumaq VIP was voted Lounge of the Year 2009 and 2010 by Priority Pass.
Bathrooms are comfortable, clean, and family friendly. Just before the boarding and security areas, you will find a food court with recognized fast food franchises such as Subway, Starbucks and others, and a sample of Peruvian flavors on the second floor, as well as a good number of ATMs if you need some cash (whether US$ or local soles), coffee shops, a cybercafé, a pharmacy (that might become handy if you are traveling to Cusco and need some altitude pills), handicraft shops (including fine alpaca and silver stores), and a 4D gelateria – perhaps the finest option for a quick meal before starting your boarding process. Note that the airport does not offer free Wi-Fi. If you need wireless access, you need to purchase a prepaid card in one of the selected shops available both outside and inside the security area. Past the security checks you will find a much larger duty free area, with plenty of options for buying anything from local pisco and other alcoholic drinks to international newspapers. There are also some bars and restaurants, including the widely acclaimed gourmet restaurant La Bonbonniere. Note that most things are really pricey for Peruvian standards (but not so much for international).
The Ramada group built a comfortable hotel right outside the arrival gate. The Costa del Sol Ramada – offers standard rooms and suites as well as a 24-hour restaurant featuring local delicacies, spa, sauna, indoor pool, and ample meeting rooms. This hotel is ideal if you are arriving late at night and are leaving early next morning, without enough time to commute to Miraflores or other districs. You are likely to find your stay a bit noisy, but the hotel does everything to guarantee a pleasant overnight if you keep in mind you are in fact staying at an airport.
It should generally not take you more than 1 hour to leave the airport, from the time your plane lands to when you exit customs. However, on occasion, several flights land around the same time that can result in delays. This, partnered with insufficient customs staff and delays in the luggage pickup area, may result in it taking you as long as 2 hours to move through all the checkpoints from the plane until finding your transfer.
IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS
The first checkpoint is migration and passport control. Peru does not require a visa for most countries, although there are a handful of exceptions and it is better if you double check at your local consulate, on Visa HQ or the official website (Spanish only).
Tourists from most countries are admitted for 90 days in Peru – a period you can always extend up to a maximum of 180 days (if needed) after paying a fee at the Office of Immigration and Naturalization.
Two paper slips (Immigration and Customs) will be given to you during your arriving flight, or they can be picked up at the airport. Be sure to have all your paperwork filled in or else you are likely to cause and experience some delay. At this point you will be asked for the Andean Immigration Card (TAM). Be sure to keep the slip that is returned to you in a safe location and do not misplace it. Losing your TAM might create some issues and would often lead to a penalty fee.
Luggage claim lines are located immediately after passing through passport control, and they are numerated with a screen indicating the flight they are serving. Take advantage of whatever waiting time to fill in your customs form.
After picking up your luggage, you should head towards customs. You will see one line forming right in front of what is the only exit gate to the arrival area. Upon handing over your customs form – only one is required per family – you will be asked to press a button that randomly turns red or green. Green indicates you are good to go and start your Peruvian adventure. Red indicates you will be sent to secondary inspection: here you should be extra patient because customs staff will not only scan every piece of your luggage, but will also open most of these pieces to proceed with a thorough revision.
Exchange or withdraw some money upon arrival for your first day and/or night in Lima. US$ are accepted in most restaurants and shops, and exchange rates are often better in Miraflores and other districts. Cellphone rental is available at the airport, but note that you can buy SIM cards from most cellphone providers real cheap.
Once you have passed through customs, you will move onto the arrival area. This is probably the most confusing part of the entire process of leaving the airport. Depending on the time of the day, you are likely to find hundreds of people waiting for their relatives and friends as well as a good number of taxi drivers and travel agency representatives doing the same with their passengers.
If you have a transfer arranged (which is highly recommended, especially if it is your first time in Peru), your driver will be waiting for you holding a sign with your name on it.
On the other hand, if you do not have a pick-up arranged you will find a few private transportation options, although the airport does not offer shared rides and shuttles. Official taxis are recommended, since taxis outside the airport are informal (although cheaper) and do not have the best track record when it comes to safety. It is probably in your best interest to approach one of the booths within the arrival area and inform them about your plans. There are also car rental options if you feel adventurous enough to drive in Lima (your foreign driver’s license is typically good for driving in Lima during the length of your stay). After sorting out the transportation, you will be off to start your Peruvian adventure.
On the way back to the airport – whether it is for your international flight back home or your domestic flight to another destination in Peru – Jorge Chávez International will be easy to navigate if you follow some very basic Lima airport guide tips:
- International flights require you to arrive 3 hours ahead of your departure time while domestic flights only require 2 hours. In estimating your departure time from your hotel, take into consideration traffic in Lima tends to get pretty busy between 6:30 and 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 and 8:00 p.m. These are considered rush hours and would typically imply from 1 hour to 2 hour cab rides pretty much from anywhere in Lima to the airport.
- The check-in area is the same for both domestic and international flights. Peak times for checking-in are often very early in the morning and late at night. You are likely to spend about one hour in checking-in and dropping-off your luggage (even if you have previously checked-in online). When leaving the country, you will be asked to hand back the Andean Migratory Card (TAM) that you filled in upon arriving. Make sure you have it with you.
- Be sure to report at your gate at least 45 minutes before your actual departure time in order to avoid any problems. So, all in all, you will probably have about 30-60 minutes to explore the duty free area and other airport services after your check-in, before you need to be at your gate. No matter what your boarding pass says, be sure to double check the flight schedule screens and reconfirm your gate and boarding time.
- All airport fees are now included in your ticket for your international flights so you should not pay anything additional. Some domestic flights however do require you to pay a TUUA fee of US$9.40.
At a glance
Local Time: (GMT -5:00)
Busiest Times: 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.; 7:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.
ATMs: GlobalNet, accepts most international cards (a surcharge of US$5 applies, plus your bank’s overhead fees).
Shops: Open daily 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Some Duty-Free shops are open longer.
Money Exchange: Available, but exchange rates are generally better in the city. Check latest exchange rate.
Favorite Restaurants: Before security check: 4D. After security check: La Bonbonniere.
International franchises: Starbucks, Subway, Papa Johns, McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts.
Disabled facilities: There are ramps, but infrastructure is not ideal. Request additional assistance in advance.
Storage service: Yes, located on the first floor next to the domestic flights arrival gate.
Transportation: Taxis and Car Rental. Credit cards are accepted.
Other services: Pharmacy, Immunization and Vaccination, Office of Immigration and Naturalization