San Juan de Lurigancho, one of the most dangerous districts of Lima. Photo by Paul Silva, flickr.com.
Picking out the most dangerous areas of Lima is problematic. Different government agencies in Peru use different methods for determining “danger,” be it assaults, robberies, murders or an assortment of various factors. But by using a few different sources, it is possible to present a solid overview of the most dangerous districts of Lima (of which there are 43 in total).
Sources used here include Peru’s Observatorio de la Criminalidad, a branch of the Ministerio Publico; the NGO Lima Cómo Vamos; and the Peruvian National Police. They don’t always agree on the exact ranking of each district, but they do highlight the same districts in their lists of the most dangerous parts of Lima.
It’s also worth noting that all of Lima’s nine most populated districts (by population, not population density) are on the list below. It’s reasonable to argue, therefore, that crime rates are higher — to a certain extent — simply because of the number of people living in these districts. At the same time, some of these highly populated districts are also among the poorest in the capital.
The 12 Most Dangerous Districts of Lima
The following districts of Lima are considered the most dangerous in the city. They are ordered in approximate order of danger as defined by the sources mentioned above. Callao is included despite being a city in its own right (rather than a district), because it forms part of the contiguous Lima Metropolitan Area.
1. Central Lima (Cercado de Lima)
2. San Juan de Lurigancho
4. Ate Vitarte
5. La Victoria
6. San Martín de Porres
7. Villa El Salvador
8. Santa Anita
9. Villa María del Triunfo
10. San Juan de Miraflores*
12. El Agustino
*not to be confused with Miraflores
Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid strolling around these districts (with the exception of Central Lima, see below), especially at night.
I once went to San Juan de Lurigancho for some random reason, and after the sun had set I decided it was time to leave. I started trying to flag down a taxi on a fairly busy street, but none would stop. After about five minutes, a taxi finally pulled up and I jumped in. I told the driver I’d been waiting for a while but couldn’t get a taxi for some reason, and he replied: “Yes. Taxis don’t normally stop on this street at night, it’s far too dangerous.”
Why Is the Crime Rate So High in the Central Lima District?
Despite appearing at the top of this list of dangerous areas in Lima, Central Lima (Cercado de Lima) is also one of my recommended places to stay in Lima. So what’s that all about?
In an October 2015 interview with Perú21, Renzo Reggiardo, president of the Special Multiparty Congressional Committee of Security, put the bulk of the blame on one particular neighborhood within the Central Lima district: Barrios Altos.
According to Reggiardo, “There are many people [in Barrios Altos] who engage in crime. It’s not all of them, but a great proportion.” Barrios Altos is a stone’s throw from the Historic Center of Lima, which includes the Government Palace and Lima Cathedral. Despite being so close to Lima’s colonial center — all of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site — Barrios Altos nonetheless suffers from high levels of poverty, urban decay and lack of infrastructure. For many of its residents, crime has become a way of life.
Tourists do not typically stay in Barrios Altos, for obvious reasons. But much of the rest of Central Lima is fairly safe, despite its high levels of reported crime (partly due to the Barrios Altos neighborhood and partly because of the high numbers of visitors to the district, both foreign and national, which leads to increased incidents of snatch theft and other opportunistic crimes).
It’s fine to stay in the reasonably well-policed historic center, or just to the south or southwest (Barrios Altos is to the east of the district) toward Plaza San Martin and the Parque de la Exposición. Just be careful of strolling too far afield, especially at night, as you can soon arrive in unsafe areas.
I am a Portrait Photographer and Photojournalist. I have a odd request. Do you have any contacts at the Lurigancho Prison? I tend to document the less visited areas in the countries I visit. Usually landfills…but I also have visited prisons in Bolivia and Africa.
Hi Kellie. I can’t think of any contacts, I’m afraid. I’ll ask around and see if I can find something, will let you know if I do. You could try asking in the Peru expat forums (like “Life in Peru – Expat Support” and “Expatriates in Peru.”). Thanks and good luck, Tony.
We are visiting from the states, for the second time. My husband and I are birders, and we have a bird tour for Northern Peru starting Fri. We are spending this week in Lima. There is a very rare bird reported at a park, Parque Zonal Huascar, which looks to be in Villa El Salvador. This is on your top 12 most dangerous list. What do you think about going there in the daytime? Bad idea, or ok if we keep our situational awareness up? We would likely take a taxi arranged by our b&b proprietor.
Hi Kate. Sorry about the late response, I’m guessing it’s too late now. If you take a reliable taxi arranged by your hotel, then you should be fine during the day. Just keep an eye on your surroundings and try not to be too flashy with anything, although I know that’s difficult if you’re taking cameras etc. If you’ve already been there, how was it? Thanks, Tony.
Hmmm I lived in Comas for a while . It’s not too bad I went around by myself , at night it’s necessary to be cautious . I’m not saying go out your way to get robbed but if ones experience of Lima is just Miraflores it’s a pity . Also if you don’t like the look of a taxi driver while negotiating don’t get in !!! Not sure bout Uber as I was there 2015/16 it wasn’t as big as now …
Uber was the most convenient and safe way of travel during our two weeks stay in Peru. You do not have to worry about the price as it is calculated by the app and trust me it can save you a lot of time and effort when it comes to price negotiation before entering a simple cab.
Thanks for the info Adam. Cheers, Tony.
I just moved to Lima with my husband and a 2 year old ( and the other one in the bun). How safe is it to take Uber to get around the city during the day and a night?
Hi Anna. From what I’ve heard, Uber is normally OK in Lima but problems can arise. Drivers turning up late seems to be an issue, and some scams have been reported, particularly when drivers register their passengers as being in the car before they’ve even picked them up. But in terms of general safety, it seems to be OK. You just need to watch out for scams. Thanks, Tony.
I will be leading a scientific expedition on a ship, probably in the Callao district. How dangerous is this area?
Hi Joe. Callao has a lot of problems, so it’s not really the kind of place you want to hang out in. There are parts that are OK during the day, but generally speaking it’s best avoided unless you’re going to a specific place (for example, the airport, the fortress or other tourist attractions). It’s a gang and crime problem, fundamentally. You won’t see running battles or anything, but it’s always a little sketchy. Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks, Tony.
Do you think it ‘s safe to rent a car at the airport and drive through the city to Miraflores or you would recommend renting the car in the city?
The plan is to go visit Pisco, Ica (Huacachina) then go back to the city and take a flight to Arequipa.
Hi Somorjai Adam. Lima looks like a nightmare to drive in generally (never done it myself), but would be especially chaotic from the airport to Miraflores. Probably best to rent a car in Miraflores, then you can get onto the Panamericana Sur easily enough for heading down to Pisco. Sounds like a good trip! Cheers, Tony.
Thanks for all this good advice, Tony. Very helpful. Visiting Lima this September.
Thanks Wendie. Have fun in Lima! Tony.