Navigating the Lima Airport and Arriving in Iquitos Peru
I hope this article will help you enjoy your flight and navigate through the Lima airport and the Iquitos airport with the minimum of stress. If this will be your first visit, you are sure to find valuable information here. If you have visited before, there have been a few changes in the last year (2007) that could be good to know about.
I like to travel with a medium sized fanny pack with at least four zipped compartments, with the pack worn to my front to keep everything safe and handy. I know waist packs are unfashionable and lumpy, but they are a great travel tool and part of my travel system. They are not considered carry-on luggage, and you get to keep what you want and need on you, in your seat instead of in the overhead storage bin where it is difficult and sometimes impossible the access.
Your fanny pack should include a writing pen and small notebook, your boarding pass, your passport, and a small amount of money. I include a comb, dental floss, toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste. On a recent trip my toothpaste was confiscated as a potential terrorist bomb.
You could include your cell phone, i-pod, Nintindo DS, note voice recorder, and a small paperback novel. What would you like to have with you in your seat during a day that might include several hours at two or three airports, a couple of short flights, and a six hour flight? What could make the difference between being organized or disorganized, entertained or bored?
I also travel with a small backpack with a complete change of clothes, a roll of toilet paper, baby wipes, soap, towel, Advil, camera, a book, a larger note book, couple of extra pens, and a heavy shirt for on the plane or if I get stuck in Lima. Anything I can not afford to lose goes into the backpack, not the check-in luggage. Be very careful to keep all of the zippers on the backpack and fanny pack zipped at all times. Be on guard against loss or theft. The success or failure of your adventure could be at stake.
During the last couple of hours of the flight to Lima, the flight attendants will distribute two paper forms you will be required to fill out. One is for immigrations, called the Andean Inmigration Card, the other form is for the customs officials. You will need to know your passport number, name of the airlines and flight number, and you will need a pen to fill out the forms. That will be no problem for you because you will have the pen and all of the information in your fanny pack right in front of you. Fill out the immigrations form including where it asks for the main purpose of your travels, skip the part “for official use only,” and be sure to fill out the bottom section.
When you disembark from the plane and enter the Lima airport watch for the signs and arrows pointing the way to Migraciones or Immigrations. Usually there are several immigration officials on duty. International visitors go to the right side, Peruvian citizens to the left side. The main line divides into individual lines so watch for the shortest line. Have your passport and the immigrations form ready. When it is your turn the official will scan your passport, check his computer, and stamp your visa in the passport, and another stamp on the bottom of the form you filled out on the plane. The official will tear off the bottom of the form with the visa stamp and give you the paper and your passport back.
That little, white, piece of paper does not look like much, but guard it carefully. If you do not have that with your passport when you leave Peru, your life will be more complicated. So, please, put it with your passport and do not lose it.
Next, turn right and follow the signs a short distance to the baggage claim. Your flight number will be on the screen above the carousel where your luggage will come out. Depending on how much luggage you have you might want to get one of the carts. I always tie colorful blue ribbons to each piece of luggage before leaving home so I can positively identify them from a distance. At first glance a lot of the luggage on the carousel looks alike. Relax and wait to see your colorful ribbons.
To leave the room you must first go through customs. Have the other form you filled out on the plane and the stubs usually stapled onto your boarding pass that proves the luggage is yours ready in advance to present at the custom line. The custom agent will ask you to push a black button that is a switch. If the light comes on green you are free to go on. If the light comes on red, you will be directed to a table to have your luggage inspected.
If you are catching a flight to Iquitos in the next few hours after your arrival it is probably best to stay at the airport. Follow the signs to Nationales, or Domestic. You will enter a long room with a high ceiling with windows and doors on one side. The other side of the room is a row of 54 numbered counters, with scales for luggage, and a large screen announcing the name of the airlines.
Aero Condor starts around counter number 30 and Star Peru is next. Lan Peru is at the end, counter numbers 43-54. Lan Peru is the only airlines counter to stay open all night which is an advantage to be able to check your baggage in when you arrive. If you already have a ticket, go to the check in line. If you do not have a ticket, Lan Peru has one line set up with a large red sign, counter number 45.
This is very important. No one will tell you this except me. If you do not have a ticket, first go past all of the counters. Go on out the gate and to the wall at the end of the long room. You will see a money exchange, called a Cambio, to the right as you face the wall. The restrooms are to the left and, in between, you will see small counters for Lan Peru, Aero Condor, and Star Peru. That is where you buy tickets, and that is where someone will actually offer to help you. Unfortunately, they are not open until 3 or 4 in the morning. If they are closed, go back to the Lan Peru counter number 45.
If all of the flights are full, ask to be put on stand-by. You will have a good chance to get on the early 5:20 AM flight.
When you have your ticket, go to the appropriate airlines around 3:00 AM, or two hours before your flight, to check your bags in and get your boarding pass. The departure gate, the place where you pay your departure tax, the restaurants, and the shops are all on the top floor. To find the escalators, go past the last counter, number 54, and through the gate. Turn left, and you will see the escalators straight ahead.
I recommend changing at least $100 into soles if you have time. Make sure around half of it is in small bills and change. Keep the soles in your fanny pack in a separate pocket from the money from your home country.
Change the time on your watch if necessary. The time zone of Peru is the same as Eastern Standard Time in the United States.
If you have over an hour until departure, relax. There are buffet style fast food restaurants, cold beer, and some very nice shops. At around an hour before departure I prefer to pay my departure tax and go through the airport security system. Follow the signs to Departures. Have your boarding pass out, with your passport.
Double check to make sure your change is in the fanny pack. The departure tax is about $3.60 for domestic flights. As soon as that is paid and your boarding pass stamped, you should get ready for security. I put my watch, billfold, loose change, keys, etc in my fanny pack. I attach the fanny pack to the backpack as soon as they are on the conveyor belt so they come out the other end of the X-ray together.
Next Stop, Iquitos Peru.
If you have booked a multi day tour or cruise with Dawn on the Amazon we meet you at the Iquitos airport and assist you to either our Jungle Cabins, one of the boats, or the hotel of your choice, whichever is most practical at the time. Make sure we know your time of arrival, the airlines, and the flight number.
If no one is meeting you at the airport, you will be pleased to know that order has recently been imposed. When you step out of the terminal you will not be swarmed by a mob of moto-karristas trying to get your attention. Now, instead of intimidating chaos, the moto-kars (three wheel motorcycles with a passenger bench between the rear wheels and a plastic tarp overhead for protection from the sun and rain) will be lined up in an orderly fashion. You take the next one in line. These moto-kars are inspected to make sure they are well maintained, with a good muffler.
The drivers are mostly trustworthy, and S/10 gets two passengers to most hotels, or to my office. If you have a lot of luggage or it is pouring down rain, there are regular car taxis at the airport for S/15 to most hotels or to my office at 185 Maldonado, at the beginning of the first block of Nauta. My office is right around the corner facing the river. If your Spanish is not fluent, you might want to write down the name and address of your hotel or hostel or my office address to show the driver.
Welcome to Iquitos Peru. May many good experiences be yours.