Lima: A Bargain-Hunter’s Wonderland? You bet!
Lima has amazing bargains but you need a trustworthy native guide to get you off the beaten path. We discovered My Aunt & Me, a lovely young student of English and her Aunt Betty, the best bargain-hunter in Lima. We spent two exciting days with them, and were thrilled by the bargains we got in places that we never would have found for ourselves, yet alone ventured into alone.
Lilian, 23, and her aunt Betty met us at our hotel, and asked what we were interested in buying. When they told us what they thought we would pay, we couldn’t believe our ears, and wondered about what the quality of the goods could be at those prices. But Betty has sniffed out every part of Lima, and knows the districts where particular goods are manufactured or fabricated. That’s where the many shop-owners and vendors of Lima go to buy their goods at wholesale prices, for later re-sale. Depending upon what you want to shop for, they figure out what is realistic to accomplish in one day. We elected to go clothes shopping, and if satisfied, to spend another day with them shopping for souvenirs, and yes, even discount prescription eyeglasses.
We took a taxi to a crowded clothing district, crammed with shops selling very fashionable sportswear for below what you would imagine the cost of labor and materials. Street vendors, often with great sportswear on their arms, hawked their goods down the middle of the street (no auto traffic allowed hereï¿½thank goodness). Even though the prices we were offered were exceptional, Betty bargained them down for us even lower.
We bought nicely designed polar vests for $3, jeans in every cut and style for $10, exercise pants for $3, thick hooded cotton sweatshirts for $7, thin tight-fitting designer-style tops for under $2, fashionable leather purses for $10, CDs of popular American artists for 60 cents each. And these are only a few of the amazing items Betty found for us. Sports jackets for $10, leather shoes for $10, even well-made cotton underwear in every style for under $1/pair. Although our shopping bags were stuffed, at the end of the day we could not resist buying alpaca blankets for $12 each.
We felt absolutely safe and secure with Lilian (who speaks good-enough English) and Betty (who speaks Spanish slowly and carefully for those who have some basic language skill and want to practice). They held onto our merchandise-filled tote bags for us, and sheparded us through crowds like private body-guards.
We came back to our hotel loaded with fabulous clothes, loads of CDs, and other amazing bargains, and felt like we’d been kids let loose in a candy factory. We decided to go out with them again for a second day, and this time to use the services of Betty’s husband, a private taxi driver, so that we could go to more places easier, without having to hail taxis each time, and also so we could store our purchases in the trunk of his car.
Although I had been skeptical, I decided to try Lilian’s suggestion that we buy new eyeglasses in Lima–in a district where they are made. We drove to a street lined with optical shops, where the owners of adjoining shops come in and tell you they will sell you the glasses for less than you were just quoted. After Betty negotiated the best price, we were given free eye exams that produced absolutely accurate results (although the exam room itself did not inspire confidence at first). I have a strong astigmatism and need a heavy correction, but it was no problem. We ended up with new snazzy glasses: one set with polar-grey lens for $40 (about $10 less for clear lenses), and a tri-focal pair of sunglasses with progressive lens for $53, that were made on site within a few hours.
Then we went to a wholesale souvenir center where the artisans of Lima go to buy their raw materials, as well as finished goods for re-sale. The prices were less than half, and sometimes a third of what was being asked at the other artisan centers in Lima that I had shopped in. Beautifully-wrought earrings and bracelets from 30 cents to $1, intricate stone, filigree, and bamboo necklaces for $1.20, real stamped silver chokers with beautiful semi-precious stones for $10, alpaca sweaters for $11, alpaca scarves for under $3–plus all the artisan/crafts products that you see everywhere, but at prices much lower than other tourist places. And, of course, as low as the prices were to us, Betty bargained them down even lower. We shopped ’til we dropped.
My Aunt & Me charges only $35/day for their services–and you will save that within the first hour of shopping. If you want to have your own private car and driver, add $40 more (cheaper and safer than renting your own car, and developing the nerves-of-steel to navigate Lima’s chaotic traffic). Otherwise, you pay the taxi fares–don’t worry, Betty bargains them down too for you.
At the end of day we had gone places we would have never dared ventured, but in the tow of these two wonderful women, we never felt anything other than safe and protected. And as far as bargains, we thought we’d died and gone to shopper’s heaven. We ended up giving them both generous tips, we were so appreciative.
To reach My Aunt & Me, call Lilian at 985 665 24.