For those who have followed along so far, you know that I was a bit nervous entering Peru, since two Delta check-in staff told me I could be denied entry on account of my one way ticket. Here’s what happened on my first night in Peru.

While landing in a new country is usually exciting, that excitement was clipped by my fear and I spent the last hour of the flight mentally rehearsing what I would say to the immigration officials if they questioned my lack of a return ticket. Standing in line after we landed, I couldn’t help but imagine back rooms and brass knuckles:

Them: (Punching) “Why don’t you have a RETURN TICKET?!!”

Me: “Aiiiyeeeee!!”

I got to the desk, presented my information, and forced a smile, preparing to turn on the charm. A tired, heavyset Peruvian woman asked me how long I would be in Peru and I told her “40 days.” She stamped me and that was that. Elated, I had no idea some actual drama was about to happen.

The Robbery

My friend here had given me some tips about the cab situation leaving the airport. She said:

1. Take a right and walk away from the main cabs to get a reduced rate

2. Do not to pay more than $15

3. Do not get into unmarked cabs

Exiting the terminal, I shrugged off the initial barrage of cabbies, who waved their laminated badges at me and pitched me $40 rides. I told one man I knew it was supposed to be $15 and he replied that if I wanted a price that low, I needed to take a “street cab.” “Then that’s where I’m going” I replied, smug with my information and language advantage.

I promptly violated my friend’s advice and my own better judgement and accepted a ride from a young man driving  a dented, dark blue sedan with no semblance of cab markings. But he had the right price.

I told you I’d be giving you travel tips in this blog, here’s your first one:

DO NOT DO THAT.

DO NOT GET INTO UNMARKED CABS DRIVEN BY YOUNG MEN.

Understood?

About three minutes from the airport, we were stopped at a red light and I was looking out to my right at a man in a shiny silver Toyota Yaris, typing away on his smart phone. I saw a figure walking among the traffic – a fairly common practice in developing countries. As he neared Yaris man’s window, he took two quick, bounding steps, then thrust himself into the open window, grabbed the phone, and took off running. The man cursed, the light turned green, and he had no real choice but to keep driving.

I had nothing in my hands or on my lap, so this particular robbery would have been unlikely, but it set me on edge and immediately made me regret being in such a sketchy cab. With every side street turn and darkened street we drove, I clenched my fists and kept my eyes wide. I threw a lot preemptively accusatory looks at my driver and refused to ask any questions, for fear I would seem ignorant and therefore vulnerable.

We reached the hostel without issue and my driver was friendly the entire time – just a young guy trying to make a living.

I’ve heard many of these stories over the years but never seen one happen, or experienced one first-hand. Lucky, I guess. Here’s your second tip: don’t play on your cell phone while in traffic with your windows down.