18 November 2012

How to decorate your car Peruvian style!

So, you’ve come to live in Peru and you’ve decided to buy a car because you just can’t face the manic driving, and the squashed and frequently smelly conditions in the public bus.

If you don’t want to stand out from the crowd (and so risk attracting the unwanted attention of the local police force looking to extract a little donation for their daily intake of chicha – corn beer), you should consider buying an older car. A reliable make and model would be best, as the usual potholey state of the roads and the crazy antics of your fellow drivers will almost certainly generate a need for numerous repairs and a plentiful supply of spare parts. And there are no friendly AA servicemen here!

Given their reputation for dependability and economy (fuel prices are high here), I’d recommend a Volkswagen. As there used to be a VW manufacturing plant in Brazil, little old beetles are common in much of South America.

Next, you need to decorate your vehicle.

On the outside, long strips of red and white stickers should be stuck to the sides and rear of your vehicle. I used to think these were used to indicate which cars were taxis but they are, in fact, reflector strips. As Peruvians drive extremely close to their neighbouring vehicles, I doubt these make the slightest bit of difference. Maybe they are seen more as a local version of racing stripes!

You need to adorn your little VW with stickers of various sizes, shapes and designs. These can range from images of that iconic hero, Che Guevara, to comic strip characters like Bugs Bunny, from bright glowing flames to roaring lions – almost anything that appeals.

A dedication to your girlfriend, mother or dog is essential, usually plastered right across the back window.

I go with God ... if I don't return, I am with Him
A dedication to God, a saint or some other religious personage is also a good idea, or perhaps a message professing your belief. Insurance is almost unknown in Peru, so asking for protection from an almighty being is about as close as you’ll get.

You must also decorate the inside of your vehicle. Although most Western countries prohibit the attachment of dangling objects to the inside of your windscreen, in Peru these are essential fashion accessories. Once again, something religious may work magic, but you should also add a colourful air freshener and perhaps a small soft toy.

On the dashboard, a religious banner will help with protection from the sun. And a baby’s or young child’s shoe is a great addition, either as another dangly or just sitting on the top of the dashboard. Just one shoe is needed and it must be a found object, probably picked up off the street, definitely not from your own child. This is for good luck.

Now, fill up your car with gas and drive like a crazy person and you’ll fit right in!

This is going a little too far!


  1. This is great! I particularly laughed at your comment about insurance. I'm kinda surprised that fuel would be really expensive there, I guess the proximity to Venezuela doesn't help?

  2. Your comment made me investigate the fuel prices a little more, Ursula. According to this website http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_gas_pri-energy-gasoline-prices Peru has the 30th highest prices in the world, which is high when you consider its an underdeveloped country.
    I'm still not sure why though.

    1. That is definitely high! Interesting.

      Also, is that last car part of a parade or really just driving around like that?

  3. I cheated, Ursula. The last car was in a parade, as you guessed, but I couldn't resist adding it in!