Here in Arequipa, in Peru, we find plenty of signs for the ‘playa’, which seems unlikely given we are some 2400m above sea level, with no sea in sight. In fact the many ‘playa’ signs signify the entrance to a car park, or ‘estacionamiento’, payable by the hour or part thereof. Costs vary from S/.3 to S/.5 per hour, depending on the centrality of the car park. Car parks offer security for the car, which is a big issue here where the theft of parts (if not the whole car) seems to be a big issue.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such signs. We saw them in Lima, Peru’s capital city, which even more confusingly also has ‘playas’ in the more traditional sense – being a coastal city it does have beaches, although the ones closest to the city are man-mad (at the foot of cliffs) and hard to access.
Vehicle ownership in Peru is low, there’s around 74 vehicles per thousand people, compared to the UK’s 519 per 1000 (2014 figures). But the cramped nature & narrow streets of most of their larger (colonial) city centres leaves little or no room for street parking, and apart from in the posher bits of Lima we’ve seen no underground or multi-storey carparks. So don’t think your luck is in when you see a sign for a ‘playa’, it’s more than likely just a carpark!