Paraguay was added to our itinerary on a whim: the result of our research to connect Bolivia to Iguazú or Buenos Aires. We armed ourselves with Google Flights and Google Maps and both confirmed that Paraguay was the place to be. Being still very little tourist (there is no must-see like the salar of Uyuni or the falls of Iguazu), Paraguay is one of the places allowing to take advantage of the carnival way South America at small price.
Overall, we rather enjoyed our stay in Paraguay. Apart from the heat (reaching 41°C at the end of February), it’s a country where we see ourselves living between 1 and 3 months, in a cool city like Encarnacion for example. It meets the criteria that we consider essential for nomads (1) good Internet connection, 3G and Wifi (2) beach (3) accessible cost of living (4) good food.
However, our stay would have been even better if we had chosen a better period. Visiting Paraguay in the middle of the heat wave in mid-February, and suffering from the not super quality climate in the cheap hostels, our stay suffered from it.
The lack of tourist infrastructure has not helped. My brain is no longer functional beyond 36 degrees. However, in a not very touristic country, there is very little information about the places to visit (even for the visiting hours, the official website, the bus terminal and the hotel… don’t have the same info). It is always necessary to always inquire oneself, to have a double-triple check, and it is tiring.
Many times, JB and I just wanted to pay an agency so we wouldn’t have to think about it, but there just wasn’t one ahaha.
However, the kindness of the Paraguayans has managed to make us forget a lot of unpleasantness and this is why we really want to make this beautiful country known.
So, if we had to do it over again, we would have chosen to :
(1) visit between April and October where temperatures are more bearable (10 to 25 degrees)(
2) rent a car to get out of the big cities more easily (car rental from 45$/day).
- Asunción (4 days, 5 nights): flight from Santa Cruz (Bolivia). Clearly, we don’t need so much time to visit Asuncion but we were well there, so we might as well enjoy it
- Encarnación (2 days): 6 hours by bus from Asunción with NSA. We enjoyed the Carnival, participated in moss battles and visited the Jesuit ruins in Trinidad.
- Ciudad del Este (2 days): 5h by bus from Encarnacion (I recommend NSA). We only went there to visit the Itaipú dam on the Paraguayan side
- Then, we crossed the border on foot to go to Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil
Note: Ciudad del Este is not very far from the Iguazu Falls. We spent 2 days in Brazil then we came back to Argentina.
What we liked
- The kindness of Paraguayans
- Feel like you’re in Argentina but cheaper
What we didn’t like
- The heat wave
- Lack of tourist services
- Their speed of speech
Ciudad del Este
Expenses on site: 3 758 900 Guaranis for 9 days for 2 people or 626€
or 70€/day for 2 people (transportation within the country included)
but outside the plane Santa Cruz – Asuncion 274€/person with GOL
- Lodging :
- Asuncion: El Nomada Hostel 25$/night private double room
- Encarnacion : Airbnb, private double room at 67€ (it’s expensive because of the Carnival)
- Ciudad del Este: Casa Alta 180 000Gs private double room
- Food :
- Market: about 30 000Gs/meal for two
- Average restaurant: 50 000Gs/meal for two
- High-end restaurant: between 130,000 and 180,000Gs/meal for two
- Supermarket: between 14,000Gs and 35,000Gs/meal for two
- Mineral water: between 3000Gs and 6000Gs
- Transportation :
- Plane Santa Cruz -> Asuncion : 274€/person with GOL (5h stopover in Sao Paulo, Brazil)
- Airport -> Asuncion city center : 120 000Gs
- Cab: about 8 400Gs/km
- Public bus: 3000Gs/person
- Bus Asuncion – Encarnacion : 80 000Gs/person
- Bus Encarnacion – Ciudad del Este : 50 000Gs/person
- Visits :
- Jesuit ruins in Trinidad: 25 000Gs/person
- Carnival : 90 000Gs/person
Contrary to the information found online, the roads and buses in Paraguay are very good, but only if you know how to choose your buses. Go to the terminal and buy tickets from the most flashy companies (and the most expensive ones too). The quality is proportional to the price.
NSA is a company that I recommend, even if the bus schedules aren’t necessarily the best. The 5-6h trips cost in the 80 000Gs. Some routes offer cama chairs. Toilet breaks are provided for buses that aren’t equipped with toilets.
Public buses (within a city) pass regularly and aren’t too crowded. Even if there are no maps, it is quite easy to guess the route of the bus (which usually always goes straight ahead), by looking at the destinations served. Tickets cost about 3000Gs.
If we had to do it all over again, we would have liked to rent a car (45$ per day). The streets in town are all one-way except for the main avenues. The main roads are in very good condition but drivers have no sense of priority. The biggest car has priority.
I think cabs are expensive in Paraguay, but you don’t usually get ripped off on fares. The meter exists but they don’t put any, and when they do, it’s the advertised price. The price is around 8300Gs/km.
The Encarnacion Carnival is good for those who are attending the carnival for the first time in their lives (as is our case). It is much worse than the one in Rio de Janeiro. The only interest lies in being able to participate in the battles of moss and water
The meat from Paraguay is almost as good as in Argentina. You can eat cheaply at the market or in fast foods. I find that while cooking, we eat less for almost the same price.
The fact of leaving a tip or not isn’t very clear here. In restaurants where it says “service charge not included”, we add 10% more, otherwise nothing.
The hostels are decent and clean even if the quality of the air conditioning is to be deplored. Sometimes it is better to ask for a room with a fan. Rates are between 25$ and 30$ for a private room.
Paraguayans speak fast and have a very different accent from other countries in South America. However, their pronunciation is correct (they pronounce all the letters), you just have to get used to this accent and some expressions that are different from other countries.
Information varies from person to person. Even hotel receptionists can make mistakes. It is best to call to make sure of the opening/closing times. If possible, ask the tourists at the hostel for information rather than the receptionists. Even the tourist office can make mistakes.
Don’t expect to find many travel agencies in the city center. The easiest way is to go through your hostel to book tours (if there are any). Otherwise, you will be shown how to get there by yourself by local bus, or on foot. If you are too tired for that, try to privatize a cab.
Google Maps isn’t at all up to date for Paraguay, the maps available at the tourist office are better.
Communication: 3G/4G SIM card in Paraguay
Go to the central office in Tigo (in front of Plaza Uruguay in Asuncion) to ask for a free SIM card (with even a little free credit). Reload the card with the amount you want. We have topped up the card enough to pay 3000Gs/day for 80MB/day. 3G is average, but Wifi in the hostels is very fast. High end restaurants always offer high speed Wifi.
Payment and withdrawal
The card is accepted at the bus terminal, supermarket, high-end restaurants, free of charge. In small stores, it is accepted but with a 10% commission surcharge. At the market or other popular places, it isn’t accepted at all.
Withdrawal is possible for at least 1.5 million Guaranis at a time (I haven’t tried more), but with a commission of 25,000Gs per withdrawal. 100,000 bills are accepted everywhere except in very small stores, street vendors or drivers who do not necessarily have change. Keep the small change for the public bus (3000Gs per person).
Guaraníes are worthless abroad, get rid of them before leaving Paraguay.
In the big cities, we have always felt very safe. Of course, you should always ask the hotel reception for the areas to avoid (there is always one per city), but by staying in the city center, normally nothing should happen to you. The safest city we have visited is Encarnacion, you can leave the door open without any worries.
The only danger comes from cars, pedestrians do not have priority. Cars must be allowed to pass first and only then cross the street.
As everywhere in South America, toilet paper should be thrown in the garbage and not directly into the toilet.
The electric shower is available everywhere. To have hot water, you have to press a button first. The temperature is regulated by opening or closing the only available faucet (roughly the more pressure/water, the colder the shower).