Paraguay, together with Bolivia, is one of the two countries in the American continent that does not have a coastline, although it does have an outlet to the Atlantic Ocean thanks to the waterway that comprises the Paraguay, Parana and La Plata rivers, the second most important river basin in the country. Located in the core of South America, Paraguay is a country that borders with the big names in the region, Brazil on the North and Argentina on the South, thus sneaking a bit under the radar of travellers sometimes.
The funny thing about Paraguay is that, even though in countries such as Peru and Bolivia there are other languages besides Spanish, such as Quechua and Aymara, it is the only country in South America where two official languages co-exist and have the same level of importance: Spanish and Guarani, the local language spoken by 90% of the population.
Paraguay is a booming destination in a region that is beginning to stand out thanks to the richness of its endless natural spaces, which, together with a strong cultural identity different to that of its neighbouring countries, make this an attractive location, safe in a good measure and with very competitive rates in comparison to what you can find right across the border. This being so, just as we did with other destinations, here we bring you a series of tips and recommendations to travel to Paraguay.
Picture by Arcadius
1. Planning the trip
If you are a Spanish passport holder, you don’t need to request a visa to travel to Paraguay and you can stay as a tourist in the country for a maximum period of time of 90 days. The only thing you need is to have a valid passport that extends for at least 6 months after the date of your trip. If you are travelling from another country check the website for the Directorate General of Migration.
The weather in Paraguay varies depending on the region and the season of the year. For its latitude, the seasons will be inverted with respect to Europe, which means that winter takes place between July and September, and summer goes from December to March, so you better pack your clothes following this criteria.
In cities such as Asuncion and Ciudad del Este, temperatures are really high from October to March, easily reaching 30º or even 40º, as is proper to tropical weather. December and January are the rainier months, and the rain tends to be quite heavy, so don’t forget to pack a raincoat. On the flip side, winters can be quite harsh, July being the month with the lowest temperatures and the least amount of rain, with an average of 12º and chance of frost, sometimes even dropping below zero, although this is not the unusual.
Picture by Papa Pic
Among the mandatory vaccines to get into Paraguay there is the one for the yellow fever, although only for travellers coming from countries with risk of transmission. If you want to extend your trip beyond Asuncion and Ciudad del Este (which we highly recommend), you should also get the vaccines for Hepatitis A, tetanus, diphtheria and Hepatitis B. Remember to bring a mosquito repellent to avoid being stung.
2. Currency in Paraguay
The guaraní is the legal tender in Paraguay and it can be identified by the acronym PYG. An euro is worth 5,263 guaraníes. Very small denomination coins are not really used, the most common being 50, 100, 500 and 1000 PYG. The smallest denomination banknote is 2,000 PYG and the highest is 100,000 PYG (19 euros).
3. Flying to Paraguay
There are flights from Madrid to Asunción, although not direct ones, so you’ll have to stop over at least once. Depending on the season, the prices for the plane tickets can fluctuate between 600 and 1,200 euros.
If you are travelling to Asunción, capital of Paraguay, you’ll arrive to Silvio Pettirossi International Airport, the most important in the country. The bus line number 30 (the blue branch, number 2) owned by the company Vanguardia S.A. connects the airport directly with downtown Asunción for 2,300 PYG. Riding in a taxi can set you back around 110,000 PYG (20.90 euros).
4. Moving around Paraguay
Let’s be honest for a minute, public transport in Paraguay has one of the worst rep in South America in terms of service and quality. No city in the country has an underground service and the urban bus network could be significantly improved. Still, the budget to move around cities like Asuncion or Ciudad del Este, where a single ticket can cost about 2,300 guaranies (0.44 euros), is quite low.
Taxis are an alternative to public transport. The minimum fare hovers around 5,000 PYG (0.95 euros), plus 0.72 euros for each additional kilometre. However, although it may seem like the quickest option, sometimes traffic in the city can be a bit chaotic and if the distance is no too long it may be even better to just walk to your destination.
You can travel by bus to connect with other cities in the country, although it might be a bit complicated, not to say impossible, to purchase tickets online. From Asuncion Bus Station there are several transport companies covering national and international destinations. The journey to Ciudad del Este can cost you between 40,000 PYG (7.60 euros) and 93,000 PYG (17.60 euros). A trip to Foz do Iguazú hovers around 105,000 PYG (20 euros).
Picture by Luiz Gustavo
5. Things to see in Paraguay
Natural landscapes are the main attraction for tourists in Paraguay. These are some of the honeypots you should not miss if you are travelling to this part of South America.
- The Jesuits Mission Museum. In XVI century different parts of Paraguay were settled by Jesuit missionaries with the purpose of evangelising native populations. Nowadays, a lot of those settlements are still standing and in a relatively good state, some of which have even been declared a World Heritage Site. They are located in the Itapúa and Misiones Departments, and particularly relevant are the ruins of La Santísima Trinidad del Paraná and Jesús de Taravangué.
Picture by Neil Mickers
- Ciudad del Este/Saltos del Monday. This border town with Brazil (Paraná River stands between them) is famous for shopping tourism, but Saltos del Monday, whish is 40-metre high, is one of the most visited spots in the country. You can visit the waterfalls at the Municipal Park of the same name, which occupies an area of 4 acres (16,000 square meters).
- Itaipu Dam. This huge dam is an extreme engineering piece of work. Shared between Brazil and Paraguay, it is located in Hernandarias and you can go on a tour (during the day or at night) departing from Ciudad del Este or the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguazú. Paraguay depends 100% on the power supply provided by the dam.
Picture by Leandro Neumann
- Dunes of San Cosme and Damian. In the town of San Cosme y Damian (also founded by Jesuits) there is this 30-metre hill of sand, located in the middle of the Yacyretá dam, formed by the waters of the Paraná river. It belongs to the Itapúa Department, southbound and in the border with Argentina. .
Picture by queulat00
- Paraguayan Pantanal in Fuerte Olimpo. It is considered the world’s largest wetland area and it can be found in Fuerte Olimpo, in the Alto Paraguay Department, bordering Brazil. The Pantanal is a massive ecosystem that is home to an endless number of species and it is also a must in the river tourism sector in Paraguay.
Remember that you can change your currency to guaranies at the Global Exchange branches upon your arrival to Silvio Pettirossi Airport in Asuncion.
Get a 15% off in your next currency exchange:
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You can also order your travel money online.
Cover image: Arcadius.