♦Currency: Guarani, (PYG)
♦Time Zone: -4 GMT
♦Phone Code: +595
♦Best time to visit: June - Sept
♦Must Eat: Milanesa
♦Must Drink: Mosto
♦Don't miss: Visit "Loma San Jerónimo"
♦Number of times visited: 1
Getting there and transportation: Arriving to the capital, Asuncion, is the best option if you are travelling around South America. Preferably travelling by air, although more expensive it's a much safer and quicker journey. Paraguay's infrastructure is not developed enough and travelling by road in daylight would be advised more than night. There are limited flight's operating into Asuncion from Europe, only Air Europa from Madrid get's you in directly. Otherwise LATAM would offer good connections from other South American destinations. Currently Paraguay has no national airline.
It's a land locked country so getting there by international bus is also possible. However distances travelled can be extremely long and the roads are not developed enough, most journey in single lanes. Moving around the country is also done by bus, the most popular route being Asuncion - Ciudad del Este. (See info below on Ciudad del Este)
Weather and temperature: Paraguay is just south of the Tropic, so the climate is subtropical. That means hot weather especially in the summer, November to April.Temperature can consistently climb over 38C! and humidity can be high and uncomfortable. Nevertheless the weather changes frequently from one week to another. When the sun shines you bake and it can be very dry when the rains hold off for just a few days. Rains are heavy and make the temperature drop precipitously. Then the clouds build and it becomes cold. Winter's should be the best climate to visit, as it will be warm but comfortable to walk around. Temperatures around 20C from June to September.
Food and drink: Food is generally of a good quality, particularly when traditional Paraguayan food is on the menu. Paraguayan beef is excellent and a variety of cuts are available; the bife de chorizo and tapa cuadril are some of the more popular cuts. The large Korean community in Paraguay means there is an abundance of authentic Korean food in Asuncion. Pizzerias are everywhere, too, and the availability of Mexican food is on the rise. The sub-tropical climate offers a wide range of seasonal fruits.
Specialities include: Chipa, maize bread flavoured with egg and cheese. Sopa paraguaya, not a soup but a savoury mixture of mashed corn, cheese, milk and onions. Soyo, a soup of cornmeal and ground beef seasoned with fresh oregano, bay leaves and garlic. Borí Borí con pollo, a chicken soup used to ward off colds, the bori are small balls of maize and cheese. Mbejú, starch and cheese fried together. Payagua Mascada, a fried snack containing ground beef, garlic, onion and breadcrumbs. Lomitos, similar to a hamburger. Milanesas breaded meat fillet.
As for drinks: Mosto, sugar cane juice. Caña, alcoholic version of mosto.Tereré, tea-like infusion drunk cold through a special straw called a bombilla. Maté, hot version of Terere.
Transportation: Arriving to the airport is a very simple, as the arrivals is small. Taxis and busses depart just outside. However if travelling with luggage it's not advised to take public transport. It's not the safest of modes due to reported crime, specially if you are a foreigner. Also when arriving later than 9pm there is no services from the airport to the city centre. So the only option is to take a taxi, make sure you take licesned taxis only as many people eill try to encourage you to travel in provate cars. (often not safe).
When visiting the city centre and staying within there is no need to get public transport. There are only busses operating, somewhat very old fashioned and hard to distinguish where they go. As advised before, if you are going out later in the evening always arrange by official taxi.
What to see and do? Asuncion may not have many conventional tourist attractions, but if you are willing to explore alone then it can be an interesting place to visit. Also arranging with your hotel for a local guide is a good tip.
Places of interst include: The National Congress, one of the more impressive new buildings in the city. It was built in 2002. Be sure arrive there by 1PM you will be able to visit a small museum inside. Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Asunción, the national cathedral. unfortunately it is frequently closed, especially at midday siesta. Municipal Museum, it is modest, but interesting for it's historic display. Palacio de López. House the Paraguayan government. Very well lit at night. Cabildo, cultural center in the old colonial legislative building near the bay area. Casa de la Independencia, landmark of the Paraguayan Independence. This is where national heroes gathered to plot against Spanish colonialists in 1811. Estación Central del Ferrocarril, the Railway museum, but more impressive is the building itself and old wagons. You may be lucky to catch a ride on Sundays to neighbour city of Aregua. This is a tourist ride, the train no longer operates regularly. Panteón de los Heroes. Houses the tomb of the unknown soldier along with other "heroes" from Paraguay's disastrous wars, changing of the guard occurs every other day. Manzana de la Rivera, is a antique city block transformed into a museum-library-theater-cafe complex. Escalinata Antequera, at Antequera street these colourful stairs lead up to a monument and a good view to the city.
Sunday flea market, along "calle Palma" street. From early morning until noon approximately, there is small market selling junk stuff, photographs hand craft, antiques and probably the most surprising is seeing the sale of knifes and electric Tasers on the street. Perhaps for self defence, but also for attacking. It's truly the feel that crime is real in the city and precautions must be taken.
Attention!: When walking around the city don't go down narrow streets where "gypsy" style small houses are built with scrapped metal, plastic and loose bricks. These areas are knows as the favelas. They are dangerous if walked alone and crime is high.
Suggestion: Behind the city centre, walking towards the port, you will find Loma San Jerónimo neighborhood. Recognized as a cultural and historical patrimony of the city. It's essentially an old part of the city which has recently had a splash of colour injected to it's streets making the area flourish. Due to its unique appeal now it's recommended as a must-see when visiting Paraguay.San Jerónimo" has the particularity of its colourful streets and a humble but cool atmosphere. In the highest point of the neighborhood, there's the San Jerónimo church and the Mirador, where you can get the most amazing view of Asunción. On Sundays, there are guided tours and fairs with cheap but great typical Paraguayan food, art, music and vintage items.
Accommodation: Staying directly within the city centre can be more expensive, but probably better to walk around and safer. Hotels are reasonable for a budget conscious traveller. Average prices can be from €30 and upwards but also there are hostels that can be extremely cheap. Make sure you read reviews from the hotel before you book.
Recommended duration: Asuncion might not be the most impressive city, but it's relaxing and has a slow pace of life. Visiting and walking around won't take long. A duration of 2 nights would be enough.
Weather and temperature: Ciudad del Este and Iguazu enjoy a subtropic climate. Hot summer's and pleasant winters.So it's best suited if you travel during the not so hot months around June to September, as it will be warm but comfortable to walk around. Temperatures around 20C.
Transportation: Getting to Ciudad del Este is possible by bus from Asuncion. There are many services available during the day and the trip takes 5 hours.
Suggestion: The main reason to go to Ciudad del Este is to visit the Iguazu Falls.Getting to Iguazu is possible from Argentina (where they are located). However the best views can be seen from the Brazilian side and this is why the author organised he's tour from Asuncion as the crossing from Paraguay to Brazil is very simple and there are no stamps issued for the one day visit.
Therefore it's recommended if visiting from Asuncion to organize a tour. It's the best way as everything will be included (transport to the bus station, coach to Ciudad del Este, tours to Iguazu, private guide and return trips if necessary to Auncion and the airport.) Tours are very well structured and you will be taken care with local reliable guides and driven in safe, modern, air-conditioned cars. For more information check the website to organise a tour: Ace Tours
Attention!: The same as Asuncion, Ciudad del Este also has high rates of crime activity. Visitors are advised to stay inside hotels after the sun sets and avoid going down unknown areas.