Travel guide to Paraguay

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» Paraguay
Untouched subtropical natural preserves and a rich history, which can still be read in buildings and ruins, lies hidden in this sparsely populated republic in the heart of South America. The people are still influenced by the native Indians, and Paraguay is the South American country on which Western 'civilization' has left the least mark.

Facts

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Local name
Républica del Paraguay
Capital
Asunción
Size
407,000 km2
Principal Languages
Spanish. The Indian language of Guaraní is also very wide-spread.
Principal Religion
Catholicism
Inhabitants
5,000,000
Government
Republic
Geography
Paraguay is bifurcated by the huge Río Paraguay. The landscape east of the river is green and often receives rain. The land in this area is more or less flat with areas of subtropical forest. West of the river you will find the sparsely populated area of El Chaco. It rains less here and it gets very hot in the summer. The land gets higher - starting from the river, and rising up towards the Bolivian border.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

It gets very hot in Paraguay in the summer and therefore the most comfortable period to visit the country, climate-wise, is from May to September. Everything seems fresh and spring-like during this time of year, even though these months are winter months in reality. There is a carnival in February, which is celebrated all over the country, but it is, without a doubt, most festive in Asunción.

Literature

Lonely Planet Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay Fodor's South America

Local conditions

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Currency

Guaraní (G), 1 Guaraní = 100 centimos

Net cafes

It can be a bit of a challenge to get access to the Internet in Paraguay. There are, however, a few Internet cafés in the capital, Asunción.

In case of emergency

Police: (445 008)

Tipping

A 5-10 percent service charge has usually been added to the bill in hotels and restaurants. When this is not the case, a tip is expected. Taxi drivers do not usually expect a tip but if you have many bags it is a nice gesture to leave a tip.

Timezone

When it is 12:00 in the UK it is 08:00 in Paraguay.

Weight and Measures

Weight: kilograms Length: Metres

Photography

It is wise to ask for permission before photographing people. People will, especially in primitive villages, however picturesque they may be, find it uncomfortable to be photographed while performing their daily chores. Furthermore it is a good idea to be wary of photographing close to military installations.

Drinking water

Water should not be drunk straight from the tab in Paraguay. The water is only clean enough to be drunk in a very few places so the most safe thing to do is to drink only bottled water.

Electricity

220 V / 50Hz

Behaviour

The people of Paraguay are usually very friendly and eager to talk to 'gringos'. This is, however, not the case for all Indian tribes - and it is a good idea to be a little wary and humble when approaching them.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 7.30 - 11.00 (Monday - Friday) Shops are open from 7.00 - 19.00 (Monday - Saturday). Many shop-keepers do, however, take a siesta which lasts a couple of hours in the middle of the day.

Food and drink

The national dish, sopa Paraguaya, is, in spite of its name, not a soup but a sort of corn-bread with cheese and onions. Grilled flesh is another national favorite, which is often followed by a dessert called mbaipy he-é consisting of corn-milk and syrup. Mate, herbal tea, which is supped abundantly all over the country, is not just a drink but also a social ritual. Never refuse a cup.

Disabled travellers

Paraguay is not very aware of the needs of disabled people. Even in the capital Asunción, little has been done to make life easier for disabled people.

Holidays

New Years Day: January 01 Epiphany: January 06 Hero Day: March 01 Labour Day: May 01 Independence Day: May 15 Paz del Chaco ( the end of the Chaco War): June 12 The Foundation of Asunción: August 15 Victoria de Bouquerón (the victory in the battle of Boqueron): September 29 Dia de la Virgen: September 08 Christmas Day: December 25 Easter: March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are hardly any camping sites in Paraguay. As a compensation you can put up your tent almost anywhere you like in desolate areas.

Hotels

Hotels in Paraguay is a rather generic term. The are luxury hotels - but in some places a room with a bed in it will pass as a hotel. There are however hotels in most big towns.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

Hospedajes, pensiones and residenciales are the names of the options in this category. Sparsely furnished rooms, most often showers are in the hall. Cheap, simple and often with a small breakfast included in the price.

Hostels

There are two hostels in Paraguay. They are both in Asunción. Often you will be able to get a bed even if you are not a member of Hostelling International.

Local transport

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Planes

National flights are operated by ARPA and LADESA. There are only flights to a few destinations and aeroplanes are, on the whole, something which is mainly used to cross the country's borders.

Bus

'Servicio Removido' stops to pick up passengers everywhere - which can make travelling by bus a bit slow. 'Servicio Directo' only makes a few stops on its route. It reaches its destination quickly and is a little more expensive. If you are going to travel far by bus it is sometimes necessary to buy the ticket a few days in advance.

Trains

Only old steam trains run in Paraguay and the service is very unreliable. The trip between Asunción and Aregúa is a wonderful and entertaining ride.

Taxi

The taxis in Paraguay uses a meter. If you bring a lot of luggage it is normal for the driver to charge you a little extra. Sometimes it is more expensive to ride a taxi at night than during the day.

Car rental

Petrol is cheap and it is also cheap to rent a car. However only 10% of the roads in Paraguay are asphalted, something which never stops Paraguayan drivers from showing complete disregard for danger when they are behind the wheel. Watch out for your vehicle, car theft is not unusual.

Other Transport

It is forbidden to hitchhike in Paraguay. This prohibition is, however, more or less ignored in desolate areas.

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