I just got back from my trip to Asuncion, Paraguay yesterday after being there for three days. Paraguay is one of South America’s least visited countries and I can understand why. First of all, US Passport holders need to pay a $160 USD entry fee which hinders tourism in the first place. In addition, there aren’t many fare sales to this country. The capital’s airport, Asuncion International Airport (ASU) only has four gates and there is only 1 direct flight in from the United States which is on American Airlines MIA-ASU/ASU-MIA. A full trip report will be coming within the next few months since I still have a lot of previous trip reports to catch up on. Here are 10 things I learned from my recent trip to Asuncion Paraguay.
1. Bus from Airport to the city center is 2,500 Guarani ~ ($0.56 USD) – This year I’ve been trying something new and that’s avoiding the taxi cab mafia in the arrivals hall. There’s almost always some sort of public transportation to get into the city center. I took bus 30 from ASU International airport to the city center and it took about an hour.
2. It was relatively easy to get a prepaid SIM Card with data – I went to Tigo cell phone store on Palma St. and got a prepaid nano sim card for my iPhone 5S for 5,000 Guarani ~ ($1.12 USD). All I needed was my passport and cash on hand and I was out of there. I bought a 600mb data package for 4 days for 10,000 Guarani ~($2.25 USD) which was more than enough. It helps to speak Spanish because no one speaks a lick of English in the Tigo store.
3. Public bus transportation is quite comical – Basically you never want to bring any type of luggage. Thankfully all I had was a backpack and I felt like that was overwhelming. The buses are really cramped and sometimes you might find people in the stairwell of the entrance and exits hanging onto their dear life while the bus is in motion. In addition, you can flag down a bus by sticking your arm out and making eye contact with the driver. When you want to exit the bus, it only stops for 1 second, so you have another second to quickly exit before the bus takes off!
4. Paraguayans love their Terere – Almost everyone carries around their Terere equipment around town and when they go to work. It’s basically “afternoon tea” for local Paraguayans. Terere is basically Yerba Mate herbs mixed with ice cold water and you drink it from a pipe.
5. When it Thunderstorms, it really pours – I’ve been really spoiled living in sunny Southern California for my whole life. I hardly experience any kind of rain in Los Angeles and when it rains, it is almost always sunny the next day. I experienced my first thunderstorm on my last day in Paraguay. Basically it was thunder storming all day continuously and I could hear it through my supposedly soundproof hotel windows. The streets were almost to the point where it was flooded, but thanks to high humidity, it evaporated quickly after it stopped raining. Continuous rain also killed my last day in Paraguay, but I had experienced more than enough on my first two dry days out in the city of Asuncion.
6. The police have to pay to use the restroom too – Paying to use the restroom is nothing new when traveling to South America. I found it funny that this particular restroom vendor put a notice up telling the public that the police have to pay to use the restroom too.
7. Paraguayan cuisine is a mix of Argentine and Brazilian food – There are only a few local Paraguayan dishes that I saw, but I mainly saw Argentine tartas, empanadas, and fugazza pizza. I also saw Brazilian pao de queijo (cheese bread) and coxinhas being sold in Paraguay. Paraguay is mostly known for their meat (like Argentina), Sopa Paraguaya (cornbread, not soup), and chipas.
8. Everything is really cheap – The buses cost $0.56 USD for a one-way trip and I got a SIM card with 600mb of data for 4 days for a total of 15,000 Guarani ($3.37 USD). Local handicrafts in downtown Asuncion are ridiculously cheap starting at 5,000 Guarani ($1.12 USD). Street food is also really inexpensive.
9. You can exchange Argentine pesos in Paraguay – Currently there are currency controls in Argentina due to the emergence of the numerous black market cuevas in Buenos Aires. Currently, the exchange rate is 8 Argentina pesos for 1 USD. According to dolarblue.net, the black market rate is 10.55 Argentine pesos for 1 USD. Basically you can get 24% more value out of your dollar is you get Argentine pesos on the black market instead of the ATM. You cannot change your leftover Argentine pesos at the airport because of the strict currency controls, but I found out that you can change them in Asuncion, Paraguay. In downtown Centro Asuncion, there are many formal and informal cambio exchange houses on Palma St and they will gladly take your Argentine pesos.
10. Counterfeit merchandise is rampant – I didn’t realize there was a huge market in counterfeit goods on the streets of downtown Centro Asuncion. The most popular item is counterfeit Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors designer handbags. There’s a huge police presence in Asuncion, but the police does not care about illegal goods being sold on the streets. In fact, I found one street vendor selling counterfeit Ray-bans in front of a police station.