My Latin Life’s Asuncion, Paraguay Travel Guide

Hey guys!

I’ve just returned from a month in Asuncion, Paraguay and I’m here to tell you about it.

It was a highly anticipated trip for me. I’d been yearning to visit this little-known capital for years. Three years, to be exact — while living in Lima, Peru, I wrote a post about how Asuncion was sure to be my next destination.

Alas, life got in the way. Lima got her talons in me for another year, and the trip never played out.

Later, I made my way north to Mexico City.

Since then Paraguay had always been in the back of my mind, beckoning me to explore her unfrequented lands.

So, on February 9th I said f*ck it and hopped on a plane to South America!

Here are my thoughts.

***NOTE: Due to Covid-19, Paraguay requires visitors to show the following things upon arrival

  1. A negative PCR test taken within 72 hours
  2. Proof of insurance that covers Covid-19
  3. Completed entry form (found here) keep the QR code that will serve to store your answers because the customs agent will ask for it!


First Impressions

Heading to the city from the airport, my initial thought was hey, this doesn’t look as poor or run-down as I’d imagined!

It’s not that my expectations were ghastly low, but I’d been told by a few people that Asuncion had dire infrastructure…which, I mean yeah, it kind of does (more on that later), but at first glance it’s not so bad.

Another thing that struck me was how incredibly green the city was; plenty of trees and vegetation.

It seemed more harmonious with nature than other major Latin American cities I’ve been to.

Mexico City for instance does alright with nature — it has Chapultepec Park, one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere. But whereas Mexico City’s green spaces are pockets of refuge from the chaotic, cacophonous city, Asuncion felt like it was built right into ol’ mother nature.

A third thing was a lack of people or traffic! Perhaps this shouldn’t have been surprising given Asuncion’s relatively small population for a Latin American capital, but it was refreshing nonetheless. I arrived to the city at about 8am on a weekday — aka morning rush hour —and there wasn’t much in the way of gridlock.

Although Asuncenos will claim the traffic here is horrible, it’s tame compared to most other Latin American metropolises.

Those were the initial things I noticed gazing out the window on my 20-or-so minute ride into town from the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport.

Before I knew it, I’d arrived to the Airbnb apartment I was renting with a friend of mine. We said our hellos and walked downtown to get something to eat.

Let’s talk a bit about Paraguayan cuisine, shall we?


Paraguayan Food

I ate my first meal at a spot called Lido Bar, arguably the city’s most famous and historic restaurant (it first opened on July 26th, 1953).

I was jonesing to try some local cuisine, so we went with a few Paraguayan classics: caldo de surubí, an empanada de carne, chipa guazú and a Pilsen beer…accompanied by a big bucket of ice to keep it frosty.

What’s likely to strike you about traditional Paraguayan food — almost regardless of where you choose to dine – is that it’s incredible filling and the portions are beyond generous.

During my month here, I managed to try most of the main Paraguayan dishes at a variety of different establishments and I’ll tell you right now, the cuisine is not what I’d classify as ‘light.’ Many dishes go hard on starch (manioc or corn flour) dairy and meat…sometimes all three on the same plate! And similar to Argentina, vegetables don’t enjoy a heavy presence on most restaurant menus…so you’ll want to take care of those needs through some home cooking!

 

Restaurants

Here are some restaurants in Asuncion that are worth checking out for local delicacies.

1) Ña Eustaquia Several locations around the city

At Ña Eustaquia you can knock off almost all Paraguayan ‘snack’ food. In the same way you’d grab a pandebolo or arepa rellena in Colombia, a street taco in Mexico or a pao de queijo in Brazil, Paraguay has its quick fix food such as chipa, mbeju or pastel mandi’o.

2) BolsiEstrella 399

Similar to Lido Bar where I enjoyed my first Paraguayan meal, Bolsi is an Asuncion diner-style spot steeped in history (founded in 1960). Most locals will claim the food is slightly better here than Lido Bar, and I have to agree. Here you can also find plenty of local Paraguayan fare, although its most famous for its coxinha, which is Brazilian!

Although I still recommend trying the empanadas at Lido Bar, opt for Bolsi for everything else. Both restaurants are in the centro neighborhood, walking distance from one another.

3) El Café de Aca Teniente Héctor Vera 1390

One of Asuncion’s go-to spots. If you ask a local for recommendations, this will no doubt be among them. I dined here twice during my stay and was impressed each time! The unique ambience and design, food and service is all on point. And don’t be fooled by the word ‘café’ in the name, it’s got an extensive food and drink menu. Make a reservation or be prepared to wait about 15 minutes, this place is always packed…and for good reason.

4) La CabreraAv. Sta. Teresa 2795

This couldn’t be a restaurant list without mentioning somewhere that serves up what Paraguay is best known for: its meat! Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of places to eat meat here. The best spot I tried was La Cabrera. It’s an Argentine chain, but they’ve got two locales in Asuncion. If you want a more local atmosphere, give Lo de Osvaldo a go, a soccer-themed meat restaurant with a few locations around Asuncion.

5) Lomilito’s Avenida General José de San Martín & Teniente Héctor Vera

Another dish worth trying in Asuncion is called Lomito. It’s essentially a hamburger with a few tweaks. Preferably consumed after a night of drinking. If you’ve been to Uruguay, it’s similar to their chivito sandwich. In fact, an Uruguayan immigrant called Sergio Camejo is thought to have introduced the dish to the country in 1983. There is also a lomito arabe worth trying (which is essentially a sharwma…)

Without a doubt, the most famous place to try this is a place called Lomilito’s. If you can’t make it to one of their locations, many puestos and food parks around the city are serving this up.

6) Quiero Fruta Several locations around the city

A chain with a handful of locations throughout the city. The perfect place to pop in for a quick snack or a delicious açai.

 

Tereré

Tereré is Paraguay’s national drink.

It’s yerba mate prepared with ice water as opposed to hot water, to combat Paraguay’s almost year-round oppressive heat.

You’ll notice folks of all ages walking the streets with their termo and guampa (pictured).

The consumption of tereré in Paraguay transcends age, class, gender and all else – most everyone consumes it on a daily basis.

It’s delightfully refreshing and very dear to Paraguayan culture!

 

Asado

It would be remiss not to mention one of the most important Paraguayan traditions: the asado, or barbeque.

Almost every Sunday in Paraguay is dedicated to the asado, during which families get together to eat copious amounts of meat and down a few cervezas.

A typical Paraguayan asado might consist of beef ribs, top sirloin, flank steak, tri-tip, chorizo and blood sausage. While waiting for the meat to cook, people enjoy the picada — or appetizers — which includes boiled yuca (known as mandioca in Paraguay), chorizo/blood sausage and sopa paraguaya (Paraguay’s national dish, a solid soup that bears resemblance to cornbread).

I was lucky enough to attend an asado among friends while in Asuncion, and I highly suggest you try to do the same! Like the consumption of tereré, the asado is an integral part of Paraguayan culture.


Is Asuncion Safe?

Yes, Asuncion is a safe city by Latin American standards. But there are some caveats!

Safety is tough to get a read on prior to visiting a city. More so in Paraguay, where internet information is sparse in both Spanish and English. Sensationalist news headlines related to crime invariably outweigh actual statistics…and Paraguay loves its sensationalist crime headlines as much as any other Latin American country!

That said, homicide rates in the country are indeed on the low-end of the Latin American spectrum, as this map from Insight Crime denotes.

But what about street crime, the type of crime you as a tourist or expat are most likely to be a victim of?

Well, to get a handle on that I resorted to colloquial evidence – evaluating how I felt walking the streets of various neighborhoods and asking locals about the security situation in their city.

Something I found interesting was, whenever someone would mention that Asuncion is dangerous, I’d follow up by asking if they’ve ever been a victim of street crime or if they knew someone who had.

And I didn’t encounter anyone who had personally been robbed! However, many claimed that they at least knew of someone who had. Motochorros, which are guys on motorcycles who pull up and relieve you of your valuables, were cited more than once – they do seem to be a real risk here, as does burglary and property crime.

Albeit a rather small sample size, this was encouraging. If you were to ask 10 people in Bogota or Mexico City if they’ve been robbed on the street, on a bus etc. at some point in their lives, I’d venture that half of more would say “yes.”

Since taxi drivers are plugged in to the beat of a city, I decided to ask a few what they thought about safety in Asuncion. Among them, responses were similar. I was advised to avoid walking around downtown at night, as well as to avoid a few neighborhoods (around Mercado 4, la Chacarita, los bañados, Tablada Nueva, to name a few) but overall I didn’t get the impression that citywide crime was of grave concern.

Perhaps the most informative chat I had was with a Peruvian Uber driver who moved to Asuncion because his wife is Paraguayan. He said that they decided to raise their kids in Asuncion because there was much less crime and gang culture than in Lima. He’d been living in the Paraguayan capital for years and claimed it was a great deal safer than Lima.

I trust his judgement due to the fact it was one of the few good things he had to say about Asuncion during our conversation!

In light of this, I was curious as to why some people felt the city was dangerous. I posed the question to another local guy who had lived abroad and he explained things rather concisely.

“Well, Asuncion may not be as dangerous as some of the cities you’ve been to, but it’s becoming more dangerous each day.”

In other words, Asuncion is dangerous if you’re comparing it to is the Asuncion of the past.

This makes sense. Until 1989, Paraguay was under the rule of a dictator. And although personal freedoms were practically non-existent and disappearances and torture were commonplace, there was virtually no crime (well, non-state related crime at least).

I suppose a better way to frame the question of safety in Asuncion is “safe according to who or compared to what?”

Based on the colloquial evidence, I’ll make the assertion that Asuncion is safer than many other capital cities in Latin America.

Safer than Bogota, safer than Mexico City, safer than Lima.

The only time I got the risk tingles here was walking back to my apartment from downtown alone, drunk, at about 4am on a Saturday night.

A dubious decision in any city.

What can I tell you, folks. Do as I say not as I do!


Weather In Asuncion

What’s the weather like in Asuncion?

Some might say “extreme.”

I was there from February to March, the South American summer, and temperatures were consistently around 38°C/100°F with humidity. And this wasn’t abnormal for the time of year – in fact, the city can get even toastier.

If you plan to head to Asuncion any time from December to March, leave your sweater at home and arm yourself with some ice-cold tereré!

Now, I don’t have many talents, but I can for whatever reason withstand and even enjoy such scorching temperatures. But I know a few folks would rule out a longterm stay in Asuncion simply due to the uncomfortable summer heat.

May to September is when you’ll see cooler temperatures and less rainfall (there isn’t a distinct dry season; Asuncion gets periodic rainfall throughout the year, and some low-lying areas of the city experience flooding during heavy precipitation).

As far as the heat goes, there is refuge! Most Airbnbs and virtually all hotels will have air conditioners.

NOTE: Buy bug spray or lotion if you’re coming here in the summer to protect against dengue!


Cost Of Living In Asuncion

Moving on!

How much does it cost to stay or live in Asuncion?

Your biggest expense may well be the trip down. Asuncion doesn’t see a lot of flight traffic, and you’re unlikely to get a steal of a deal on prices unless you’re in a nearby city like Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires or Santa Cruz.

The good news is that most things are nice and cheap once you touch down.

How cheap?

Let’s get into it.

*ALL PRICES IN US DOLLARS

Uber rides: $2.00 – $5.00 will get you nearly anywhere in the city limits.

Beef Tenderloin: runs for about $3.00 a kilo

A carton of eggs: a little less than $2.00

Pineapple, Oranges (most fruit for that matter): all less than $1.00/kilo.

A liter of milk: less than $1.00

Beer in the supermarket or a corner store: about $1.00

A cocktail in a bar or restaurant: it’ll rarely run you more than $5.00; a beer will normally be $2.00 – $3.00

A meal in a budget restaurant: $3.00 – $4.00

Public transportation on bus: around $0.50 a ticket.

As far as daily expenses go, Asuncion is an extremely affordable destination.

However, the thing that’s going to account for a chunk of your budget is accommodation. If you use Airbnb, this can be a bit tricky in Asuncion, as Airbnb listings are overpriced relative to what locals are paying in rent.

This is always true of Airbnb vs local listings of course, but in Asuncion I noticed a bigger differential than in other cities.

If Airbnb is your preferred choice of lodging, I suggest setting aside at least $40/night (or around $700 a month, if you’re in it for a longer stay).

If you’re on a budget and prefer hotels, there are some downtown that will only run you about $30.00 – $40.00 a night. You can.

If budget isn’t an issue for you, there are plenty of fine hotels in the neighborhoods of Villa Morra and Recoleta. A friend of mine recommends Hotel Five.

That same friend has written an excellent post about where to stay in Asuncion. Check it out before you book that trip!

Now let’s say you want to live in Asuncion; get yourself a longterm apartment in a decent area of the city, live like a local and all that.

How much will you be spending each month?

I have it on good authority (a local real estate agent) that you can rent an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in a safe, middle class area of the city for around $350.00/month (most places here are unfurnished). Assuming you’re not going out partying or fine dining every weekend, after that initial furnishing expense, I’d say you could feasibly live in Asuncion for around $1000/month (NOTE: although there are plenty of locals living on less, this is the absolute minimum I’d recommend).

With $1500/month, you could live quite comfortably here.

As a reference point for those who are familiar with Latin America, I’d say the cost of living in Asuncion is about the same as in Medellin, Colombia and about 10-15% cheaper than the cost of living in Mexico City.


Nightlife In Asuncion

For a city of its size, nightlife in Asuncion is impressive. I’ve found this is often the case with smaller capital cities in Latin America (eg. Panama City; San Jose): they tend to punch above their weight.

In Asuncion, you’ll find all kinds of options. Bars that play rock music are quite popular – after President Stroessner’s dictatorship ended in 1989, the rock scene in the country was able to come into its own.

As well as rock, you can find reggaeton, pop, cumbia and everything in between.

Asuncion’s got a lil’ something for everyone.

Perhaps my favorite thing about bars and nightclubs in Asuncion is that they are decidedly non-pretentious. Unlike some Latin American countries (*cough* Mexico), you won’t get rejected from a club due to arbitrary measures like having the wrong shoes or shirt (such measures are more often than not a smokescreen for discrimination).

This doesn’t mean that people don’t get dressed up to go out – they most certainly do, particularly the women. And you should too! Particularly if you’re going to a more upscale establishment.

Another great thing about nightlife in Asuncion is that it’s quite easy to meet people. There’s no air of exclusivity, and folks are open to meeting new people.

So don’t feel you need to skip the nightlife if you’re travelling alone! You shouldn’t have too many issues meeting new friends, even if you’re rolling solo.

Here’s a short list of some nightclubs and bars in Asuncion that are worth checking out.

Arsenal Cue Mariscal Estigarribia 144

Constitución Constitución 152

Negroni 15 de Agosto 310 & 1771 Avenida Aviadores del Chaco 1392

Plaza Moiety (a cluster of bar-friendly dining establishments) – Avda Aviadores del Chaco 3215

Paseo la Galeria (a mall with plenty of restaurants to get after office drinks) – Avda Aviadores del Chaco 3215

Molly’s Olegario Víctor Andrade 1850

Paseo Carmelitas (plenty of bars to choose from, ‘Kingfish’ is the most popular) – Avenida España 1272

Sacramento Brewing Co. Avda. Santisimo Sacramento 655


Asuncion Neighborhoods

Let’s talk a bit about different neighborhoods in Asuncion.

What are the good areas to stay and/or explore?

I made an effort to visit as many barrios as I could in the city, including the cities of the Gran Asunción metropolitan area.

I’ll give you a breakdown of some of the notable ones.

 

Villa Morra – An upscale neighborhood home to elegant shops, restaurants and bars. Wealthier expats in Asuncion usually opt to live in Villa Morra.

Carmelitas – Your one stop shop for bars and restaurants! If nightlife is a big priority for you, I recommend staying close to Paseo Carmelitas (the neighborhood of Los Lomas would be a fine option)

Recoleta – One of the oldest neighborhoods in Asuncion. Another well-to-do area with nice restaurants, bars and shopping centers.

Santa Teresa – This avenue boasts the Paseo La Galeria, a modern mall with an impressive number of restaurants. A popular place to have after-work drinks with friends. It’s a wealthy, residential area.

Las Mercedes/Jara – If living in a wealthy area of a city isn’t important to you, allow me to suggest Las Mercedes or Barrio Jara. These are affordable, safe middle class neighborhoods conveniently located between downtown and the more fancy Villa Morra. Both Mercedes and Jara are residential hoods that are home to a number of different universities and institutes of higher learning. If I were to live in Asuncion, I would try to find a place in one of these two barrios.

Centro (La Catedral) – Otherwise known as downtown. This is where I stayed during my time in Asuncion. Personally, I like the ‘centros’ of Latin America cities. They tend to feel more alive; more people, more energy. And there’s always some nice old architecture to enjoy. That said, although it’s perfectly fine to stay in centro, most tourists may prefer somewhere like Villa Morra, as there are more nearby options for drinking and dining. For a short-term stay, I’d suggest staying in the safer, more affluent and logistically-friendly Villa Morra, and reserving a day to see the sights of centro (it isn’t particularly big; you can see most of what Centro has to offer in a day).

 

Greater Asuncion Area

There are four main cities around Asuncion that are technically their own municipalities but are close enough to Asuncion that they’re worth mentioning.

Lambaré – A city to the south of Asuncion. I found it…eclectic. One the one hand, you have some absolutely gorgeous mansions around the Yacht & Golf Club where a lot of wealthy families reside. On the other hand, the roads are in pretty dire shape and there’s a lot of trash on the sidewalks. It’s also full of love hotels! Taxes and restrictions make it uneconomical to run a love hotel in Asuncion proper, so they’re all here.

That’s information you won’t find in your Lonely Planet guide book!

 

Fernando de la Mora – I preferred Fernando de la Mora to Lambaré. The streets were in better condition, and there were more parks and green spaces. It’s only about 10km from Asuncion, and the route via Avda Mariscal Estigarribia is nice and direct. If I wanted to live in Asuncion and save some money on rent, I’d probably compromise by renting a place here in Fernando de la Mora.

 

San Lorenzo – Home to the National University of Asuncion. Although the city isn’t what I’d describe as charming, its proximity to the university is a big draw if you’re young. It’s a nice campus, and there are plenty of student-aged people strolling around. It’s also easy to find nice and cheap apartment rentals here. They are plentiful, as students from around the country come here to study.

 

Luque – Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to visit Luque, so I’m unable to speak on it. I’ve heard from folks in Asuncion that it’s a somewhat unattractive and dangerous city. From the sounds of it, it wouldn’t be a desirable city for the tourist or expat.


What To Do In Asuncion

This is not a complete list by any means, but here are a few things worth doing in the Paraguayan capital.

Casa de la Independencia – A museum with historical artifacts that date back to the nation’s independence.

Plaza de la Democracia – One of Asuncion’s emblematic attractions. An impressive building, although the plaza outside it could use some tender loving care.

El Panteón de los Heroes – A national monument that houses the remains of Paraguayan heroes such as Don Carlos Antonio López, Mariscal Francisco Solano López and Mariscal José Félix Estigarribia.

Loma San Jeronimo – One of Asuncion’s historic neighborhoods. It’s quaint and well preserved. Head over late afternoon and grab a mojito at the aptly named La casa del mojito.

Cerro Lambaré – Offers a great view of the city. Trek up late afternoon to snag a sunset picture.

La Costanera – Enjoy another one of Asuncion’s gorgeous sunsets, this time over the Bahía de Asunción. Also a great place to do some jogging, biking or rollerblading along the malecon.

Parque de la Salud – A large and gorgeous city park. Another good place to get some jogging or bike riding in while visiting Asuncion

Centro Cultural/Café Salazar – A café cultural center that hosts art exhibits and theater performances.

Palacio de Gobierno (Palacio de Lopez) – The presidential palace. Pro tip: go to the bar Casa Clari across the street from the palace for a better view and picture of the palace.

Casa de Jose Asuncion Flores in la Chacarita – The house of the man who created the Guarania music genre. Jose Asuncion Flores is an important figure in Asuncion’s history. This is the only part of the infamous Characita barrio that’s safe to visit. Even so, it’s best done with a local. There’s also a viewpoint up here where you can get some nice photos.

Mercado 4 – The city’s main market. You can find all sorts of products here, such as electronics, clothes, food and tereré and tereré accessories. After checking out the goods, walk over to the nearby Mercadito, where you can choose from over 30 food vendors for a cheap, delicious meal.

Futbol! – Catch a Cerro Porteño or Olimpia soccer match.


Pros And Cons

No city is perfect, and Asuncion is certainly no exception!

Let’s get into some positives and negatives of the place, shall we?

 

Pros

1. The People – The single best thing about Asuncion is its people. Out of all the countries I’ve been to in Latin America, I consider Paraguayans to be the most friendly and welcoming. And it’s a genuine warmth (i.e. they’re not just trying to get money from you!). The Paraguayans I met were all incredible easy to talk to and great conversationalists. Seriously. I was blown away by how cool the people were here. It felt like one of the few major cities in Latin America where a tourist or expat could form real friendships with the locals (such things can be complicated in Latin America). Everyone I know who’s been here had a similar experience.

2. Safety – I already covered this so I won’t give it too many words here. As I said, Asuncion is one of the safer capital cities in Latin America. You should still take normal precautions such as not walking home alone at night and not mindlessly texting on your cellphone while taking a stroll (motorcycle thieves are watching!) but, generally speaking, you do not have to fear for your safety while in Asuncion.

3. Tranquility – Asuncion is delightfully laid back. It’s a place tailored to spending the afternoon sipping tereré in a park or having a 6-hour asado with friends. The city’s abundant nature lends itself to such a life. If you’re like me and are content just chilling out for a few hours, alone with your own thoughts and/or people watching, you might find you’ll like the energy of this place.

4. Nature – As I mentioned earlier, nature abounds! There are plenty of critiques that could be launched toward Asuncion’s city planners, but one excellent thing they’ve done is preserved the “greenness” of the city. There are plenty of tree-lined streets and shady boulevards. It’s a place where you can pick ripe mangoes or guava right off the branch. The nature lends a certain peacefulness to the city.

5. Cost of Living – Asuncion is one of the cheaper metropolitan destinations in Latin America. And if you’re a meat eater, you’ll be in heaven. The quality is unbeatable and the prices are mind bogglingly cheap compared to the United States or Canada. If you head out of the city to nearby San Lorenzo or Fernando de la Mora, the cost of living is even cheaper. There aren’t all that many places in Latin America where an expat could live comfortably on a little over $1,000/month. In Asuncion, this is doable.

 

Cons

1. Infrastructure – There is no denying that Paraguay is a poor country. You’ll see evidence of this in Asuncion. Many of the roads are in dire condition; cracks and potholes are everywhere, not even the wealthier neighborhoods are spared. Dangerously sagging power lines and floating wires are unacceptably common. Many sidewalks are in disrepair, which makes walking in this city frustrating. Power outages and water cuts are frequent – I experienced both during my month in the city. The old buildings in and around Centro that could be restored to their former glory have instead been neglected. The poor infrastructure is probably my #1 gripe with the city of Asuncion.

2. Weather – Although the summer heat didn’t bother me, many will find it disagreeable. Although Asuncion does get cool weather, it only lasts for a month or so in June before temperatures start climbing again. The city also experiences its fair share of rain year round, which will be another turn off for many.

3. Lack of historical/cultural attractions – Compared to other Latin American capitals, Asuncion doesn’t have many historical or cultural attractions. The city has precious few museums, galleries or landmarks for the tourist to enjoy. This isn’t to suggest ignorance – Paraguayans are knowledgeable and proud of their history. It’s more due to the fact that the Triple Alliance War (1864 to 1870) had such a devastating impact on the country that much its history was lost. By some estimates, around 90% of Paraguayan men died in the war, meaning the country had to build up again from scratch.

4. Accessibility – Asuncion isn’t an easy place to get to. Unless you’re coming from nearby, you’re going to be looking at a layover or two and it’s likely to be a more expensive plane ticket that more frequented South American destinations. And travelling within the country will have to be done by longer-than-they-should-be bus rides or light aircraft.

5. Language – Although not quite fair to count this as a “con,” not many Paraguayans speak English (although the few that do speak English tend to do so at an impressively high level). If you speak no Spanish whatsoever, you’re going to have it rough. You’ll have a much harder time understanding the country and culture. I strongly advise learning some Spanish before coming to Asuncion.

A program like this one is a good place to start.

(it makes sense that not many Paraguayans would speak English. As they share a border with Brazil, the most logical language to learn after Spanish and Guarani would be Portuguese).


Quick Tips

  • If you want to try tereré or tereré with yuyos, which are traditional herbs, there are street stalls around centro and Mercado 4 where you can do so. It shouldn’t cost more than 5,000 Guaranis (less than a dollar).

     

  • Don’t worry about learning Guarani. You can memorize a few words and phrases to impress locals, but in Asuncion everything is conducted in Spanish (although many people are fluent in both).

     

  • Surcos Textil is a good place to go for cheap clothes and shoes.

     

  • Luisito, Fernandito and Casa Parana are good supermarkets if you’re on a budget.

     

  • Before coming, read At The Tomb of The Inflatable Pig to learn about Paraguay and its history. It truly is a fascinating country, but information can be hard to come by. This book is the best English-Language resource you will find.

     

  • If you require a hospital in Asuncion, opt for Hospital Centro Médico Bautista

     

  • Los Buscadores and 7 Cajas are two Paraguayan films worth watching

     

  • San Bernadino, Caacupe, Aregua would make for good trips if you’re looking to get outside of Asuncion. You could also check out some of Paraguay’s hills, such as Cerro Tres Kandú, Cerro Akatî or Cerro Ñemby.

     

  • Listen to some Kchiporros before arriving! This is probably the most famous music group out of Paraguay. You’re bound to hear their music if you dabble in Asuncion nightlife.

     

  • Most supermarkets, gas stations, bars, cafes etc. accept MasterCard and Visa. However, many small shops and casual restaurants will be cash only. Always carry some cash, just in case! Your debit cards should work in ATMs here. But keep in mind, you’ll pay a small fee for each withdrawal (about $4.00 USD)

     

  • If you want to check out other Paraguayan cities, the bus terminal is about 6 kilometers from downtown. Always opt for the rápido service as opposed to the común service; the latter will make stops in towns along the way and will take much, much longer to arrive at your destination!

     

  • If you’d like to know more about Paraguay’s history, food and culture, I touch on it further in this blog post of mine.


My Overall Opinion Of Asuncion

Alright folks, now that I’ve given the info you’ll need for a trip to Asuncion, it’s time to give you my unfiltered opinion of the city.

And I gotta say….I LOVE IT.

It exceeded my expectations.

In his book Ways of Escape, Graham Greene writes:

“I knew nothing of the city, but I believed I would find in Asunción some mingling of the exotic, the dangerous and the Victorian which would appeal … How right I would prove to be”

I agree with this quote insofar as, before I’d been to Latin America, I had a picture in my head of what it might look and feel like, and Asuncion turned out to be pretty close to that impression!

Fruit falling from trees, lush vegetation, the sounds of bats and a myriad of insects lulling you to sleep on a dark, sultry night.

Old, decrepit, possibly haunted colonial mansions long since claimed by mother nature.

Hospitable locals quick to welcome you into their home for a meal, and also to issue stern warnings about safety.

All of that can be found here.

The people, the aura of the city and its slow pace of life suited me well.

I felt at ease in Asuncion.

But, it’s not for everyone.

In fact, most of the foreigners I’ve talked to that have been to Asuncion are lukewarm about it at best. Some found it boring, others didn’t like the food or the weather and/or found it too underdeveloped.

Indeed, Paraguay is lacking some things other Latin American countries are blessed with. It doesn’t have Brazil’s stunning beaches or the majestic Andes Mountains of that traverse Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Its cuisine is not famous the world over like Mexico’s.

By all accounts, Paraguay is modest and unassuming. But that’s precisely what I like about it.

And it’s unique. Although it shares some similarities with neighboring Argentina, such as the indulgent consumption of meat and mate, due to a history marked by isolation Paraguay has its own distinct culture and identity (Paraguayan author Augusto Roa Bastos, described the country as “an island surrounded on all sides by land”).

I feel fortunate for having been able to experience it.

 

In closing, I’d like to thank my new Paraguayan friends, particularly Javier, Mauricio, ‘RoninPRY’ and ‘ElRackson’,  who helped me out with tips and/or were kind enough to meet up with me while I was in Paraguay. Your advice was invaluable, and helped me make the most of my time in your country.

 

Until next time, Asuncion! You’ve earned a place in my heart.

-Vance

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