**UPDATE** Watch THIS video about a summary arriving and getting a residency in Paraguay!
Despite being bang in the centre of the continent, Paraguay is one of the least visited countries in South America. It’s not the easiest place to get to by land and airfares are expensive, as there are few airlines who choose this country as a destination. The question we heard too often was ”Why Paraguay???”. Getting into the country, Paraguay was a result of a lot of planning and waiting.
Reading through various Digital Nomad websites, I realized, we may soon have a problem with our residency. For example, where to pay tax as permanent travellers? I wanted to be proactive and back up our lifestyle with a solid residency, as I did not want to pay tax where my citizenship is (Hungary). I educated myself about the residency and taxation system of Panama, Georgia, Malta, Andorra, and Paraguay. Paraguay looked like the best option, but I needed more information. Online I then encountered a fellow Hungarian traveller, Bence Zakonyi, who has videos on YouTube and a website about residency schemes and especially about Paraguay.
Bence`s passion for this country made me curious. Why Paraguay is so good? I had an hour consultation with Bence and he suggested, Paraguay is the best option for us. Why? We already have an Estonian Company through the Estonian e-residency -which I am extremely satisfied with- and want to keep. However this e-residency works the best for those, who are not European residents, so they can benefit most from the offering. As being a resident of an other EU country than Estonia, you can have more complications with taxation (for example, double taxation treaties, needing to register your company in your home country). If you want to avoid such complications as a European, better to have your permanent residency outside of the EU.
I will make a note here. I will dedicate later a post only about the Estonian E-residency + being a Hungarian resident and what you can expect. I had a long investigation with the help of an international tax advisor company about what can I expect if I continue keeping my Estonian company as a Hungarian resident…the result was scary! If you are a resident of an EU country and interested in the Estonian offering, please consult with an international tax advisor first. I did not consult with a tax advisor, so I needed to forward fix this.
Bence sent me some brochures about the residency scheme of Panama and Paraguay and list of requirements. This was in February, 2020. On the 10th of March, 2020 we bought our flight tickets to Paraguay with a departure date in mid-April but unfortunately due to Covid, our flight was cancelled on the 13th of March. Paraguay went into lock-down for many months, and it was in September when we heard, residents can travel back to the country again. In last September-October, we got all our translations ready, a new passport, yellow fever vaccination and were ready to travel again, soon after Paraguay opened their borders.
Continuing my previous Brazilian post, we landed at Foz do Iguaçu International Airport, close to the Brazilian and Paraguayan border. Upon our arrival, we completed the online form that was required for our entry in Paraguay. The form was easy to use but it was not mobile friendly. We needed to complete it on my laptop. To complete the form took us 5-5 minutes and the site generated a QR code. With a screenshot of this code we were ready to leave the airport!
There was a taxi station at the exit, and we hopped into a taxi. The driver spoke English well and he was very friendly. The deal was, that for 150 Brazilian Real (~30 USD) he would take us through the border, straight to the bus station on the Paraguayan side. The previous night in Sao Paulo, I booked our bus tickets online on a website. The bus company we booked was NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LA ASUNCIÓN PY (NSA) and the trip between Ciudad del Este and Asuncion cost only 95.000 Paraguayan Guarani (~15 USD). We had a nice chat with the taxi driver, and we were so excited about our arrival to the Friendship Bridge and the border. Lucas, the driver said, he has often such trips through the border and even willing to help us at the border talking to the officers. Checking out at the Brazilian Border went fine and checking in to Paraguay went smoothly too with the QR code we generated and with our Passport. I have Lucas` phone/Whatsapp number if you need a reliable taxi driver near Iguazu and the Brazilian/Paraguayan border. I can recommend him, just send me a message through the Contact form and I can share how you can reach him.
We got to the bus station and we had to wait for our bus in a modern VIP waiting room with toilet, TV, and air conditioning. Our bus departed at 2pm, which was a new double-decker bus, extremely comfortable, with large leg room, leg rest, air conditioning, and screens with movies. The trip took a good 6 hours, but it was enjoyable. There is a part of Paraguay where on the roadside people live from selling a special bun. Chipa is the most common food staple in Paraguay, this famous bread is made with cassava flour, lard, and anise. The bus stopped, few local bakers hopped on the bus and started selling their fresh, warm Chipa. The smell was so tempting, we bought few – even we thought this speciality is not so Vegan (I have to admit, during our stay, Chipa was the only temptation that was not Vegan and we had some at two occasions when travelled by coach).
We finally arrived at the Bus Station of Asuncion at 8 p.m and a new friend of ours waited for us. I got to know Toto through Facebook and the Expat group, he is amongst the few who are Paraguayan and speaks English and Hungarian (maybe the only person?). He offered giving us a lift to our accommodation, what we accepted. What a week! On Tuesday we arrived to Brazil and had those adventures about preparing to this trip and on the same week, on Saturday now sitting in a car going through the capital of Paraguay. We were tired, hungry and were planning to order a pizza at our arrival. We checked-in easily to our Air B&B flat, where we booked a month in advance. At a sudden, the nice evening turned into a disaster movie scene!
We were walking with our luggage from the car to the building when a STRONG wind from nowhere made me kneel. On our hands and knees, we walked to the building, we could not walk normally as the gust was so strong which made us to feel afraid of blowing off ! Arriving on the 3rd floor, in our flat we listened to the strong wind blowing, it was scary which we never heard of before. Soon the power went off and the blackout lasted for a good 24 hours. We asked Toto, is this a normal storm here?! He said, normally this hurricane type weather occurs once a year. We were “lucky” enough to experience the strongest storm of the year on our first night. Nice, isn`t it? The heavy rain and the high wind lasted all night, there was no chance to go out and get some food. We went to bed hungry and tired.
Next morning, I decided to go out and try to find a grocery store. We had no signal in our phones, internet, map to find directions. So started walking to right on a wide road, with a hope, that I will find an open grocery store nearby. I walked about 15 minutes and I could see mangoes all over the ground and the damage last night storm made to the trees. It was a Sunday morning at 8 AM, no people on the streets, was a bit scary walking there not knowing where I am going, and with some cash only enough to buy some breakfast. In the 21st century, we got so addicted to having Internet in our pocket, Google tells us everything, right? But what if no internet, no phone signal, no Google Translate or no map? It was a new experience for sure, but somehow I enjoyed it, felt alive on this sudden adventure. The grocery store called Superseis was opened and I could buy some basic food items for breakfast, I even could pay by card, yay! After breakfast, we decided to go back and do proper shopping, maybe try to take out some cash from the ATM. I was so happy, even took a bottle of whisky to the cashier, thinking, let`s celebrate! The surprise was when the cashier said, our card no longer works…we just had enough cash to pay the bill, but I soon regret having that bottle of whisky. Now, we have lunch and whisky but no cash left and our debit card does not work. What a rookie mistake, Bear Grylls wouldn`t be proud of me, lol. In the afternoon, I had 2 hours of walk trying to find a working ATM but appeared, the generators did not last long and all the ATM machines went offline in the neighbourhood. I walked back to the apartment disappointed and with the hope, on Monday everything will get back to normal. We spent Sunday evening in dark but hey, we had our Amazon Kindle with us! We could read and we did not even needed a light for that.
On Monday, the power has been restored. We could buy more groceries paying by our card again. Happy days! On Tuesday we met with Bence and he helped us having a local SIM card (by Claro) and we took out a larger amount of cash using our Wise card and an ATM in downtown. (Note, Telekom Hungary has a Worldwide travel package but that is excluding Paraguay, so better to have a local SIM card when you come here).
We were back on our tracks again: had accommodation, food, cash, electricity and internet. We were ready to continue our adventure in Paraguay after the first rough days. We were lucky, the Government removed the 14 days quarantine requirement on our first day on Sunday, so we did not have to isolate ourselves. The summer just started there (middle of November) and enjoyed the Sunshine, pool very much, soon forgot how hard was to get here! We both really enjoyed spending our days in Asuncion even though, we slightly had to face some bad experiences at the beginning but had a good vibe and was definitely worth a visit. A new adventure was just began about getting our residency, settling down, that I am sharing in my next post.
Continue reading Part II. of this post HERE.