I started Part I. of this post almost a year ago and Part II. remained on my to-do list. This is because after I finished the first part, we started our road trip in Europe got lost posting about these trips and did not get back to this topic. Now, I am a bit “settled”, so can catch up. I finished the first post with describing an unexpected weather in Asuncion when we arrived. Here it comes, how the next two months were there.
My first tip for you is to join to the Expat Group of Paraguay before flying there. We found many info in advance and some great friends thanks to this group. Search in the group for info you are interested knowing more about; there is a good chance somebody else asked that question before. If you cannot find what you need, just ask, there are many active members who are ready to help.
On the first few days we managed to buy local SIM cards (from Claro) with data plans. Getting a Claro SIM card appears to be possible with a passport. For us, our agent helped to buy with his ID card. The SIM card itself was free and had to top-up with money. We managed to get out cash from an ATM in downtown. Usually 25.000 PYG is the fix charge of taking out cash from most ATMs, so I recommend to take a larger sum in one go, as the charge is the same for small and large amount of cash withdrawal. Note, during our trip in South America, we used only our Transferwise (Wise) cards and always worked find in every supermarkets, shops, restaurants ATMs. Heard about the same experience with Revolut.
Our first two weeks were about trying out local fruits & vegetables, getting know supermarkets (Superseis remained our favorite), getting know places and meeting with some very friendly locals and expats. Traveling in the city was easy with Uber (have not tried the local Muv but you can give a go), which usually cost 2-3 EUR a ride into the centre. You must get used to some speeding Uber drivers…they try to earn money as much as possible in an hour, so many of them are driving harshly. Seeing the local buses (very crowded), we found Uber a better choice. Whatsapp is used by even businesses and government offices in Paraguay, you can order your food through WhatsApp, ask questions from government offices through this platform. This is a great help for those, who do not speak much Spanish and they can use a Translator (like us, Google Translate was our best friend). English is not widely spoken here, in government offices, shops we found nobody to speak in English. I recommend you to start learning some basic Spanish using DuoLingo, it is giving you the basics that will come useful when you are in a need to say “to the left” or “where is the toilet” etc.
There are many modern Apartments starting from $1300/month, these are fully equipped, include a swimming pool and often a gym, and a parking space. We booked through Air B&B, month by month, tried out different apartments in different zones of the city. Heard about it is possible to rent apartments starting from $500-$600/month but you need to have good negotiation skills and/or speak Spanish or it might will not be furnished or up to a “western” standard. Our favourite area were Villa Morra (for more night life and shopping) and Santisma Trinidad out of the centre (for more quiet and trying out living in a new tower). First, we stayed in this flat. The furniture was a bit outdated but comfortable. We had two bedrooms and two bathrooms and a large living room. There were some noises during the night from the Biggie store across the street (staff or customers had fun in front of the store) but apart from that, we enjoyed our time here. The two swimming pools were really a big bonus, usually the pools were just for us as not many people lived in the tower we stayed. For the rest of the time, we stayed here. We liked this flat better, it was comfortable, with 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms – was perfect to live and work from! The location was the best too, walking distance to Shopping Villa Morra and Villa Morra Food Park and to supermarkets. We loved the swimming pool on the rooftop, spent most of our afternoons there. Usually, between 11 and 3pm we stayed inside the apartment due to the high UV radiation (in November the summer starts in Paraguay, so you must brace yourself and get use to extreme heat). We are experienced travelers but until flying to Latin America, we mostly explored Europe, which was a “safe bubble” because we were born there and in Europe you do not get much culture shock from country to country. I must say, accommodations did not disappoint us at all in Paraguay!
Asuncion has some great Food Parks, we used to go to the Villa Morra Food Park often. You can meet here with expats, locals and you can try out different foods. We managed to find some sellers who could make us some vegan dishes too. It`s a great fun and night life to visit these parks.
The Downtown/old town was a bit shocking for us. Usually, every capital take care of the oldest part of their city. We did not see this, we found Asuncion downtown filthy. We visited it only three times and we understood why nobody recommended us to rent a flat there. However, the few tourist attractions in Asuncion are in downtown.
As tourists we visited the Palacio de los López which is the most iconic building of Asuncion. Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción is very close to the Palace and worth to see inside and out. We finished our walk in Plaza Uruguaya, in one of the most famous park of the city. Next to the park, there is the Railway station of Asuncion. If you are searching railway tickets to or from Asuncion (I did), there is none. As per Wikipedia, railroads in Paraguay used steam locomotives until the end of railroad service in 1999. Early in the 21st century, rail transport mostly ceased and the former main station in Asunción has been converted into a railway museum. The station has an impressive look and what an experience it could have been a trip to Buenos Aires on an old-school locomotive!
Out of the city, our new friend, Stella took us to one of her favourite place (about 40 mins drive from Asu), to El Castillo de Penon. This small fortress sits on a top of a rock in the middle of the Paraguay River and it`s history full with mystery. There are only myths about this place was used by the Navy or by a captain as a hideaway. To access this small island, you must hire a boat and boatman (~3 USD).
After our residency project was complete, we decided, we cannot miss the opportunity to see the world famous Iguazú Falls. We booked a coach ride (on Plataforma 10 app) back to Ciudad del Este, where we came from.
We stayed in the Rio Hotel by Bourbon Ciudad Del Este, in a new and modern hotel, which was $115 Friday-Sunday, including breakfast. This time we walked over the Friendship Bridge to Brazil, what an experience it was! On the other side, our Brazilian taxi driver (Lucas) waited for us and took us to the entrance of the waterfall park. Our taxi ride was 150 Brazilian Real (return). Money well spent. The Iguazú Falls are simply astounding! A visit is a jaw-dropping experience, and the power and noise of the cascades – a chain of hundreds of waterfalls nearly 1.85 miles (3km) in extension – live forever in the memory. Imagine over 200 waterfalls wherever you see! We had an amazing time there, simply you cannot miss visiting this place if you are in Paraguay.
Opposite the entrance of the waterfalls nature park there is the Parque Das Aves (Bird Park). It’s set within the 16 hectares (40 acres) area of sub-tropical rain forest and provides shelter for around a thousand birds (150 species) as well as butterflies and reptiles from both all South America and other exotic places. We have never seen that many beautiful colours at one place, this made our day even more memorable. Note: in the beginning of 2021 the borders of Argentina were closed and could see the waterfalls from the Brazilian side only. Check out restrictions and if you can, explore the waterfalls from different views, from both Brazilian and Argentinean side!
Back in Asuncion, food shopping, dining out cost about $100/person for a week in the beginning (this can much less if you are a carnivore). We did not save money on fruits and vegetable, so our expenses were higher. Later, we managed to get a weekly lunch delivery from Alma Zen, who delivered us very healthy vegan Buddha bowls for 285.000 PYG ($40) a week (5 days) including delivery. So this really reduced our food expenses, as we had smoothies for breakfast and for dinner we often had left over from lunch. For dinner we sometimes went to the Villamorra Food Park, where 4 sellers created us tasty and hearty vegan meals (check out for pictures and reviews @VeganLuggage). After a while, Alma Zen got a bit boring, so we had our daily lunch delivery sometimes from Verdolaga. We had occasionally take-away from Combitos, they serve amazing Vegan Asian meals! You can dine-in at Combitos too, depending on restrictions. We found the lunch deliveries more cost effective than continuously cooking at home and buying ingredients.
Local people were generally friendly with us, they appreciated if we tried saying something in Spanish. Expats (many from the US and Germany) are friendly and there are regular meetups (keep an eye on meetup announcements in the Expat FB group). We noticed, locals are not that stressful, there is “tranquilopa” even when there is no electricity in the city for a day. They stress less, walk with their Tereré (an infusion of yerba mate) everywhere, sharing it with you and chatting. We did not get know many Guarani people due to the language barriers but Toto became my friend. He is so special that he speaks a little Hungarian and perfect English! This is truly unique. He mentioned, there is a of Hungarian community in Paraguay with ~160 members, who celebrate together St. Stephen’s Day or the Revolution Day every year. Well, Hungarians are everywhere, nice to know Paraguay is not an exception.
If you come to work (online) in Paraguay, internet in the capital was more reliable than electricity! About 4 kms from downtown, had a 50 Mbit download and 6 Mbit upload speed, so it was perfect for working. After the first big storm and a long blackout, we adjusted to the circumstances; bought a socket extension lead, so I could use the electricity on the corridor of the building (which was connected to a generator in case of a blackout). If you work on a laptop and important for you to have your devices charged, check the building where your apartment is located, whether have a generator. We always had 1 gallons of filtered water spare and some dry food, also some cash (in case the ATMs go down). Of course, these are for the worst storms which may not happen when you are there but you never know, we were “lucky” enough…
Meanwhile we enjoyed our time in Paraguay, we occasionally had appointments at the Interpol and in several police departments and government offices in order to progress our permanent residency. Tucanoprod did an excellent job, in only 1.5 month we got our ID card! This was super-fast and we were very happy we did not have to find our way through the bureaucracy. Our time, energy, peace of mind were more important than arranging all ourselves without knowing the language and anybody. Like in many countries, in Paraguay you can get sorted things smoother when you know someone. Since we completed our residency, I heard from some friends they arranged their residency themselves and with success, but for some it took 3 months, for some 6 months. It depends on how long time, energy and patience you have and you can save money on having an agent. However I do recommend having an agent and from a trustworthy source. There are many scams and you do not want to start your new life losing your money! Unfortunately, I cannot give detailed description which offices we visited in which order, we completely relied on Tucanoprod. If you have any question about the residency process itself or need their help, please contact them.
From Paraguay, we wanted to have a quick detour before flying back to Europe, so we have chosen Mexico! Mexico was mostly open all the time during the pandemic, so no test was required to fly in. We stayed 1.5 months in the lovely Playa del Carmen. We heard, most entrepreneurs, nomads are there and having an easy life there while rest of the World struggle with lockdown and restrictions. We soon ended up having our Corona (beer) at the beach. I owe you now a post about our stay in the Caribbean, stay tuned!
In a summary, we had a wonderful time in Paraguay and we will plan to return next year! We think about Paraguay now as our safe paradise, where we can always go home and chill. If you are a frequent traveler, you have to get your permanent residency sorted to avoid complications, Paraguay is a good place to be a resident of. If you have any question regarding this post, please contact me.