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Introduction to Paraguay

Paraguay is South America's 'empty quarter', a country little known even to its neighbours. PJ O'Rourke summed it up bluntly when he wrote 'Paraguay is nowhere and famous for nothing' - and then, on a short visit to cover elections, promptly fell in love with the place. You might well do the same.

Paraguay has taken steps to overcome its political, economic and geographic isolation and now welcomes visitors. The country has a relaxed riverside capital, impressive Jesuit missions, several national parks and the vast, arid Chaco - one of South America's great wilderness areas.

Full country name: Républica del Paraguay

Area: 407,000 sq km

Population: 5.58 million

Capital City: Asunción

People: 95% Mestizo

Language: Guarani, Spanish

Religion: 97% Roman Catholic, 3% Mennonite and other Protestants

Government: constitutional republic

Head of State: President Nicanor Duarte Frutos

GDP: US$19.8 billion

GDP per capita: US$3,700

Annual Growth: -0.5%

Inflation: 14.6%

Major Industries: Soybeans, cotton, timber, oilseed crushing, milling, brewing, textiles, hides & skins, meatpacking, sugarcane (contraband).

Major Trading Partners: Brazil, the Netherlands, Argentina, USA

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Traveler Facts

Visas: For a stay of up to three months, foreigners from neighbouring countries only need national ID cards and do not require a visa. US citizens require a visa, as do Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders, who also need a spotlessly clean police record, a bank statement and a desire to pay a fee of up to 50.00.

Health risks: cholera, dengue fever, hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, typhoid

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -3

Dialling Code: 595

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

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Prominent celebrations in addition to Christmas, New Year's Day and Easter include: Día de San Blas (Patron Saint of Paraguay) in February; Paz del Chaco (End of the Chaco War) in June; and the Fundación de Asunción (Founding of Asunción) in August.

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Best time to Visit

Evenly distributed throughout the year, rainfall in Paraguay is at its heaviest near the Brazilian border and July is the coldest month.

Paraguay's celebration of Carnival in February is liveliest in Asunción. The religious center of Caacupé is the most important site for the Roman Catholic Immaculate Conception.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Guaraní


Budget: US$2-5

Mid-range: US$5-10

High: US$10-15

Deluxe: US$15+


Budget: US$5-10

Mid-range: US$10-40

High: US$40-80

Deluxe: US$80+

Paraguay is cheaper for the traveller than Argentina or Uruguay but more expensive than Bolivia. Budget travellers can get by on US$15 a day; those looking for a bit more comfort and nutrition should expect to spend between US$30-50 a day.

Cambios in Asunción and at border towns change both cash and travellers' cheques (with small commissions); try banks in the interior. Some travellers have reported that cambios will not cash travellers' checks without the bill of sale. Street changers give slightly lower rates, and for cash only, but can be helpful on weekends or evenings. Better hotels, restaurants and shops in Asunción accept credit cards, but their use is less common outside the capital. Paraguayan ATMs generally do not recognize foreign credit cards.

In restaurants, it's customary to tip about 10% of the bill. Taxi drivers do not require tips, although you may round off the fare for convenience.

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Asunción, Paraguay's energetic capital and largest city, is built on unassuming hills above the east bank of the Río Paraguay. There are thankfully few high rises, downtown El Centro retains its intimate 19th-century feel, with low, balconied buildings and orange trees lining the narrow streets.

Most of the city's key sights are found within an area bound by the riverfront, Avenida Colón in the west, calles Haedo and Luis A Herrera in the south, and Estados Unidos to the east. A recent construction boom has seen a jumble of new eclectic buildings and large malls.

Eastern Paraguay

Many of Paraguay's finest attractions are just a short hop from the capital and include the weaving capital of Itaguá, where the famous ñandutí or spiderweb lace is made, and the lakeside resorts of Areguá and San Bernadino, both on Lago Ypacaraí.

West of here is Caacupé, Paraguay's most important religious centre and the site of an annual pilgrimage. The tranquil and undeveloped Parque Nacional Ybycuí, preserving one of the few remaining areas of rainforest in the country, is to the south.

The Chaco

The Chaco is a remarkable area of almost featureless plain, with a substantial population of Indian peoples. The Ruta Trans-Chaco highway, leads to the religious community of Filadelfia, which was settled by the Mennonites in the late 1920s. The Mennonite colonies are great for buting handicrafts.

The Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco, near the Bolivian border, is a wooded alluvial plain whose major feature is the 500m (1640ft) Cerro León. The dense thorn forest harbours some of Paraguays most endangered wildlife, and offers a chance of spotting large cats like jaguars, pumas and ocelots.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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