Skyscrapers and city buildings, Asuncion, Paraguay. City landscape.

Your Trip to Paraguay: The Complete Guide

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Most travelers to and from South America don’t visit Paraguay, which is exactly why you should. Cheap and relaxed, it’s a country full of wild areas inhabited by strange and wonderful wildlife like giant anteaters and ocelots. Though the country has several cities—like the capital Asuncion with its budding gastronomy scene and lively cultural centers—there are far more waterfalls, like Saltos del Monday or Salto Suiza, than there are cosmopolitan hubs. The least visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, the Jesuit ruins of Trinidad and Jesus, can also be found here, along with the border city of Cuidad del Este and its famed Friendship Bridge to Iguazu Falls. Riding long-distance buses will allow you to see the country up close, as well as buy plenty of chipa en route to wherever you’re going. Though the Paraguayan visa fee is hefty compared to other South American countries (visas cost $160), the tradeoff is a country not busy with tourists, easy to travel, full of calorie-high food for the road, and phenomenally wild spaces where you can disconnect from the rest of the world.

 Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Visit Paraguay in the winter, June through August, when warm temps mix with less rain and lower humidity for the driest season of the year. The best time of the year for birding, winter also hosts a number of patriotic and religious festivals making it an excellent time to experience the ethos of the country.
  • Language: Spanish and Guaraní.
  • Currency: Paraguayan Guarani (PYG), though USD is also sometimes accepted.
  • Getting Around: Buses, taxis, ride-hailing services like Uber, and walking are the main options for getting around Paraguay. In large cities like Asuncion and Cuidad del Este, you can use the bus, a taxi, or ride-hailing service, while smaller cities only have taxis and buses, though simply walking might be the easiest and fastest option. Download Moovit for a routing app in English with real-time bus schedules and routes.
  • Travel Tip: From Cuidad del Este, you can cross into Brazil to see Iguazu Falls for the day without having to get your passport stamped. As long as you stay within 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) of Friendship Bridge, there is no need to have your passport stamped, meaning you can literally walk into another country (via the bridge) without ever having to stop at the immigration office.

Things to Do

If you like going into the wild, exploring rarely visited historical sites, and have an immense love for soccer, this is the country for you. Go off-grid in the Chaco, hiking isolated hills and bartering with Mennonites. Visit its 15 national parks to see over 200 species of birds. Float up the Rio Paraguay on the Aquidaban. Go piranha fishing while spotting giant otters in the Green Hell. Should you want modern amenities, head to its larger cities to explore the burgeoning specialty coffee and fine dining scenes in Asuncion, or base yourself out of Cuidad del Este to experience a hodgepodge of Paraguayan, Brazilian, and Chinese culture.

  • Explore some of the least-visited UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world: the Jesuit ruins at Trinidad and Jesus. Dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, the ruins are fairly well-preserved and only about 6 miles from each other. You can walk through the eerily calm structures on your own (and possibly without any other visitors in sight), as guides are not required.
  • To experience the elation, glory, and tears of Paraguayan soccer, go to a league game of Club Cerro Porteno in Asuncion. Tickets can be purchased a few blocks from their home stadium, Estadio General Pablo Rojas Stadium, locally known as “La Olla.”
  • Go to the Chaco, making up more than half of Paraguay, this hot, grueling region is sparsely populated but full of rare wildlife. Whether you base yourself out of a research station, like Three Giants Lodge, to see jaguars and giant armadillos or go to Mariscal Estigarribia to watch the TransChaco Rally in September, you’re sure to have an adventure while there.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the top 15 things to do in Paraguay, where to go hiking in Paraguay, and the Jesuit missions of South America.

What to Eat and Drink

Paraguayan cuisine mixes the recipes of the indigenous Guarani people and with Spanish cuisine and high-calorie dishes developed post-Paraguayan War (to combat food scarcity). Family asados (barbeques) commonly occur on the weekend, where meat-loving Paraguayans grill prime cuts of beef served alongside sopa paraguaya, an onion cornbread made with pork fat. Other corn-based dishes include kiveve (pumpkin, corn, and cheese stew) and chipa guasu (cinnamon and cheese corncake). Chipa—a chewy bread made with cassava flour, anise, and cheese—is sold in restaurants, bus stops, and in food stalls throughout the country.

Meat-based soups make up a large part of traditional Paraguayan cuisine, including bori-bori (dumpling soup made with beef or chicken), soyo (beef and rice soup with vegetables), and pira caldo (fish-based stew with vegetables, milk, and cheese).

Paraguayans love to drink mate both hot and cold. A highly caffeinated tea with a woodsy, herbal flavor, the hot version is drunk from a hollowed-out gourd through a bombilla (filtered metal or wood straw). Paraguayan mate has a distinctively smokier flavor than Argentine or Uruguayan mate, and it’s generally served as a communal beverage. Terere, the cold version of mate generally served in a guampa (horn-shaped cup) with a bombilla, originated from the Guarani people. The tea infusion includes juice or herbs, like mint or lemongrass, giving it a bright, tangy flavor. To try, simply ask a local who’s drinking some, but be sure to drink the whole cup when offered, otherwise it’s bad manners.

Explore our article on the top food and drinks in Paraguay.

Where to Stay

Base yourself out of Asuncion for a few days to see a soccer match, check out nearby national parks for hiking and waterfall-viewing, experience the most developed fine dining and coffee scene in the country, and check out concerts or talks at cultural centers. You can also make day trips from Asuncion to the lake at San Bernardino or to Itagua to buy nanduti (traditional lace). To tour the Itaipu Dam or cross the Brazilian border to see Iguazu Falls, stay in Cuidad del Este. If you want to walk amongst the Jesuit ruins, Encarnacion will be the closest stay to the old missions at Trinidad and Jesus. Filadelfia will be the easiest spot to base yourself for trips into the wilder parts of the Chaco, while still having the comforts of civilization to come back to (and local touring companies who know the land well). For those who want to stay a night or two in nature but don’t have time to spend several days in the Chaco, the San Rafael Nature Reserve (such as at the ProCosara headquarters) will provide both wildlife-viewing and respite.

For other ideas of where to base yourself, explore the 15 best destinations to visit in Paraguay.

Getting There

Paraguay’s main airport is Silvio Pettirossi International Airport in Asuncion, where nearly all of the country’s international flights will take off or land. While several small airports exist in Paraguay, servicing mostly domestic flights, long-distance bus travel is far a more popular option for domestic travel. You can purchase tickets at the Omnibus terminal in Asuncion to travel to another Paraguayan city or town, as well as to Argentina, Bolivia, or Brazil. Check if you are purchasing the "común" or the "rápido" ticket. The first type will make many stops in small towns (great if you have time and want to see more of the country), while the second will get you to your destination faster and with fewer stops.

Money-Saving Tips

Paraguay is a cheap country to travel to and you can easily spend less than $50 a day on your trip, including accommodation. With that in mind, haggling isn’t really necessary, but there are a few tips you can implement to save in a few areas.

  • Learn some Spanish. English isn’t widely spoken, and locals will generally be able to help you find the best deals.
  • If you want to cross the border to see Iguazu Falls, walk across Friendship Bridge instead of taking a taxi. Once over, take local buses to get to the falls.
  • You can see Saltos del Monday from the road without paying the entrance fee to the adventure park.
  • Take advantage of the free entry to Asuncion's Museo del Barro, where you can learn about the
    history of the Paraguayan War and the country's indigenous peoples.
  • The Asuncion Botanical garden is free to enter, great for picnics, and contains exhibits of interesting animals at the natural history museum inside the grounds (which is also free).
  • Take long-distance and then local buses to historical sites, rather than paying for a tour.
  • Take local buses instead of using Uber or taxis.
  • Cook your own food instead of eating at a restaurant for every meal.
  • Consider renting an apartment for month-long stays instead of staying at a hotel.
Article Sources
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  1. National Tourism Secretariat - SENATUR. "Paraguay General Data." 2018