Paraguay Travel Tips – Consejos para Viajar en Paraguay

Today is Discovering Paraguay’s one-year anniversary. Many thanks to everyone for all the support throughout this first year of writing about Paraguay! As research for the guidebook I am writing about Paraguay I have spent the last year exploring the country visiting the “must-sees” as well as a fair share of the “never-heard-of-there-befores.” On this special occassion I’d like to share some tips for making the most of the diverse experiences Paraguay offers travelers.

Be Flexible:
It will make everything easier. In Paraguay, as in other “underdeveloped” nations, departure and arrival times are approximate (this also aplies to store and office hours). It is especially important to confirm bus itineraries as things may change (see following section on weather). Make sure your travel plans include some wiggle room to compensate for broken down buses or missed connections.

Work around the weather:
Paraguayans’ daily routines are built around the weather. People rise early to make the most of the cool morning hours. When the sun is at it’s strongest it is time for a siesta. Even in urban areas many businesses close for lunch/siesta. Take your cues from the locals and plan to take a break during the day’s hottest hours. Take refuge inside an air-conditioned restaurant or cyber cafe, or in a shady plaza. If you have business to attend to it is best to do so during the morning shift as sometimes people decide not to return after siesta. Depending on the road conditions rain can affect your travel plans. In areas with cobblestone or asphalted roads a rainstorm can mean a couple of hours of flooded streets. In rural areas prolonged rain may temporarily turn stretches of dirt roads into unpassable mud pits.

Don’t be shy, talk to people:
In Paraguay you will have much better luck looking for information in person than online. Some companies and hotels have websites but they are not necessarily up to date. This can be frustrating but it does have the benefit of pushing you to interact with locals. When requesting information you should be prepared for some preliminary chit-chatting. Of course there are always people who prefer to provide a made up answer than no answer at all. Directions that end in “and ask for directions again there” are common. It is a good idea to ask multiple people and weight your conclusions accordingly. Also keep in mind that a majority of Paraguayans do not have constant internet access but almost everyone has a cell phone. If you cannot ask in person and need a quick response calling or text-messaging is preferable to email.

Learn some Guarani words:
Many people are intimidated with new languages but the beauty of the Guarani/Spanish dynamic is the two are regularly interwoven so it is perfectly fine to just throw in the words you know when possible. It will send the sign that you are interested in the culture and get you mega brownie points. A well timed “ndaipori problema” (meaning “no problem” or “it’s all good”) is guaranteed to elicit a smile, at the very least. Personally I have noticed a significant difference in the way I am recieved and the information I get if I start off any conversation with “mbaeichapa” (“how are you?”) and then throw in whatever else I can throughout.

Visit the countryside:
In Paraguay, as in the rest of the world, there is a great difference between life in urban and rural areas. Especially in well-off areas, Asunción is a world away from the rest of the country. If you only stick to Asuncion you will miss out on experiencing the rural environment and lifestyle that is far more representative of Paraguay as a whole. This does not mean you have to spend your time in Paraguay using latrines and working in the field though. There are options for every budget and comfort level from hotels in small towns along the main highways to private ranches called “estancias” with many amenities. The former offer a glimpse at life in small-town Paraguay and the later offer a comfortable way to enjoy beautiful landscapes and quiet nights (aside from roosters) of the Paraguayan countryside.

Drink Tereré:
Sitting in the shade of a corredor yeré (wraparound porch) or “mango guy pe” (under a mango tree) drinking tereré is one of the best ways to create a bond of friendship with Paraguayans. Think of it as the non-alcoholic equivalent of chatting over some beers. Tereré is about as Paraguayan as it gets. If someone invites you to drink tereré (this happens even when you are perfect strangers) think twice before passing up the opportunity. If you prefer not to share drinks with others all is not lost. Simply offer to “cebar” or serve the tereré instead and be sure to ask for tips on how to do so. Everyone has their own theory about bombilla placement and water pouring technique and will enjoy explaining it at length.

Have you spent time traveling in Paraguay? Leave a comment and share your top Paraguay travel tips!

Hoy es el primer aniversario de Descubriendo Paraguay. ¡Muchas gracias a todos por el apoyo durante este primer año de escribir sobre Paraguay! A manera de investigación para la guía de turismo que estoy escribiendo he pasado el último año explorando los sitios de visitas imprescindibles además de unas cuantas previamente desconocidas. En esta ocasión especial quisiera compartir algunas sugerencias para sacarle el jugo a la diversidad de experiencias que Paraguay le ofrece al viajero.

Se flexible:
Hará que todo sea más fácil. En Paraguay, al igual que en otros paises “subdesarollados,” horarios de partidas y arribos son aproximadas (también se aplica a horarios de oficinas y negocios). En especial es importante confirmar itinerarios de buses y barcos ya que las cosas pueden cambiar (ver sección que sigue sobre el clima). Asegurate de que tus planes de viaje incluyan tiempo extra en caso de un colectivo descompuesto o conexciones perdidas.

Adáptate al clima:
Las rutinas diarias de paraguayos se basan alrededor del clima. Se despiertan temprano para aprovechar las horas frescas de la mañana. Cuando el sol está en su apogeo toman la siesta. Hasta en areas urbanas muchos negocios cierran para el almuerzo/la siesta. Aprende de los lugareños y planea descansar un poco durante las horas más calurosas del día. Toma refugio en un restaurante o cyber con aire, o en una la sombra de una plaza arbolada. Es mejor hacer cualquier trámite en la mañana ya que algunas veces la gente decide no volver después de la siesta. Dependiendo del estado de las rutas la lluvia puede afectar tus planes de viaje. En areas con calles empedradas o asfaltadas una tormenta puede causar que las calles se inunden por unas horas. En areas rurales la lluvia puede convertir los caminos de tierra temporalmente en baches de lodo intransitables.

No seas tímido, habla con la gente:
En Paraguay tendrás más suerte buscando información en persona que en la web. Algunas empresas y hoteles tienen sitios de web pero no siempre estan actualizados. Esto puede ser causa de frustración pero el beneficio es que te estimula a interactuar con lugareños. Al pedir información hay que estar dispuesto a conversar un poco. Por supuesto siempre hay personas que prefieren dar una respuesta inventada a no tener respuesta. Direcciones que terminan en “y puedes preguntar otravez allí” son comunes. También hay que recordad que la mayoría de paraguayos no tienen acceso constante al internet pero casi todos tienen celulares. Si no puedes hacer tu pregunta en persona pero necesitas una respuesta rápida es mejor llamar o mensajear que mandar un email.

Aprende algunas palabras en Guarani:
A muchos les intimidan los idiomas nuevas pero la belleza de la dinámica Guaraní/Castellano es que los dos se entremesclan constantemente. Significa que es completamente acceptable usar las palabras sueltas que sabes donde puedas. Con esto les indicarás a los paraguayos tu interés en su cultura y así ganarás “puntos extras” a tu favor. Decir “ndaipori problema” (“no hay problema”) en el momento oportuno provocará por lo menos una sonrisa. Personalmente he notado una gran diferencia en la forma que soy recibida y la información que logro obtener si empiezo cualquier conversación con “mbaeichapa” (“cómo estás?”) y le meto las otras palabras que sé cuando puedo.

Visita el campo:
En Paraguay, como en el resto del mundo, hay una gran diferencia entre la vida urbana y la vida rural. Especialmente en areas adineradas, Asunción es un mundo aparte del resto del país. Si sólo te quedas en Asunción perderás la oportunidad de ver el ambiente y estilo de vida rural que más representa a la mayoría de Paraguay. No significa que tengas que pasar tu tiempo en Paraguay usando letrinas y trabajando en una chacra para tener la experiencia de campo. Hay opciones para todos los gustos y bolsillos desde hoteles en pueblos pequeños al lado de las rutas principales a estancias privadas con todos las comodidades. El primero ofrece un vistazo de la vida del pueblo y el segundo una opción cómoda para disfrutar los bellos paisajes y las noches tranquilas (con la excepción de los gallos) del campo paraguayo.

Toma Tereré:
Tomar tereré en la sombra de un “corredor yeré” ( corredor que da vuelta la casa) o “mango guy pe” debajo de un árbol de mango es una de las mejores maneras de fomentar la amistad con paraguayos. Es el equivalente no-alcohólico de sentarse a conversar con unas cervezas. Tomar tereré es una costumbre super paraguaya. Asi que si alguien te invita a tomar tereré (esto puede ocurir aunque ní se conoscan) piensa dos veces antes de dejar pasar esa oportunidad para compartir juntos. Si prefieres no compartir bebidas con otros no hay problema – puedes ofrecer cebar el tereré. Asegúrate de pedir consejos sobre como cebar – todos tienen su propia teoría sobre la ubicación de la bombilla y la técnica para verter el agua y disfrutarán de explicartelo con lujo de detalles.

¿Has pasado tiempo viajando en Paraguay? ¡Deja un comentario y comparte tus sugerencias para viajar en Paraguay!

Posted in Daily life - vida diaria, Food - Comida, Guaraní - Guaraní, Travel Info - Para Viajeros Tagged with: , ,
11 comments on “Paraguay Travel Tips – Consejos para Viajar en Paraguay
  1. Anonymous says:

    Congratulations on the 1-year birthday of Guide to Paraguay!

  2. mike.montchalin says:

    Thanks for another enjoyable post.

    I am a Gringo. I am excessively prompt.

    A friend, a Mexican, needed a ride to the bus stop. I calculated that I would need to pick him up at 10 minutes before 10am, and told him that I would pick him up at that time.

    The next morning I arrived at 10 minutes to 10am. All of the Mexicans were greatly amused because I arrived within 30 seconds of 10 minutes to 10 am.

    After 15 minutes of waiting I became distressed. I had only allowed 30 minutes leeway for things to go wrong. It took another 15 minutes to get going.

    Nobody cared about the time, except me! And it wasn't even my bus!!

    When we got to the bus station, it turned out that the bus' departure wouldn't be for another hour. My friend had made allowances for Casual Time. On top of that, the bus was late in arriving.

    Will I be able to adjust to Paraguay time?

    Absolutely! I've been advised and accept it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your tips! We travel to Paraguay once a year to visit my mother-in-law and I appreciate the advice about offering to serve the terere. I didn't think of that before and that will be helpful! Looking forward to another year of your blog!!!
    Kathy

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great tips! I am a paraguayan living in the US for the past 12 years. Last year we spent 1 year in Asuncion with my kids, was a great experience for them.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your work! I am married to a Paraguayo and have visited once. I was struck by many things. Do you have any insight into calling limes lemons and lemons limes?

    And are you into pasta frola? That was my favorite food stuff i think, the kind with guava jam in it. MMMM… and bollos (the doughnuts) I've recreated them here in the US and am pretty happy. They must be from German influence, no?

    Keep up the good work!
    ~Carolyn

  6. Natalia Goldberg says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    The limes/lemons thing is confusing to me as well! I grew up in Latin America and when I went to the US for college I was all turned around – to me everything was a "lemon" even though for Americans they were "limes." In Paraguay it is even more complicated because of the limes/lemons that actually look like mandarins, complete with orange pulp.

    I'm not really a fan of pasta frola but I love me some bollos full of dulce de guayaba. Nothing like biting into that sugar coated fried dough and getting a mouthful of sweet guayaba jam. Love them! Yes, they are German. In fact they are sometimes referred to as "berlines"!

  7. It’s amazing to found this site…
    Mi name is Ariel and I’m studying to be an International Tour Guide in Israel, My final Paper is all about Paraguay and I decide to open a Ne company that will bring Israel tourist to Paraguay.
    Please, fell free to post my website if you think so….

  8. Lance Cope says:

    Great write ups. Reminds me of when I worked with Amigos de las Americas in Ne Embucu in 1980. To get from town to tow I would just sit on the river bank and hitch a ride on whatever went up or down the river. No schedules.

  9. paraguay says:

    Lance, I can´t imagine what it must have been like to be in Ñeembucu in the 80´s – even now there are parts of the department that are quite isolated. What a great and unique experience. I guess you literally learned the most important PY travel lesson: go with the flow!

  10. Nisa says:

    Hi, Natalie, My husband (who speaks Spanish and is originally from Peru) and I are planning on coming this fall to Paraguay, and visiting for about eight weeks. I have your guide book, and I love it! Is there any way that we could contact you when we get there for some extra support?(I actually speak a bit of high school French, poco espagnol). Peace and Joy, Nisa earthchildinspire@gmail.com ps. Do you know of any places to rent, such as furnished apartments or share with a family near Asuncion or Aregua?

  11. paraguay says:

    Hi Nisa, I replied via email but for people checking this site later I would like to suggest joining the Expats in Paraguay Facebook group. There you will find many up to date suggestions for rentals as well as other expat issues such as immigration and banking.

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