Backpacking in Paraguay
Travelling in Paraguay means discovering incredible natural treasures and cultural highlights and meeting hospitable people. The country has a total of 7 million inhabitants, of which about 2 million live in the capital Asunción. The rest of the population lives in an area that is only slightly larger than Germany. Paraguay with Bolivia is the only country in Latin America that has no direct access to the sea. Nevertheless, there is a lot of water in the form of rivers like the 2,549 km long Rio Paraguay, which makes the landscape along the river meanders fertile. During your backpacker trip through the country you will encounter a rich flora and fauna.
The other face of Paraguay is the Gran Chaco. Dry forests and thorn bush savannahs extend to the horizon. Close to the Argentine border you can experience the infinity of the Pampa. Pumas, ocelots and jaguars can be found in the Pantanal. In the north of the country stretches the largest swamp area in the world, where you can go on unforgettable backpacking safaris in Paraguay.
The landlocked state of Paraguay is little regarded as an adequate travel destination. However, a trip is worthwhile because there is a lot to see and experience. The travel is also very pleasant, because the dense bus line network makes travelling around very easy, comfortable and cheap. In the cities, the roads are asphalted, rural regions have paved roads or mud roads, where travelling becomes a special experience.
There are regional differences in the security of the country. At night you should not walk alone in Asunción. In smaller communities and villages, on the other hand, there is hardly any crime. When checking into your accommodation, you can ask the receptionist about the local security situation and how he personally assesses it. Already for several years there have been no more attacks on tourists in the provinces San Pedro and Concepción by the guerrilla organization Ejercito Popular Paraguayo.
Spanish is the national and official language in Paraguay. However, in many places German, English and Portuguese are understood and sometimes also spoken. Therefore you don’t have to worry about communication problems when you speak a few bits of Spanish and English.
The national currency and thus also the main means of payment in Paraguay is Guarani, but sometimes you can also pay with USD. You often get money with the EC card at all Cajero automático (cash machines) that carry the Maestro sign. Nevertheless, you should not do without common credit cards. Some banks limit the daily limit for withdrawals to 150 USD. You can withdraw money in the local currency or in US dollars.
Culture in Paraguay
Paraguay was originally inhabited by an indigenous population until the Spaniards immigrated to the country and mixed cultures. The first ethnic group is made up of different tribes, the Guarani being the predominant group. Today their language and culture still dominate everyday life in Paraguay.
Also the Catholic Church, just like in other Latin American countries, has left its hardly visible traces. But especially in Paraguay there are rites and customs of the indigenous people as well as a strong national consciousness that flows into the culture. This results in the difference to other countries, because an own cultural landscape is created, which you experience while backpacking in Paraguay.
The local population is extremely hospitable and open, so that conversations can quickly develop and you can feel the warmth and helpfulness. Relaxation and serenity are the order of the day, so that stress or hecticness never arises. The buses don’t need a timetable because punctuality is not so important. These national traits may seem strange to you when backpacking in Paraguay at first, but they have very pleasant sides.
More Backpacking information about Paraguay
In Paraguay you can cover your daily needs including board and lodging with 25 – 50 Euro per day.
The country offers you two natural areas and a lot of water. The two regions are divided into the western part of the Rio Paraguay and the eastern part of the great river. The river divides the state approximately in the middle. To the east is the main settlement area, where you’ll come across many villages and towns on your backpacker trip. Gran Chaco with thorn bush savannahs and dry forests occupies about 60 percent of the total land area.
Everywhere in Paraguay there are different overnight accommodations. There are even great bargains, where you pay only 6 – 10 euros for an overnight stay. On average, the cost of an overnight stay in a hostel is around 11 – 13 euros.
Paraguay’s cuisine has some delicacies to offer. These include specialities such as chipas (corn bread with cheese and egg), Sopa Paraguay (casserole made from ground corn, milk, cheese and onions), Soo-Yosopy, Albondiga, Boribori and Surubi, all of which are worth a taste. For Foodies a true gourmet paradise. You can simply visit the country on your backpacker trip or get involved with the culture.
Life is quite casual and people like to party extensively. There is a special experience in Encarnación, where you can experience an offshoot of the Brazilian carnival up close. Near the city there are the former Jesuit missions La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangüe, which belong to the UNESCO world cultural heritage. Shopping is of course also part of a trip to Paraguay, where you should take your time to observe the colorful, wild hustle and bustle. There are many bargains guaranteed for you.
Because of a visa you don’t need to worry, because in Paraguay you can enter for 90 days without a visa. What else is important for you as a backbacker in Paraguay and what you need to know, you can find out under Visa & Vaccinations.
Traveling and living in Paraguay is comparatively cheap. As a rule, you get along very well with a daily budget of 25 – 35 euros. For a simple meal you pay about 4 Euro. If it should be more luxurious, the costs rise. Local beer is available in 0.5 l bottles for 0.80 Euro, for imported beer you pay around 1.50 Euro for 0.33 l. In bars and restaurants it usually becomes more expensive. For a Cappuccino in the restaurant you pay approximately 1.80 euro. You get water in 1.5 l bottles for about 0.50 Euro.
The centre of Asunción can be explored comfortably on foot, as many sightseeings and souvenir shops are close together. As the city is laid out in blocks (Cuadras) and street signs can be found everywhere, a walk is quite difficult.
Taxi driving Bus driving in Paraguay
The official taxis in the capital Asunción are yellow and can be found everywhere in the city at several Paradas de Taxi, where the drivers wait for customers. Backpackers are often approached by the drivers. The basic price for a trip is approximately 5.000 Gs/0,80 Euro. The driving distance and/or each driven kilometers are accounted for over the taximeter. If this is defective, you should negotiate a price with the driver. At night and on holidays a surcharge is calculated. Cheaper you come in Paraguay from A to B with buses.
Bus drive in Paraguay
Buses run around the clock in Asunción. However, there are no fixed timetables and hardly any fixed stops. If you want to take the bus, just keep your thumb out. A trip costs approximately 2.500 Gs/0,40 Euro and is therefore the cheapest alternative to get around. But be careful: If you are the only passenger who wants to get on the bus, the drivers won’t stop.
They will slowly roll past you and expect you to jump on the moving bus. The same can happen when you get off the bus. There are signs in the windscreen of the buses. They tell you which bus stops are to be reached. Since the rail traffic in Paraguay was almost completely stopped, there are also for longer distances only bus connections.
Compared to other countries, the quality is rather poor. The only company that offers a top service is NSA. With the other bus companies the service depends on which bus you catch at the moment. From the bus station in Asunción, buses run several times a day to the remotest corners or cities such as Marisal Estigarribia, Loms Plata, Villarrica, Hernandarias and Caaguazú.
Driving in Paraguay
You can rent a car at the airport and in the city centre. However, you should consider this type of transportation carefully, as driving in traffic requires a high degree of adaptation, as the traffic rules for local drivers are purely a matter of interpretation. Through many one-way streets you will have to take long detours to reach your destination. If you want to give it a try, you’ll find the big, well-known car rental companies at the airport. To rent a car you will need an international driving license.
Domestic fares in Paraguay
Flying is quite expensive in Paraguay. There are regular flights between Asunción and Ciudad. They are offered by TAM Airlines. Prices can be found on the homepage. If you want to travel to the inaccessible Gran Chaco during your backpacker trip, air taxis are ideal because they fly to the small airports and runways.
Due to the diversity of the landscape and the cultural conditions, you will have a very special pleasure to experience the country during your backpacker trip. On one side of the Rio Paraguay you will find fertile land with an indescribable flora and fauna. Exactly the opposite awaits you in the dry forests and thorn bush savannahs in the Gran Chaco, where you’ll encounter the endlessness of the pampas.
The north offers you the largest swamp area in the world. On a safari through this region you’ll experience the indescribable magic and uniqueness that a swamp has to offer. Exotic animals and an impressive flora with all its beauty will fascinate you. You’ll meet free-living cougars, jaguars and ocelots in the Pantanal. The question quickly arises as to what you should have seen on your backpacking trip.
Route 1: The classic (15-20 days)
- 3 days exploring Asunción, capital of the country. Pure shopping is the order of the day.
- 2 day experience Gran Chaco with its unique nature and vastness.
- 2 days to discover the history of Paraguay in Filadelfia and Fortin Boquerón.
- 1 day to explore the colonial city of Concepión with 250 year old buildings.
- 2 days experience Ciudad del Este and discover the Foz de Iguazú.
- 2-3 days experience the national park on picturesque hiking trails with countless photo motives.
- 3 days Bella Vista, to the waterfall Salto Monday and explore the landscape.
- 2 days to experience the fishing village Villa Florida at Rio Tebicurary and Yaguarón.
Route 2: Backpacker Intensive Trip (up to 30 days and more)
- 4 days exploring Asunción with the “Golden Round Trip”. Afterwards shopping!
- 2 day Trinidad, and enjoy the colorful life of the university city San Lorenzo.
- 4 days to enjoy the unique nature and vastness of the Cran Chaco.
- 3 days to discover the city of Caapucú, San Ignacio Guazú and Encarnación.
- 3 days hiking on the Ruta Jesuitica and visiting the most important mission ruins.
- 3 days Bella Vista, the waterfall Salto Monday and discover landscape formations.
- 2 days to explore the colonial city of Concepión with 250 year old buildings.
- 2 days experience Ciudad del Este. Shopping is the order of the day!
- 2 days to admire Iguazú waterfalls and the Itaipu dam.
- 3 days comb through the Iguazú National Park.
- Discover and explore 2 days Limpio in the north of the Departementos Central.
Travel times in Paraguay
Since Paraguay has hardly any elevations of more than 600 meters, the temperatures in the whole country are almost everywhere uniformly high in summer. The east of the country has a slightly higher humidity. The weather in Paraguay is exactly opposite to the German weather, because the country lies south of the equator. The country is divided into two climate zones.
In the east the climate is cooler and rainer, in the west tropical. The best travel time for your backpacker trip in Paraguay are the months April to June and October to December, because in this time the temperatures are very mild and pleasant. Average temperatures of 25°C and 43°C await you. As it cools down quickly in the evening, you should have a warm jacket in your backpack ready to hand.
In Paraguay you have a whole range of options for an overnight stay. You can choose between hotels, guesthouses, hostels or campsites, depending on the requirements of the hostel. Hotels offer you a certain luxury, but it is often more expensive than a simple hostel. If you want to stay inexpensively on your backpacker trip, a bed in a simple hostel is the right choice. In a luxurious hotel you will quickly pay 100 Euros for one night.
But there are interesting alternatives. Thus, there are beautifully laid out campsites that give backpacking in Paraguay a very special flair of freedom and adventure. For a campsite you pay between 14 and 18 Euro per night. You can also decide to stay overnight in a hostel. In order to get an overview of the costs for an overnight stay, it is worth taking a look at the hostel page Hostelworld. Therefore, the prices for a bed in a hostel are as follows:
- Asunción 7-11 Euro
- Ciudad del Este 7-11 Euro
- Enconacion 11 Euro
Hostels are only available in urban areas and prices vary considerably from hostel to hostel. They offer you a great service, free internet access, city maps and many other advantages. Alternatively, you can stay in a hotel for a reasonable price.
Motels on exit roads and motorways
Motels in Paraguay are often used as love nets and fall rather into the category of hourly hotels, without which the buyable love stands in the foreground. Therefore there is always a very high fluctuation and sometimes a lot of unrest. Therefore, you are better served with hotels that range from very simple to absolutely luxurious. They are located directly in the city centres, but also on exit roads and somewhat remote.
Camping in a unique landscape
In Paraguay, camping has become more important in recent years, so that modern campsites have been created in the country’s natural parks, offering you the opportunity to experience unspoilt nature at close quarters during your backpacker trip. Not far from the town of Ciudad del Este is one of the most beautiful campsites in the nature reserve on the banks of the Iguazú reservoir. There are barbecue facilities and a walk through the unspoilt rainforest where you will encounter a variety of flora and fauna.
Most campsites in Paraguay are located in the countryside, outside larger settlements. If you are travelling without a tent, you can stay in log cabins. The most modern campsites usually offer a pool and an interesting recreational program.
Travelling the country, surrounded by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia and located in the heart of South America, is one thing. Experience the impressive nature, feel the red earth under your feet, wander through the rainforest and experience the vastness of the Gran Chaco. Paraguay is a country full of natural spectacles and at the same time bustling cities that are in clear contradiction to each other.
The feeling of being taken back to the 1960s quickly arises. The moped is the family carriage, where father, mother and two children find a place on it. The cities invite you to extensive shopping tours. Beside clothes and handmade jewellery there are big shops with different electronics.
In Asunción there is the presidential palace, the railway museum (Museo de la estacion central des Ferrocarril Carloz Antonio Lopez), the view point Cerro Lambaré and the Casa de la Indepedancia that you should definitely have seen.
Backpacker Highlights in Paraguay
One of the highlights is Ciudad del Este, the city in the east at the Brazilian border, which you inevitably have to pass if you want to visit the Iguazu waterfalls. The city has many shopping centers where you can buy technical equipment, clothing and jewellery. The hustle and bustle is particularly interesting to watch.
Besides the Iguazú Waterfalls and the Iguazú National Park, Foz has the second largest hydroelectric power station in the world, the Itaipu Dam. Very interesting is a technical tour that will give you a deep insight into energy production. But the dam is not only impressive for technology fans.
Even if there are no mountain ranges in Paraguay, the landscape east of the Rio Paraguay rises up to 700 meters and presents you on your trip striking table mountains with evergreen vegetation, which is subtropical. The relief of the Oriente spreads out to the north with a gentle side towards the Rio Paraná.
Backpacker Insider Tips in Paraguay
Areguá, the capital of the department, is situated at Lake Ypacarai and presents itself in a very special light. Small, tranquil old town alleys wind their way around a church worth seeing. They take you to a spacious shopping street, where countless craft businesses line up. The city is a creative artistic stronghold, which is confirmed by the pottery merchants and the many gallery owners. The view of the lake is very inspiring.
Parque Nacional Cerro Corá with the river Aquidabán is with 55 square kilometers the largest national park of Paraguay, where you can admire rare animal species on the banks of the river. On a safari you will learn a lot about the flora and fauna. Don’t miss the smooth, bizarre rock faces of Cerro Coral, where prehistoric inhabitants literally left carved drawings in the rocks. They date back to the third millennium BC.
During your backpacker trip through Paraguay you will not only experience an indescribable landscape and a hospitable people, but also a special taste adventure. A lot of beef or grilled meat is eaten, which may be due to the proximity to Argentina. The cuisine of Paraguay is based on very simple recipes, from which very tasty meals arise.
You get a successful mixture of hearty and tropical or subtropical food, in connection with typical local side dishes like corn and manioc, which belong to every meal. What is called bagels in German originates from the USA. They are called chipas in Paraguay and are made from manioc flour, milk, eggs and butter cheese. They taste very good with wine and beer. On every street corner you can buy them for a few guarini.
Food in Paraguay
The culinary journey through the cuisine of Paraguay reaches its peak when you try the grilled meat specialties. Everywhere in the country you will find gigantic herds of cattle, especially in the Gran Chaco. The meat of the animals has an excellent taste because they are kept in the wild. Filets and steaks are prepared almost exclusively on the grill.
The Paraguayans’ passion for grilling also includes grilling offal. If you see parilladas on the menu of a restaurant, you should definitely try them. They are offal of beef and pork, which are prepared on the grill with all kinds of spices. Made into sausages and refined with fine strips of peppers, tomatoes, beans and courgettes, parilladas are a must when barbecuing.
You can try empanadas at street stalls as a snack for in between. The dumplings are available with different fillings, ranging from herb-vegetable mixtures to spicy cheese and tuna. Just as delicious are lomitos, sandwiches with pieces of beef, where an avocado slice is a must.
Drinks in Paraguay
On your backpacker trip you’ll get an excellent Pilsner called Chop, a tasty beer called Bavaria and delicious wines that come from Argentina because Paraguay has little viticulture. In Paraguay mate tea and terere is always available everywhere. Unlike mate tea, terere is drunk cold and tastes particularly good with herbs. The drink is a perfect thirst quencher. You can buy it anywhere on the street.
Mate tea is the drink of the gods made from the leaves of the mate bush. The tea has a similar effect as coffee, is stimulating, performance-enhancing and satisfies the hunger feeling. In Paraguay you can’t avoid the national drink Caña Paraguay as a backpacker. It is a spirit consisting of cane sugar and honey and simply tastes delicious.
For a trip to Paraguay you do not need a visa. German citizens may enter Paraguay as tourists for up to 90 days without a visa. However, you need valid entry documents. According to the Federal Foreign Office, the entry regulations are as follows:
- Passport: Yes
- Provisional Passport: Yes
- Identity card: No
- Temporary identity card: No
- Passport for children: Yes, with photograph
Children’s entries in a parent’s passport are no longer valid. Therefore all children need their own identification document to enter Paraguay. The same document must be presented upon entry and exit.
Medical Information & Vaccinations for Paraguay
Special vaccinations are not necessary for backpacking in Paraguay. Nevertheless it is advisable to have the standard vaccinations of the Robert Koch Institute up to date. In addition, a vaccination against yellow fiber is recommended. You should protect yourself from the tiger mosquitoes that transmit the dengue fever.
With the exception of the capital Asunción, the range of health and emergency care is rather inadequate and not comparable with European standards. Therefore you should take out a travel health insurance before you start your journey, which ensures a return transport in case of emergency.