Introduction to Paraguay

Paraguay is a landlocked hidden gem of a destination unspoilt by mass tourism. 

The country is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina and split into East and West by the mighty Paraguay River.

The capital Asuncion, lying on the banks of the Paraguay River, is the gateway to the country and the two main tourism regions.

In the arid West one will find the great Chaco. This is the largest and most sparsely populated territory of the country with extensive and valuable ecological and biological reserves.

Here you will find Amerindian communities and colonies of Mennonites who settled here to escape religious persecution and where they still maintain their unique way of life. You will also bear witness to the tragic history of the Chaco wars and its catastrophic consequences.

In the fertile East you will find rolling hills, green countryside bordered by mountain foothills, shady valleys dotted by streams and lakes, dense forests, along with the majority of the country’s cities and towns.

One of the main attractions of this region are the ruins of the Jesuit Missions the story of which Hollywood dramatised in Roland Joffe’s film “The Mission”.

The mighty Iguazu Falls are also just across the border from Ciudad del Este at the “tri-border” where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet.

Geography of Paraguay

Due to its central location in South America, Paraguay is sometimes referred to as the “Corazón de América,” or the Heart of America.

Paraguay is divided into two areas separated by the Paraguay River.

1) The Western Region, officially called Western Paraguay (Paraguay Occidental) and also known as the Chaco, which is
sparsely populated and occupies about 60 percent of the land area.

The savanna of the Dry Chaco is part of the second largest ecosystem of South America. This vast plain is a region of semi
desert climate and, in spite of that, has a great cattle, milk and agriculture production as well as other industries.

Just three of the percent of the country’s total population lives in the Chaco yet it presents a great diversity. Some 12 different native populations, 3 large Mennonite colonies and small villages of Paraguayans coexist there.

2) The Eastern Region occupies about 40% of the national territory. The remaining 97% of the Paraguayans live in it, with a demographic density of 31 inhabitants / km2.

It is fertile and well irrigated, making it ideal agricultural territory. Most of the industries and businesses are concentrated in this region.

Weather in Paraguay

Paraguay has tropical and subtropical areas, and the country is divided into two areas separated by the River Paraguay.

The western region is made up of the hot, dry Chaco and the eastern region has a tropical to subtropical climate with forests and marshy grounds.

The subtropical climate can be extreme in the different seasons: The months of summer (January to March) are very warm and humid, especially in Asunción, with the weather ranging from 25-45 ºC.

In autumn (March to June) and spring, the days are moderately warm; at night the temperatures are from 15-25ºC.

The winter (July to September) is short and gentle, with temperatures of between 0-14°C.

The average annual rainfall in the Eastern Region is of 1,552 millimetres, per annum while in the Chaco it barely reaches 815 millimetres.

The heaviest rains fall generally from December to March.

Visas for Paraguay

Currently, no visa is required by European passport holders visiting Paraguay.

Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of travel.

US citizens require visas for Paraguay.

Other passport holders should check visa requirements with the Paraguayan Embassy

All requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed before departure.

Vaccinations for Paraguay

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Paraguay visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. This is optional, but required if arriving from a country from risk of yellow fever contamination. Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.
  • Anti-malarial protection not required. For more information, in the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

Quick facts about Paraguay

 

Official name: Republic of Paraguay

Country population: 6,800,000 (2017)

Capital city: Asunción

Largest cities: Ciudad del Este (396,091), San Lorenzo (320,091), Fernando de La Mora (302,652)

Languages: Guaraní and Spanish

Latitude/Longitude: 25.2º S, 58º W

Official currency: Guaraní

Major industries: Agricultural sector (soybean, meat and cotton, manioc, sesame, corn, wheat and wood), industry (energy – Itaipú – the biggest hydroelectric dam of the world; Yacyreta), trade

Time zone: GMT-4 (March-Sept); GMT-3 (Oct-March)

Paraguay Festivals

3 February 

Festival: Fiesta de San Blas 

Week long open air events.     

Location: Ciudad del Este   

 

February   

Festival: Carnival 

Processions, dance and music. 

Location: Countrywide.  

 

28 / 29 May  

Festival: Verbana de San Juan 

Different event including walking on hot coals.   

Location: Country wide  

 

July 

Festival: Nanduti Festival  

Festival celebrating lace as well as regional arts, crafts, food and music.  

Location: Itagua  

 

October 

Festival: Oktober Fest 

Beer festival a German heritage celebrations.  

Location: Asuncion 

 

 

Flight advice

Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.

International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.

Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.

 

Flight connections

Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.

Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.

 

Tickets

Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.

The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.

 

How do I check in?

Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.

If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).

To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.

Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.

 

Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).

The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.

More information can be found on their ESTA website.

Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Security in Paraguay

Most visits to Paraguay are trouble-free, but violent crime is increasing.

Street crime like bag snatching and pick-pocketing, on public transport may occur.

Muggings and robberies (occasionally armed) also take place. Please take the following precautions:

  • Keep valuables, passports, spare cash and spare credit cards in a safe place.
  • Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs and where possible use machines that are not on the street.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or wearing expensive jewellery.
  • Keep essential items like mobile phones or wallets out of sight.
  • Try to keep away from isolated or poorly lit areas at night and avoid walking in downtown Asunción, Ciudad del Este and Pedro Juan Caballero alone during nighttimes.
  • A small guerrilla-style group calling itself the EPP (Ejercito del Pueblo Paraguayo) operates in the northern part of the Department of San Pedro and southern part of the Department of Concepción. Take extra precautions if you travel to these areas. The EPP typically targets police, military and large landowners. They steal cattle and kidnap for ransom. Their attacks can be violent, including the use of explosives and firearms.
  • Take care when visiting public venues. Markets are often located in narrow streets and can be crowded. Safety regulations may be non-existent or poorly-enforced.
  • Food stalls burning fuel and poor electricity standards present a constant fire risk.

Food and drink in Paraguay

Starters

Bori Bori                       Thick soup to which dumplings of cornmeal and cheese and chicken are added.

Empanadas                    Fried pasties with different combinations, including, egg, meat, chicken, corn, cheese and ham.

Mandioca                      Yuca or Cassava – eaten with almost every meal.

Quesú Paraguái            Typical cheese made by rural artisans.

Pastel mandi’o              Similar to empanadas except that the pastry is made from cassava.

 

Mains

Sopa Paraguaya             More like an open pie than a soup, made of ground corn, cheese, eggs and milk.

Asado                              Barbecue with lots of types of meat often accompanied with Sopa Paraguaya.

Guiso popó                     Traditional stew that contains chicken and rice, pickled with sweet                                         pepper and garlic.

Pira Caldo                      Fish soup with milk, Paraguayan cheese, onions, tomato and sunflower oil.

Puchero                          Traditional stew made with meat, vegetables (like carrot, pumpkin/squash and onions).

 

Desserts

Dulce de Guayaba          Guava jam, served alone or eaten with bread.

Dulce de Mamón            Papaya (papaw) sweet served with caramel.

Kaguyjy                          Traditional corn and sugar dessert, sometimes honey or milk is added.

Kamby arró                    Rice pudding, also served with cinnamon.

Kivevé                             Semi-sweet dish made with corn flour and pumpkin / squash.

 

Drinks

Terere                           Traditional drink, mate tea drunk cold.

Caña                             Local rum.

Pulp                              Popular Paraguayan soft drink.

Mosto                            Sugar cane juice

Maté                             Hot version of Terere

Useful Spanish phrases

Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.

Below are some basics to get you started.

 

Greetings:

Good morning                                         Buenos días

How are you?                                         ¿Cómo estás?

Good afternoon                                      Buenas tardes

Good bye                                               Adiós

 

Most frequently asked questions (theirs):

Where are you (plural) from?                   ¿De dónde eres (son)?

What time is it?                                           ¿Qué hora es?

Where have you come from?                    ¿De dónde vienes?

Give me (frequent, unwelcome question)    Dáme / regálame

 

Most frequent questions (yours):

How much is it?                                      ¿Cuánto vale?

What is this place called?                       ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?

What’s your name?                                 ¿Cómo te llamas?

Do you have a map?                                ¿Tienes un mapa?

 

In the street / places:

Where can I find a currency exchange?    ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?

Where is there a cash machine?                ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?

Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?

Where can I find a taxi?                             ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?

Where can I find a Supermarket?            ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?

Where is the hospital?                               ¿Dónde esta el hospital?

Where can I find a restaurant?               ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?

 

In the hotel:

What floor am I on?                                   ¿En qué piso estoy?

Where are the elevators/lifts?                 ¿Dónde están los ascensores?

How do I access the Internet?                 ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?

How do I call for room service?                ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?

How do I call down to the front desk?      ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?

 

In the restaurant:

A table for two/four please                     Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor

I would like to drink…                             Me gustaria tomar….

May I see a menu?                                   Puedo ver la carta/menu?

I would like to order..                              Me gustaria pedir…

Can you bring me the check/bill please.     Me trae la cuenta por favor

 

Emergency:

I need help.                                              Necesito ayuda.

I have lost my passport.                        He perdido mi pasaporte.

Someone stole my money.                    Alguien robó mi dinero

I have been robbed.                                Me han robado

I need to call the police.                         Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to call the (country) Embassy     Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

Responsible Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).

We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.

In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.

We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.

We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.

If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.

When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.

Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.

When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.

Travel Insurance

It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.

We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.

Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.

And lastly...

Many of our tours travel through remote areas.

We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.

Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.

This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.

 

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