National Flag
 
Coat of arms front side Coat of arms reverse side
 
General Information

Area: 406,752 sq km (157,048 sq miles).

Population: 5,219,000 (1998).

Population Density: 12.8 per sq km.

Capital: Asuncion. Population: 550,060 (1997).

Geography: Paraguay is a landlocked country surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, lying some 1440km (900 miles) up the River Parana from the Atlantic. The River Paraguay, a tributary of the Parana, divides the country into two sharply contrasting regions. The Oriental zone, which covers 159,800 sq km (61,700 sq miles), consists of undulating country intersected by chains of hills rising to about 600m (2000ft), merging into the Mato Grosso Plateau in the north; the Parana crosses the area in the east and south. East and southeast of Asuncion lie the oldest centres of settlement inhabited by the greater part of the population. This area is bordered to the west by rolling pastures, and to the south by thick primeval forests. The Occidental zone, or Paraguayan Chaco, covers 246,827 sq km (95,300 sq miles). It is a flat alluvial plain, composed mainly of grey clay, which is marked by large areas of permanent swamp in the southern and eastern regions. Apart from a few small settlements, it is sparsely populated.

Government: Republic since 1967. Gained independence from Spain in 1811. Head of State and Government: President Nicanor Duarte Frutos since 2003.

Language: The official language is Spanish and Guarani; Guarani is spoken by most of the rural population. Most Paraguayans are bilingual, but prefer to speak Guarani outside Asuncion.

Religion: Roman Catholic.

Time: GMT - 4 (GMT - 3 from October to February).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Communications:

Telephone: IDD is available. Country code: 595. Outgoing international code: 002. Moderate internal network apart from the main cities.

Mobile Telephone: GSM 1900 network coverage is limited to main urban areas. The local network providers are Copesa and Hola Paraguay.

Fax: Some hotels provide facilities.

Internet/E-mail: ISPs include Planet (website: www.pla.net.py). Three internet cafes are available in main urban areas.

Telegram: Many hotels have facilities. Services are also available at Antelco (Administracion Nacional de Telecommunicaciones).

Post: Airmail to Europe takes five days.

Press: The main newspapers are Noticias, ABC Color, Ultima Hora and El Dia y la Nacion. American newspapers are available.

BBC World Service and Voice of America frequencies: From time to time these change.

BBC (website: www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice):
MHz 17.79 15.19 9.915 5.975

Voice of America (website: www.voa.gov):
MHz 13.79 9.455 6.130 5.995


Overview

Country Overview
Paraguay is a landlocked country surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, lying some 1440km (900 miles) up the River Parana from the Atlantic. The River Paraguya, a tributary of the Parana, divides the country in two widely differing regions. The east, where the Parana forms a natural border between with Brazil, has rolling hills, fertile plains, grasslands and heavily wooded areas. Asuncion, the capital, is situated on the Bay of Asuncion, an inlet off the Paraguay River in a former estate of the Lopez family on the Paraguay River. Paraguay's university is in San Lorenzo, founded in 1775. A popular tourist itinerary is the 'Central Circuit', a route of some 200km (125 miles) that takes in some of the country's most interesting sites, including the famous Iguazu and Monday waterfalls located near Paraguay's fastest developing town, Ciudad del Este on the Brazilian border. In the west, the scarcely populated Chaco area, consisting mainly of empty plains and forests, provides a habitat for hundreds of wildlife and bird species. After the Amzaon, this is America's second largest forest area, whose national parts and biological reserves are popular among enthusiasts of ecomenutourism. Typical local dishes include chipas (maize bread flavoured with egg and cheese) and palmitos (palm hearts). In Asuncion there are a number of bars, casinos and discotheques. The parrilladas or open-air restaurants offer by far the best atmosphere, especially in Asuncion. There are casinos in the border towns of Ciudad Del Este and Encarnacion.
 
Climate
Subtropical with rapid changes in temperature throughout the year. Summer (December to March) can be very hot. Winter (June to September) is mild with few cold days. Rainfall is heaviest from December to March.

Required clothing: Lightweight cottons and linens are worn in warmer months, with some warm clothes for spring and autumn. Mediumweights are best for winter. Rainwear is advisable throughout the year.

 

Social Profile

Food & Drink: Typical local dishes include chipas (maize bread flavoured with egg and cheese), sopa paraguaya (soup of mashed corn, cheese, milk and onions), soo-yosopy (a soup of cornmeal and ground beef), albondiga (meatball soup) and boribori (soup of diced meat, vegetables and small maize dumplings mixed with cheese). Palmitos (palm hearts), surubi (a fish found in the Parana) and the local beef are excellent. There is a wide choice of restaurants in Asuncion, most with table service.
Drink: The national drink is cana, distilled from sugar cane and honey. Sugar cane juice, known as mosto, and the national red wine are worth trying, as is yerba mate, a refreshing drink popular with nearly all Paraguayans. There are no strict licensing hours and alcohol is widely available.

Nightlife: In Asuncion there are a number of bars, casinos and discotheques. The parrilladas or open-air restaurants offer by far the best atmosphere, especially in Asuncion. There is a casino at the border towns of Ciudad Del Este and Encarnacion. The most popular traditional music in Paraguay is polcas and guaranias which have slow and romantic rhythms and which are used as serenades.

Shopping: Special purchases include nanduti lace, made by the women of Itagua, and aopoi sports shirts, made in a variety of colours and designs. Other items include leather goods, wood handicrafts, silver yerba mate cups and native jewellery. Shopping hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1500-1900; Sat 0730-1300.

Special Events: The following is a selection of special events and festivals in Paraguay. Contact the Embassy or Direccion de Turismo for exact dates. Feb 2001 San Blas Fiestas. Apr Semana Santa (Holy Week festival). Mid-May Dia de la Independencia (Independence Day parades and festivities). Jun Verbena de San Juan (traditional fiesta, including walking on hot embers). Jul Expo Feria de la Industria. Mid-Aug Dia de la Virgen de la Asuncion and Aniversario de la Fundacion de Asuncion (religious and cultural celebrations). Sep Festival de la Alfalfa, Sapucai. Oct Encuentro Internacional de Coros (choir festival), Encarnacion. Nov Festival del Poyvi (arts, crafts and music fair), Carapegua. Dec Apertura de Temporada (opening of the menutourism season), San Bernadino.

Social Conventions: Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. Smoking is not allowed in cinemas and theatres. Dress tends to be informal and sportswear is popular. Photography: Avoid sensitive subjects such as military installations. Tipping: 10-15 per cent is normally included in hotel, restaurant and bar bills.

 

Money

Currency: Guarani (G). Notes are in denominations of G100,000, G50,000, 10,000, 5000 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of G500, G100, 50, 10 and 5.

Currency exchange: Paraguay maintains a free monetary exchange policy and the purchase and sale of foreign currencies is not subject to any controls or regulations. There is a bureau de change at the airport. US Dollars, which are more easily negotiable than Sterling, are widely accepted throughout the country.

Credit & debit cards: MasterCard, American Express and Visa are widely accepted (though not in smaller hotels), while Diners Club has more limited use. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Travellers cheques: US Dollar travellers cheques are widely accepted although cheap hotels usually do not exchange travellers cheques.

Exchange rate indicators
The following figures are included as a guide to the movements of the Guarani against Sterling and the US Dollar:

Date
Feb '01
May '01
Aug '01
Nov '01
1.00=
5403.11
5438.60
6288.23
6576.30
$1.00=
3700.00
3830.00
4347.50
4670.00
 
Currency restrictions: There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.

Banking hours:
Mon-Fri 0845-1500.
 
Public Holidays
Jan 1 2001 New Year's Day. Mar 1 Cerro Cora Battle. Apr 12 Maundy Thursday. Apr 13 Good Friday. May 1 Labour Day. May 15 Independence Day. Jun 12 Peace of Chaco. Aug 15 Founding of Asuncion. Sep 29 Battle of Boqueron. Dec 8 Immaculate Conception. Dec 25 Christmas Day. Jan 1 2002 New Year's Day. Mar 1 Cerro Cora Battle. Mar 28 Maundy Thursday. Mar 29 Good Friday. May 1 Labour Day. May 15 Independence Day. Jun 12 Peace of Chaco. Aug 15 Founding of Asuncion. Sep 29 Battle of Boqueron. Dec 8 Immaculate Conception. Dec 25 Christmas Day.

Travel - International

AIR: Paraguay's national airline is Transportes Aereos del Mercosur (PZ). Airlines operating direct flights to Asuncion include American Airlines (from New York). There are currently no direct flights from London. Most major airlines (including British Airways, Alitalia, Canadian Airlines and Lufthansa) operate connecting flights via Brazil (Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro). There are also a number of scheduled flights to Asuncion from other south American cities, notably Buenos Aires, Santa Cruz (Bolivia) and Santiago (Chile).

Approximate flight time: From Asuncion to London is 15-19 hours, depending on the route taken.

International airport: Asuncion (ASU) (Silvio Pettirossi) is 16km (10 miles) from the city (travel time - 20 minutes). A coach and taxi service runs to the city. Airport facilities include a bureau de change, duty-free shopping, restaurants and car rental (Hertz).

Air passes: The Mercosur Airpass: Valid within Argentina, Brazil, Chile (except Easter Island), Paraguay and Uruguay. Participating airlines include Aerolineas Argentinas (AR), Austral (AU), LAN-Chile (LA), LAPA (MJ), PLUNA (PU), Transbrasil Airlines (TR) and VARIG (RG) with the subsidiary airlines of Nordeste (JH) and Rio Sur (SL). The pass can only be purchased by passengers who live outside South America, who have a return ticket. Only eight flight coupons are allowed with a maximum of two stopovers for each country and is valid for seven to a maximum of 30 days. At least two countries must be visited and the flight route cannot be changed.
The Visit South America Pass: Must be bought outside South America in country of residence and allows unlimited travel within the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile (except Easter Island), Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Participating airlines include LAN-Chile (LA), Aer Lingus (EI), American Airlines (AA), British Airways (BA), Cathay Pacific (CX), Finnair (AY), IBERIA (IB) and Qantas (QF). A minimum of three flights must be booked and prices depend on the amount of flight zones covered. For both airpasses children under 12 years of age are entitled to a 33% discount and infants (under 2 years old) only pay 10% of the adult fare. For further details contact one of the participating airlines.

Departure tax: US$18. Transit passengers and children under two years of age are exempt.

RIVER: There are 2500km (1563 miles) of navigable rivers in Paraguay and there are ferry links with Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. Travellers using the river to travel to Argentina should note that the Posadas (Argentina)-Encarnacion (Paraguay) route is 321km (200 miles) shorter than the more traditional route to Buenos Aires. It traverses the Argentine provinces of Misiones and Corrientes and then proceeds across a bridge over the Parana River to Resistencia. Those who prefer to continue along the left bank of the Parana River will have to travel to Parana, provincial capital of Entre Rios, crossing under the Parana River in the tunnel between the cities of Parana and Santa Fe. It is also possible to reach Paraguay by river from Brazil, in boats which connect Asuncion with the Brazilian city of Corumba.

RAIL: There is no through service to Argentina, but a weekly train from Asuncion serves Posadas in Argentina by means of a train-ferry, with connections to Concordia and Buenos Aires. The rail services are very slow.

ROAD: The roads from Rio and Sao Paulo to Asuncion (via the Iguazu Falls) are paved and generally good, as is the one from Buenos Aires. Another road link to Argentina is via the San Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz bridge in Encarnacion across the Panrana river. Bus: There are daily services from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Santa Fe, Rosario, Cordoba and Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Montevideo (Uruguay).

 
Travel - Internal
AIR: Air service is run by TAM (Transportes Aereos del Mercosur), ARPA (Aero Lineas Paraguayas), LATN (Lineas Aereas de Transporte Nacional), Aeronorte, LADESA (Lineas Aereas del Este) and Aerosur. The most popular visitors' flight is to the Iguazu Falls from Asuncion with Varig Airways (RG). Air-taxis are popular with those wishing to discover the Paraguyan Chaco (see Resorts & Excursions section). Travel agencies offer daily city tours, but services suffer from frequent disruption by weather conditions.

RAIL: A weekly service links Asuncion and Encarnacion - which are 431km (268 miles) apart - using original steam locomotives. There is also a weekly service from San Salvador to Abay. Services are often unreliable, however, and whole routes may be abandoned for months at a time.

RIVER: River cruises to the main tourist attractions and throughout the Chaco are available. For further details contact the Direccion de Turismo (see address section).

ROAD: Traffic drives on the right. Roads serving the main centres are in good condition. However, unsurfaced roads may be closed in bad weather. Approximately 10% of roads are surfaced. A highway links Asuncion with Iguazu Falls, a drive of up to six hours. Bus: Often the best and cheapest method of transport within Paraguay. For longer distances, advance booking may be necessary. There are express links to major centres. Car hire: Cars can be hired at the airport or through local tourist agencies. Documentation: National driving licence or International Driving Permit are both accepted.

URBAN: Bus and minibus services are provided by private companies in Asuncion, with 2-zone fares collected by conductors. There also remain two routes of the government-operated tramway.

JOURNEY TIMES: The following chart gives approximate journey times (in hours and minutes) from Asuncion to other major cities in Paraguay.

Air
Road
Rail
River
Pedro Juan Caballero
1.15
11.00
13.00
Concepcion
1.00
12.00
14.00
Ciudad del Este
1.05
5.00
Valle Mi
1.30
15.00
Encarnacion
1.10
5.00
14.00
9.00

Sport & Activities
Ecomenutourism: There are 11 national parks and protected areas, the largest of which are in the Chaco region in the north of the country. Birdlife is particularly abundant, and there is also a wide variety of animals, including the Chacoan peccary, once thought to be extinct. Visitors should take plenty of insect repellent with them when visiting remote areas. A good way to view flora and fauna is from boats which run along some of Paraguay's rivers. Trips can sometimes be arranged on cargo vessels if there are no passenger services. The trip along the fast-flowing River Paraguay from Asuncion via Concepcion passes through fascinating landscapes, eventually leading as far as the huge marshlands in the north and over the Brazilian border. For more information on Paraguayan national parks, contact the Direccion de Parques Nacionales y Vida Silvestre, Madame Lynch 2500, casi Primer Presidente, Asuncion (tel/fax: (21) 615 812; e-mail: cdcseam@sce.cnc.una.py).

Fishing: The dorado, found in the Paraguay, Parana and Tebicuary rivers, can weigh up to 29kg (65 pounds). International fishing contests are held near Asuncion. There are many other smaller fish that are peculiar to Paraguay such as the surubi, pati, pacu, manguruyus, armados, moncholos and bagres.

Other: The national sport is Football . There are tennis facilities at hotels and in Asuncion. The Asuncion Golf Club has an 18-hole golf course. Water-skiing facilities are available in some places. Some large hotels have swimming pools.

 
Business Profile

Economy: Paraguay's agriculture plays an important part in its economy, supplying one-quarter of GNP and almost all the country's export earnings. Production of Paraguay's principal cash crops, cotton and soya, expanded rapidly during the late 1980s and continues to grow annually. Other crops such as sugar cane, maize and wheat are also grown on a commercial scale. Paraguay also has large timber reserves which feed the country's rapidly expanding wood-based industries. Wood and soya oil are the main export products. The main manufacturing industries are textiles, chemicals, and the production of metal goods and machinery. Recently completed hydroelectric projects, undertaken as joint projects with Brazil and including the world's largest hydroelectric dam at Itaipu, have made Paraguay self-sufficient in energy. Although since the early 1990s, Paraguay has implemented major economic reforms centred on liberalisation and deregulation of the public sector and large private monopolies, as required by its principal external creditors and donors, the economy has performed poorly in recent years. The main reason is persistently low commodity prices, exacerbated by large-scale corruption and structural weaknesses in the banking sector. External factors, notably the 1998 Brazilian currency crisis, have also played an important role. The economy is now virtually stagnant while high unemployment (officially 17 per cent) has forced much of the workforce into the unregulated, 'black' parts of the economy. Paraguay is a member of the 11-strong Latin American Integration Association (Asociacion Latinoamericana de Integracion, ALADI), which seeks to promote free trade and economic development within Latin America, and under which Paraguay, alongside Bolivia, enjoys special tariff concessions. Paraguay is also a founding member to the Mercosur trade bloc of southern Latin American countries. Brazil is Paraguay's largest trading partner, followed by the USA and Argentina.

Business: For formal occasions or business affairs men should wear lightweight suits and ties or a dinner jacket in the evening; women a lightweight two-piece suit or equivalent. Most business people are able to conduct a conversation in English, but a knowledge of Spanish will be useful. Appointments and normal business courtesies apply. Best time to visit is from May to September. Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1200 and 1430-1900 and Sat 0800-1200.