Asunción

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Asunción



Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, has few traditional tourist attractions like beaches, mountains, or skyscrapers, but if you are willing to be your own tour guide, Asunción can be an interesting place to visit.

Few people speak English here, so brush up on your basic Spanish or you may have some trouble communicating.

While a great many hotels exist in Asunción, decent places in the budget range are rare. The highest concentration of hotels can be found in the city centre between the streets Cristobal Colon and Estados Unidos.

For stays of one month or more, it can make sense to rent an apartment. Comfortable furnished apartments in the centre can be had for between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 Gs per month. Make sure you get a receipt for the deposit to ensure your refund upon leaving.

Internet places are everywhere and usually cost between 3,000 and 5,000 guaraníes per hour. If you have a laptop or Wi-Fi enabled phone, it's fairly easy to find open Wi-Fi signals, often in restaurants.

Asunción is just south of the Tropic of Capricorn, so the weather is tropical. Temperatures from December through March are often 100 F or more, with high humidity.
If you've ever wondered why Latin culture has a "siesta" where everything closes down at noon for a few hours, you'll soon know why if you spend time in Asunción during the summer. You'll also understand why people eat dinner so late and stay out partying all night: it's too hot during the day to enjoy being outside. The weather is also unpredictable: When the rains come they are profuse, and the temperature can turn quite chilly. 

Flies, ants and mosquitoes are everywhere, and windows and doors are simply flung open for ventilation, with no screens to keep out the insects. The United States CDC recommends that all visitors to Asunción receive a Typhoid vaccination prior to travel. Dengue fever is a risk one takes when traveling to Asunción. No vaccine for this currently exists. To avoid insect-spread diseases, always use bug spray, day and night.

From outside of South America, there are no nonstop flights to Asunción (Silvio Pettirossi International Airport). The best options are São Paulo, Lima or Buenos Aires where you can connect to one of the local carriers, such as TACA, TAM, PLUNA, GOL Airlines, Aerolineas Argentinas.

There are no trains, apart from an infrequent tourist train to Areguá. The building once used as the train station is a museum and cultural events venue at Plaza Uruguaya. 

Driving a car yourself is not recommended since many streets are in disrepair and apart from the main roads many are unpaved. The traffic in the city can be quite chaotic for unaccustomed drivers. However, it gets much better once outside of the city. The car rental companies can also provide drivers.

Buses are ubiquitous, cheap and an experience in themselves (be careful while exiting, since many only slow down, rather than stop completely for the passengers to get off). They go more or less everywhere in the city - destinations are displayed on boards on the front window, if in doubt just shout your intended destination at the driver when he stops and he'll tell you yes or no.

Taxis are also available and reasonably inexpensive. Many of the taxis are old, lumbering diesel Mercedes. A 30% surcharge is added on late at night (after around 10PM) and on Sundays. Tipping isn't expected. Make sure that drivers use the meter, or arrange a fare beforehand.

Asunción's historic downtown has some noteworthy sights such as the Cathedral, López Palace, the Railroad, and the House of Independence.  Downtown is also home to the magnificent Lírico Theater, numerous nightlife spots, huge shopping malls, restaurants and first-class hotels.

The National Cathedral: Picturesque plaza with fountains, but it is frequently closed, especially at midday siesta.

The Municipal Museum is modest, but has exhibits about the old tram line from the 1880s and other civic history. Nearby is the Visual Arts Museum with temporary exhibits from national artists.

The Panteón del los Heroes houses the tomb of the unknown soldier along with memorials to other war heroes. Changing of the guard occurs every other day.

Every July there is a trade fair downtown with exhibition booths, food, music and liquor. The exhibitors range from agricultural suppliers to liquor manufacturers. Keep an eye out for the many free samples of food, soap, drinks, etc.

It is important to note that citizens of the U.S. and Canada must have a visa before travelling to Paraguay. Most citizens of the E.U. do not. Australian citizens need a visa which takes about 3 weeks to issue. Malaysian citizens need a visa which can be obtained on the same day in La Paz, Bolivia, for US$65.

In terms of employment, teaching English is a possibility, but without a visa it can be difficult and wages are low. In a country such as Paraguay with widespread underemployment, obtaining paid work is almost impossible for foreigners. However, volunteer work in poorer areas of the city is easy to find.

Asunción is one of the safer capitals in South America and violent crime is very uncommon. Due to the relatively low numbers of tourists, visitors are not likely to be specifically targeted by criminals. Just use common sense as always. Watch out for petty thieves such as pickpockets, and make sure taxi drivers use the meter or they may try to swindle you. The "Chacarita" area by the river, next to the Palace is an extremely impoverished and dangerous part of the city, and is definitely not a place to go exploring.

With attractions ranging from the wild, semi-arid plains of Gran Chaco to Encarnación and its Jesuit missions, Paraguay fascinates expatriates and globetrotters of many nationalities every year. The growing expat Paraguay community is, however, mostly drawn to the country by the urban growth of Asunción and its political as well as economic challenges, e.g. in the agricultural sector. Whether you move to and live in Paraguay for professional or private reasons, you’ll surely take with you lifelong memories of great international experiences and intercultural exchange.


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The Modern City, Asunción
Asunción, Paraguay
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