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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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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:
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or
Banking hours: Mon-Fri 0845-1500.
|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
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.
Pedro Juan Caballero
Ciudad del Este
Sport & Activities
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: email@example.com).
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.
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.