Paraguay is one of the truest hidden gems in South America. Lesser-known and lesser-visited, that’s what you’ll come for. It may not be home to the flashy mega-destinations of some of it’s neighboring countries, but it makes up for it by offering an untouched culture and way of life that you have to hunt much harder for elsewhere. Get off the well-worn path and see the other side of South America that isn’t crowded with tour buses, chain hostels and swarms of foreigners. Kind locals, cheap prices, comfort food, a laid-back pace and those travel moments where you can’t believe how you ended up where you are: that’s Paraguay. Here you’ll find the most authentic experience possible, ready for just a few more travelers in the know to come and explore…

 

Locals Guide Asuncion Paraguay

 

How to Get to Asuncion

You can get to Asuncion either by plane, bus, or even cargo ship along the Rio Paraguay!

By Bus

Most people arrive to Asuncion by bus, which is most convenient if you’re traveling from within the country and cheapest if you’re traveling from a commonly connecting-city such as Iguazu Falls, Ciudad del Este, or some cities in Argentina (such as Resistencia, Salta or Buenos Aires). The bus terminal is about 5 km (3 miles) from the center, so you’ll need to take a bus (#28, less than a dollar) or a taxi ($7) from there to where you’re staying.

 

Read more: Salar de Uyuni: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Trip

 

If traveling from within Paraguay, you’ll have a choice between two types of buses: común and rápido. The first is cheaper, but stops in every small town along the way. The latter is direct (or stops maybe once), but runs less often.

Some common routes: Ciudad del Este (5-7hrs, $7-15, several daily), Resistencia, Argentina (12 hrs, $40, 1 per day in morning, connects to Salta), Buenos Aires (17hrs, $90, several daily).

One route that we strongly caution to avoid is bus travel between Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia and Asuncion, Paraguay. It is slow, mostly unpaved, buses are often stopped by drug police in the middle of the night for checks, and they usually don’t have food or toilets for the 21 hour journey.  Flights are only a little bit more if booked in advance and highly worth it.

By Plane

You’ll fly into Silvio Pettirossi International Airport. If coming from another country in South America, you can sometimes get a good deal on flights with local carriers. If coming from abroad, you’ll likely have to connect through Panama in Central America, or Lima, Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo in South America.

When arriving at the airport, you’ll be far from the center and need to take a taxi in. They all charge flat, non-negotiable fares of almost $20USD. If you walk to the main road and take a yellow cab there you might save about $3.

You can also take a local bus into the city for about 50 US cents. If you walk a block outside the airport (there is only one road), then you’ll see two buses going to different streets in the center. You can take one, then a cheaper taxi to your hotel or hostel.

By Boat

You can travel along the Rio Paraguay from Concepcion and even further if you want! The boat is called the “Cacique II” and leaves Concepcion for Asuncion every Sunday morning at 6am, and makes the trip back every Wednesday. The boat takes 22hours and costs around $8. Bring warm clothes and food, food may not be sold.

 

What to Do & See in Asuncion

National Congress: A very impressive building, this giant pink structure lights up with a beautiful array of colors at night. One of the more photogenic spots around! If you go before 1pm you can try to get a free English tour (the English guides aren’t there every day though), and you’ll get to visit the small museum inside. We also found it interesting because of the mirrored facade, where you’ll see reflections of the slums on the riverbank nearby. Gives a unique perspective. (Fun Fact: This was built by the Taiwanese government! Paraguay is the only country in South America that recognizes them as independent from China).

National Cathedral: A simple church with beautiful architecture, it sits on a wide plaza with beautiful fountains. Seeing locals pause outside looks like somethin gout of an old film. If you want to see inside though, try to go mid-morning as it closes for the midday siesta.

Municipal Museum: Not too much, but has a general introduction to the history of the city that is great for foreigners who don’t know all that much about Paraguay. (If you don’t know much about Paraguay, you should also check this article out for a fun introduction and snapshot of the country).

Costanera de Asuncion: A paved promenade along the Rio Paraguay, this is a great spot for locals who want to exercise, or to catch the view of the river and enjoy their mate or terere. On weekends you can rent bikes and such from people on the streets and ride along the length of it.

Loma San Jeronimo: A play on Buenos Aire’s colorful little “La Boca” neighborhood, this is a tiny collection of colorful homes, cafes, bars and restaurants. It’s small, but fun to wander. You can eat in local’s homes and hang out with residents, all who agreed to turn it into a tourist hot-spot! We recommend going on a Sunday afternoon when there’s a small local festival, it’s not nearly as buzzing the other days.

Mercado 4: On Avenida Silvio Pettirosso, this is a wild market where you can get just about anything for super cheap. A miniature Ciudad del Este within Asuncion. We also like it for the great street food!

Parque de la Salud: A beautiful clean and safe park, it’s nice for taking a walk and enjoying the greenery. Those hoping to go for a jog or bike ride will also love it. Not a main attraction, but if you’re staying a few days and looking for an oasis, this is it. Bring ID to get in!

Estadio Defensores del Chaco: The local soccer stadium, this is the perfect view into what Paraguay loves most! It’s a classic structure, and at the heart of Paraguayan soccer. They have local games often, but it’s especially fun if you can catch an international one!

Plaza de los Heroes: Those hoping to buy indigenous crafts and artisan work can find them in the artisan shops in this plaza! You’ll see the classic Paraguayan lace “Nanduti“, carved wood & leather, pottery and other locally-made items. Be aware that some homeless locals choose to loiter here, and it is also a popular spot for student-run protests. Nothing to be worried about, but so you’re not alarmed.

 

Read more: The Ultimate City Guide to La Paz, Bolivia

 

What to Eat & Where to Eat It

Well, we have a decently-sized list of what to eat in Paraguay, because we think it’s the most underrated food in South America. Make sure to check off the first few on the list and you know you’ve gotten a good taste for it!

These are a few of our favorite spots right in downtown that are great for trying typical Paraguayan food:

Na Eustaqia: This is quality food at a cheaper price than the others. It’s very busy at lunch, so you may need to wait for a table. Perfect for sampling local dishes and they also have a great juice bar! Meals start at around $3USD.

Lido Bar: Like a typical American diner, this place was established in 1954 and word is it hasn’t changed a bit since. All the classic Paraguayan foods (Sopa Pescado is the most popular; Also try Sopa Paraguaya, chipa guazu), plus a ton of beautiful desserts in the case. It’s very crowded at lunch and even busier at dinner time. You’ll see people popping in in their work attire for a quick, warm meal and feel just like a local! Stays open late.

Bolsi (aka Confiteria/Snackbar/Restaurant Bolsi): Our favorite, this has a mix of classic Paraguayan dishes and contemporary food. Gives you a great look into how modern Paraguayans are going out and dining! Great menu, fun atmosphere, and might even have some comfort foods you’ve been missing from home. Perfect for a meal or just grabbing a drink and snacks and people-watching!

Cafe de Aca: A cozy cafe, this place has a warm and creative decor and great nooks for sitting with friends. Every pastry imaginable, quality takes on all of Paraguay’s favorite drinks, snacks and dessert, and a beautiful twinkle-lit front patio and back garden make you feel like you’re in a very cool friend’s home. We recommend the 4-Cheese Mbeyu to eat, and mate cocido to drink (just to get you started).

 

Nightlife

It may not be one of the most famous in South America, but Asuncion has a great nightlife scene it should be better known for! It’s gone through a revival in recent years, with the addition of a ton of contemporary new bars, many of which show the ties between modern Paraguay and its historic landmarks. We’ve shared some of our (and locals’) favorites below to get you started!

La Cachamba: Set in a train graveyard, and within some of the carriages, this is an example of the new spots making Asuncion’s nightlife stand out. Creative cocktails, fun young crowds and the outdoor dance floor make it a fun, unique experience for any kind of visitor.

Cactus Bar: Another new favorite, this is in a restored colonial building which hosts multiple DJs on the weekend.

Britannia Pub: Where every hostel will send you, it’s always a fun time with an international crowd. Expats gather here, not only for the fun vibe but also because they have a ton of draught beers which can be hard to come by in these parts!

For a general area to go out, you can also head to trendy Paseo Carmelitas, called the “new downtown” and quickly becoming famous for growing into a popular nightlife district! Some hot spots here include Hippie Chic, Kilkenny (an Irish Pub), and Long Bar (crazy cocktails!). Faces and Coyote are clubs with multiple stories of dance floors, perfect if you want the full Paraguayan discotheque experience.

 

Where to Stay

There are only 10 hostels listed on Hostelworld, but it’s more than enough. Each usually offers a very friendly and cozy environment because there are so few foreigners. Most range from $8-12USD for dorm rooms and $25-40 for privates, and we recommend finding a place on Hostelworld and then booking directly with the hostel on their own website.

If looking at hotels, you’ll actually find a ton of nicer options here, yet many are comparable prices to much hotter destination cities. These can all be searched and booked online, most range from $75-200 USD per night. La Mision Hotel Boutique has hosted many famous people who have visited Paraguay, and is perhaps one of the most stunning hotels we’ve seen ($180/night).

 

How Long to Stay

You can see a lot of the main sites in a couple days, and luckily distances are short so you can get around quite quickly. The pace here is definitely slower though, so you’ll either want to get in, see it, and move to your next spot, or if you’re looking for somewhere slow to relax you might want to roll with it and stick around for about 4-5 days so you can take your time getting to know it. Because it’s smaller and less touristy than other spots, it sometimes attracts backpackers who want somewhere to chill out between the more popular destinations.

 

Asuncion Weather

Landlocked Paraguay bounces from very hot to chilly and cold, so it’s important to consider the time of year you’re visiting during (or plan based around it). Generally, there is always a slight chance of rain, so be prepared for this.

The rainy season (October to April; summertime) may be a time of flooding, but temperatures are high. These floods could get in the way of some overland travel. In January, the warmest month, temperatures average around 27.96 °C (82.33 °F), but often reach 38 °C (100 °F) in the middle of the day. Frequent gusts of cool air coming from the south may cause rapid weather changes, humidity and storms at times as well. If you’re visiting in these hot months, you should check if your hotel or hostel has a pool or air conditioning or something.

Dry season travel (June to August) is easiest, but chillier. Temperatures in July, the coldest month, are usually 17.87 °C (64.17 °F). August annually experiences the least amount of rain.

 

Safety & General Tips

Generally, Asuncion is a relaxed and very safe city. Locals are under the impression that there is a higher level of crime, but it’s actually one of the safe capitals in South America! Violent crime rates are low, and the main issues are just getting ripped off (which obviously doesn’t put you in danger!).

Scams

Lately, there have been some complaints of police requesting to check your passport in main areas. It looks like the fake police scam from La Paz (which we gave the heads up about here), but they’re real police. But, their gig is to ask for your passport to check, then demanding a payoff to get it back. You probably won’t have even close to the amount of cash they’ll ask for. You should never carry your passport around anywhere when you don’t need to, but this is a reminder to have a photocopy of your passport on hand at all times. You can show this, and if they want to keep it then by all means (except they won’t even bother once they see it’s a piece of paper). If you’re just coming from the bus station or whatever and do have your real passport on you, still show your paper version instead.

Vaccinations

It’s recommended to get a Typhoid vaccination before going, and there is also a risk of dengue fever from mosquito bites. This is a risk in many places, but there’s no vaccine so just make sure to be on it with your bug spray!

Areas to Avoid

Right in front of the river and next to the Palace is the “Chacarita” area. You’ll see a ton of makeshift houses all of the sudden. This area is extremely impoverished and known to be dangerous, you can walk right past it and be fine but do not go wandering between the homes.

Taxis

Taxis are more informal here, but perfectly fine. Just make sure to agree on a price beforehand, or request the meter be turned on. This is a common trick to make an extra buck on tourists!

 

Where to Go Next

We traveled through here to connect between Northern Argentina (Salta & Jujuy) and the triple border with Brazil & Argentina at Iguazu Falls (we also spent a day exploring the wild Ciudad del Este right next to the border). As mentioned in “How to Get to Asuncion” above, we don’t recommend connecting between Asuncion and Santa Cruz, Bolivia by land. It’s easiest to get to Argentina and Brazil from here, and most travelers go to one of those spots next, or travel deeper within Paraguay itself.

It’s clear that Asuncion, Paraguay has more and more to offer, despite managing to stay under the South America tourist radar for so long. We know you’ll be glad if you add it to your South American route- and who knows for how much longer it’ll stay this way!

Where are your favorite recommendations or tips for Asuncion? Share them with us below!