Asunción

Metropolitan Cathedral

Asunción is the capital and economic, political and cultural centre of Paraguay.

Understand

The Asunción metropolitan area is home to 2.2 million of Paraguay's 6.6 million inhabitants. It is a demographically young city with 65% of its residents under the age of 30. Few people speak English outside of hotels and tour operators so without at least some basic Spanish it might be hard to get by. The city centre (microcentro) closes from Saturday afternoon to all Sunday and the city may appear fairly deserted, but the bustle is in the neightbourhoods of Villa Morra and Carmelitas where the main shopping centers, department stores, boutiques, as well as cafés, fast food, restaurants and cinemas are located, and they don't close on weekends.

Many former grand buildings in the microcentro used to suffer from great decay, but the government started restoration works due to Paraguay's Bicentennial Celebrations in 2011, and nowadays the city has recovered a lot of its past splendour. At night, you can take a taxi ride and enjoy it fully illuminated. There are many bars, pubs, and restaurants in this area, as well as the new riverside promenade (costanera).

Visitor information

Climate

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 34 33 32 28 25 23 23 25 27 29 31 32
Nightly lows (°C) 23 22 21 19 16 14 13 14 16 19 20 22
Precipitation (mm) 147 129 118 166 113 82 39 73 88 131 164 150

Average high and low temperatures and mean percipitation from Wikipedia

Asunción is just south of the Tropic of Capricorn so the climate is subtropical. That means hot weather especially in the South American summer (winter in the Northern Hemisphere). Between December and March the temperature can consistently climb over 38 °C / 100 °F and the humidity can be high and uncomfortable. Nevertheless the weather changes frequently from one week to another. When the sun shines you bake and it can be very dry when the rains hold off for just a few days. Rains are heavy and make the temperature drop precipitously. Then the clouds build and it becomes cold.


Get in

By plane

Silvio Petrossi International Airport

All flights arrive at the Silvio Pettirossi International Airport (IATA: ASU) located 17 km (11 mi) northeast of Asunción. It takes 30–45 minutes from the airport to the city centre using public transportation. Taxis, city buses, airport-to-hotel minibuses and car hire are available at the airport.

International flights are available to Buenos Aires with TAM Airlines and Aerolíneas Argentinas; Sao Paulo with TAM Airlines and GOL; Santiago with TAM Airlines; Santa Cruz with TAM Airlines and Amaszonas; Lima with Avianca; Montevideo with Amaszonas; Panama City with Copa Airlines; and Miami with American Airlines. There are no direct flights to Europe and you must have to change planes in São Paulo or Buenos Aires.

There are domestic flights to Ciudad del Este with TAM Airlines and Amaszonas Paraguay, and to Concepción, Vallemí, Fuerte Olimpo and Bahía Negra with Setam (Transporte Aéreo Militar)

A taxi to the city centre should cost about USD 30. Public bus stop is 200 mts. outside the airport terminal. City bus line 30 takes you into the city and the fare is inexpensive (USD 0,50), but beware that local buses are not prepared for carrying big pieces of luggage. Local buses run from 5AM to 10PM.

By train

There are no trains in Paraguay. A tourist train to Areguá which departed on Sundays from Jardín Botánico station stopped service in 2010. The building next to Plaza Uruguaya once the main train station is now a museum and cultural events venue.

By car

Downtown Asunción street scene

Driving a car yourself is an excellent way to explore the city sights as some of them are located off the microcentro. It's recommended using a GPS when renting a car since the city streets and avenues lack good signaling and finding your way around can be challenging. Traffic in Asunción can be quite chaotic specially early in the morning, at noon, and from 5PM to 8PM during rush hours. However, it gets much better once outside of the city. Highways to places nearby are in good condition. The car rental companies can also provide drivers.

Parking in the city is abundant and is properly signalized on every block. Streets are wide enough to park next to both sidewalks. Parking in the microcentro streets cost USD 0,50 per hour but only in the mornings, from 8AM to 1PM, and only on weekdays. On Saturdays and Sundays parking is free. A special situation is that when you park your car, poor people (men and women, young and old) will approach you and offer you to "look after" the car when you leave it parked, expecting you give them a small amount of money (no more than USD 2) when you return to your car. This is a common situation throughout the city specially around major sights (including city parks) and restaurants. It could be annoying at first, but locals are accustomed to this situation and it will be better for you to accept the offer and, by doing so, avoid any kind of trouble.

By bus

The bus terminal (Terminal de Omnibus) is about five km southeast of the city centre, so it is advisable to take a taxi or bus (buses number 8, 38, among many others) into town. The Avenida Fernando de la Mora in front of the bus terminal leads to the centre. All bus companies have ticket offices inside the terminal, and some long distance bus companies maintain offices around Plaza Uruguaya in the microcentro.

There are normally two types of bus services to the largest cities in Paraguay: común and directo. While the first are cheaper, they also stop in every town or bus stop along the way to pick up and drop off passengers and take longer time than the directo which run direct or with fewer or no stops to reach their destination in less time. Directo buses are less frequent having only a couple of services a day generally at midnight or early in the morning or late afternoon.

International buses depart from the bus terminal to several destinations in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Chile.

The bus to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, is not recommended: it is extremely slow (the Transchaco Highway is only paved as far as the Bolivian border), buses generally travel only at night - meaning that you miss out on any views of the Chaco, and roadblocks on the Bolivian side of the border are common and can easily cause your journey time to double. Most of the buses making this journey (at least 21 hours) do not have toilets on board. Flights to Santa Cruz are nowadays only marginally more expensive than the bus if booked in advance.

All the other buses are extremely good. It's wise to spend extra to get the better service (the 70,000 Gs. bus to Ciudad del Este takes two to three hours less than the 40,000 Gs. services, for example). Food and drink is often served on the more expensive long-distance services, and almost all will stop en route to let someone on selling chipa and cocido.

By boat

The port is at the riverside end of Montevideo just after Paraguayo Independiente.

Get around

The historic centre of Asunción is small enough to be explored by foot. However, some of the attractions, such as the Jardín Botánico (Botanical Garden) are a bit outside. In addition to the city's historical core - which is essentially between the streets Colón and Antequera - the Carmelitas area has become a hub for retail and entertainment, containing several large shopping centres and North American-style bars and restaurants. East-west street names change at Independencia Nacional, and North-South ones at Avenida Mariscal López.

By bus

Urban bus in Asuncion

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. There are sometimes a few different versions of each bus number - 16, 16.1, 16.2 etc. which often have completely different routes from each other, so watch out not to accidentally get on the wrong one. There aren't many official bus stops in Asunción, you can just stick your arm out and flag down a bus pretty much anywhere. You need a knowledge of Spanish to ask your way along. As of January 2013, the fare is Gs. 2.000 (USD 0.52).

Some useful bus routes:

By taxi

Asunción taxi

Taxis are also available and reasonably inexpensive. Many of the taxis are old, lumbering diesel Mercedes, which can be a fun throwback. 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.

From the bus terminal walk up the stairs marked "SALIDA", then down the stairs into the car park. Ignore the taxi touts and catch a taxi from the rank. A taxi into the city centre during the day should cost around 40,000 Gs. From the airport taxis in front of the terminal charge a flat, non-negotiable rate of 100,000 Gs to the centre. It is possible to get a cheaper fare by walking up to the main road and taking a yellow cab from there, though you're unlikely to save any more than about 20,000 Gs.

See

Cabildo
Palacio de (los) López
The former railway station

Asunción may not have many conventional tourist attractions, but if you are willing to be your own tour guide, Asunción can be an interesting place to visit.

Every July there is a trade fair with exhibition booths, food, music and liquor. This is a good way to learn about what goes on in the country, the exhibitors range from agricultural suppliers to liquor manufacturers. Keep an eye out for the many free samples of food, soap, drinks, etc.

Do

Estadio General Pablo Rojas, home venue of Cerro Porteño

Learn

Learning Guarani language is a great opportunity to get into the Paraguayan culture. IDIPAR institute has good courses.

Work

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. Volunteer work in poorer areas of the city is easy to come by.

Buy

The Shopping del Sol mall
Calle Palma

The cost of buying goods and services is cheap. This is only partly because Paraguay is a piracy and smuggling haven. Be aware that some goods may be cheaply made.

Typical souvenirs from Asunción would include guampas/bombillas, T-shirts, traditional lace, or leather goods.

Traveller's cheques

Eat

At lunch time there is no shortage of cheap restaurants to dine in or take away - you can't miss them. The places where you help yourself and pay by weight are usually very cheap and a decent option besides the slightly more expensive restaurants with their daily menu. At dinner time only very few eating places are still open and finding a good deal - especially if you are budget-conscious - is a lot harder.

Budget

Most shopping malls have decent food courts with a variety of restaurants, however, they are located away from the centre. Bigger supermarkets often have a cheap self-service restaurant inside.

Eat a streetside “lomito”- these vendors are located throughout the city, with high concentrations near Casa Rica and the Ñu Guazu. It is a sandwich, with mayo, veggies, cheese and a fried egg. You can choose between beef or chicken. Some also offer lomito arabe (shawarma), hamburgers and chorizo. It is a popular hang out place at nights and after a night of heavy drinking.

Don Vito is Paraguayan fast food at its best. Home of the Paraguayan empanada, they have been in business for over 30 years. The original spot is just behind the Iglesia de san Jose, and if you are lucky enough to be in Paraguay around May–June, you can order a pastel mandi'o, which is make of mandioca and beef. Best enjoyed with a cold pulp, a Paraguayan soft drink made with natural fruit juice.

Mid-range

Splurge

For a traditional Paraguayan meal, visit "La Paraguayita." Don't miss a Brazilian steak house called a "churrasqueria."

Drink

General

Unlike in most of the rest of Paraguay, tap water in Asunción is potable.

There are several locations of Café Havanna , a Starbucks-like Argentine coffee chain. One is just off the corner of Avenida Mcal. López and Avenida Rca. Argentina.

Bars and clubs

Night in Asunción

Sleep

Asunción skyline

While a great many hotels exist in Asunción and finding a bed should never be too difficult, decent places in the budget range are rare. The highest concentration of hotels from budget to splurge can be found in the city centre between the streets Cristobal Colon and Estados Unidos. There is also quite a number of cheap places opposite the bus terminal (in particular on Lapacho a side street of La Mora), though you get normally better value in the city centre. During off-season you may be quoted discounted prices before even asking for it.

Budget

Try it also in the following streets next to Plaza Uruguay: Mexico, Paraguari and Antequera. July/2010: practically all hotels around the bus terminal are offering basic single rooms for 35.000 Gs.

Mid-range

Splurge

Long-term

For stays of one month or more, it can make sense to rent an apartment. Although use of the Internet for such things is limited in Paraguay, you can find a number of apartments and houses for rent on Clasipar . The majority of properties are not furnished, and lessees generally seek one-year leases; however, 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 specifically (insist if necessary; claim you won't rent without one) or you probably won't get it back.

Stay safe

National police has a highly visible presence, some already decked out in riot gear as if an uprising would be forthcoming at any moment. Because the dictator in the 80's did not tolerate crime in any form crime is not prevalent. Although the perception of crime is that it runs high since the dictator's fall in 1989. Some houses are protected by twenty foot high walls topped by barbed wire and electric fence or razor wire, and those who can afford it, have a full-time guard on their grounds. Despite the locals' rather high perception of crime, Asunción is one of the safer capitals in South America and violent crime is very uncommon. Due to the low numbers of tourists in Paraguay in general, visitors are not likely to be specifically targeted by criminals. Key things to watch out for are petty thieves (watch your pockets on crowded buses) and taxi drivers trying to rip you off (make sure they use the meter). Pickpocketing is said to be prevalent in crowded downtown streets near expensive hotels.

Prostitution is rampant and obvious after dark on the main avenues in the outskirts and in small parts of the city center's oldest parts near the port. Transvestite prostitutes are common around many areas, and are best avoided as they are known to cause trouble occasionally. Female travelers should be aware that they will receive a lot of unwanted attention from Paraguayan males -this is mostly intended as innocent banter in the form of shouts or wolf whistles etc., but can sometimes be accompanied by touching, especially in clubs. This sort of attention is best just ignored. Liquor is easily available but not widely abused, there are a fair few street drunks in some parts of the city, but they are invariably harmless.

Be extremely careful when crossing streets in Asunción. Most drivers consider stop signs and traffic lights to be merely suggestions, even if police are nearby. Buses will stop for almost nothing, so be very careful.

The United States CDC recommends that all visitors to Asunción receive a typhoid vaccination prior to travel. Dengue fever is frequently a risk one takes when traveling to Asunción; unfortunately, no vaccine for this currently exists. To avoid insect-spread diseases, ensure that you use bug spray at all times of the day, without exception.

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.

Connect

Internet places are everywhere and usually cost between 3,000 and 5,000 Gs. per hour. Connection speeds are usually good. If you're travelling with a laptop or Wi-Fi enabled phone, it's relatively easy to find open Wi-Fi signals. Many restaurants have free Wi-Fi.

Cope

Flies, ants and especially mosquitoes (but no large, creepy bugs) are everywhere. There are no screens, windows and doors are simply flung open for ventilation. Air conditioners do exist but most people depend on less expensive fans. Heaters do not exist, though on the chilliest days they would be welcomed. The soil is bright red and as many streets are unpaved dust becomes a problem. There are trees (some in the middle of roads!) for shade, but palm trees are planted everywhere. Dogs and farm animals of every description are all over the roads. There is no humane society to care for wild dogs and some are pitifully mangy. It is not uncommon to see pigs wallowing in a mud puddle in the middle of a road, chickens are everywhere, horses, donkeys and cows run loose and can be found in anyone's property.

It is brutally hot in Paraguay's summer. 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.

Embassies

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