What do you know about Paraguay? If the answer is pretty much nothing then you are not alone. We didn’t know anything about this country that lacks big tourist attractions and the fame of its neighbours Argentina and Brazil.
First curious fact is that Paraguay is actually one of the safest countries in South America (according to Lonely Planet). There are many warnings about scams and organised crime in Brazil, Bolivia and many other countries but for Paraguay it just says “it is a safe country to travel”. Part of the reason could be that since there are virtually no tourists, there is no organised crime network. So we have felt really relaxed here – even after dark.
This safety is even more curious here in Asunción where one can observe a striking contrast between the rich and poor. We live in an AirBnB in a rich area (pictures below from our place) and all the houses are nice, big, Mediterranean style with gates and electric wire. And of course beautiful parks. Just few blocks away from here people live in wooden shacks, that have house numbers painted on them and one portable toilet here and now. We drove past one area in the taxi and I was shocked at how dirty and run down the houses were while happy looking kids played outside.
Another thing is that nobody speaks any English. We stayed in a good, 4 star hotel in Encarnatión and nobody in reception spoke a word of English. Not even the basics such as “thank you” and “welcome”. Also the directory of services was only in Spanish. It is mildly frustrating since people are clearly were attentive and always eager to talk to us. While I am starting to pick up the basic questions and words in Spanish and can even say si and no when needed, they never just limit themselves to speak slowly and concretely. But on the other hand we have learned to get by with gestures, Google Translate and Span-English.
People here stare at us all the time. Maybe because we are white (my blond hair seems to also get lot of attention) or maybe we just look silly in our summer clothes in local wintertime.
Transportation here (like everywhere in SA) is chaotic to say the least. It is common that buses don’t have stops so you can just hail them flexibly. Also if there is an odd bus stop – there is no chance of finding any kind of schedule. The bus can also spontaneously take a different route from one day to another – we took the same bus two days in a row and on the second day the bus took a different route to drop off a grandfather that was chatting with bus driver. We had a good laugh thinking how mean our society back home is when grandfathers would have to take two different buses to reach their destination.
Eating out is great value here. Especially fine dining comes as third or half price to that of Europe. We have enjoyed some splashy dinners with good conscious.
Shopping in supermarkets has been interesting too. First of all – we in Europe don’t appreciate the appearance of vegetables. Here they are well-twisted and somewhat ugly or shall I say unique. Maybe those EU regulations about cucumber shapes are not that pointless after all – yes, bloody Britain, may the ugly vegetables befall on you in the Brexit world.
Some items like ready meals and frozen things are more expensive than in Europe while bread, meat and lettuce are super cheap. One thing really saddens me is that good ice-cream is prohibitively expensive – almost double price than back home.
Next blog post will be dedicated to sights and things to do in Paraguay. Stay tuned.