5 Safety Tips For Travelers to Paraguay

Little known but plenty to see and do, Paraguay offers travelers a genuine South American experience. Here's 5 things to know before you go.

1. Visas & Borders in Paraguay

Nationalities from the UK and EU can enter Paraguay for up to 90 days without a visa as long as they have a valid passport. For others who do need a visa, they have to be obtained before arrival or on arrival into Paraguay's Asuncion International Airport, so you will need to check with your country's travel advisory organisation for more infomation. If you are planning to enter Paraguay by land or boat, you must organise a visa prior to departure. Prices and conditions for visas vary depending on nationality and you can only pay for your visa with US dollars.

The border regions can have drug trafficking and illegal border crossing issues. Take care in areas such Concepción, San Pedro, Amambay and Canindeyú as things can go pear shaped and get violent.

2. Getting Around in Paraguay

  • Occasionally local demonstrations will block roads including major highways and others, this can lead to considerable delays.

  • Roads linking Paraguay's major cities and to Buenos Aires in Argentina are fairly decent.
    In rural areas, what is considered to be a road can be a dirt track at best.

  • Buses in Paraguay are the primary mode of transport and they are very much "what you pay for, is what you get.". Some have the cushy reclining seats and air conditioning, others are like riding in a mobile sardine can. Tickets are fairly cheap. Handy tip: pack some motion sickness tablets just in case your bus is taking the roads less traveled by.

  • Taxi fares are metered in Asuncion but may not be in other cities. Always use a metered taxi in the capital. If you are in other major cities like Ciudad del Este and Encarnación, a fare should cost around US$17. Rides taken after 10pm, on a Sunday or public holiday incur a 30% surcharge.

  • Always try to book your taxi before heading out. Your hotel or accomodation should be able to recommend a reputable company.

  • Pickpocketing and other petty crimes do occur on public transport. Always keep your belongings close and your valuables out of sight.

3. Women's Safety in Paraguay

Paraguay is reasonably safe for women travelers, but like in any country, solo female travelers should take care as the local men may try to hit on you especially if you are out having a few drinks. Dress modestly and be firm but polite to any guy who tries his Mr Smooth act on you.

Use a licensed taxi if you are traveling at night and like anywhere; avoid empty streets, alleys and poorly lit areas.

4. LGBTI Traveler Safety

Paraguay is a conservative country and in some ways, old fashioned. Homosexuality is legal however LGBTI people in Paraguay do not have equal rights or the right to marry and displays of public affection are frowned upon. Despite all this, there is a growing gay scene in the capital, Asuncion. 

5. Diseases and Medical Treatment in Paraguay

There are several diseases in Paraguay so it's a good idea to get the necessary vaccinations (if available), update those routine ones and take precautionary measures against being bitten by mosquitos.

Yellow fever is present in Paraguay and it's recommended to get vaccinated prior to departure. It's also important if you plan to travel to other South American destinations where yellow fever is present as you will likely need proof of vaccination for re-entry into your home country.

Dengue Fever is another major health risk which extends throughout the country. Take the necessary precautions so you don't get chewed alive by mosquitos.

Zika virus is widespread in Paraguay. The only solution is bite prevention as there is no vaccine currently available.

Malaria outbreaks occasionally happen in Paraguay. Although there is no known effective Malaria vaccine, the use of a malaria prophylaxis is recommended.

Leishmaniasis, another common health problem is a disease caused by protozoan parasites. The disease is transmitted by the bite of certain species of sand fly (subfamily Phlebotominae). Prevent those  bites in the same way you would for mosquitos.

Typhoid and Hepatitis A are also present in Paraguay. It's recommended to get those vaccinations and take other preventative measures such as only drinking boiled or treated water, avoiding iced drinks and eating undercooked or raw foods.

Good personal hygiene is a must while traveling to avoid traveler's diarrhea, unless you plan to spend several days worshipping the porcelain idol. Water quality is ok in the major cities but avoid it in the Chaco where apparently it's salty as the sea. If you plan to travel into rural areas, use only treated or boiled water.

Don't forget about the effects of the sun by hydrating regularly, using sunscreen and covering up to prevent sunburn.

Medical treatment is available in the capital, Asuncion and also in Ciudad del Este and Encarnación. Private clinics are better than the public ones, but be aware they may ask for payment up front. Medical services in rural areas may be limited to non existent.

Take all the necessary medications and other supplies you need with you to Paraguay plus a letter from your doctor outlining what they are for as some medications are considered illegal. Because you don't want to waste time trying to find medications or being stuck in hospital.

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