Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay

Asuncion, Paraguay 08/06/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Cochabamba, Tegucigalpa, Sao Paulo, Banjul, Bogota.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

No direct flights to the U.S. Getting in and out of Paraguay isn't easy or cheap. Most transit through Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires. Due to the booming economy, airlines are starting to open up other routes, but Paraguay isn't a big market.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 yr.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Older houses in need of repair. Most have pools. Increasing number of apartments. Everything's close.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I would say cheap compared to other Latin American capitals, but getting more expensive due to inflation (booming economy), and falling dollar.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I shipped down a lot because the govt pays for it. It's really not necessary though. There aren't many American products here, so if that's important to you, bring them. Lots of comparable substitutes from Brazil and Argentina.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Burger King, and Pizza Hut. Other local varieties. Asuncion is not a foodie town. Lots of meat and potatoes. Some international cuisine. Save a few restaurants, eating out is mediocre.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I don't think there's much, but there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Paraguayans like their beef. Eating out for vegetarians could be a challenge.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Asuncion is in the subtropics, so there are insects here. In the home mainly ants. Mosquitoes can be an issue though. Dengue is endemic. No malaria.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap and available.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, but limited.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No English language reading material is available locally. Cable TV has English-speaking stations.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Spanish is a must. Guarani, not so much.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

A tough time.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are suprisingly expensive. Buses are in poor condition, but I would use them in a pinch.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

I recommend something with a higher clearance, but it doesn't need to be a 4x4. Small SUVs and cross-over vehicles are popular here. There are lots of older Toyota Landcruisers here if you're a fan. Cars will work as well, but the roads are in poor condition.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

I think it's probably not that expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Easy to get cell phones locally.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Surprisingly good.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

I wear a tie, but a it is little more informal than other Latin American capitals. Less informal during hot season. Non-government is more informal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Take normal precautions to ward off street crime. Crime is much lower than in other Latin American capitals.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is mediocre. It's gotten better recently, but many Paraguayans with means go to Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires for medical care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

It's okay. Street level air quality is poor due to exhaust from buses, taxis, etc.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid Dec-March and surprisingly cold June-August. Transition seasons are spring-like.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I have no kids in school, but ASA is popular.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't think there are many options for kids with learning disabilities here.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There seems to be lots of things to get kids involved in, but it depends on how much the parents integrate into the city and culture.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Decent size.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good, but depends on your attitude.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of entertaining in homes. Fairly vibrant night life, but things start late.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Post has lots of families with kids, but I think everyone can get along well if they have a good attitude and adventurous spirit.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Probably okay, but not like Sao Paulo, Bogota, or Buenos Aires. The Paraguayan government doesn't recognize same-sex domestic partners.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Perhaps some socioeconomic prejudices, but that's common in Latin America. Not many minorities here.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

I've done less traveling so far than I'd like to. I would say that Paraguayan countryside is accessible and rural Paraguay is easy to appreciate. Iguazu Falls is only 5-6 hours away. The Chaco is an interesting ecosystem, but somewhat inaccessible. Good quality Argentine wine is available locally and once you learn the cuts of meat, the beef is pretty good. Paraguayan modern art is of surprisingly good quality.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Sports - golf, tennis, soccer, etc. are plentiful. Explore the city center, which, although small, is fun. Going out at night to cultural events.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Paraguay has lots of artisans. They do good ñanduti table cloths and clothing and wood carvings of religious figures.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Compared to other Latin American capitals, Asuncion is safer, cheaper, and easier to get around. We save money, but others complain about the rising cost of living. Weather is pleasant save for the hot and humid part of the year Dec-Feb.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, but things are getting more expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Sure, but from experience there are more interesting posts in Latin America. (Andean countries are very interesting).

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Most items are available locally, so don't feel you have to buy everything for Paraguay.

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3. But don't forget your:

That said, imported products are more expensive here than in the States. We just had a baby and bought everything we needed because all baby products are much more expensive locally.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bradt published a Paraguay guide book in 2010.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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6. Do you have any other comments?

Asuncion is 220 volts, so you bring transformers for youy 110 v equipment or leave it behind. Paraguayan culture, in my experience, is less rich than other Latin American cultures. Paraguayan society is also very family oriented and may appear "closed" to outsiders at first. Paraguay is flat and I miss the "geography" of mountainous countries.

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