Asuncion, Paraguay Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Asuncion, Paraguay
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in Asia and the Middle East. Asuncion was my first posting in Latin America.
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?
Asuncion has a small airport and to date, no direct flights to the United States. You willl be most commonly routed through Sao Paulo, Lima or Buenos Aires depending on where you need to go in the U.S. Copa has good connections via Panama which works well for west coast and other South American destinations.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We are in a single family town home with a yard and pool. I can walk to work which is great because traffic is an issue (as in any major capital). Other colleagues commute and that averages 20-30 minutes from other parts of town.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get just about everything here at a grocery store, Casa Rica, which has two locations. There are many Asian grocery stores owned by Japanese and Korean families, so there is a wide variety of options available. Weekly there is an farmers market that has the harder to find veggies.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Spot and stain remove; I haven't found a good locally made option.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The delivery options here are endless. You can order sushi, Mexican, pizza, hamburgers, empanadas, and groceries. The range of restaurants is pretty impressive. Of course the beef asado is everywhere (there's a reason Paraguay is the 8th largest exporter of beef) but we've been impressed with the Korean and the Japanese restaurants.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, but not in crazy amounts.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I've never seen a Paraguayan post office. Paraguayans use various click and ship services to have items imported or purchased via Amazon shipped to Paraguay. It's expensive, but for small high-value items, they tell me it's worth it.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The local min. wage is close to US$400/month. That's how much we pay our live-out housekeeper who works 40 hours/week for us. Factor in another US$50 to pay into their social security fund/insurance. Paraguayans get universal health care here.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
My husband uses a local cooperative's facilities and pays a personal trainer about $50/ month for five CrossFit sessions per week.
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?
We use our credit cards everywhere and have not had any issues. Same precautions apply about ATMS as anywhere else in the world.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We go to Spanish language Catholic mass, but I hear there are a few English language options available around town.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Spanish will get you far; some people speak English, but not many. Learn a few words of greeting in Guarani to really make Paraguayans smile.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, as the sidewalks do not seem in good repair.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis seem a bit dumpy, but are cheap and get you where you need to go. Average fair to cross town is US$4. The nicest taxis are the remise service from the airport into town for 110,000 guaranies or US$20. I've never taken a local bus, as I hear about people having their pockets picked a lot on them because they can get packed.
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?
High clearance with off road tires. When it rains, the roads become rivers, and if you have a low clearance car, you'll need to wait until the rain stops before attempting to travel anywhere. In general the roads are cobblestone or asphalt and potholed, so a car with good suspension is a must.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
The internet is solid, but expensive. We pay US$120/month for a combined cable and internet package.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We have personal cell phones and the plans are reasonable. They have pre-pay and billing. Bring an unlocked phone and you can buy a sim card relatively easily.
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 quarantine upon arrival. We shipped our 20 lb dog into Paraguay as cargo via COPA airlines via Panama from the States and he was well taken care of.
We found a great kennel service which offers a more home-like atmosphere with other smaller dogs while we go away.
The vets are variable. We went through a few and still aren't 100% thrilled. You will need to know your stuff, and know Spanish well to ask the right questions. Leismaniasis is a big concern here. Paraguayan vets recommend rabies boosters annually versus every three years, and you need to keep up with anti-parasite and tick prevention.
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?
My partner telecommutes, and it's been relatively smooth experience for him with only the occasionally power outage (January is when it's most frequent). Teaching opportunities exist at the international and private schools.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There is no shortage of volunteering opportunities, from maternal health, orphanages, and Techo (like habitat for humanity).
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
I wear suits to work. In public places it is like anywhere else- and runs the gamut from exercise wear to nearly semi-formal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I've heard of break-ins into colleague's houses, and motorcycle drive-bys but if you exercise caution and common sense, you can reduce your risk.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Mosquito borne illnesses, but bug spray is available for purchase.
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 good. I tend to be pretty sensitive to pollution and have had minimal problems here.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I know of.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winter can drop to 50F at night, and it can be up to 100F+ in the summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We've had our child at the American school and have had a good experience with the curriculum and the teachers. There are a lot of extracurricular activities on offer as well ranging from soccer, basketball to the kindness and chess clubs. There is a little something for every kid.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Limited from what I understand.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
I have friends whose kids are involved in karate, MMA, ballet, basketball, tennis, golf, horseback riding, and of course, soccer.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Not huge, but those other expats I meet are friendly.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
We go out to eat a lot with other families and couples. We also frequently host backyard BBQs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a great family post, and we've been really happy here.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Paraguay can lean pretty conservative, but I hear there are options.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not as much as other places I've been.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The people are awesome, so friendly and kind. We've enjoyed getting to know Paraguay through local friends.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Iguazu falls hands down, but also the Jesuit ruins are pretty cool as well.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
We've bought a few things, to include some nanduti lace, and a few knick-knacks and art by local painters. You won't break the bank here.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
it's relatively small and easy to get to all parts of it compared to larger metro areas (like Sao Paulo)!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
No huge surprises moving here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Thoughts that you can turn left at an intersection. It seems to me that one of the most maddening parts of driving here is the inability to turn left anywhere!
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, the Paraguayan Reader, and a small primer on the triple alliance war would help, too.