Paraguay is surrounded by Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina in south-central South America. Eastern Paraguay, between the Paraná and Paraguay Rivers, is upland country with the thickest population settled on the grassy slope that inclines toward the Paraguay River. The greater part of the Chaco region to the west is covered with marshes, lagoons, dense forests, and jungles.
In 2002, anti-government rioters demanded that the then President Macchi resign, blaming him for Paraguay's protracted recession since the late 1990s. In Dec. 2002, Macchi was accused of mishandling $16 million in state funds. He was acquitted in an impeachment trial in Feb. 2003. Former journalist Nicanor Duarte Frutos became president on August 15, 2003. He has pledged to clean up the pervasive corruption in his nearly bankrupt country.
|Travelling to and around Paraguay|
Paraguay’s national airline is Transportes Aéreos del Mercosur (PZ). Airlines operating direct flights to Asunción include American Airlines (from New York). There are currently no direct flights from London. Most major airlines (including British Airways, Alitalia, Canadian Airlines and Lufthansa) operate connecting flights via Brazil (São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro). There are also a number of scheduled flights to Asunción from other south American cities, notably Buenos Aires, Santa Cruz (Bolivia) and Santiago (Chile). Flight time from Asuncion to London takes between 15 and 19 hours depending on the flight route.
Asunción airport (Silvio Pettirossi) is 16km (10 miles) from the city (journey time – 20 minutes). A coach and taxi service runs to the city. Airport facilities include a bureau de change, duty-free shopping, basic restaurants and car rental (Hertz). Don't expect anything too elaborate, especially in the duty-free section which mainly sells local indigenous souvenirs. A US$18 tax is payable on departure from the country. Transit passengers and children under two years of age are exempt.
The roads from Rio and São Paulo to Asunción (via the Iguazú Falls) are paved and generally good, as is the one from Buenos Aires. Another road link to Argentina is via the San Roque González de Santa Cruz bridge in Encarnación across the Panraná river. To get elsewhere in Paraguay, journeys will mainly be on dirt tracks or paths. There are daily bus services from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Santa Fé, Rosario, Córdoba and Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Montevideo (Uruguay).
The climate ranges differs greatly from summer to winter. Torrential storms can build up and appear out of nowhere on hot days. Summers (November-February) can be unbearably hot, and winter (July-August) can be very cold (and there is no central heating). Spring and fall are the best times to visit. If you're going any time but summer, pack a sweater.
Accomodation in Paraguay is not as easy to find as in neigbouring countries. The lack of infrastructure and organisation mean that tourists are often pretty rare outside of the capital Asuncion. It is possible to stay on a few guest ranches in the northern part of the country, but prices can be incredibly high.
My stay in Paraguay was somewhat diffrent to my visits to other countries insofar as I was working there on a work placement as part of my university course. I was lucky enough to find an Evangelical Pension to live in, in Asuncion, that catered mainly for Paraguayan, Argentine and Brazilian students and gave me the opportunity to meet many young people there and get a more 'local' feel of the country. I visited several parts of the country with my friends, and attempted on several occasions to visit other parts, but on the whole found that the concept of tourism in the country was considered a joke to many people. On the other hand, the country was fairly cheap and, once you got to know your way around, prooved to have many good surprises in stock. Living there was a truely unique experience. I find it more difficult to take a step back and write about Paraguay than any other country that I visited.
One day, just like every other day, I got on the bus to go to work. That day, like every other day, the bus was full of Paraguayans, also going to work. That day, just like every other day, all the devout catholic Paraguayans on board ritually made the sign of the cross each time we passed a church along the journey into town. Unfortunately, on that day, unlike other days, the bus driver braked very suddenly just as we passed by one of the largest churches along our path. That day, all the people who had let go of the bus to make the sign of the cross were suddenly catapulted onto the floor in a heap.