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PARAGUAY – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                      Fig.1 – Paraguay Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Paraguay is a landlocked country surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil, lying some 1440km (900 miles) up the River Paraná from the Atlantic. The River Paraguay, a tributary of the Paraná, divides the country into two sharply contrasting regions. The Oriental zone, which covers 159,800 sq km (61,700 sq miles), consists of undulating country intersected by chains of hills rising to about 600m (2000ft), merging into the Mato Grosso Plateau in the north; the Paraná crosses the area in the east and south. East and southeast of Asunción lie the oldest centres of settlement inhabited by the greater part of the population. This area is bordered to the west by rolling pastures, and to the south by thick primeval forests. The Occidental zone, or Paraguayan Chaco, covers 246,827 sq km (95,300 sq miles). It is a flat alluvial plain, composed mainly of grey clay, which is marked by large areas of permanent swamp in the southern and eastern regions. Apart from a few small settlements, it is sparsely populated.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

The ancient history of Paraguay is poorly documented, as almost no archaeological research has been done and little is known of Paraguay’s pre-Columbian history. What is certain is that the eastern part of the country was occupied by Guaraní peoples for at least 1,000 years before the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

The first Spaniards settled in the territory in the 16th century. They were predominantly young men, as few women followed them to the region. Following the Spanish conquest and colonization, a large mixed (mestizo) population developed, which spoke the language of their indigenous mothers but adopted much of their fathers’ Spanish culture.

Paraguay’s colonial history was one of general calm punctuated by turbulent political events; the country’s economy at the time made it unimportant to the Spanish crown, and the distance of its capital from other new cities on the South American continent led to isolation. Paraguay declared its independence from Spain in 1811; since then, the country has had a history of dictatorial governments. The so-called Paraguayan War ended in the near annihilation of Paraguay and set the stage for the formation of a two-party (Colorado vs. Liberal) political system that persists until the present day.

Following political turmoil during the first three decades of the 20th century, Paraguay went to war again, this time with Bolivia. From 1932 to 1935, approximately 30,000 Paraguayans and 65,000 Bolivians died in fighting over possession of the Chaco region.

Although there is little ethnic strife in Paraguay to impede social and economic progress, there is social conflict caused by underemployment and the enormous gap between the rich and the poor. Positive steps to correct these inequities have occurred since the 1989 ousting of the last dictator, and the country’s political system is moving toward a fully functioning republic. However, the tradition of hierarchical organizational structures and generous rewarding of political favors prevails.

THE PEOPLE

The population of Paraguay is mainly white (95%, including mixed Spanish and Indian descent- mestizo). There is a small proportion (5%) labelled as “other” and are members of indigenous tribal groups.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Shaking hands is the usual form of greeting. Smoking is not allowed in cinemas and theaters. Dress tends to be informal and sportswear is popular.

LANGUAGE

Both Spanish and Guarani are official languages. Spanish is commonly used in business and government. Guarani is spoken and understood by 90% of the population.

GOVERNMENT 

Paraguay is a representative democratic republic, with a multi-party system and separation of powers in three branches. Executive power is exercised solely by the President, who is head of state and head of government. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the National Congress. The judiciary is vested on tribunals and Courts of Civil Law and a nine-member Supreme Court of Justice, all of them independent of the executive and the legislature.

TIME ZONE

UTC – 4.

ELECTRICITY

Standard current is 220 volts, 50 Hertz.

 CLIMATE 

The overall climate ranges from subtropical to temperate, and like most lands in the region, Paraguay has only a wet and dry period. Winds play a major role in influencing Paraguay’s weather: between October and March, warm winds blow from the Amazon Basin in the North, while the period between May and August brings cold winds from the Andes.

The lack of mountain ranges to provide a natural wind barrier allows winds to develop speeds as high as 100 miles per hour (161 km/h). This also leads to significant changes in temperature within a short span of time; between April and September, temperatures will sometimes drop below freezing. January is the hottest summer month, with an average daily temperature of 84 degrees.

Clothes to Wear:

Lightweight cottons and linens are worn during the summer. Light- to mediumweights are advised in the spring and autumn, and medium- to heavyweights in the winter. Waterproofs are advisable during the rainy season.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

A passport and visa are required to enter Paraguay. You must apply for a visa in person or by secure messenger at the Paraguayan Embassy in Washington, DC, or at the nearest Paraguayan consulate, and you must pay a fee. If you are under the age of 18, you must provide a notarized authorization from your parent or guardian with your visa application.

There are no direct flights between the United States and Paraguay. Common transit countries are Peru, Brazil, and Argentina. The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends getting a visa for the country which you will be transiting en route to Paraguay. Many visitors have been turned around at the transit airport due to a lack of a visa. To leave Paraguay by airplane, you must pay an airport departure tax. Some airlines include the Paraguayan airport departure tax in the cost of the airline ticket. We recommend that you check with the airline in order to determine whether or not the departure tax has been included.

Embassy Locations:

Embassy of the United States of America in Paraguay

1776 Mariscal Lopez Avenue

Asuncion, Paraguay

Tel: (95) 21 213-715

Fax: (595) 21 213-728

http://paraguay.usembassy.gov/index.html

 Embassy of Canada to Paraguay

Tagle 2828

C1425EEH Buenos Aires

Tel: (54-11) 4808-1000
http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/argentina-argentine/index.aspx?lang=eng&view=d

Health:

Before visiting Paraguay, you may need to get the following vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases and other diseases you might be at risk for at your destination: (Note: Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.)

To have the most benefit, see a health-care provider at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for your vaccines to take effect and to start taking medicine to prevent malaria, if you need it.

Even if you have less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines, anti-malaria drugs and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

 Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

 Banks & Currency:

The Paraguay currency of Guarani is available in only paper form. 100 centimos made up a Guarani. The denominations of the Guarani start from 1000 Guaranies. The complete list of denominations are 1000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 and 100,000 Guaranies.

Paraguay banks are mostly found in the Asuncion region and the Villa Morra area. The banks in Paraguay also have ATMs in their respective branches to make money exchange convenient for the people. As per the report of 1995, there were about a total of 35 banks in Paraguay.

The banks in Paraguay are open to the public on all the weekdays from 7:30 am to 11 am.

Communication:

IDD is available. Country code: 595. Outgoing international code: 002. Moderate internal network apart from the main cities.

Mobile Telephone: GSM 1900 network coverage is limited to main urban areas. The local network providers are Hutchison Telecommunications Paraguay SA (website: www.porthable.com.py), Nucleo SA (website: www.personal.com.py), Telefonica Celular Del Paraguay (website: www.telecel.com.py) and VOX (website: www.vox.com.py).

Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

Paraguayan food is one of the most diverse in south American region. Paraguayans comonly enjoy typical food several times a week all year round. You’ll find much of the standard South American cuisine here with some Brazilian influence as well.

Paraguayan food isn’t particularly spicy, so those who can’t tolerate spices won’t have problems here.

National specialities:

  • Chipas (maize bread flavoured with egg and cheese).
  • Sopa paraguaya (soup of mashed corn, cheese, milk and onions).
  • Soo-yosopy (a soup of cornmeal and ground beef).
  • Palmitos (palm hearts).
  • Surubí (a fish found in the Paraná).

 National drinks:

The national beverage in Paraguay is called terere and is made from the yerba mate plant. It is served cold in guampas, which can be made out of wood or of hallow bull horns, and is drunk through a metal straw called a bombilla.

Beer is widely available, as are many liquors. The local beer is Brahma or Pilsen.

Paraguayan hard liquor is similar to rum and is known locally as caña. It is made out of sugar cane.

Pulp is a very popular Paraguayan soft drink. You can buy it a supermarkets or order it in various restaurantes and bars. The original is Pulp Naranja, made with real orange juice.

Mosto helado is extracted from the sugar cane and very sweet,sometimes mixed with lime juice to make an ‘aloja’. You can find street carts selling mosto near the centro area and in the countryside.

Nightlife:

In Asunción, there are numerous bars, casinos and discos. The parrilladas (often open-air grill restaurants) offer by far the best atmosphere, especially in Asunción. The most popular traditional music types in Paraguay are polcas and guaranías, which have slow and romantic rhythms and which are used as serenades.

Shopping:

There are some modern shopping centres in the capital. A popular shopping street is the Calle Palma. Special purchases include ñandutí lace, made by the women of Itagua, and aopoí sports shirts, made in a variety of colours and designs. Other items include leather goods, wood handicrafts, silver yerba maté cups and native jewellery. There are often stalls in the main plazas in Asunción, especially the Plaza de la Democracia.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

Service charges are included with the bill, and tipping is uncommon.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow 24 hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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