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Country Reports

Paraguay Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Travelers to Paraguay (population 6.9 million) would benefit from a brief overview of the social, political, health, and climate conditions of this landlocked South American country, where more than one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

CRIME

Crime rates are relatively high. Although crime is generally nonviolent, criminals appear to be increasingly willing to use weapons. A small number of kidnappings have been reported in recent years but foreigners are generally not targeted.

Within the capital Asunción, certain areas have higher crime rates, such as the Mercado Cuatro market area, the La Chacarita slums (located near the main cathedral as well as the congress building) and the suburbs of San Lorenzo, Limpio, Luque, and Nemby. These areas are best avoided, particularly at night. It is also advisable to limit walking around the downtown area at night.

Petty crime is relatively common on public transportation (e.g. buses). Licensed taxis are generally a safer means of transportation.

Murder rates and rates of violent crime are significantly higher in areas along the Brazilian border, in particular the state of Amambay (capital Pedro Juan Caballero) due in large part to the presence of drug traffickers and other transnational criminal organizations. 

Furthermore, certain roads in border regions are considered dangerous at night due to the presence of criminals, such as the routes linking Ciudad del Este and Encarnación to Asunción, as well as the Trans-Choco highway.

Finally, cases of "virtual kidnappings" scams have been increasingly reported in recent years; the modus operandi often consists of the perpetrator telephoning victims to falsely inform them that a friend or family member has been kidnapped and to demand a ransom for his/her release.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Civil society groups and unions regularly organize strikes and protests. In Asunción, downtown public squares and parks are typically the sites of demonstrations. Outside the capital, protesters have been known to block traffic on major roadways leading to/from Asunción or Ciudad del Este.

The frequency and intensity of protests can increase during electoral periods. Both presidential and legislative elections are set to take place on April 22, 2018.

ARMED GROUPS

Certain departments (Alto Paraná, Amambay, Canindeyú, Concepción, and San Pedro) are subject to drug trafficking-related violence. Members of the Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), a small but relatively active Marxist guerrilla group, are present in Concepción and San Pedro departments. The EPP has been active since 2005 and is believed to have been responsible for 50 deaths since its founding; in August 2016, EPP gunmen attacked a military patrol near the village of Arroyito (Concepción), killing eight soldiers.

An offshoot, the Armed Peasant Association (ACA) - a group linked to Colombia's FARC - has been known to carry out kidnappings and assassinations of police officers, among other crimes.

TRANSPORTATION and INFRASTRUCTURE

Ground transportation is often hazardous due to the poor quality of roads and highways and the often-risky driving habits of locals. Many streets flood and/or become impassable during the rainy season (November-April). It is best to avoid driving on tertiary roads at night.

Foreign visitors should also be aware that tourist infrastructure (hotels, restaurants), while decent in the capital, may be significantly less developed - even nonexistent - in other areas.

The country's electrical infrastructure is outdated and in need of upgrading. As such, power outages are relatively common, including in the capital, particularly on hot summer days when increased use of air conditioner units puts a major strain on the electrical network. 

NATURAL RISKS

Flooding is relatively common in the country, especially along its main river (the Paraguay River) and in the capital region, in large part due to inefficient drainage systems. Flooding in Asunción in late 2015/early 2016 forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

HEALTH

While medical facilities in the capital Asunción offer a decent range of services, quality is much lower in rural areas. All travelers are advised to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance prior to departure.

Furthermore, a number of mosquito-borne diseases are present in the country.

  • Dengue fever regularly strikes the departments of Central, Alto Paraná, Guairá, Amambay, and Concepción, as well as the north of San Pedro department. In 2016, 173,400 confirmed or probable cases were reported nationwide, including 16 deaths.
  • Yellow fever may be present during the summer (October-April) although outbreaks are relatively rare.
  • Chikungunya is present although transmission rates appear to have fallen significantly since mid-2016. At total of 900 cases were reported in 2016.
  • Zika virus transmission is believed to be widespread. While the virus is usually relatively benign, links between the Zika virus and the birth defect microcephaly (babies born with underdeveloped heads) have been established. The disease is also transmittable via sexual intercourse.

Tap water is not always safe to drink. To minimize the risk of contracting a food- or water-borne illness, drink only bottled beverages and avoid any undercooked dishes, especially meats and seafood, and any other foods that cannot be thoroughly cooked, peeled, or disinfected (e.g. ice cream, berries, etc.).

OTHER

Note that you must have your passport stamped whenever you enter the country. Travelers who for whatever reason do not receive a stamp may be fined upon departure.

The local currency is the guarani (PGY), however US dollars are widely accepted.

The government takes drug trafficking very seriously and individuals caught with drugs, even small quantities, may be imprisoned for long periods in poor conditions; travelers should keep an eye on their luggage at all times.

Climate

Paraguay's climate is hot and humid. Summers (January to March) are very hot (with temperatures reaching 40°C and sometimes even 50°C); winter temperatures, much more pleasant, can fluctuate wildly (between 5°C and 25°C in a single day). Humidity levels are high throughout the year, unpleasant in the winter as well as in the summer. The rainy season, which extends from October until April, often sees torrential rains and floods. Autumn and spring are pleasant.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +595 Police, Ambulance: 911 Fire Dept.: 131

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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