I can’t help but squeak with joy when I hear murmurings of friends and family thinking of visiting us in Paraguay. If you haven’t considered it yet, take a moment and imagine yourself sipping ice-cold tereré from a hammock on our patio and dusting off that Spanish you learned in school as you try the local fare.
For those of you I just convinced to visit the up-and-coming travel destination (yeah, I’m still talking about Paraguay), I put together five travel tips to impress the natives and make your stay here more enjoyable.
1. Toilet Paper – it goes in the trash can, not the toilet. I guess the sewer systems can’t handle it. And it’s not a bad idea to carry a little pack of tissues in your purse or pocket as sometimes public restrooms aren’t stocked with toilet paper.
2. Clapping – Knock? Ring a doorbell? That is so last year. Here in Paraguay, just clap a few times outside someone’s house or their despensa (corner store) and they’ll be out to greet you in no time!
3. Guaraní – Arrived in Paraguay with perfect Spanish but still feeling frustrated you don’t know what’s going on? Probably because the people are using the 2nd official language of Paraguay, Guaraní. Not to worry, nearly everyone speaks Spanish as well (unless you’re in the very remote towns), but learn a few Guaraní phrases and you will jump into the hearts of Paraguayans faster than a cockroach dodges a shoe and runs into the darkness of the night. Here’s a little help:
|Guaraní Phrase||How It Sounds||What It Means|
|Mba’éichapa||by-AESH-ih-pa||How are you?|
|Haku||ha-KOO|| It’s hot (everyone loves a little weather talk)
|Heterei||hey-ter-eh-EE||Yum, yum delicious (to compliment someone’s cooking)|
|Jajatopata||jah-jah-toe-PA-ta||See you later!|
4. Dogs – Most dogs here aren’t strays, but they still roam around the roads unattended. Want the pup to back off? Just make a loud kissing noise at him and he will keep his distance. Works like a charm every time, as demonstrated in this video.
5. Gracias - This is the word for thank you in Spanish, but in Paraguay it’s also used for “no thanks.” For example, if someone holds out a guampa of tereré that you’d rather not drink, smile sweetly and say gracias with perhaps a slight shake of your head. Salespeople approach you at the bus terminal to sell you snacks, toys, lotto tickets, oil, batteries, or any number of things that you might not want? Gracias! Simply saying “no” is a bit harsh to the ears of Paraguayans, so the gracias trick is a good tool to know.
And now for some technical tips like when to visit and which documents and vaccines you’ll need in order to enter Paraguay.
Visa – United States citizens need a tourist visa to visit Paraguay. This can easily be attained upon arrival in the airport in Asunción, Paraguay. Just bring your valid passport and $160 cash.
Vaccines – No vaccines are required for US citizens to visit Paraguay, but a Yellow Fever vaccine is recommended (details here) as well as to be up-to-date on your Rabies, Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid vaccines. The Yellow Fever vaccine is only administered at certain locations, which can be found here.
Season – You are welcome into this new country of ours anytime, but we recommend avoiding June-July because of the cold and December-January because of the heat. Without insulation, heating, or air-conditioning the outside weather really soaks into your soul 24 hours a day, making both the hot and the cold feel more extreme than they actually are.
Like food as much as I do? December-January is mango season, pears in January, May-June will show fresh grapefruit and all the mandarins you could dream of, in July-August Isaiah will whip up guacamole from our avocado trees, and in December there is the sweet passionfruit just to name a few of the delicious things you’ll find growing near our house.
So, how are you feeling? Excited to plan a trip to our little landlocked island in the sun? We can’t wait! And don’t hesitate to ask any questions (even if you’re visiting Paraguay and not us). We have a good network of contacts here who can help us find the answer. For now, Jajatopata!