6 tips for visiting Asunción, Paraguay


We explore Asunción, Paraguay and share six useful tips

‘Paraguay – The Heart of South America’ is how this landlocked country sells itself. We assume they mean geographically because it could just as easily be described as ‘The Nowhere of South America’. In fact, it often is.

Nestled between Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil (and by ‘nestled’, we mean ‘languishing’), Paraguay has no single majestic attraction like Bolivia’s salt flats, Argentina’s Perito Moreno or Brazil’s Iguassu Falls. Paraguay is not only one of the poorest countries on the continent with more than a third of its population below the poverty line, but also one of the most corrupt.

Author Rory Maclean has written: “As tea is to China and cuckoo clocks to Switzerland, so weapons are to Paraguay”. It’s with similar sentiment that author Robert Carver describes his flight out of Asunción: “exhilaration, sheer bliss, a sense of absolute freedom. I could go anywhere, safely.”

And, so, one might wonder, what was our verdict? Well, putting aside the hyperbole, we found Asunción to be a colourful, characterful city more authentic than some of its more famous counterparts (Santiago, Lima) and far prettier than others (La Paz). It offered a chance to get off the well-trodden backpacker trail and catch our breath before Brazil. That said, it wasn’t all plain sailing. Here are six things to know before you go.

1. Be assertive with restaurant service

Our first experience of Paraguayan restaurant culture was baffling. We walked into Bolsi and were greeted with a horseshoe-shaped communal seating area. Every seat was taken so we politely hovered by the door, hoping for direction. When none came, we approached a counter but the staff were clearly busy trying to serve a full house. After a while, we decided to try elsewhere.

The second place we visited – a generic pizza/pasta place called Bellini – was full of empty tables but had a 30-deep queue at the counter. Did they do table service or not? We had no idea. After a few minutes, we decided to try somewhere else.

Finally, we ended up at Na Eustaquia, a jack-of-all-cuisines, master of none sort of place. We took our seats and were unceremoniously ignored. After 10 minutes, we asked at the counter if we could have a menu. “Of course,” came the magnanimous reply. Ordering our dishes was a two-menu affair with much flagging-down and hand-wringing.

Moral of the story is: if you’re confused about the way things work, be assertive and ask for clarity. Paraguayans are super friendly and happy to help but you must ask first.

Mini-tip: For more traditional service, try Taberna Española, a beautiful Spanish restaurant with great service, refreshing sangria and the best fresh bread we ate in South America.

2. See the city on foot

Asunción is packed with free (or very cheap) historical sites, nearly all of which can be seen on foot.

Autor: Kia
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