Living In Paraguay – The Expats’ Essential Guide

All about living in Paraguay as an expat: the pros and cons, the peculiarities, the best locations, and unique local insights into what it's like living in Paraguay

Sitting in the centre of Southern South America, Paraguay is very much overshadowed by its larger neighbours Brazil and Argentina which are much more popular with tourists.

While Paraguay’s widely marketed neighbours receive crowds of tourists every year, in Paraguay itself you will find a quieter land where a visitor from overseas is not seen as a tourist passing through but as a new friend.

Is Paraguay a good place to live?

Yes, Paraguay is a great place to live for anyone wishing to discover a new and unspoilt land.

You will find the people of Paraguay to be warm and welcoming always willing to invite guests to their homes or to explain and demonstrate the culture of Paraguay. Something of which they are rightly proud.

Paraguay has a young population and every house is filled with the sound of children. Paraguayans are very keen on children and anyone with a young family will quickly make many new friends.

Is Paraguay a good country to retire to?

Paraguay is definitely a good place to retire to if you are looking for a green and welcoming country.

Living in Paraguay
Living in Paraguay means enjoying rolling hills, unspoiled nature, lush countryside, shady valleys dotted by streams and lakes and dense forests

The country districts that surround every town are ideally suited to retiring to a relaxed life of fresh air and open spaces. Here you will be able to either buy a house or a plot of land on which to have your dream house built with very little difficulty.

All towns and cities in Paraguay are surrounded by these tracts of countryside. The freedom of country life can be enjoyed here in full while still remaining within easy reach of all the amenities of the towns.

Paraguay is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a life away from the crowds. The population is approximately 7 million and the land is similar in size to Germany. As such beyond the confines of the towns most of the land is covered by a blanket of rolling green countryside.

The only city of city of any size is the capital Asunción which is crowded and buzzing with life. Once out beyond its suburbs however houses are replaced by trees and the pace of life slows down.

Is Paraguay a safe country to live in?

Paraguay is generally a very safe country. Rates of street crime are very low even more so outside Asunción. Paraguayans are polite people and are genuinely concerned should any misfortune befall any visitors to the country.

You should though bear in mind that Paraguay is a developing country where a large portion of the population is still extremely poor. As such walking the street displaying excessive wealth should be avoided.

In Asunción the same precautions should be taken as would be taken in any other large city across the world. Asunción is a very safe city but as with every other city it draws all types including the criminal minority to it.

Outside Asunción life is much quieter and crime is even less likely. In the small country communities everyone knows everyone and they watch out for each other.

Talking to the locals you may soon discover that Paraguay sounds a far more dangerous country than it appears. This it because much of the news reporting in Paraguay is tabloid style exaggerating any incidents there may be for drama and effect.

Areas to avoid in Paraguay

There are though a couple of areas that a visitor would be best advised to avoid.

Firstly, the shanty towns of temporary housing that have grown up in and around cities like Asunción. The level of poverty in such places is enough to make any stranger a tempting target. They are though few in number and keep themselves to themselves giving an outsider little reason to enter.

Additionally, deep in the interior, there are areas that are beyond the reach of Asunción. These places are often under the control of a local hard man and as they are generally hidden away there is little reason for an expat to visit.

So with that in mind it is safe to say that after taking just a couple of very simple precautions any time spent in Paraguay will be welcoming and trouble free.

Living in Paraguay: the pros and cons

Just like any other country, Paraguay has its cons and pros.

The pros of living in Paraguay

1. Fresh air and open space

One of the top-selling points about Paraguay is the fresh, clean air. There is a degree of pollution in the towns and cities, but once beyond their limits, you will quickly notice how green everything becomes.

Living in Paraguay
Salto Suizo (Swiss Falls) is the highest in all of Paraguay. If you feel brave enough to tackle the 1000 metre hike through the tall trees and large rocks up to the 60m waterfall, you will be rewarded with the most magnificent view from the top.

Paraguay contains mile after mile of green and unbroken countryside. There the air is clear and unpolluted. Trees and grasses cover much of the country creating a rural paradise.

Here are to be found welcoming small towns and the refreshing crystal clear streams that are ideally suited to a cooling bathe on a hot summer day.

2. The welcoming Paraguayans

The natural temperament of a Paraguayan is relaxed and welcoming. Any visitor is greeted with a warm smile and often the invitation to partake in the national drink Terere. The cold and refreshing beverage drunk everyday by all.

A Paraguayan will not correct you upon your Spanish pronunciation and with just a few common words warm friendships can be formed. And the mastering of just a few words in the Guarani language will receive warm appreciation.

Local communities are always keen to welcome newcomers and you can expect invitations to local festivals and celebrations. This is an excellent way to learn more about the culture and customs of Paraguay and to become part of something.

3. Off the tourist trails

Positioned in the centre of Southern South America, Paraguay is on the whole overlooked by globe-trotting tourists. Some do visit Asunción but then travel right across the country to get to Brazil and the Iguassu Falls. Few though ever explore the interior.

Thanks to this, the people of Paraguay have had no need to adjust their ways to the whims of tourists.

So the colourful festivals that take place in every corner of the land continue as they always have done. Performed by locals for the benefit of and enjoyment of locals.

Saints Days and Town Parades are always colourful events.

This does not mean they are unwelcoming to guests and visitors. In fact, locals take great pride in being able to show off the finery of an event. You may find yourself being shown to the best place to view the spectacle or even being invited to join in the dancing.

With the limited numbers of tourists that pass through Paraguay, overseas visitors are not seen as the blight. Instead, everyone is treated as an honoured guest and with genuine interest.

These feelings remain regardless of whether you stay for a week or for a number of years.

4. Low cost of living

Paraguay is, on the whole, an inexpensive country. It is, of course possible to live a lavish and expensive lifestyle but to live a good life requires far less money than the equivalent would in North America or Europe.

Although some more specialised items can only be found in Asunción, these days even the smallest country town has a well-equipped supermarket filled with all the necessary provisions.

Food is not expensive in a supermarket or even in a good restaurant. Additionally the cost of both water and electric is low.

If you wish to use public transport, you will discover how low the fares are. A trip anywhere within Greater Asunción costs no more the 35 cents.

The cons of living in Paraguay

1. The heat

The first and most important thing to understand about Paraguay is that it a hot land. Far from sea breezes the temperatures soon rise under the clear blue skies.

In summer temperatures well in excess of 100 (37 Celsius) are common. Even in mid winter a warm spell can push the temperature above 90 (32 Celsius).

The heat although not unrelenting is fairly continuous. The local people without thinking slow down as the mercury rises and you would be well advised to do the same. Remember to take on plenty of fluids and seek out shade during the hottest hours.

Summer nights are often only a few degrees cooler than the days and without air conditioning can be quite humid.

However, as autumn approaches the difference between day time and night time temperatures widens, giving some enjoyable evenings.

If heading to Paraguay from cooler climes, allow time to become accustomed to the heat. After a summer or two and with a good habit of rehydration the body will adjust.

2. Developing world infrastructure

Anyone moving to Paraguay must remember that Paraguay is a developing country and adapt accordingly. That things don’t work or run quite as they should is part of the charm of the place and must be allowed for rather than fought against.

The electricity and water will go off from time to time. Do not expect a Paraguayan even in a smart Asunción hotel to look surprised or concerned if the lights suddenly go out.

Electricity is most likely to go off during storms when either cables are blown down or parts of the grid are turned off to avoid electrical damage. Either way within a few hours the power will be back on and it will be as though nothing had happened.

The power cuts are now beginning to become less common. The national electric company is currently investing heavily in upgrading the system.

As for water, that is liable to go off during times of drought when the water table drops and the water companies shut of supply for a while to various area to ration their supply. This, unfortunately, is most likely to happen during the hottest parts of the year.

To avoid being inconvenienced by intermittent supply at these times you may wish to consider either installing a tank to hold a reserve supply or even drilling a borehole.

3. Limited tarmac roads

In Paraguay, all the main roads and the principal roads in the towns and cities are now all tarmacked.

However, it does not take long to leave the tarmac as the majority of the roads throughout Paraguay are still rough tracks of either dirt or cobblestones.

Living in Paraguay
A typical cobbled street in the town of Coronel Bogado

In towns just a few blocks away from the town centres the tarmac gives way to cobblestones. These give an uncomfortable ride but are passable by all vehicles.

However once outside the urban zones, almost every track leading away from the main roads is dirt. These are passable in all but the worst weather. They can also be quite rough and pitted.

The majority of the tracks are passable with caution. You need to watch out for holes where rain has washed away the road surface along with soft sandy stretches and areas of exposed rocks.

Due to such roads, you’d better avoid low clearance cars. If hiring a car in Asunción you will find hire companies unwilling to hire out such a car if you plan to travel into the countryside.

A sturdy vehicle with good ground clearance is always the best option. Most tracks are used all day long by local buses, lorries and motorbikes so a vehicle with a bit of ground clearance should not present you with any undue difficulties.

The cost of living in Paraguay

Paraguay is quite an affordable country. Food, everyday expenses, rent and even property prices won’t break your budget.

How much is rent in Paraguay?

Property prices depend primarily on whether the property is in Asunción or not. The costs are considerably higher if you want to live in Asunción.

To rent a property in Paraguay is relatively straight forward. A non-resident can rent a home simply using their passport as identification. There are no legal formalities to be completed before renting.

Properties for short and long term rents can be found on Airbnb and Facebook Marketplace in addition to Paraguayan sites such as Clasipar. Furthermore, word of mouth and local knowledge will reveal many more properties that are not listed online.

For a property in Asunción, you should expect to be paying between G$1,500,00 and G$4,000,000 ($225 – $600 or £162 – £440) per month depending on the size of the property, its location and the level of comfort. It is quite possible to spend twice as much on a top of the range luxury apartment.

Once beyond the suburbs of Asunción prices drop dramatically. A modern comfortable home in a town or the countryside within easy reach of Asunción can be found for as little a G$1,000,000 ($150, £110) per month.

How much does a house cost in Paraguay?

As with renting a house good places to look for properties to buy are firstly Clasipar and then Facebook Marketplace.

There are a number of independent real estate agents who will be able to help you find your home. You will find though that the larger Paraguayan real estate chains tend to prefer to deal with land rather than houses.

As for the costs they are again like rental costs higher in Asunción than the rest of the country. There has been a real estate boom for several year now and you may feel that some of the prices asked for properties in Asunción are a little high.

A leftover from when most property deals involved land rather than houses, there is still the habit to give a value to a property in accordance with how much space it occupies.

In Asunción, this can be anything from G$5,000,000 to G$10,000,000 ($750-$1500, £540 – £1,080) per square metre. Additional value is then added to take into account the level of the fixtures and fittings.

Living in Paraguay
Rickety wooden bridges are sometimes the only way across a river in the wilderness of Paraguay.

The net result of this is that it’s difficult in Asunción to find anything other than the most basic of accommodation for less than $100,000 (£72,000).

To find something of international standards a starting figure of $250,000 (£180,000) would be more appropriate.

Outside Asunción, that same $250,000 (£180,000) would be enough for a well-optioned house with some grounds. You should be able to find a comfortable town house in one of the towns within easy reach of Asunción for around $100,000 (£72,000).

Buying land and building a house in Paraguay

Another alternative is to simply buy some land and have your dream house built. This is easy to arrange in Paraguay as it is something that is commonly done.

Buying land and building a house will give you a house exactly in the form you desire and at the same time reduce the overall costs as in addition to the land only the building materials and labour would be required.

Land currently sells for approximately $15,000 (£10,815) per hectare and that does vary greatly from place to place depending upon its location.

How much does food cost in Paraguay?

Food in Paraguay is not expensive, nor though is it overly cheap. For a local family, food is often the largest monthly expense.

The main issue that must be considered however is not the cost but rather the limited variety available. This is very much a reflection of the conservative eating habits of the Paraguayans who know what they like and stick to it.

Accordingly you will immediately notice the vast areas of shelf space given over to rice and pasta and the large meat counters.

By far the cheapest place to buy food in Paraguay is in a market. However, these are not the easiest places to shop. Any list of purchases will involve visits to many stalls.

These days the markets whilst still very much in business have been surpassed by the supermarkets. Even the smallest country town has one or two and there are many modern large supermarkets all across Asunción.

As they operate on a much larger scale than the markets, they can stock a much wider range of goods including a small selection of imported goods solely for expats.

Prices in the supermarkets are comparative and consistent. A kilo of rice costs a couple of dollars and a kilo of good quality beef – about seven.

Wine is good value, although beer is not overly cheap. Something it does make up for with its quality.

Living in Parauay
A colourful produce stall in a traditional farmers market in Villarrica

A weekly shop will come to between $20 and $40 (£15 – £30) in a supermarket although this will rise once a few luxury items are included.

All in all, you will not find the cost of food to be an issue with money going much further than it would elsewhere.

Moving to Paraguay in retirement

Paraguay is a good place to move upon retirement if you are seeking somewhere quiet, green and unpolluted. There is also the possibility to have a home constructed to your exact requirements.

The Paraguayan people are friendly and helpful and will soon make you feel a welcome part of their community.

For the relaxed, get away from it all sort of retirement the countryside would be preferable to Asunción. You should though consider somewhere within easy reach of Asunción or one of the other population centres in order to have access to their amenities. The outskirts of a country town may be ideal.

If you are looking for more active retirement and wish to have access to all the fittings of the developed world such as shopping centres and coffee shops you may wish to consider Asunción.

The countryside can be a little too quiet and undeveloped for some tastes.

The pace of life in the countryside is slow and the landscape is forever green. There can be few more relaxing places to sit and watch the sun go down behind the palm trees every evening.

Healthcare in Paraguay

Another thing to consider is medical care.

The national healthcare system in Paraguay is not on par with those in the Western world.

There are however private clinics in almost every town. These vary in size and quality but are all superior to their national counterparts. Generally, the larger the town the more private options are available with the best being located in and around Asunción.

Where to live in Paraguay

Asunción

Asunción is the largest city in Paraguay, its capital and the commercial and tourist hub of the country.

As such it the most modern and amenity packed city in the country.

It is the place to find sports centres, shopping centres, coffee bars and all the other services you would expect to find in a city.

Additionally, embassies are all located in Asunción as are the government ministries that from time to time need to be dealt with.

Furthermore, for families with school-age children, Asunción is where international and English language schools are to be found. Away from Asunción finding a suitable school may present some difficulties.

Asunción itself is not a large city, although its suburbs do spread out over a large area. You should be able to find everything within a short distance either in the historic centre or in the more upmarket Villa Morra district near the modern shopping centres.

Encarnacion

Encarnacion sits on Paraguay’s southern border facing the Argentine town of Posadas across the Rio Parana. There is a bridge over the Rio Parana connecting the two.

Living in Paraguay
The San Jose beach in Encarnacion on the river Parana

Encarnacion has over recent years received many modernizations and renovations. It is now the première resort town in Paraguay. It is also home to the largest carnival in the country.

The renovations the town received included the rebuilding of much of the lower town. This now has smart riverside boulevards and large beaches. The town amenities are modern and well planned.

Encarnacion is also located near Paraguay’s Jesuit Ruins. These Missions represent the only world heritage site in Paraguay and are one of the worlds least crowded. Over the border in Argentina, similar ruins receive busloads of tourists but here you may well have the sites to yourself.

Encarnacion is a good place to live in order to see the bright modern side of Paraguay and to have easy access to Argentina.

Caacupe

Caacupe is the religious centre of Paraguay and is located in a range of low hills approximately 50km from Asunción.

For most of the year it is a quiet country town. Then for a couple of weeks in December it is crowded with pilgrims from across the country and beyond coming for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and to visit the Virgin of Caacupe.

The streets packed with pilgrims and street traders are one of the must see sights of Paraguay.

Afterwards the town becomes quiet once more.

Having to cope with the huge influx of visitors every year the town has a good infrastructure. It has many large open spaces and a wide selection of bars and restaurants. Additionally, the variety of stores on offer is larger than might normally be expected in a town of its size.

The hills in which Caacupe sits are a popular tourist area. Nearby are the touristic towns are Piribebuy and Tobati. These are both surrounded by very attractive countryside.

Caacupe is a very good place to live to be amongst beautiful countryside and yet still within easy reach of all the amenities that are required for modern and comfortable life.

Paraguayan residency

Applying for Paraguayan residency is a relatively straight forward process. It is very much a case of ensuring the correct documents are collected together, translated and authenticated.

Your local Paraguayan embassy will be able to provide a list of the required paperwork and how each document needs to be processed.

The documents split on the whole into two categories. Those from the home country of the applicant such as birth certificate, passport and local police report which must be translated and authenticated in Paraguay and those such as an Interpol report and a medical certificate which are to be obtained once you are in Paraguay.

It is quite possible to complete the entire residence application process yourself. However, doing everything yourself will require a fair amount of time and patience as well as a basic command of Spanish while you head from one office to another seeking the correct stamps and signatures.

Alternatively, there are a number of  English speaking lawyers in Asunción who specialise in residency applications and other related matters. This is the option chosen by most. That way a professional can be dealing with your paperwork leaving you free to attend to other matters such a finding somewhere to live.

Providing everything is in order, you expect to receive your residency card within approximately 90 days.

On the subject of residency, one further item needs to be noted. To begin the process you will be required to either leave a deposit of $5000 (£3,600) or the deeds to a property you have purchased in Paraguay.

This is required in order to show that you do genuinely intend to reside in Paraguay. Once the process is complete all funds and paperwork you leave with the Ministry of Immigration will be returned to you.

Opening a bank account in Paraguay

As you will be required to make a cash deposit to initiate the residency process, you will need a bank account.

Opening a bank account in Paraguay is fairly easy. In Asunción there will usually be someone in the office who speaks English and will be able to talk you through the process should your Spanish not be of the standard required to discuss financial matters.

There are a number of banks with branches across the country and different banks will have features which suit different people best. As such it is not possible to recommend a particular bank. However, all are stable and solidly financed.

When choosing a bank the factors you should consider the following:

  • Is there a branch near where you intend to live?
  • Will it accept deposits from overseas?
  • Does it offer Internet banking?
  • Will there be an internationally acceptable plastic card?
  • And whatever additional requirements are needed to tailor the service to your individual needs.

Tips and advice from an experienced expat

Paraguay is a good country to consider moving to. It is a country unspoilt by mass tourism with plenty of space for everyone. The countryside is green and pollution-free and cities like Asunción offer all that could be wanted from a modern city.

Living in Paraguay
Sunset over the Colonia Independencia

The people of Paraguay are warm and welcoming and will take great pleasure in showing you their cuisine and culture. It does not take long at all to be accepted as part of the local community.

Paraguay is a developing country and many things do not always work quite how they should. The electric may go off, the stores may not have quite the right produce and the roads may be a little rough. These issues though affect everyone and it’s best to adapt to or work around them rather than fight against.

The people of Paraguay are polite and go out of their way not to cause offence.

Raised voices are rarely heard. This makes living with them enjoyable.

One downside is the avoidance of causing offence by not being able to answer a question. You will receive a confidently stated wrong answer rather than no answer. It is often best to ask around a little rather than going with the first response.

Additionally, punctuality and time pressures are not concepts natural to Paraguayan culture. Do not expect a local to turn up at a pre-agreed time or an event to begin within an hour or two of the quoted start time.

It is considered bad manners to arrive and immediately talk business. Protracted small talk, usually over terere is always required before any mention can be made of business.

None of the above makes living in Paraguay difficult while adjusting to local ways can only make living here more pleasurable.

Final thoughts on living in Paraguay

To summarise Paraguay is a good place to live. The formalities are straight forward and with the welcoming nature of the people of Paraguay fitting in is easy.

Paraguay is not for those seeking a fast-paced high tech lifestyle but if you are looking for a slower pace of life much closer to nature, Paraguay might be just the place.

To anyone wishing to escape the frantic pace of the modern world or simply wishing to have a relaxing retirement, Paraguay’s green and open spaces await.

Of course, it is not entirely without the joys of the modern world. In places like Asunción and Encarnacion, those things can be found in abundance.

Come and visit and see for yourself all that this undiscovered country has to offer. A warm welcome awaits you.

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