Fondly nicknamed the ‘Heart of South America’ thanks to its central location on the continent, Paraguay captures the hearts of everyone who visits. It is a landlocked country that has led something of an isolated existence, but this is not to detract from its cultural richness and natural landscapes which expats living in Paraguay enjoy.
The Paraguay River splits the country into two distinct regions: the eastern and the western region, also referred to as the Chaco. The natural landscapes across these areas are diverse and encompass swampland, subtropical forests, savanna and waterfalls, including Monday’s Falls and Guairá Falls both of which are must visits.
Asunción, the capital and largest city, offers all the conveniences of modern urban living and expats who settle here embrace its relaxed lifestyle and colonial and modern architecture, such as that of the Palacio de López, the presidential palace and seat of Paraguay’s government.
Paraguay is not yet a popular expat or tourist destination, but the very fact that it’s one of South America’s least-visited countries gives it a unique atmosphere – without overcrowding or excessive tourist prices. On that note, Paraguay and its capital Asunción boast a low cost of living, although incomes are generally low too.
Expats relocating here often report that Paraguay feels authentic and they can appreciate their surroundings without constant waves of tourists. Nevertheless, the culture of Paraguay is diverse and engaging, and the population are mostly of Spanish and Guarani origin. There are also smaller communities from other European and South American nations who have settled there, including Italians, Germans, Argentinians and Brazilians, who have retained parts of their culture and language.
The official languages of Paraguay are Spanish and Guarani, the latter an indigenous language spoken widely outside of Asunción. New arrivals may be worried about culture shock, particularly in terms of language barriers. English is not widely spoken and getting around without basic knowledge of Spanish and Guarani can prove challenging. While it is important to learn the basics, locals are friendly and helpful if foreigners need help.
Some expats working in Paraguay are employed by companies where only limited Spanish is needed and English is more commonly spoken, but this is not true of all organisations. Many foreigners living in Paraguay are there for short-term missionary or volunteer assignments, while some expat educators teach English as a foreign language.
Language and education are key considerations for expat families moving to Paraguay with children. As the public education system has been neglected, parents who can afford to, choose to send their children to private and international schools, particularly concentrated in Asunción, which offer subjects in multiple languages.
For many visitors, the country is treasured as a tropical paradise, though, while most trips are trouble-free, safety is an important issue with the country experiencing an increase in violent crime and muggings. Good quality healthcare is also largely limited to private hospitals and clinics in Asunción and other key urban areas, so expats must arrange medical insurance and prepare accordingly
Although the slower pace of life will be something that expats may take a while to adjust to, the natural beauty of Paraguay offers numerous opportunities for adventure and weekend breaks away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Expats moving to Paraguay have much to look forward to.
Population: About 7.1 million
Capital city: Asunción
Neighbouring countries: Paraguay shares a border with Bolivia to the north, Brazil to the east and Argentina to the south and west.
Geography: Paraguay's geography consists of rolling hills and subtropical forests to the east, and low plains to the west.
Political system: Unitary dominant-party presidential republic
Main languages: Spanish, Guaraní
Major religions: Christianity and Roman Catholicism
Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.
Currency: The official currency of Paraguay is Guaraní (PYG). ATMs and card facilities should be available in most major urban centres.
International dialling code: +595
Emergency numbers: 141
Internet domain: .py
Transport and driving: Vehicles in Paraguay drive on the right-hand side of the road. The public transport system consists mainly of buses, and taxis are widely available in most cities.