Things You Didn't Know About PARAGUAY
I am writing about Paraguay in the Uruguay forum because the article referenced in the most recent post I made here inspired me to. That article said, "Before I came down to South America I’m not even sure I could find this tiny country on a map, let alone tell you the difference between it and Paraguay." It then proceeded not to offer any answers about what is different between the two.
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I see many expats chose Uruguay as their 'expat paradise' because of information they read, not based on any personal experiences. Some of that information is based on someone's commercial interests, trying to sell you a book or conference. Other based on minimal information, for example, the above mentioned article then told us all about Uruguay after a one week visit.
So, let's have a little look at (some of) the "difference" (s) between Uruguay and Paraguay. Of course this will be a short look at a few things and it will be inherently negative toward Uruguay (read other posts on this forum by myself and others for the bright side of Uruguay). After reading this, I hope you'll chose participate in Total Paraguay (see link for Paraguay at the very bottom of this page), and consider at least a brief trip before you make a final decision about Uruguay.
Paraguay is first, a place that it seems no one is promoting as a expat destination and it is also a place that people who've never been there don't seem to like. Read that again. A lot of the worst commentaries you'll see about Paraguay are written by people who've never visited the country.
RESIDENCY. URUGUAY, now it has unclear and subjective requirements. PARAGUAY, the requirements are clear, there is much more paperwork, copies, and little documents needed than in Uruguay. Many would consider it "easy, " however, though because the basic requirements are depositing US$5, 000 in a bank account, and legalized copies of your birth certificate and police (FBI) background check. Your Cedula is needs to be renewed every 10 years as opposed to every 3 in Uruguay.
I don't think in either country it is (or has been) fair to say how long the process takes. It takes as long as it takes. In my case, Paraguay about 7 months, and in Uruguay about 22 months (in 2005).
BANKS. There are many more banks and levels of banking type institutions in Paraguay. They currently pay higher interest rates than Uruguay on US$ CD's, ie: 3% on a six month CD. It is much more difficult to open an account in Paraguay as you will probably need local and possibly interpol background check(s). If someone helps you with the residency process they will help you with the needed bank account too.
UNIVERSITIES. In Uruguay the University of the Republic is free to citizens and residents (there may be a waiting period) and there are a few private universities. Paraguay has many more universities and no free option. However, though there seems to be a much larger number of young people attending a university.
REAL ESTATE. There are few apartment buildings, and properties are in general much larger. It can be difficult to find affordable rentals suitable for one or two people. There are many more very low end rental options. Some of the low end rentals are much uglier than in Uruguay. However, there are many more high end options and some are probably much grander than you usually find in Uruguay. Either way the price per sq ft will generally be much less.
ELECTRONICS. The IVA rate is 10% vs 22% in Uruguay and a number of stores give those who present a foreign ID an official tax exemption. There is a much larger selection of consumer electronics, cell phones, smart phones (there are 4 cell phone carriers) and computer equipment available. There are several malls and sections of Asuncion dedicated to the sales of computers or cell equipment. In Montevideo the options are few and far between.
My rule of thumb in Uruguay was if an electronic item was twice the price as in the USA then it was an appropriate price. In Paraguay the multiplier would seem to be closer to 1.2 times. I recently bought a 2 sim, cell phone with qwerty keyboard for about US$42 (including an upcharge for using my credit card). The 3 sim version was just a few dollars more.
FOOD AND RESTAURANTS. There seem to be fewer fresh fruit and vegetable stands on corners, but no lack of fruits (especially tropical fruits which are unavailable, and/or expensive and of poor quality in Uruguay) and vegetables. There is a large selection of ethnic restaurants including Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Peruvan, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Brazilian. As well as a variety of street food available. Meals in restaurants are around 1/2 of what you pay in Montevideo with many choices on the very low end of the spectrum.
PEOPLE. The country seems to be much more multicultural with a larger Asian population than Uruguay, and people seem quite open socially to everyone that comes. It seems to have a much more dynamic social vibe.
VITAMINS. There are a number of vitamin stores, ie: health food stores like we would find in the USA and some of the pharmacies also sell a large selection of vitamins. It also appears to be much less of an issue to receive vitamins via international post.
ELECTRICITY. The electric rates seem to be roughly 1/2 of that in Uruguay and there are various options for internet also at a significantly lower price than in Uruguay.
PUBLIC RESTROOMS. There seems to be be little different here. In both Uruguay and Paraguay public restrooms tend to be clean and regularly attended to.
AIRPORT. The Asunion airport has not had a $250 million makeover and it is friendlier, has better and cheaper food, and jetways to walk directly onto your flights. It also has numerous gift shops selling locally make arts and crafts as well as the classic "duty free" shop. Montevideo has overpriced, uninspired food, duty free and practically no (if any) locally made crafts and a bus to take you to/from the airplane (on many flights).
On my last flight from Montevideo to Asuncion, it took 15 minutes from the moment the airplane door opened to passing through Immigration, Customs and arriving at my home via taxi, ie: there was no waiting for immigration or customs.
TAXIS. In both countries the rule is that the taxi driver charges what the meter says and goes by best route. However, in Montevideo I see a shift toward "gringo" pricing with special (higher) flat rates to the airport. And, of course the Montevideo Airport taxi's charge unconsciousable rates. Traffic can be extremely intense in Asuncion but lacks road rage. The problem is increased at this time and probably through Dec of 2012 as two main thoroughfares are blocked by the construction of some type of metro system.
ANTS. In Paraguay you must believe that all types of ants are part of your family. They come fast and in force when anything tasty is left out and are great entertainment to watch.
The truth is that it isn't fair to try and compare Uruguay and Paraguay and it's not fair (to yourself) to visit one and not the other.
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