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SafetyTravel Safety: Americas: Paraguay

Paraguay: Republic of Paraguay
Capital: Asuncion
Population: 5,884,491
Currency: guarani (PYG)
Languages: Spanish (official), Guarani (official)
Religions: Roman Catholic 90%, Mennonite, and other Protestant
Borders: Argentina 1,880 km, Bolivia 750 km, Brazil 1,290 km

Paraguay is a constitutional democracy with a developing economy. Tourist facilities are adequate in the capital city of Asuncion, but they vary greatly in quality and prices. Travelers outside Asuncion should consider seeking travel agency assistance, as satisfactory or adequate tourist facilities are very limited in other major cities and almost nonexistent in remote areas.

As stated in the Department of State's latest Worldwide Caution, U.S. citizens overseas may be targeted by extremist groups and should maintain a high level of vigilance. The U.S. Embassy is not aware of any specific terrorist threat to Americans in Paraguay. Individuals and organizations providing financial support to extremist groups operate in Ciudad del Este and along the tri-border area between Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Because of concerns about the lack of security in border areas, the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion requires U.S. Government personnel and their family members to provide advance notice and a travel itinerary when traveling to Ciudad del Este or Pedro Juan Caballero. As a general precaution, the Embassy also counsels its employees traveling outside of the capital to provide an itinerary including dates, contact names and telephone numbers where the employee may be reached. 

Several high-profile kidnappings for ransom have occurred. Although kidnapping remains rare, the problem appears to be increasing. Targets are usually established members of the Paraguayan business community or their family members. 

U.S. citizens should avoid large gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest. Such activities have resulted in intermittent road closures including major routes traveled by tourists and residents. While generally nonviolent, roadblocks have turned violent in the past. Areas where such closures and barricades exist should be avoided. U.S. citizens who encounter roadblocks should not attempt to continue the planned travel or to confront those at the roadblock. Instead, they should wait for the road to reopen or return to the origin of their trip. Uniformed police often conduct roving checks of vehicles and passengers.

Given a relatively high level of poverty, Paraguayans often perceive all U.S. citizens, as prosperous even when by U.S. standards the U.S. citizen may not be. Crime has increased in recent years with criminals often targeting those thought to be wealthy. Most crime is nonviolent, however, U.S. citizens have on occasion been the victims of assaults, kidnappings, robberies, and rapes. Local authorities frequently lack the training and resources to solve these cases. Under these circumstances, U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Paraguay should be aware of their surroundings and security at all times. They should take common sense precautions including refraining from displaying expensive-looking cameras and jewelry, large amounts of money, or other valuable items. Resistance to armed assailants has often aggravated the situation and therefore is not advised. 

Armed robberies, car thefts, and home invasions are common in both urban and rural areas. Street crime, including pick pocketing and mugging, is prevalent in the cities, particularly during the evening hours in the vicinity of hotels and airports. The numbers of pick-pocketing incidents and armed assaults are also increasing on public buses and in the downtown area of Asunci�n. As many incidents on public buses involve individuals snatching valuables, passengers should not wear expensive-looking jewelry or display other expensive items. There have been incidents of pilferage from checked baggage at both airports and bus terminals. Travelers have found it prudent to hide valuables on their person or in carry-on luggage. Unauthorized ticket vendors also reportedly operate at the Asuncion bus terminal, badgering travelers into buying tickets for substandard or non-existent services.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Paraguay's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Paraguay are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Prison conditions are harsh. For additional information on the Paraguayan criminal justice system and facilities, please review the most recent Human Rights Report available on the State Department web site. Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18. 

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Good medical facilities, supplies, and services are available only in Asuncion. Elsewhere, these are limited and may not exist.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Paraguay is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance: 

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair 
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor 
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair 

U.S. citizens have been injured and killed in traffic accidents. Only minimal standards must be met to obtain a Paraguayan driver's license, and driver education prior to licensing is not common. Drivers throughout Paraguay routinely ignore traffic regulations. No vehicle insurance is required, and many Paraguayans drive without any insurance coverage. Persons who drive in Paraguay should be prepared to drive defensively and with their own insurance in both urban and rural areas. 

Public transportation is readily available for urban and inter-city travel. Buses vary in maintenance conditions and may not meet U.S. safety standards. Armed robberies occur on buses in cities and rural areas, sometimes with the apparent collusion of the bus driver. Taxis are available and may be called using telephone numbers listed in the newspapers. No passenger train service exists. Bicycle travel may not be safe due to traffic and other road hazards. 

Most urban streets consist of cobblestones over dirt. Some roads in Asuncion and other large cities are paved. However, these roads frequently develop potholes that often remain without repair for several months. Nearly all rural roads are unpaved, and during rainy periods and the rainy season (November-March/April) they may be impassable. Road signs indicating hazards, such as sharp curves or major intersections, are lacking in many areas. 

Driving or traveling at night is not advisable outside Asuncion because animals or vehicles without proper lights are often on the roads. In addition, assaults and other crimes against motorists traveling at night have occurred. Extra precautions should be exercised along infrequently traveled portions of the rural roads. 

Due to insufficient funds, intercity highway maintenance is not equal to U.S. standards. The privately maintained toll road between Caaguazu and Ciudad del Este and the routes between Asuncion and Encarnacion and Asuncion and Pedro Juan Caballero are in good condition. Most other intercity routes are in good to fair condition, with brief stretches in poor condition. The Trans-Chaco route is in poor condition. 

In Asuncion, the following phone numbers exist for roadside/ambulance assistance: 

Emergency Services, including police and ambulances: 911; 
Fire Department, including rescue of accident victims: 132. 

The Touring and Automobile Club provides some roadside assistance to its members. The Club may be contacted in Asuncion by visiting its offices at 25 de Mayo near Brasil, First Floor, or telephoning 210-550, 210-551, 210-552, 210-553, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon, except for Paraguayan holidays. The Touring Club also has offices in Ciudad del Este (tel. 061-512-340), Coronel Oviedo (tel. 0521-203-350), Encarnacion (tel. 071-202-203), Pilar (tel. 086-341-099), and Loma Plata (tel. 0918-2610). Towing services are scarce outside of urban areas. Twenty-four-hour tow truck services from Asuncion may be contacted by telephoning (021) 224-366. For an extra fee, these companies may provide service outside of Asuncion, but they typically demand immediate payment and may not accept credit cards. 

For specific information concerning Paraguay's driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the tourist offices in the Paraguayan Embassy in Washington, D.C. Internet:; or the Paraguayan consulates at the locations noted in the above section on "Entry and Exit Requirements". Information may also be obtained from the Touring and Automobile Club in Asuncion.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Paraguay's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Paraguay's air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Paraguay's air carriers currently flying to the United States will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the United States by Paraguay's air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, the DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 13, 2004

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