Friday, May 22, 2009

Why oh why Paraguay?

I have been wanting to go to Paraguay for some time now. It's where many Brazilians go to buy their electronics, alcohol and cosmetics and to me it's a chance to explore a bit more of this fascinating continent. Unlike Brazil, Paraguay has no import tax so things are much cheaper.

Yesterday was the day I crossed over...

We started out before dawn and a few hours later we crossed the Parana river, something so vast that a poor little English girl could hardly grasp.
(This pic only shows about half as my camera couldn't take it all in).

The border seemed pretty standard apart from the huge pile of rocks in the middle of the road which ripped a hole in one of our tyres! Luckily replacing a tyre is half the price of doing it in Brazil and there were even armed guards there to help persuade us to pay the bill.

New tyre in tow we headed straight to Queen Anne shopping centre to start gathering the supplies on our extensive list.

The city of Guaira is rather strange and desolate place. It consists of one main street, which is filled with shops selling mostly blankets and socks. Children follow you down the road trying to sell you fake branded sports socks for $2 US. Around this street are smaller streets sporadically filled with small houses and intertwined with the malls.
We spend the next five hours hunting down a watch with large numbers for my mother-in-law, a usb hub and mic for my father-in-law, a backpack laptop carrier for my brother-in-law and various fishing items for my husband. This is all very boring and basic stuff I hear you all saying.
The problem is that in Brazil things are subject to a 60% import tax and what with the average monthly salary being $500RS (about £155 or $246US) and over 65% of the country's population earning this wage it's a bit tough to buy things. A trip to Paraguay is like a trip to a shopper's paradise. Border checks are not that thorough but the guards look for people with number plates from Sao Paulo who will buy much more than the $300US allowance per person and sell it on the famous rua vinte e cinco de marco (a kind of down market Oxford St where you can buy clothes and jewellery at discounted prices). We don't get stopped as we go through and drive off into the sunset nearly crashing into a stupid mule who is standing in the middle of the highway at night (he obviously forgot his high vis vest!).
We arrive safe and sound at home and I realise how lucky I am that I have the freedom to go home to London and buy pretty much anything I need.
So that's why they go to Paraguay.


  1. Interesting to read your experiences. We've heard about all the shopping, tires and buying for selling in Sao Paulo from so many friends in Maringa. D really wanted to go just to see it, but I've never had any interest. I can understand the draw for Brazilians and like you I certainly count my blessings that I have access to so much.

  2. My mother in law is from Paraguay! This post corroborates a lot of what she's told me about her home country. I'd still love to visit to see for myself!

  3. In reality, most people do not earn around R$500, but rather R$1000 (£330). It also depends on what part of the country you are talking about, since Brazil is so radically different from place to place, and people living in Porto Alegre and Curitiba earn around R$1.500 a month, whereas most people in Recife and Salvador earn around R$800.