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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Paraguay

Paraguay - Consular Information Sheet
February 15, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Paraguay is a middle-income nation with a developing economy. Tourist facilities are good in Asuncion, the capital city, poor in major cities, and almost nonexistent in remote areas.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport is required. U.S. citizens traveling as tourists or for business do not need a visa for stays up to three months. Persons planning on working, formally or informally, or staying longer than three months, may require a visa and should seek information from the Paraguayan Embassy or consulate on the corresponding visas prior to travel. Although Paraguayan law allows changes in visa status, the procedure is lengthy and can be cumbersome. In addition, individuals wishing to reside in Paraguay for any length of time should have their civil documents (birth and marriage certificates, etc.) certified and authenticated by the Paraguayan Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. as well as translated into Spanish. For current information concerning entry and customs requirements for Paraguay, travelers may contact the Paraguayan Embassy at 2400 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-6960. Internet: http://www.embassy.org/embassies/py.html; or the Paraguayan consulate in Los Angeles, Miami, or New York.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Paraguay are advised to take common sense precautions and 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. Curfews are occasionally imposed. Roadblocks in the past have been sporadic and of varying duration but generally nonviolent. 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, wait for the road to reopen or return to the origin of your trip. Travelers also are advised that uniformed police often conduct roving checks of vehicles and passengers.

Individuals and organizations with ties 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.

Additional advice and information may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone number below.

CRIME: Armed robberies, car thefts, and home invasions are on the rise. Street crime, including pickpocketing and mugging, is prevalent in the cities, particularly during the evening hours in the vicinity of hotels and airports. The numbers of pickpocketing incidents and armed assaults are also increasing on public buses. 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 else in carry-on luggage.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Facilities for medical care in Paraguay are limited. Medical supplies may be limited depending on the location of the hospital or clinic and the nature of the injury or illness. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for the adequacy of coverage. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: 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 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

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. Persons who drive in Paraguay should be prepared to drive defensively 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. Taxis are available and may be called using telephone numbers listed in the newspapers. Since a fatal accident in August 2000, the passenger train from Asuncion to Aregua ceased operations and no regular 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 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, as 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 in the countryside and specifically in the San Pedro, Caaguazu and Canindeyu Departments due to both reports of carjackings by armed bandits along infrequently traveled portions of the rural roads in those areas and also other road hazards.

The Ministry of Public Works and Communications is responsible for maintaining highways. Two main roads out of Asuncion - one leading east to Ciudad del Este and the Brazilian border and the other south running south to Encarnacion and Argentina - are better maintained.

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

Emergency services, including ambulances: 141;
Police: 130;
Fire department, including rescue of accident victims: 132;
Robberies and accidents: 130;
Vehicle thefts: 373 or 428.

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 calling telephone 210-550, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday except for Paraguayan holidays. The Touring Club also has offices in Ciudad del Este (061-512-340), Coronel Oviedo (0521-203-350), Encarnacion (071-202-203), Pilar (0975-617-575), and Pozo Colorado (093-516). Towing services are scarce outside of urban areas. Twenty-four-hour tow truck services from Asuncion may be contacted by calling (21) 226-136 or 214-334/5. 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., at telephone (202) 483-6960; Internet: http://www.embassy.org/embassies/py.html; or the Paraguayan consulates at the locations noted under "Entry Requirements." Information may also be obtained from the Touring and Automobile Club in Asuncion.

For additional information about road safety, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at http://travel.state.gov/road safety.html. For specific information concerning Paraguay driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Embassy of Paraguay in Washington, D.C.

AVIATION SATETY OVERSIGHT: 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 U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. 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 at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, 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 U.S. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at telephone (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Paraguay's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary importation into or export from Paraguay of items such as firearms, medications, toys resembling weapons, or protected species. In October 1999, a U.S. citizen seeking to import Viagra, toy stun guns, slingshots, and other items as gifts for his family was arrested and detained by Paraguayan authorities. It is advisable to contact the Paraguayan Embassy in Washington or one of Paraguay's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 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 United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Paraguay's laws, even unknowingly, may be arrested, expelled, 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 website at http://www.state.gov.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's issues.html, or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting Paraguay are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion and obtain updated information on travel and security in Paraguay. The U.S. Embassy is located at 1776 Mariscal Lopez Avenue; telephone (011-595-21) 213-715. The Consular Section is open for U.S. citizens services, including registration, Monday through Thursday from 1-5 pm and Friday from 7:30 am to 11:30 am, except for U.S. and Paraguayan holidays. The Consular Section's Internet e-mail address is: usconsulasuncion@hotmail.com.

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