Changing Traveller’s Cheques In Paraguay

October 6, 2012 1 comment

Bad news  is it just Paraguay?

Following an enquiry from a person interested in Paraguay residency,  I made enquiries about the ability to change traveller’s cheques in Asuncion. Having used the bank transfer system for moving money internationally, I had never enquired regarding this method and had no recollection of seeing a ‘we change traveller’s cheques’ announcement in any bank or forex business here.

To make a long walk and wait story short, I found that you cannot change traveller’s cheques at international banks such as Citi and HSBC, major Brasilian concerns such as Banca Itau nor can you change travellers cheques at most of the major forex firms such as Alberdi and Chaco Cambios.  The only firm providing this service is Maxi Cambios and they deal only with ‘american express’ cheques denominated in USD only. You must have all your transaction records for the purchase of the traveller’s cheques to hand and it generally takes an hour for these transactions to be effected.  for further information.

I would ask anyone with firm knowledge regarding this topic in Brasil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay to either confirm or deny if the same conditions apply.  If you’re posting on expat boards, please make this information available to prevent a lot of time, money and worry to prospective travellers or those relocating.

I also wonder aloud if this is a result of banking and forex institutions showing concern about systemic solvency or if this could be yet another bankster / governmental strategy to make the movement of people and their valuables more difficult.


Expo 2012 Asuncion

There are several country shows each year in Paraguay, the biggest is in Mariano Roque Alonso on the outskirts of Asuncion and coincides with the school winter holiday. It is currently running until 22 July. It is open daily from 09.00 till 23.00 and is a reasonable 15000 pyg (currently 4400pyg/dollar) to get in.


We got there early in the morning as the crowds swell in the afternoon. The ABC newspaper reported that there were 350,000 visitors in the first week. 40000 on Friday, so a nice little profit.


In addition to the animals there are many companies exhibiting, from mobile phone companies,  agroveternaria and animal husbandry related products, tractor and car manufacturers from all over the world, clothing retailers and electric domestic products all of which are said to have a lot of trade.


Paraguay is primarily an agricultural country and the animals are the stars here. There is a large arena where daily shows are held for different categories of cattle, sheep, goats and horses. These shows are not solely for entertainment. They are a serious showcase for the producers. As part of the experience, the commentator was explaining the qualities that should be present in each particular breed of animal.


The next show in the arena was to be Brangus cattle. These are beautiful hulks of the cow world, brown or black with some bulls reaching over 1000 kilos in weight.


During Expo the animals are housed in large sheds where the public can see them, this is a major attraction for children of all ages. The cows sheds are divided into the different breeds which included Brangus, Santa Gertrudis, Hereford and the Brahman with their distinctive humps. Some of the prize winners have details of the breeder, date of birth and weight above them, along with their rosettes. Although most of the animals here will be for show and breeding purposes, there are parrilla restaurants that sell asado from the different breeds of cow.


Outside the sheds is the show preparation area. The cows come here for a shampoo and  brushing or oiling depending on the type of coat that they have. Nail extensions cost extra.


Outside the sheep Shed there was what sounded like a vacuum cleaner. We didn’t take too much notice, but once inside realised that it was in fact a vacuum cleaner. As well as having pure white, very neatly clipped wool a sheep was being vacuumed prior to her exhibition in the ring. There were also santa ines sheep. these are similar to goats in appearance. They are dark and have short coats making them more tolerant of the extremely hot chaco climate. Their meat is also similar to goat, the meat having a firmer texture and is less fatty.

Buying A Car In Paraguay

Buying a car in Paraguay is a bit of an adventure. Unlike in the UK where all that needs to be done is hand over some money, sign the registration document and send it to the driving vehicle licensing authority, buying a car in Paraguay involves visits to an escribana and some unexpected expenses.


I shall recount our experience. Once a car had been found, it was necessary for the vendor to take the title document, called an escritura publica, to an escribana to check that the vendor had clear title and that there were no other claims on the vehicle. We also had to show identification for the registration procedure. This can be passport or cedula. An escribana had been recommended to us by a friend, as they had experience of her services and that she would not allow any transfer if there was any problem with the title. This was reassuring as we had heard of people waiting months for their documents because of problems with clear title. Preparing for the transfer and checking the documents took about 10 days.


Once the contract was prepared we visited the office with the seller. Both of us had to be present to sign the documents. It was at this point we were asked to pay for the car. We were able to pay by bank cheque. this is not always possible. Many people in Paraguay, including professionals, do not have bank accounts. it is not unusual to have to pay for large purchases, including cars and land, in cash.


The fees for transfer of the vehicle was 2.000.000 guaranis, about 500usd. this included all the government registration fees and the escribana’s fees. Generally these fees are shared between the buyer and seller.


I received the seller’s registration document which is called a green cedula, habilitacion which is the car tax and a receipt for the vehicle. I had to carry the receipt in the car until I received my own green cedula and escritura publica, which shows that I own the vehicle. It takes about 4-6 weeks to receive the documents. Green cedula, habilitacion and insurance card have to be carried at all times in Paraguay in case you are stopped by the police.


It is also important to remember that if you allow another person to use your vehicle when you are not accompanying them, to give written permission to the person, including their cedula number. This document should be authenticated by an escribana to ensure it is honoured by police.


Another aspect of the purchase procedure that is different, is getting insurance. We had to show the receipt to the insurance company for the vehicle once we had bought it, rather than ringing and arranging the insurance to commence at the time of purchase. We also had to take the car to the insurers offices to be photographed and inspected by them. When the insurance certificate is issued it also needs to be carried in the car.


Cars up to 10 years old may be imported into Paraguay. When imported there is duty paid. If this has not yet been done, a brown cedula issued instead of a green cedula, until the duty is paid. When the duty is paid and you apply for the green cedula it is necessary to again get the signature of the person who originally sold the vehicle to you. If you cannot find the person it is necessary to commence legal proceedings and the previous owner is eventually summonsed to sign the documents. A frustrating and expensive procedure. It is also common to see cars with no registration plates. This is because they have been newly imported into Paraguay and are waiting for their first registration in this country.


I have been told by Brad, one of our readers, that sometimes you are required to have the vehicle inspected by the municipality before it can be registered. Some municipalities,  have very thorough inspections, while others are much more superficial in their nature. it is also necessary to have this inspection done each year prior to re-taxing the vehicle.


Categories: Daily Life, Paraguay Tags: ,

Summer In Paraguay

Flame Tree

Temperatures in the summer frequently reach the high 30s and take quite a bit of adjusting to. In addition to the heat, the humidity which can be above 60% some days. Thunderstorms are frequent but are not predictable in their timing as in some tropical countries. It is not unusual for the heat and humidity to build up over a few days before a storm breaks refreshingly, giving some much awaited relief.


The temperature always seems to be dependent on which direction the wind is coming from. From the north is the hot and usually humid air that brings many storms. At the times that there are southern winds there is usually cooler air and temperatures sometimes fall to the mid 20s.


Some of the most beautiful trees and shrubs like flame trees and jasmine are in bloom during the summer. The displays of flowers last for months and during the evenings and early mornings the air can be filled with the scent.


Mangoes are also becoming ripe in december and will soon start falling from the trees. The trees generally have so many fruit that it is not unusual to pass someones house and see that bags of fruit have been put out for passers by to take home. Other fruits that are available now include pineapple, guava and watermelon. The watermelons are huge and are seen at every store and market. They are sometimes used for a juice that is sweet and refreshing, much better than in europe where they are often picked before being fully ripe.


In the southern hemisphere, summer is also Christmas time. As a native of northern europe I must admit this feels very strange. Festive treats include pan dulces or panettone, which are traditional Italian breads brought here by italian immigrants, cider and turron which is a peanut and fruit nougat. Fireworks start on Christmas eve, evening and build up until midnight when there are cheers. The main Christmas dinner is eaten on Christmas eve night.


School holidays also last from December till February. January is when many businesses take their annual break. Although some administrative staff remain the courts are also shut during this time. As Paraguay is landlocked, lake and river resorts like San Bernardino and Villa Florida are popular, although more people are now travelling further to the coasts of Brazil and Uruguay.


Immigration Scam Uncovered

The residency process in Paraguay is quite transparent and clear as to the time and requirements that it takes to obtain permanent residency. The timeframe from submission of documents is a minimum of 90 days and frequently a few weeks more. I have heard of a few unlucky cases as well where it has taken a few more months. I feel one of the most effective means of avoiding unnecessary delay is to grant your lawyer a limited power of attorney (limited to the residency process) which allows him to check the progress of the documents on a regular basis.


Paraguay remains one of the quickest places to gain residence legally and with the fewest requirements.


It has been reported in the ABC newspaper last week of some cases where a foreigner has entered the country and received residency in 5 days. this is clearly illegal.


There have been changes put into place at Migraciones to limit access to the computer system that tracks the residency process of individual applicants. An investigation has also been initiated by Migraciones into these activities.

Categories: Paraguay, Residency Tags: ,

Obtaining Permanent Residency In Paraguay


What do I need to do to gain permanent Paraguayan residency?

It is not a difficult process to gain permanent Paraguayan residency but there are a few hoops to jump through. It is advisable to contact an immigration lawyer to clarify your personal circumstances.

Documents you must provide from home.

1 Birth Certificate.

2 Marriage Certificate. If you are divorced or widowed you should bring your decree absolute or copy of your spouse’s death certificate.

3 Police check. This needs to be from where you have lived for the last 5 years. For persons holding citizenship of one country, but residing in another, further proof of address is necessary from the country you’ve been living in. Drivers license should be sufficient, and/or bank statements or utility bills showing residency dates.

4 Educational Certificates. If you plan to work in a related field, these certificates are needed.

It is also recommended to bring letter of reference and statements from your bank. This is not necessary for immigration but is needed at the bank for know your customer procedures.

All these documents need to be legalised at the Paraguayan consulate or embassy in the country that they were issued in. In some countries such as UK it is necessary to have the documents legalised at the foreign office before they are presented to the Paraguayan consulate.

When you arrive in Paraguay it is necessary to have these documents legalised again and have certified translations done of all the documents and passport. In addition to this some other documents need to be obtained. Citizens that need a visa to enter Paraguay also need the visa legalised. It is worth mentioning that when you obtain your visa the category is for tourist visa. The form states that you do not intend to obtain residency. We checked with the Paraguay consulate in London, and they told us that it is the correct form and it is ok to enter Paraguay and then apply for residency using this visa.

While there are sites on the internet that state it is possible to prepare for submission of residency documents in one week it is advisable to plan for a trip of about 3 weeks. Government offices are only open in the morning and it often takes more than one trip to obtain documents, therefore taking longer than anticipated to obtain desired documents. If you finish sooner it is a bonus.

Documents obtained in Paraguay.

1 Certificate of Antecedentes for foreigners from national police.

2 Certificate of Interpol

3 Certificate of life and residence from local police station.

4 Certificate of mental and physical health and blood tests for infectious diseases.

5 Letter from local bank confirming that you have made a deposit. This used to be for $5000.  The amount has now been reduced but it is still recommended to have the larger amount.

6 Declaration made at a notarising escribana, stating that you agree to abide by the Constitution National and laws of Paraguay.

When these documents have been obtained 2 authenticated copies of all documents need to be made and submitted to Migraciones.

When you submit your application for residency, your state changes to ‘in tramite’ and you may stay in Paraguay all the time that your application is being processed. You are given a receipt that is valid for 90 days. However the process of having your application approved takes about 115 days. You do not need to renew any documents during this time.

You may also choose to give your lawyer a limited power of attorney that is solely for the residency application process to help with the procedure. With power of attorney your lawyer can go to Migraciones and check on the progress of your documents and have access to them if there are any queries. If you choose to leave Paraguay while your application is in progress, your lawyer with power of attorney can collect your documents when residency is granted. Your original documents will be returned to you but not the copies.

The proper residency document is a carnet. This causes some confusion as gaining residency is frequently referred to as getting your cedula. The cedula is the next stage and end of the process.

You have to obtain your cedula within 180 days of being granted residency or your residency is rescinded. I believe this is a fairly new change in the law. You must apply for your cedula in person.

To obtain the cedula you need to submit authenticated copies of your birth and marriage certificates, passport, and original translations of the non spanish documents. A legalised Interpol certificate, a renewed Antecedentes certificate and a delitos certificate which is to review whether there are any misdemeanours on your file.

The cedula is issued one month after application.

Categories: Paraguay, Residency Tags: ,

What Does It Cost To Live In Paradise?

Papaya Abundance

If you’re considering relocation, one of the first and biggest considerations is the cost of living.  The next consideration, and perhaps even more important, is the degree of confidence you have in your pension provider, state or private.  The biggest generation in history is about to begin retiring in huge numbers.  The succeeding generations are not large enough to buy the volume of shares and bonds that will be liquidated by pension companies in order to meet their obligations. Note that the tight labor market, abysmal economic performance and lack of political leadership during the credit crisis have not been mentioned. Just remember that the numbers for pension providers don’t add up.

These considerations figured largely in our search for a relocation destination.  We wanted a low cost of living for everyday necessities. We sought a country where there wasn’t an inordinate dependency on foreign supplies of oil.  We wanted a country with abundant arable land so that, even if there was a considerable economic downturn, hunger would not be a major issue.  With all the poor countries in the world, you have to stop and wonder why the North African countries were first to have political unrest.  Political dictatorship, a lack of opportunity and poor living conditions are not unique to North Africa. bottom line, the ability to grow food easily and in abundance is a key consideration in how economic hardship will affect a society. The fact that the North African countries were largely unable to grow their food locally and that the governments in those countries had been subsidising the cost of food for years before the effects of price inflation rendered this uneconomic for them to do so is a very important factor behind the political unrest. The people in North Africa were devoting around 60 to 70% of their disposable income just to feed themselves. Are you currently keeping a record of how much income you devote to buying food? It could be an early warning signal. And it can happen anywhere.

Here in paradise, the costs are very affordable.  We enjoy sun ripened fruit and vegetables, free range, grass fed beef, a climate where sweaters are not the norm even in winter and there are all the comforts of a capital city. I will list the monthly average and give prices in guaranis, the local currency, and give exchange rates after.

20,000      bottled gas for cooking

657,000     food

53,000      electricity

25,600      land line telephone

40,200      municipal water supply

120,000     bottled water

915,800 guaranis / month

the average exchange rates for october 2010 to may 2011:

euro = 6250  (146.52)  915,800 / 6250

usd  =4540   (201.71)

gbp  =7260   (126.14)

We live in a middle class area quite close to the Asuncion Palacio de Justicio. It is safe, has a good bus service to all parts of the city, is within walking distance of the city center and has all the facilities we need. We rent a 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom flat on the second floor of a two story building. Our monthly rent is 1,350,000 guaranis. if we wanted to live in a trendier part of Asuncion, we could easily spend 5 to 6 million guaranis a month to rent a house. If we chose to live in the countryside and grew some of our own vegetables, we could probably live on 500,000 guaranis per month.  There are lots of choices available here to suit any preference or budget.

I have not included any cost for entertainment.  We go out for a couple of coffees and a piece of cake most days of the week and this costs roughly 100 usd a month.  Life is good when you live in paradise.