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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.  www.maxicambios.com.py  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.

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.

 

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.

Feliz Bicentenario Paraguay

The Panteon


Happy Bicentenary Paraguay.

Paraguay celebrates 200 years of independence today. There are many celebrations going on in Asuncion over the weekend. They include parades, parties, aquatic and aeronautical displays.

Many public buildings have been painted and renovated for the occasion, including The Panteon in the centre of Asuncion.

Categories: Asuncion, Daily Life Tags: ,

Living In Asuncion

Palacio de Lopez

We had little idea of what to expect living in paraguay would be like. We had seen pictures of the Asuncion skyline and of the major buildings and a couple of videos on youtube. It looked pleasant enough, but as for the day to day living, there was very little information. we had done extensive research of many countries online and chose paraguay because there is ample water, farmland and there is a small, young population in a large space. beyond that the trail largely goes cold.

We currently live in Asuncion the capital of Paraguay. The population of Greater Asuncion is approximately 2 million. It is a quickly growing city. Many people leave the countryside to come to Asuncion to seek work.

Asuncion is a good city to live in. It has a similar feel to many european cities not to make it feel strange, but there is a quality of going back in time a little. There are department stores, phone shops and many electronic shops, banks and the usual businesses on any high street. The difference is that there are still many privately owned little corner shops, goods similar to what you are used to but different brands and much fewer big brand fast food chains. Fast food comes in the form of traditional empanadas (pasties filled with a variety of meat or vegetables) and milanese style steaks. These are again mainly from small privately owned cafes and bars. There are vendors getting on and off the buses, shoe shine boys, people carrying baskets of fruit and chipa for sale, things that we just didn’t see anymore in the UK. It was a change, life is interesting and not every street is a uniform copy of the last.

The centre of Asuncion is easy to walk around and compact enough to take in some of the major highlights in about 2 hours. These include the Pantheon, which is an oratory, the Palacio de Lopez, which is now government offices and the municipal theatre. The buildings here are elegant and reflect a prosperous past. There are some unsympathetic store fronts but the buildings are left largely intact and could be easily restored. There was not the widespread destruction of old buildings in the centre that has happened to so many cities, followed by the construction of bland concrete. Unfortunately, there are a few high rise concrete testaments to the 60’s. There are good bus links to most parts of the city, good places to eat, shops and some museums. A major promenade is planned for the riverfront and work is due to start soon.

There is abundant green space in Asuncion in the form of parks and plazas. The city has many trees on most streets and each month something comes into bloom. We do not know the names of most of the trees as they are not found in colder climes, but they are a feast for the eyes. Citrus fruits are now ripe, bunches of bananas are bright green. From our city apartment we can see papaya and oranges. If we look out in another direction there are palm trees.

There are various types of neighbourhood that will fit different lifestyles and budgets. If you wish you can import your lifestyle from USA or Europe and spend a similar amount of money, even living in gated communities if you so wish or live more simply, but still very comfortably, in a professional, middle class neighbourhood and pay around £450 per month including rent, food, utility and internet bills. In future posts we will look at a few neighbourhoods in more detail for the availability of accommodation and what can be expected in that particular area. We shall soon have another blog devoted primarily to photographs of Paraguay.

Categories: Asuncion Tags: ,