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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.

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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.

 

Autumn In Paradise

Autumn Roses

Autumn has always been my favourite season. It has the cooler evenings, the apples, plums and other fruits. The leaves turning golden and falling are one of my favourite sights of the year.

Autumn is different here, but looks set to be my favourite season here too. The sting of the summer sun has cooled, to a muscle relaxing heat. The light is more mellow, perhaps because the sun has dipped in the sky and is giving longer shadows.

A couple weeks ago we had our first cold snap. It brought night temperatures to 8c and day temperatures to 19c. It felt cold. Quilts and jumpers were brought out. This lasted just a couple days. It now feels like there has been a reprieve. Temperatures are back in the mid 20s which is normal for this time of year. Sometimes we have felt chilly only to realise that we are out at night and still in tee shirts.

The flowers that we would consider summer flowers in Britain are now in full bloom. There are yellow and orange marigolds in the park. Roses which have been in bloom throughout summer have perked up in the cooler temperatures and are vibrant. There are several different types, from the tiny miniature rose to standard varieties and big tea roses. The scents are wonderful and fill the air along with the jasmine that seems to always be in bloom, filling the air.

Citrus fruits are at their peak. Grapefruit was first and have given way to oranges, mandarins and tangerines. Walking along Asuncion streets the trees are heavy with fruit. There are even some Sicilian lemon trees, which are quite rare here.

A few trees are losing their leaves. Many trees, like mango are still as full and bushy as any other time of year. They are beginning to bud and giving promise of fruits to come in the summer. Some trees and shrubs are having their annual pruning. It was a bit of a shock to see all the leaves and quite a bit of branch being cut off. We thought the trees were being cut down, but this is pruning sub tropical style. The climate allows the return to vigorous growth, which has started already.

Flocks of migratory birds can be seen daily in their flight to warmer climes. They can be heard squawking as they encourage each other in their journey. Winter will be here soon and the opportunity for more new experiences and new sights and smells.

Categories: Daily Life, Paraguay Tags: ,

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: ,

Easter


We were not sure what to expect for our first Easter in Paraguay. The Holy Week is known as  Santa Semana. The week began with Palm Sunday. There were beautiful woven sheafs of palm carried by all the parishioners exiting church. Easter eggs which were already in the shops in pretty pergolas as you entered were now joined by boxes of chocolates arriving on the shelves.

Thursday is a public holiday here to mark Holy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper. Asuncion became quiet, the few businesses that were open closed their doors at midday. We have been told that Easter time also marks the end of the holiday season and there is a mass exodus to the countryside and lake resorts as people enjoy the rare four day weekend.

Friday began quietly, really quietly. the only time that I have heard Asuncion this quiet was on Christmas morning. At mid morning we walked into the centre of town. Even by this time there were very few people in the streets. The ones that were out were with their friends and families, happily walking together. To mark Good Friday there was no smell of asado (latin american barbecue) in the air. The few restaurants that were open had special menus featuring bacalao con garbanzo, a delicious stew of salt cod and chickpeas. lasagne and gnocchi with vegetables, as well as the usual favourites of steak, chicken, the sopa paraguaya which is a type of corn bread and chipa guazu, a cheesy souffle made with green corn.

The weather was beautiful. At Altos, a small town about an hours drive from Asuncion, the crucifixion is depicted on the green beside the church. The event lasts all day until sunset. Forecast storms never came and the day was bathed in a lovely warm late summer type light. The evening was perfect as singers from the church paraded the streets in Asuncion with crosses.

Saturday awoke to heavy rain and cold winds, there was little movement in the city centre. The usually large and jubilant crowd at the Defensores de los Chacos stadium for the football match was also diminished and more subdued.

Sunday remained quiet. There had been more pageants in the morning beginning at 5am at Trinidad church, depicting the passion and crucifixion. The restaurants were doing a slow trade, most of the city’s inhabitants were still away. The customers that were there were leaving with bags full of Easter eggs, milk and white chocolate carefully decorated and wrapped in cellophane. They has almost all disappeared from the supermarkets. By the evening the rumble of traffic could be heard. Porches were being swept as owners returned home, dogs were barking from the excitement of their freedom after their long journeys. Nighttime was busy, restaurants and bars with customers spilling out onto the pavement, people quietly enjoying the last of easter and relaxing before their return to work.

Today it is a memory as Asuncion returned to normal and everyone has their story to tell, getting ready for winter and dreaming of next summer.

Categories: Daily Life