Margaret Hebblethwaite tells the legend behind Iguazú Falls and how they came to be.Read more...
Paraguay - Heath and safety
Needless to say, travel insurance is important in the developing world, to cover for health problems, as well as for accidents, theft, loss of luggage and mishaps generally. It is also recommended to carry a written note of your blood group with you – it is standard for Paraguayans to have this information shown on their driving licences – and also written information about any health condition you may have (eg: diabetes) and any medicines you need to take regularly.
The only vaccine required under the International Health Regulations to enter Paraguay is yellow fever if you are coming from an endemic area. Paraguay has not had a case of yellow fever reported since 2008 and does not wish to have another one. The vaccine takes ten days to be fully effective and the certificate lasts for ten years though vaccine coverage is much longer. A yellow fever certificate, or if the vaccine is not suitable then an exemption certificate, will be provided, and you should carry it with you when you travel, although it is unlikely that you will be asked to show it at the border. For safe travelling in Paraguay you should consider visiting your GP or a travel clinic several weeks before departure.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available on www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ (US). Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
As is well known, where there is poverty, the crime rate is higher. In Asunción and the other cities, particularly Ciudad del Este and Pedro Juan Caballero, you need to be careful and take a few simple precautions. When you arrive at any airport, go to the taxi rank, where all the drivers are known and registered, or to a window which says ‘Taxis’. In the case of Asunción Airport, the official taxis are no longer the yellow ones that you find in the rest of the city, but smarter cars that have been selected for their greater comfort. They are not recognisable as taxis, and there are officials at the door who are responsible for seeing that travellers get directed to an approved taxi.
Do not go into the poorest areas of cities, even by day and even with a companion, unless that companion is someone known to the local people. This applies to the bañados in Asunción – the areas along the riverbank which get periodically flooded, and where there are only hovels. It also applies to a lesser extent to some of the adjacent barrios to the bañados such as Barrio Republicano.
Some people make a point of always travelling by taxi after dark, in the cities. This is a matter of individual decision, and others consider it excessively cautious and expensive. Avoid crossing open spaces, especially at night: it is better to walk around a deserted square at night than to walk through it, where passing cars and pedestrians would not witness any problem or assault. It is probably better not to go for a walk in the Parque Caballero in Asunción even by day. Avoid unpopulated streets, or at least be alert to who might be following you, crossing the road to avoid isolated male walkers. Thieves work alone sometimes, but often they operate in groups.
Be careful in public buses: a lot of theft occurs in them. There is no need to avoid taking buses, but be cautious if the bus is either very full or empty. Although it is unlikely you will have any trouble, be aware that from time to time problems can occur. Pockets can be picked, handbags can be sliced into with sharp knives, and jewellery can be snatched from your neck, so for extra safety put pendants inside your clothes. Do not expect the other passengers or driver necessarily to assist you in the case of an attempted theft: they may be at risk of reprisals.
Do not wear a money belt around your waist, unless it is well hidden and does not protrude. Otherwise all it does is announce to the thief where the valuables are, and make an assault more likely. Paraguayans will hide their money in their socks or bra rather than in a money belt. Split up your money, so if you are robbed you have at least a little emergency money in another place. It is a good idea to also carry a smaller amount of money in a secondary wallet, that you can hand over with less serious loss if assaulted. Paraguayan thieves are not usually interested in credit cards and do not know how to use them: all they want is cash, jewellery, mobile phones and other electrical devices.
There are no special rules for women travellers. Although Paraguayan men can be pushier than European men, there is no particular safety risk for women, and it is not necessary for women to be escorted or to dress differently from how they would at home.