Holiday in Pedro Juan Caballero

The Language Barrier

Getting around Paraguay without basic Spanish is tricky but not impossible. A Spanish language phrasebook is highly recommended for travelers with limited language skills (also be sure to check out Language Reference for useful phrases). English is not widely spoken, even amongst those working in the tourism industry. When joining a tour, try to talk with guides beforehand to ensure you’ll be able to communicate sufficiently. Most museums and attractions do not have English speakers on staff, but those in Asuncion may be able to find an English speaking guide with sufficient advanced notice. If you speak German, consider joining a tour company that caters to German tourists such as Klassen Tours (Tel: 021 612035, www.klassentours.com) or Hotel Westfalenhaus/Paraguay Travel (Tel: 021 292374, www.paraguay-travel.de).

Visitors looking to improve their Spanish conversation skills will find the lack of English speakers beneficial, as there will be ample opportunities to practice. Most Paraguayans are eager to interact with foreigners and help them with their language skills. Do not be discouraged by the heavy presence of Guaram in Paraguayan Spanish. Just think of it as an opportunity to learn Paraguayan slang. It is common for people to leave Paraguay and subsequently discover that words they thought were Spanish are actually Guaram. The further into the countryside you venture, the more Guaram speakers you will encounter (see Languages). However, the majority of tourists are unlikely to venture into areas where people speak Guaram exclusively.

See Language Reference for useful phrases in Guarani and Spanish, pronunciation tips, and resources for learning either language formally.

Sidebar: Do not let a fear of making mistakes keep you from trying to speak Spanish or Guaram. Being able to laugh at our own language gaffes will prove to locals that you are a good sport, not to mention provide fodder for further conversation.

Paraguay is home to seventeen national parks as well as a number of reserves. In addition, the binational entities running the Itaipu and Yacyreta hydroelectric plants operate several nature reserves, which are open to the public with prior reservations (see Itaipu Dam. Nature Reserves and Central Hidroelectrica Yacyreta). Visitors will often find they have the parks to themselves. Public transportation may not pass by the park entrance but in many cases it will get you within a short hike or taxi ride. The most popular and easily accessible parks are Parque Nacional YbycuL 123 kilometers from Asuncion, and Parque Nacional Cerro Cora, along the road between Concepcion and Pedro Juan Caballero.

Lodging is free at all national parks, though the quality of visitor’s centers varies greatly. Some only have campsites, while others have full-fledged facilities including private rooms with air-conditioning (though a donation for fuel costs may be required in order to run generators). Plan to bring and prepare your own food; most parks do not have food options inside visitor’s centers or nearby. Park rangers are knowledgeable and friendly, making the most out of scant resources and limited contact with outside world. Rangers will often be happy to take visitors on tours and patrols if you chip in (or cover) fuel costs. Many risk their lives patrolling protected areas for loggers and poachers.

Other options for coming into contact with Paraguay’s nature include private reserves and ranches (estancias) which are often better run and include more reliable facilities for visitors. Prices vary depending on the level of comfort provided, and often reservations and payment must be made in advance to headquarter offices in Asuncion. Hiring a private guide or tour operator will facilitate transportation (and access to supplies) significantly. It can also, in many cases, help you gain access to natural areas not open to the general public. Serious nature-lovers are advised to hire an experienced guide in order to make the most of their time and maximize chances of seeing wildlife.

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