In & Out Paraguay – Border Crossing Scam

I fear I can’t say much about Paraguay, but one thing I grew up hearing was that some Brazilians made a living of going there to buy cheaper goods to bring back and sell it. They were bootleggers, but sometimes they were just nice ladies that would come to your house with a big bag of clothing for you to try on (and buy).

From Foz do Iguaçú, we crossed the Friendship Bridge on the overnight bus – so we were a bunch of sleepyheads while crossing the border Brazil-Paraguay. And, because of Mercosul agreement, we Brazilians just needed to present our national IDs to get in. No passport necessary. No stamps. We didn’t realize that would become a problem while leaving the country.

After a day around the chaotic city of Asuncion, at the flea market and having cervezas and empanadas, we went back to bus station and hopped on a bus to Resistencia, Argentina. Leaving Paraguay, we got off of the bus to see the customs officers, and the drama began…

We were asked for an exit card, that we were supposed to have gotten at Ciudad del Leste, the Paraguayan entry city. We never got it. Our fault? Probably not, since none of the 6 of us got it. They wanted US$50 per person. I do not know if this was a penalty fee, but since we ended up negotiating this price, I am pretty sure it was bribe. We also met two French nationals going through the same situation that, just because of their nationality, had to pay more. We ended up paying US$10 each, while the French paid 100 pesos extra or something.

And hey, nowadays I (capital I, like pointing to myself) even think it was little money that perhaps wasn’t worthy of our headache, but remember that on this trip we wanted to spend US$700 TOTAL. 700 divided by 35 days is 20 bucks. Did we like to give half of our daily budget to this corrupted police?

Back to the bus was also a vision of hell: sardine-can packed, screaming child, people eating full meals (beans, rice, chicken) on proper glass plates while bootleggers asked us to take one of their bags to go through Argentinean customs. Of course we said no, but it was uncomfortable in so many levels…

Lessons learned:

  • Crossing Paraguay borders can be a nightmare.
  • Make sure you ask for any entry/exit/tourist cards when entering a country.
  • Make sure bootleggers are not adding an extra bag to your stuff.
  • And don’t make tight plans for your arrival on the other side: because of the delay at customs, we ended up missing our bus going to Salta.

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