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January 2013

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Flight map from Rome to Ciudad Del Este Bookmark and Share

The Paraná River separates Foz do Iguaçu from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city.
The link between the two cities is the called the Ponte da Amizade, or Puente de la Amistad. This busy bridge is crossed by dozens of cars, motorbikes, bicycles and pedestrians.
We crossed on foot. The guidebook said it was dangerous, but all the locals we met said it was only dangerous at night.

View from the Hotel Mercure Botafogo in Ciudad Del Este

People go freely from one city to the other, there’s no one to enforce control or check passports. We had to go into the Brazilian customs office and ask for a Brazil exit stamp. Then on the other side of the bridge, we had to ask for a Paraguay entry stamps. If you don’t ask for these stamps, no one will tell you anything. But if you go further than Foz to Iguaçu or Ciudad del Este, problems will arise when leaving either country, because no entry stamp means illegal entry.

Ciudad Del Este isn’t particularly cute and the surroundings, although rich in natural spots, can’t compete against the Iguaçu Falls. People come to this triple border area to see the waterfalls in Argentina or Brazil, but there’s apparently not big reason to step into Paraguay.

Escadaria Selarón
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Iron Maiden, Guns'n'Roses, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley at the Escadaria Selarón: Rock In Rio

Paraguay had to find a way to bring into its territory all the crowds that go to Argentina and Brazil to see the waterfalls. They had a very clever idea: they built massive shopping centres and incentivized commerce with low taxes. With this, not only the crowds that come to see the falls visit Paraguay, but they also spend most of their money there.
The idea works so well that the stores even work on Brazilian time. There is one hour difference between Foz do Iguaçu and Ciudad Del Este, but the shops here open one hour earlier to make it easier for Brazilian tourists.
Argentina is desperately building malls in and around Puerto Iguazú so they can have their own piece of this juicy pie. But Ciudad del Este’s reputation is already made. The city is even nicknamed “The Supermarket of South America”.

AC/DC on the Escadaria Selarón in Ciudad Del Este

We weren’t there to shop, but I found out that there were some quite good deals in electronics, musical instruments and clothes. But I heard prices were way more interesting for Brazilians than for Europeans, as taxes on electronic goods are higher in Brazil.
This huge commerce region brings merchants and people from all over the world, building up a multicultural area. This might explain why there’s a Chinese Temple and a Mosque in Foz Do Iguaçu, two rare religious buildings that look very exotic in South America.
Of course, not everything sold in Ciudad Del Este is totally legal. There’s a lot of contraband and other unofficial dealers. It’s said that even the Hamas and the Hezbollah have offices in disguise there and get financed by the businesses they hold. It sounds scary but no one knows if this is really true, and anyway as regular tourist, there’s nothing to worry about.

Graffiti in Santa Teresa, Ciudad Del Este


Santa Teresa, Ciudad Del Este


The angel_maletas of Ciudad Del Este

Besides the malls, Ciudad Del Este is a normal mid-sized city, with many parks and some nice residential houses. The two main religious buildings are the cathedral and, well, the football stadium.
The Cathedral of Ciudad Del Este is rather small. It’s a symmetric building that looks like a house, but has a bell tower on each side. Inside the stained glassed are modern, I’d say it is kind of cubic style.
Attractions near Ciudad del Este include the huge Itaipú Dam and the Salto del Monday Waterfalls, but we’ll visit those if we ever have the chance to come back.
In the late afternoon, we took the bus to Encarnación, the capital of Paraguay, where we spent a couple of days. Read here about the city of Encarnación.

Inside the long Ciudad Del Este angel_maletas


Ciudad Del Este skyline, with the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Sebastian Bookmark and Share

Paraguay Links:

Ciudad Del Este on Trip Advisor
Hotels in Ciudad Del Este
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