Paraguay is a country in South America. Hichhiking is a concept known in Paraguay and fairly common in rural areas. It's harder to hitchhike on main roads as bus companies serve those; there are fewer private cars than in Argentina or Chile. In the western Gran Chaco, waiting times can be very long as there is little traffic; especially between Filadelfia and the Bolivian border. Between Filadelfia and Asunción, there's more traffic, but still not very much.
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The western and the eastern parts are also very different if it comes to the population and their reaction to foreigners. In the East, where 95% of the people live, mainly descendants of the Guarani people with a bit of typical Latin American influences, as a foreigner or "gringo", you're likely to arouse a good bit of curiosity, and if you speak Spanish or even a few bits of Guarani, you'll quickly get a good rapport with the people who are among the friendliest and most hospitable in South America. In the West, however, there is a mix from poor workers from the East, and rich German Mennonites, who could be compared to rural US Americans - friendly, but quite conservative.
User MOAH hitchhiked over the Guaíra/Salto del Guaíra border to Paraguay, but as it is a major shopping area for Brazilians to buy cheap Chinese products in the noman's land, you won't get a stamp at the actual border. Instead, you have to go to the office of the Brazilian Policia Federal in Guaíra town, at the roundabout (Address: Praça Castelo Branco, s/n - Centro, Guaíra - PR, 85980-000, Brazil. Telephone: +55 44 3642-9100), which has super irregular opening times. If you press the bell, someone might open the gate and you can start the check-out process. The people here speak good English (!!!). From there it's a short walk to the 3600m bridge crossing from Paraná state to Mato Grosso state, where there's a semi-functional police control from where one can hitch the 12km to the actual Paraguayan border. A sign saying "PY" will do the trick. The noman's land is about 6km long, but you can catch a ride in between with friendly Paraguayans to Salto del Guaíra, where you again have to find some office to get your check-in stamp. This is a tiny shitty office with a well-hidden "Migracion" sign located on Avenida Bernardino Caballero c/ La Paz, Ciudad de Salto del Guairá (Telephone: (595) 046 - 243 536) with a permanently bored employee who will ask you how long you'll stay. Again, there's very irregular opening times, so you might have to stay the night to get your stamp. Don't cross this border on a Sunday. Enjoy the amazing kebab-like streetfood (about €0.90) on the Paraguayan side!
The Ponta Porã/ Pedro Juan Caballero crossing is a similar mess and nobody in town really knows where to get the stamp, how ever much they want to help. It took Miriam more two and a half hours to cross, even with lots of nice people's help and rides within the city. The brazilian stamp is issued at the police post in the airport, but only for pedestrians - if you cross with a vehicle it's somewhere else. You get the paraguayan stamp NOT in Aduana but instead at a smallish, unimportant looking building on Avenida Brasil, across the street from the way leading to the airport. Lots of walking involved. To hitchhike into Brazil you can just walk towards the town exit and position yourself behind the roundabout with chimarrão/tereré monument.
The Gran Chaco area in Paraguay is the most direct route to go to Bolivia, but many people take the route through Argentina due to bad road conditions. If you're hitching the "Ruta Transchaco" from the capital Asuncion, it's best to get out of the city with a short distance bus (~2.500 Guaranies = €0.30) called "La Chaqueña" which ends in the town Benjamin Aceval/Cerrito where there's a toll port with some shadow and a few shops to buy water, cigarettes and snacks. You're currently more than 700km from the border to Bolivia and it will be a minimum of three days hitchhiking through sparsely populated areas that get really hot. You can still turn back and go straight before the bridge to Asuncion to cross the border to Argentina.
User MOAH hitchhiked in December over the Transchaco from Cerrito to Filadelfia - the biggest hamlet of Gran Chaco, about 400km - in one day and rested between Filadelfia and Cruce de los Pioneros. Already before sundown the darkness comes in the form of threatening mosquito clouds. About 40km of this road is pretty bad, but if you continue north-west you'll soon ask yourself why you thought this was bad. From Filadelfia to Mariscal Estigarribia is about 90 kilometers that can be done fairly smoothly! The migration office is on the border of Bolivia, Mariscal Estigarribia has custom only for trucks. Before you're even thinking of reaching Bolivia, plan this trip carefully so you won't ever have to cross one of these borders on a Sunday (you're royally fucked). There's no ATM's here.
From Mariscal Estigarribia the road gets even emptier than before. At the end of town is a military base with a shelter on the correct side of the road for shadow and a seat. The next places you can get stuff at have no names on the map, except for La Patria, which is 100km away. The first 10km of road are still like the rest in Paraguay, until suddenly you can deal with a remaining 90km stretch of undodgeable potholes of a road that's only 15 years old. The average speed for trucks is about 15km/h and pick-ups do it with 20 or 25 km/h. The bus (Asuncion - Santa Cruz de la Sierra. No airconditioning) covers this distance in about seven hours, so you'll be happier hitchhiking. On average the third pick-up would stop. Places to get water at ar scarce, so take at the very least three litres with you before you go and fill that up whenever you can.
La Patria has shops and (shitty) accomodation and from here the road will be fine again till inside Bolivia. Its 116km to the border, which has a 6km no man's land in between you honestly don't want to walk. From La Patria there's nothing till the border besides some ranches, and truck drivers were very reluctant to pick up hitchhikers in this direction, probably because they're scared - something with drugs or whatever. It's very likely that your average pick-up driver has a shotgun or other hunting rifle - whether that's for protection or assault is up for discussion. Pick-ups drive about 90km/h here so you'll be fast!
At the border there are both migration offives of Paraguay and Bolivia. You will get your Bolivian stamp here. At the border you can get drinkable ground water from a little tap outside the "Aduana" building on the Bolivian side. It's warm, but it will help you survive. Find a tree and wait until a truck moves in the right direction or go around and ask. You might wait three hours before you see something moving as there is 1) very little traffic 2) a lot of bureaucracy for truck drivers to finally pass. If you're lucky, there might be a pick-up from Bolivia driving back to civilization 100km away to a town called Villa Montes (ATMs, hostels, WiFi!!!).
User MOAH said that from Mariscal Estigarribia the bus wouldn't take her because it was too crowded all the time, so she was "forced" to hitchhike - it worked! In the daytime there's people exchanging Guaraní, Dollars, Euros, Reaís at the border. There's a military check point about 500 meters from the Migracion where folkuniform might ask you to show your passport but other than that, hitchhiking shouldn't be a big deal here, except for very low traffic. It's still more than 50km to Villa Montes, but at least now you've legally entered the Plurinational State of Bolivia!
Moral of the story: for hitchhiking Gran Chaco, bring a hat, enough, food, water, cash, sunscreen and mosquito repellant and a healthy dose of skepticism. Never do anything important on a Sunday.
- US Citizens* need a visa before arrival in Bolivia of $135. Deportation awaits if you don't have this.
Impress your driver with the phrases you know in the indigenous language Guaraní!
- Hello - mba'eteko/mba'eichapa/mba'e la porte
- Yes - hee
- No - nahaniri
- Thank you - aguyie
- Please -
- Cheers -
- Good - iporã (oiporã = i'ts alright)
- Goodbye - ahama
- Water - Y (pronounced as Russian letter/sound ы )
- See you later - ahata aju
- I love you Paraguay - rohayhu Paraguay
- Husband - mena
- Wife - Tembireko
- Delicious - he
- Food - tembilu
- Home/house - oga
- I/me/my - che (pronounce as "sjeh")
- You/your - nde
- He/she/it - ha'e
- Where are you going? - Moo reho?
- My name... - Mba'eichapa...
- What is your name? - Mba'eichapa nde rera?
- Can you bring me to ...? - ikatupio che gueraha?