TV stations in Brazil use to divulge news about products and magazines along border cities, especially from Paraguay, and not rare Brazilian's journalists interview traders and customers inside these shopping centers in Paraguay.
Many times those images won't stimulate travelers to go on, because pictures of 'Ponte da Amizade' (Friendship's Bridge) with its custom house always bottled, people queued waiting under the sun, or the chaotic streets of 'Ciudad del Este' (Eastern City) which will lead many people to give up even before starting the trip.
On the other hand, a question remains on the air: if as many people travel until there, some very strong reason should exist.
And yes, there is indeed a reason that Brazilians know very well: prices charged in Paraguay for home consumer products, mainly electronic gadgets, are (very) cheaper than its similar in Brazil. Even when no bypassing the 300 USA dollars for buyers (limited by Brazilian customs), a tourist family can waste some days in the border, to see the Iguassu Water Falls, Itaipu Dam, as well as other attractions, and return home with the trip paid just by difference in prices of articles they bring into luggage.
Some items sold by paraguayan stores Pass mouse to stop motion.
That didn't happen by chance, tax incentives were created by Brazilian government long ago, to attract visitors to this region and impulse its development. Paraguayan government in turn, eliminated almost all taxes for foreign products in many bordering cities, so prices became really pretty attractive. Problems begun when some persons perceived that these incentives could generate big profits, by introducing goodies to Brazil and reselling them without taxes payments.
So, the universe of 'sacoleiros' was born (sacoleiro = a person who carries a big bag), as well as 'muamba' (muamba = a product of unknown origin), and other qualifying names for people who dedicate to illegal trades in the borders. And also was born the fight between customs polices and the thousands of 'sacoleiros that survive from this business.
But if you are a honest tourist just trying to take advantage of trip and buy something into legal limits, then this guide is for you.
Here is my first tip: 'shopping in Paraguay' not necessarily means travel to 'Foz de Iguassu' (Iguassu = big water , in native tupi-guarani dialect, and writes slight different as Iguaçu for Portuguese, Iguazu or Yguazu for Spanish), because there are at least two other Paraguayan cities bordering Brazil, which offer good variety and prices for their products: one is 'Pedro Juan Caballero' (name of patriot when Spanish independence, 1811), in front of Brazilian city 'Ponta Porã' (ponta porã = pretty peak , native dialect), forming a no-barrier border with Mato Grosso do Sul - MS.
The second city is 'Salto del Guairá' (means Guairá water falls) in front of Brazilian city of Guaira (PR), at the other side of Paraná River. There are still two other important cities in Paraguay, which do not border with Brazil, but that are very visited by brazilian and argentine tourists. One of them is the capital of country, named Asunción, close to Paraguay River, distant 330 km of Ciudad del Este, and the other one is Encarnación, at the south of Paraguay, facing the argentine city of Posadas, which also locates some 300 km of Ciudad del Este.
The attractive in region known as 'Three Borders' is strong, because of the Iguassu Falls, Itaipu Dam, the National Park of Iguassu (with its tropical forests) and other ecological safaris. Still more, hotels and casinos at Argentina side (Puerto Iguazu city) are of excellent quality. These interesting points are located in the
satellite map of the 'Three Borders'. '.
Lets we see what these cities could offer to the traveler in terms of purchasing, products and prices. Like webmaster of this site 'Shopping in Paraguay' I know every one of more than 2000 stores in our catalog, so, for this reason I can say 'recommended' when a magazine deserves this title, as well as give to you tips and warnings.
I also want to say that I purchased some times in Paraguayan shopping centers, and all times I had problems, they replaced merchandise to me, even having passed some weeks between a trip and another. I cannot say that all stores of Paraguay are warranted or honest, but traveler should notice that, with entrance of Internet in the game, any store making wrong practices, immediately will have its name displayed in the several Orkut forums related to the subject, as well as other forums of customers accessed by interested parties. For this reason, stores of Paraguay take care of its image for travelers, or else they risk nobody visiting them any more.
I recommend that you open links of satellite maps for each city when requested, and try to follow the buyers path.
History of Ciudad del Este can be found in Wikipedia, it was called 'Puerto Presidente Stroessner' until the fall of Paraguayan former-president Alfredo Stroessner in February 2 1989 (in Google Earth still appears this name, a small delay of 18 years). The city had a fast development when the 'Ponte da Amizade' (Friendship Bridge) was built in middle 60's. Later came the enormous Itaipu dam in 70's, and soon little stores established in the city, attracted by tax incentives and the privileged localization. Now commerce of the city is controlled by four main groups: the Brazilians, who emigrated and started their businesses here, the Arabs, mainly Lebanese, the Chinese and the Paraguayans. There are also Japanese, Korean, Jewish, Argentine and Indian groups.
Ciudad del Este has so good hotels as its neighbor Foz de Iguassu, but with lower prices. Just to tell some of them located at down town, the Munich Hotel, the Austria Hotel and the Convair Hotel. See here a complete satellite map of HOTELS in
Ciudad del Este
Foz do Iguaçu
When arriving first time to CDE, you will have the impression of being in a place that cannot exist. Motorcycles run crazily in the streets, there is no place in the sidewalks to walk, and still more you will be surrounded by groups of salesmen at every step you give in the streets. They will go offer to you from stockings, panties or 'viagra', until car tools or DVD's.
They will observe each gesture you make to figure your wishes, and try to sell by that side. If they perceive you are speaking in a cell phone, you will be surrounded by 3 or 4 men or women offering 'cell accessories', if you look certain age, they will offer 'viagra', and whether look hesitating, you risk attract those trying push you to bazaars to bring commission.
A nice starting point could be to walk by right side of 'Avenida San Blas' (back to Brazil), which is the main avenue of this city. I recommend you to walk like a person who knows very well the city, avoiding to attract street salesmen like flies. You can start near the Shopping King Fong, running slowly until third 'pasarela' (elevate runway, there are three of them) over the avenue, located some 1500 Mts. along. In the sequence, you will pass by Shopping Mina Índia, Shopping Santo Domingo, Shopping Americana, Galeria Rahal, Casa China, Galeria La Paloma ..., so you can see lot of electronics, home consumer, clothes, footwear and musical instruments stores in the street.
Later you can return the walking, this time entering every one of the shopping's and galleries. This trip probably will take entire morning to you, since they has great variety of products and prices, If you are looking for electronic gadgets such as camcorders, MP3/MP4 devices or cameras, the best place in comfort and prices is the Shopping Americana, because has central conditioned air and a very good restaurant to lunch at third floor.
If you are looking for eyeglasses, clocks or lighters, a good place is Shopping Mina India, with its dozens of small warehouses plenty of products. What about quality and warranties?, it is your task to analyze and decide. This shopping is also recognized for its nautical and fishing stores.
In the Shopping Santo Domingo you will find toys, goodies 'all under $1.99', and the Santo Domingo auto-service, where customer serves in supermarket style and pay at exiting. By the way, auto-services are in every corner of Ciudad del Este, just go to the next street from Av. San Blas, called 'Camilo Recalde' to see lot of them.
In 'Galeria La Paloma' and 'Galeria Rahal' there are great variety of clothes and footwear stores offering blouses, jeans, shoes and bijouteries. These galleries are sided by the famous Casa China, a landmark architecture in Ciudad del Este.
All galleries allow walking between Av. San Blas and Camilo Recalde street. Going up the last one you will see lot of houses specialized in car and truck tires. But to see the best tires houses, it is necessary leave CDE center and drive along 'ruta international' (International road) towards Asuncion until near 'Shopping Zuni' (some 2 Km. away). In this place (at right), are the biggest and more complete houses for tires.
After having covered the right side of San Blas Av., you can cross the 'passarela' (or courageously, the avenue with its motorcycles), to the side that now calls 'Monseñor Rodriguez'. If you cross in front of Casa China, will reach the other icon of this city, Tienda Monalisa , a blue building with several floors. It is famous for its international wines cellar and five stars restaurant. Inside of the store, you could think being into Macy's at NY 5th. Av., due the luxury of show windows and quality of products being offered.
When leaving Monalisa, just cross Carlos Antonio Lopez Av. and enter into the biggest labyrinth of stores in Latin America, the famous Galeria Jebai, with several floors, stairs, and a world of people boiling in corridors. If you are looking cell phones state of art technology, this is the right place, since it has tens of stores selling devices and accessories. Probably you'll became disoriented into this building, because it takes an entire quarter, with many floors and exits to the street, so you never know where came from and where to go next.
If you get to leave Jebai Center by the right side, it is just a pull on the street to pass to the other landmark of the city, the Lai Lai Center building, specialized in computers, parts, notebooks, cards, printers and everything related. Here you will see groups of 'sacoleiros' occupying all available spaces and buzzing nervously in the corridors like bees.
Front of Jebai, is also the Galeria Pagé, which uses to appear on newspapers when Uncle Sam become nervous. This gallery has bazaars of imported clothes at very low prices, so it is worth to visit it. Almost all traders are from Lebanon.
Leaving Lai Lai Center by Adrian Jara street, there is Shopping Vendôme, which has a better looking than Jebai. Here are important resellers for computers and parts, as well as home consumer, clothes, boutiques, footwear, cosmetics and other goods. This shopping occupies an entire block with five floors. In the last floor, there is a good restaurant, which I recommend for lunching.
In front of Vendôme, there are many others, such as the Shopping Internacional, WHU and Hijazi, every one with lot of stores for bicycles, flowers of paper, toys, auto-services, cosmetics, computer parts and whatever you can imagine. If you are looking for tools don't forget to see Galeria Zuni (not confuse with Shopping Zuni in km 2,5 out of city).
Wasting a journey in Ciudad del Este is not for any person because it is tiring, some times stressing, to the point that I advise not to carry small children in the trip. The movement is really intense, many times it is almost impossible to walk because of bags, packages and pulled baskets that flood the streets, as well as taxis, vans, ambulant merchants and motorcycles that cover all the places. Still more, in summer there is a suffocating hot temperature. (just to remember, some scenes of Michael Mann's 'Miami Vice' film were made in this city by 2005)
Never forget to pay LOT OF ATTENTION at the moment of buying, test product close to salesman, verify if correctly packed (almost all big stores have a test department to check merchandises), verify if camcorder's or DVD's remote controller is in the box, because later, when unpacking it in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, you couldn't simply 'jump' to the store to fix problem.
To finish, I recall that you must cross still the Paraná River via 'Ponte da Amizade' to return Brazil (another adventure, if you go by afternoon), and to pass famous 'NOVA ALFANDEGA' (new custom house) belonging to 'Receita Federal' (the brazilian Internal Revenue Service). Probably you'll waste some time (depending quantity of people) to prepare the DBA (Luggage info) for purchased items. Never forget that men working at customs are well trained to recognize the 'smart guys' amongst tourist, so I advise not to exceed the 300 USA dollars limits of purchasing, and to fill DBA correctly. (For USA and European travelers, these tasks won't apply, but rather you will need to get ready your passports and visas allowing Brazil entrances).
After brazilian custom, if you are storekeeper from other places of Brazil, or else Paraguayan / Argentine merchant, you can look at wholesale stores of Vila Portes, in Foz do Iguassu, next to the bridge. From Foz do Iguassu, it is also possible travel to argentine city of Puerto Iguazu and visit the Duty Free, which is next to Argentina Custom house (you don't need to pass Custom to enter and exit duty free, please see the map), or else you can buy artisan gems, leather clothes, wines and cheeses in stores of that city.
This Paraguayan city makes border with brazilian city of Ponta Porã in Mato Grosso do Sul state (MS), and has a big advantage over Ciudad del Este: there is no 'friendship Bridge' in the way, nor Paraná river, nothing. Just a street separates Pedro Juan from Ponta Porã.
It can appears unreal, but if you stay in a hotel at center of Ponta Porã, just walk some 50 meters, and soon you will see that all stores change. On a side of street, the 'Caixa Economica Federal' (a brazilian bank), on the other side the 'Banco Nacional de Fomento' (a Paraguayan bank), on one side brazilian stores, in the other, paraguayan stores. So simple it is. Please check satellite map of the city with main interesting points.
Pedro Juan Caballero is long quietly than Ciudad del Este. It is an older city also, for example the Shopping China of PJC was established in 1933, whereas Ciudad del Este was founded in 1957. Because being a 'normal' city (rather than just commercial one), it is common to see many stores opened after 8:00 PM, while Ciudad del Este closes all doors after 4:00 or 5:00 PM.
The volume of business in Pedro Juan is around 15% of Ciudad del Este, but it is so complete as the former, although prices being 3% to 5% higher. There exists whatever you can imagine, from cell phones to computers parts, cosmetics, toys, auto-services, and until recently there was very sophisticated gun stores (closed last year, as notified by TV, because connections with organized crime in Brazil).
I would like to warn you that this is the border, a frontier where transit many people, and nobody knows what intentions they carry, so it is important to take care with new friendships, to talk with strangers, and with night excursions.
The first time I visited Pedro Juan I did with distrust, because Paraguayan press refer this city like center of all kind of criminal activity, with people seeming to live in Chicago's Capone era. But instead I had a nice surprise when discovering two woody cities very peaceful (Pedro Juan and Ponta Porã), with an excellent climate, and where life more seems to be of a placid town of São Paulo interior that in the border.
After that, I traveled many times to there, visiting its streets at night and found no problems, but remember, in this region is better just to follow the shopping scripts avoiding estrange things.
Unlike Ciudad del Este, where commerce is centered in a kind of 'square box' at down town, in Pedro Juan all stores are located between two parallel streets. The main one is Dr. Rodrigues de Francia Avenue, which is the Paraguayan side of the International Avenue.
Using satellite map, please follow the script: starting from Hipermercado Maxi, you can walk by Av. Francia and pass Shopping West Garden, Shopping Seiko, Studio Center, and (case driving a car or taxi), to advance some 3 miles until the Shopping China. Between the center and Shopping China there are tires resellers, motorcycles, bicycles and car parts. You will be surprised by the size, quantity and variety of tires resellers there are in Pedro Juan. Just to say, it is bigger than Ciudad del Este.
Shopping China seems a little town, with its enormous car parking, foods area, children place, and a giant shed covered with all you can imagine in goodies from USA, Europe, China and Japan. It opens every day until 8:00 PM and 1:00 PM on Sundays. There are two places I recommend for a quality lunch, Maxi Hipermercado and Shopping China, every one located in a corner of the city. The foods are prepared with care, and both places have musical groups to delight people.
Control of luggage is made by 'Receita Federal' always into the buses that depart Ponta Porã to Brazil, since it is impossible to control it between two cities so closely related as they are Pedro Juan and Ponta Porã.
Due the increasing bottleneck at the bridge in Ciudad del Este, many people begun to travel to Pedro Juan for purchasing, and this led also to increasing controls by brazilian polices, as well as many army operatives from time to time in the roads that link to Guaira. Don't be surprised if your bus is stopped by some enormous war tank parked in middle of the road to make controls.
The size of commerce in this city is minor than Pedro Juan, but it is growing faster, and here also it is possible to find the same variety of goodies than CDE, with prices similar to the ones of PJC.
There are two ways for reaching Salto del Guairá, the first is by using the 'balsa' (a big boat to carry trucks and buses), which leaves Guaira (PR) every 2 hours (departing times below in satellite map of bus station), and second way is by car, crossing the long Ayrton Senna bridge from Guaira (MS), and then turning left to Salto del Guaira. Please look the satellite map of city to follow script.
Business are concentrated just in town's main street, the Av. Paraguay, which goes from the center until Shopping China-Salto, located some 3 Km along.
At down-town you will find auto-services, cosmetics and toys bazaars, and some of most important (and old) stores of the city, like Queen Anne and Tower's, whereas in the Shopping China will find computer parts, electronics and boutiques of shoes and clothes. A good place to lunch is the food area of Shopping China-Salto.
Tires resellers locate in the space between city center and the Shopping, on Av. Paraguay. Some are big and sophisticated, like the Mater Pneus, but there are not quantity and variety of stores found in Pedro Juan Caballero.
Here it is also possible to walk undisturbed in streets, unlike CDE stressing, so you can bring the family (also children) while purchasing.
The custom of 'Receita Federal' is located on Mato Grosso state side, next to Ayrton Senna bridge, and due the intense movement of last years, here also was assembled a new and bigger building, with more resources and employees.
The traditional historical emporium of city 'Nuestra Señora de la Asunción' ('Nuestra Señora' is the spanish way to name The Virgin) is formed by the square of streets Colon until Iturbe, and Palma until Oliva (the three main streets, Palma, Estrella and Oliva get their names from the flag's elements, palms, stars and olive trees). See the main shopping centers in city in this satellite map to follow the trip.
In the last years, historical and commercial center of city was decaying, so big stores and shopping centers moved to a more distant region where previously was a residential area. Even so, the best options for electronic gadgets, computers and cosmetics still are in the historical center of the city. The best known place is the Galeria Central, and neighbor Galeria Estrella which monopolize home consumer, camcorders, cellular and games. Close to both galleries, is the Unicentro building with its many floors of foreign products.
Another group of stores for electronics, cellular and camcorders, locate some quarters from there next to Ferreteria Nueva Americana and La Riojana. By the way, these two magazines I recommend to visit because their size, quality and variety of products, as well as the Casa Kube and its Sevres porcelain, near Galeria Central.
Leaving the central area, are Shopping Mariscal Lopez, and Villa Morra side to side, and driving to the airport, the Shopping Del Sol. There are still other big centers as the Shopping Multiplaza located throughout the 'Av. Eusebio Ayala', which is the road that lead to Ciudad del Este.
One of the new fast expanding commercial areas in the capital of Paraguay, is the one known as 'tiendas de la calle Senador Long' (shopping centers of Senator Long street), because in this avenue groups of stores sell world leader griffes and articles imported for VIP's customers. As example, please visit the site of shopping Paseo Carmelitas, with its magazines of Swarovski crystals, antiquities and jewels.
There is still another district of Asunción having commercial galleries very similar to Ciudad del Este, with same kind of products and quite same prices. This region is located on Av. Pettirossi, and is formed by galleries Bonanza / Pettirossi / San Antonio / Santo Domingo. Before leaving the city, I recommend also to see native artisan bazaars selling aboriginal leather, cups and wood sculptures.
I recall (to brazilian travelers), that case returning from Asunción by plane, your limit for purchases raises to 500 USA dollars (200 more than CDE). With current flight prices of the GOL air company (cheaper than many buses), you could take advantage of travelling until Asuncion and coming back with something extra in your luggage. One 800 dollars notebook for example, makes you pay 50% over 300 dollars excess, so you could have it Ok in Brazil for near 950 dollars, or 2000 Reales.
Here is satellite map, bus companies and phones from Terminal de Omnibus (bus station) of Asunción.
The same way as happens with Asunción, the city 'Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación' is known and visited by argentine tourists rather than brazilian ones, because its localization next to the 'provincia' (province) of Misiones in Argentina, across of Paraná river. Some travelers from Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina (BR) also comes here some times.
Just to say, note that the most important cities of Paraguay got their names from several facts of The Virgin Mary's life, thus to the north of country is 'Nuestra Señora de Concepción' (or simply Concepción), 'Nuestra Sra. de la Asunción' (or Asunción) and "Nuestra Sra. de la Encarnación' (or Encarnación), to register the conception, the assumption and the incarnation of The Virgin.
Encarnación is the easiest and peaceful city for purchasing in the borders. People almost does not know crime here, and they still sit on chairs to talk in the street at the center of city by afternoon. It has great influence of German immigration, since there are many important 'German' agricultural colonies in this region.
Until Dec 2009 the city was divided in two parts, the ´zona alta´ (high zone, with more luxurius stores) and ´zona baja´ (low zone), which concentrated low prices stores but more visited by argentinian tourists.
From jan 2010, the low zone began to flow because the Yacyretá hidroelectrical dam, and all stores were obligued to move to a far better place, located near bridge ´Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz´, with a better view and structure. This place is currently known as ´Nuevo Circuito Comercial´ (new commercial circuit), and locates all stores for imported goods like electronics, home consumer and parfums as happens with Ciudad del Este.
A simplified list of stores in Encarnación can be seen here, and complete map with hotels, restaurants and stores HERE.
In the higher part of the city are located more sophisticated stores like Serpyl, also tires and auto parts resellers, but not with variety and quantity found in CDE or Pedro Juan Caballero.
All people here will accept 'PESOS' (Argentine currency) when buying, and last detail: the carnival of Encarnación (in the same dates than Brazilian carnival) is one of the most celebrated in this part of continent.
Other details such as shopping center's internet sites, address, phones and products prices, you can obtain from our catalogue of stores from Paraguay. Be welcome visitor and take the best of the trip.