Argentina to Paraguay border

By Jonny Blair

Here's how to get from Argentina to Paraguay Via Brazil

OK so there are a few different ways to cross the border between Argentina and Paraguay but I did the route from Puerto Iguazu, ARGENTINA to Ciudad del Este, PARAGUAY. In December 2010. Although in hindsight, the border crossing seemed easy compared to others I've been to, there is still a need to get things right, read on and I'll explain exactly what I did. This was one of the oddest border crossings I have ever done, for one reason and that is that in the space of 45 minutes I was in three countries...confused? Yes it did confuse me a bit...this is the first of many reports on crossing world borders from my various travels...

To start with you should board a bus at the bus station in Puerto Iguazu - the bus will have Paraguay as the destination on it. The bus is yellow and says El Practico on it. They leave quite often during the day. I went early Sunday morning. I'm not sure if you can buy tickets in advance, but check out of your hostel or hotel in Puerto Iguazu the town and head to the bus station - the main bus station in Puerto Iguazu. I would say do this early morning - as I'm not sure if the border is open at night - nor if it would be safe to risk.

I was on my own and I was basically wanting to get across into Paraguay and then onwards to Asuncion.

Ciudad del Este, the current name for this city, which literally means City of The East, is on the other side of the river from Argentina. The river acts as the border, and the bridge is the preferred crossing. As this is a post about the border crossing, I won't digress but I had already been to Tres Fronteras (the point where you can see all three countries). It gets confusing when you realise that your bus to Paraguay goes VIA BRAZIL.

So I paid 5 Argentine Pesos for the bus and asked with the driver to confirm if he could stop at the border for me to get my passport stamped. I was the only person on the bus that wasn't from either Brazil, Argentina or Paraguay. Those three countries have some kind of agreement between each other visa wise.

I actually thought that a lot of "backpackers" (I don't like that term, but I guess I probably am one...) would be going on the route from Iguazu across the border into Paraguay next to see Ituapu Dam and the famous Jesuit Ruins at Trinidad. But I spoke to lots of people at the hostel (the wonderful Hostel Inn Iguazu Falls) and none of them were going to Paraguay. A few of them even said to me "why are you going there?"! That kind of statement that makes me realise that some of us are made to be travellers and some are just not. An avid traveller will always go anywhere, anytime and often for no reason. Someone who is not an avid traveller will be more fussy about where they go. I am not - I will go anywhere. In any case there were no other "backpackers" on my bus or in the station that morning.

Of course to travel in South America you should have some grasp of Spanish at least (I studied in Montevideo but my Spanish is shocking) so you can chat to locals and bus drivers. Once I saw the "queue for Paraguay" developing, I joined it, bag laden to the core and sweaty. Importantly I had my passport in hand and all my money changed into Paraguayan Guarani. This is important - change ALL your Argentine Pesos (except for the price of the bus) into Paraguayan Guarani in Puerto Iguazu. You can even do this on a Sunday morning - I found a bank/exchange place in town at 9am to get mine changed.

After getting on the bus you will be taken out of the town of Puerto Iguazu to the border bridge with BRAZIL first of all. Yes, don't be surprised at this point, as you are still on the bus to PARAGUAY! At the Argentine exit customs you need to make sure you ask the driver to let you get off to get your passport stamped. A lot of those on the bus may not need it - the majority of them are locals.

Get out, taking your bags with you and get your passport stamped and then straight back on the bus. Make sure the driver waits for you. Then you will cross the Iguazu River into Brazil but you won't stop at Brazilian border control. This is a regular route and the sign on the front of the bus lets you know that you are heading directly to Paraguay. So we are now in BRAZIL, "in transit on a bus" officially.

You will drive through the city of Foz Do Iguacu, you can read on my website many more of my reports on the actual waterfalls and my first trip across into Brazil. Most people on this route will have just been to the awesome Iguazu Falls.

After 20 minutes or so in Brazil on the bus you arrive at a crazy bridge. Again you see a border checkpoint here, but we by pass it. It's the Brazilian border point. Your eyes will remind you that your were in Brazil for 20 minutes, your passport will not. There is no need to get your passport stamped at either Brazil passport checkpoint, BUT once your bus gets onto the bridge, Keep your eyes peeled for the Paraguay entrance border checkpoint. Why? Because the driver won't stop there, but you need to tell him to stop there for you.

The worst thing is that when you tell the driver to stop, he will not wait for you because all the other passengers onboard won't want to wait for a foreigner to get their passport stamped. The bus will continue on its route and you are basically bundled out into the craziness of the border city of Ciudad del Este.

I should also mention that you are urged not to cross this border by foot, mainly because of of the risk of robberies and personal safety issues. The bus is only 5 Pesos you might as well get the bus! I ran to the front of the bus and shouted for the driver to stop, this was about 300 metres ahead of the checkpoint. I just expected him to stop soon but of course he didn't so I got out on my own. I actually asked him if he could wait for me but I soon realised he wouldn't, so I had to grab both my bags. This was my amazing arrival into Paraguay!

OK so I was now in Paraguay but I still had to find the place to get my entry stamp on my passport - and it was far from obvious - at the back of a building site on the Paraguayan side of the bridge. I actually wish I had made a video of my trip that morning - looking back it was just madness!. It was hot, busy, stuffy and I was bag laden, lonely, lost and inspired! Luckily within a few minutes I arrived in the passport immigration place and obviously I was the only person in there. They stamped my entry quickly and it was easy here I was in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay! In the previous hour I had now been "in" three countries. Though I had no proof of my Brazilian bus journey (save for a video I took!).

I must admit though that I honestly am not sure if this is the easiest and best way across the border into Paraguay but I love these types of adventures on my own. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of my travels because I was the only traveller about. It was a zany place at the border and the city was so busy. People everywhere trying to sell me things. Some people might want to stay a night or 2 in Ciudad del Este but I was on a fast trip and basically wanted to head straight to Asuncion, the capital.

By chance I found a taxi driver hanging around opposite the Immigration Office (he was on a corner where food and all sorts were being sold) and he could drive me to the main bus station on the edge of Ciudad del Este for a fee of 3-4 US Dollars I think (this was thousands in Paraguayan Guarani!). Get yourself off the busy streets and a taxi to the bus station if you're heading out of Ciudad del Este.

I hope my new series of border crossings will be useful for my fellow travellers. I'd love to know if others have done the same border crossings as me and had similar experiences.

Enjoy your border crossings!

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