Ciudad del Este

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Paraguay sits landlocked in the centre of South America, with its easternmost frontier at the Tres Fronteras region where it meets both Brazil and Argentina. Most of Paraguay is powered by the nearby Itaipu Dam, and the Iguazu Falls are also a big draw for the area. The Puente de Amistad (Friendship Bridge) connects Paraguay with Brazil, and Ciudad del Este has a thriving business as a market place for cheap and counterfeit products ready to cross the border.

We visited Ciudad del Este as part of our South America trip in 2005, whilst staying in Foz do Iguacu just over the border in Brazil. The city bus we caught didn't bother stopping for any sort of immigration or customs checks in either direction at the Friendship Bridge, but we found Ciudad del Este to feel a little threatening, and with a dearth of lunch options in the market area. So it was just a case of staking a flag before heading off to the Itaipu Dam, and then Argentina later the same day.

Ciudad del Este

Once in Ciudad del Este, there was an immediate change in atmosphere from Brazil. There were soldiers walking around and guns for sale in the marketplace. Brazil by contrast felt considerably safer, and that's saying something. I do however believe that Ciudad del Este feels unpleasant largely by virtue of being a border town and conduit for the trade of all things illicit. I have not been to many nice border towns.

One of the market areas just off the main road from Brazil. We wandered around for a while looking for a decent place for lunch, but to no avail.

Ciudad del Este market

Inside the market

Inside the market it was mostly textiles, electronics and fake DVDs for sale. Once back home it was apparent that the title on the DVD box may not match the content of the disc!

Street scene west of the main market area, as we walked up the hill hoping to find somewhere more pleasant. No such luck.

Ciudad del Este street scene

View back to Brazil

Looking back towards Brazil, the opposite hillside in the distance across the Rio Paraná. We were told not to attempt to cross the bridge on foot, as it's a notorious spot for happy customers to be relieved of their newly-purchased electronics. We took the bus.

This is the actual border post for Paraguay, as we sped out of the country and back across to the relative sanity of Brazil. The Welcome to Paraguay sign and a little map are clearly visible. I'm sure that next time I visit it will be to the country proper, and I look forward to exploring the true Paraguay.

Brazil-Paraguay border

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2006-2015