Ciudad del Este
Ciudad del Este is a city in Paraguay, on the triple border with Brazil and Argentina. It is linked to the city of Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, by an international bridge over the Paraná river. It is mainly a shopping destination for Brazilians and Argentinians.
Getting in by land is by far the easiest way to enter Paraguay via Ciudad del Este. The Paraguayan government made a very intelligent decision to allow easy access into Ciudad del Este from Brazil. This admits a great influx of foreign people into Paraguay that typically spend hundreds and thousands of US dollars (or the equivalent in other currencies) in their country to benefit the Paraguayan economy and people.
The local Guaraní International Airport (IATA: AGT) has direct connections to São Paulo and Asunción by TAM, on Airbus A320 jets, but there are much more frequent flights from many Brazilian cities (and some in other countries) to nearby Foz do Iguaçu airport in Brazil (IATA: IGU). The airport in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina (IATA: IGR) also receives several daily flights from Buenos Aires.
The bus terminal is located around 1km South of the city center, a bit hidden behind the large sports stadium on Bernardino Caballero. Buses from Brazil leave regularly and can be found on several of the main streets in Foz do Aquacu and especially on Av. Republica do Paraguai/Rua Carlos Souto Maior (277) near the Puente de la Amistad (Friendship Bridge).
International Border Crossing
To leave Ciudad del Este back across the Friendship bridge there are basically three options:
1) Walk back across the bridge. During everyday conditions this is relatively easy and pain/hassle free. If you are crossing during busy seasons, or rush hours, you may have to wait in line at Brazilian immigration along with scores of other people returning from shopping.
2) Take a bus from the bus terminal that goes into Brazil or directly to Puerto Iguazú. The bridge experiences traffic at certain rush hour times like most busy cities. If you cross the bridge going back to Brazil around 4-5pm on a weekday (besides Friday), expect about a thirty minute commute; this may drastically change around holidays and vacations, etc. Expect a Brazilian customs official to board the bus and quickly inspect any bags you are carrying for goods that exceed the maximum allowed back to Brazil. Unless you are attempting to bring back large quantities of electronics (for example, carrying ten mobile phones, or a stack of iPads and tablets), you have nothing to be concerned about.
3) Hire a motorcycle to take you across the bridge through the line specifically for Motorcycles that is rarely ever stopped by immigration officials. This option is by far the quickest and took the Author 3 minutes to get from one end of the Friendship Bridge on the Paraguayan side, to the other end of the bridge on the Brazilian side - Past immigration. Cost = 10 Argentine Pesos. This is the best way to cross if you are not afraid of riding passenger on a motorcycle and/or are not carrying many bags.
If you are transiting Paraguay (not coming back across the same border the same day), you will have to go to the Paraguayan customs office just past the bridge. Citizens of Mercosur are granted entry just with their ID: others need a passport. The stories of bribing and scams in the Paraguayan customs offices are frequent. Make sure that you get everything that you are supposed to get when they check your passport and/or ID.
Those that handle them the ID should receive back, along with the ID, a formulary with the arrival stamp in it. If you're with the passport, you'll receive only the usual stamp on the page.
A common trick is not handing the stamped paper back with the ID; that way you cannot prove having legally entered the country. If so, you'll certainly be asked for money for the exit to be granted. So make sure you get the stamped paper at the border.
If you arrive with your own car make sure you find a parking lot (usually the local touts will lead you to one). However, if you do not feel comfortable with the situation you still can research a parking lot in advance as some of them have websites on the Internet.
There are many local city buses available, typically charging 2500 Gs. It is common and advisable to sit down without paying due to the number of people boarding and disembarking as well as the fast pace of traffic. The driver's assistant will come by eventually to collect your payment and make change.
Taxis are available, but are unmetered. Always agree on a price before getting inside. If possible, contact your hotel in advance to find out what the normal fares should be (20000-30000 Gs from the bus station to Hotel Austria or Hotel Munich for example). Taxi drivers commonly attempt to overcharge foreigners either by quoting an unreasonable fare up front, or claiming they had quoted a higher fare at the end of the trip. Paying with exact change or close to it will provide leverage in case the driver attempts to increase the fare at the end of the trip.
For the adventurous, motorcycles taxis are common and a fast way to move through the heavy traffic near the Friendship Bridge to Brazil. Drivers are generally easy to spot due to their reflective shirts and should provide you with a helmet.
Shopping is the main business of the visitors. The main shopping streets are San Blas and Camilo Recalde, where you can buy about anything and everything at really good prices; it is not without reason that so many Brazilians come in hordes to shop there and often resell the goods back home at a profit. Many people come for electronics, computer parts and accessories, liquor, perfume and other luxury goods. Counterfeit products are common, so you should prefer larger, more reputed and better structured stores, even if you find cheaper deals elsewhere. In addition to Paraguayan guaraníes, Brazilian reals, Argentine pesos, US dollars and euros are all widely accepted (and you can even get change in the same currency), though at wildly variable exchange rates. Using credit cards is usually no problem either.
If you want to buy electronics such as cellphones or cameras, make sure you do this:
Ask to test the device if it works. Never give it back to the shopkeeper/assistant, as that person might exchange the device with faulty versions or hand the box back filled with paper but not with what you just bought.
Due to the premium placed on street-front property, Ciudad del Este's eateries and dining establishments are commonly found inside multi-leveled shopping malls and are relatively scarce on the main street of San Blas.
As a consequence of considerable immigrant populations, Ciudad del Este has a diverse variety of ethnic food options that one can take advantage of. Lebanese food can be found off the main streets and in many shopping centers and typically serve good shawarma/kebab; this is perhaps the best food to eat in the city. Ask local store owners for good Lebanese food and you will most likely be very happy with what they recommend.
Chinese and Korean food restaurants can also be found. Your best bet is to ask a local to direct you to the nearest restaurant or eatery. Additionally, because of the large influx of Brazilian nationals that enter Ciudad del Este every day, the most popular restaurants are those which serve typical Brazilian fare and are easy to find; expect the Brazilian style churrascaria meats to be very well-done and tough (as is typical of most Brazilian churrascarias, as well).
For some of the better-looking Asian restaurants, try exploring the areas around the corner of Adrian Jara and Av Boqueron. Not far from the same area are some US style burger houses. Above the 'Area Iris' supermarket (corner of Av Pioneros del Este and Adrian Jara) is a good but relatively expensive Japanese restaurant. In the supermarket various foods and other supplies can be had. Outside the supermarket, cheap hotdogs are available (but ensure that the hotdogs are heated well and not merely warmed - and this heating advice is recommended for foods from all street vendors).
Many street vendors grill delicious and cheap asado (grilled beef) at night on Cap. Miranda just north of the main route through town. A plate of asado with manioc is 10,000 Gs, and salad, bread, and a liter of beer can be had for an additional 10,000 Gs.
Vegetarians will have to ask around, but outside the city center there are a few vegetarian Chinese restaurants. Friends have reported that an Indian vegetarian restaurant called Gourangas is located behind the Municipalidad, not far from the city centre.
Like most businesses in Ciudad del Este, you can pay for food with Argentine, US, Paraguayan, or Brazilian currency, and expect to receive change in the same currency used for payment.
Bottled water, soda, juice and ice cold, alcoholic beverages (mainly beer, but liquor is in no short supply) can be found everywhere. It is not uncommon to find vendors of all of the above within ten meters of each other. There are also vendors with roaming carts everywhere. Good coffee can be difficult to find, but Coffee House is a great local coffee shop with pastries and wifi located at Av. Rogelio Benitez, Ciudad del Este.