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).
There are frequent buses from Asunción (5 h, G.55000) and Encarnación (4 h) in the South, also to many other cities around the country. There also long distance buses to other countries like Brasil and Argentina, and apparently cheaper than across the border.
For buses to Foz do Iguazu (Brasil) and Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) check below.
Taxi prices at the bus terminal which is about 2 km south of the main road to the Brazil border, are a total rip off. You do not want to walk to the center after dark; here is what you do even if you arrive late. When you walk outside of the bus terminal, taxi stand is to the left; you turn right and walk about 50 yards until you come to a road; make a left and walk about 200 yards; it comes to a dead end; here you make a right and walk another 200 yards on the road; you come to a large shopping (Super 6) which you cannot see from the bus terminal, get a taxi there. You can also catch a local bus from here, including those going to Foz do Iguazu and Puerto Iguazu.
To and from Argentina directly on a small boat. It runs according to shopping times in Paraguay, so typically from Monday to Saturday from early morning to early afternoon, and costs around G. 10000 (des 2016). To get there, take local bus Matiauda from the city center (G. 2500 on Des 2016) and stop at “La Balsa”. Walk down the steep road to the river and clear customs in a small office by the pier. The boat leaves you at the pier in Puerto Iguazu.
International Border Crossing
At the end of 2016, the border between Ciudad del Este and Foz do Iguazu is open to everybody up to 30 km around the Friendship Bridge. That means, there is no need to stamp passports or even present yourself to border officers if you go any of these two cities or their surroundings. That includes Ciudad del Este, Itaipu Hydrodam and the Centro Ambiental, Hito de las tres fronteras, and Saltos del Monday, on the Paraguayan side; and Foz do Iguazu, Cataratas de Iguazu, the Itaipu Hydrodam and the Buddhist Temple, on the Brasilian side. If you go to Argentina from Ciudad del Este through Foz do Iguazu, make sure you stamp your exit at Ciudad del Este because it will be required on the Argentinian border control, but you do not need to get stamps of approach customs in Brasil. It is possible and safe to cross the Bridge on foot, but you can also hire a taxi, mototaxi, small van or take a local bus.
Moto taxi will take you from end to end of the bridge only. It costs AR$ 10, and takes about 3 minutes.
Buses to and from Foz do Iguazu. You can take a bus in Ciudad del Este from the Terminal, along Av.General Bernardino Caballero, or along Ruta 7. Several local companies cross the bridge so make sure it says “Argentina”. It is a white bus. It will stop at immigration on both countries. You can leave your bags on the Paraguayan side but need to take everything with you on the Argentinian one. Costs AR$35 or G. 12000 (Des 2016). From Puetro Iguazu it leaves from platform 7 every hour.
Buses to and from Foz do Iguazu. You can take a bus from the Terminal, along Av.General Bernardino Caballero, or along Ruta 7. Several local companies cross the bridge so make sure it says “Brasil”.
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, charging 2500 Gs the old looking ones and 3500 Gs the modern, air-conditioned ones (Des 2016). 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 andmake 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.
Please Note almost all the shops are closed Sundays besides a Supermarket and a couple of stalls across from Customs.
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 'Arco 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.
Ciudad del Este is regarded as unsafe by many. It has been named in either the Notorious Markets List or the Special 301 Report for over 15 years. The border crossing and city have been the focus of U.S. and international attention as the hub of distribution of counterfeit and pirated products in the TBA and beyond. The city’s economy is reportedly based in large part on the trafficking of counterfeit and infringing goods. In 2013, authorities engaged in some enforcement actions, including conducting raids and seizing merchandise in Ciudad del Este. Trivial crime is common, smuggling band shootings also happen. Caution is advised in this area.