Paraguay It Is

Paraguay Is The World’s Cheapest Country

If I could get on a plane today and go anywhere in the world I wanted…with nobody else’s agenda to consider but my own…I might just head way down south to Paraguay. It’s at the top of my “Places I Haven’t Been But Want To Visit” list.

So imagine my delight to find this e-mail in my in-box this morning from my ever-roving friend Paul Terhorst:

“Paraguay it is,” Paul wrote.

“A recent survey concludes that Paraguay is the world’s cheapest country.

“The survey measured living costs for high-living expat execs, not retirees. Those execs have children in private schools, for example, and imported cars with chauffeurs. They have different cost structures than retirees. Still, the numbers called out.

“Paraguay is one of my favorite countries, but it’s been a while since we were last there. I e-mailed my friend George, who lives in Paraguay’s capital, Asuncion, and asked for a quick rundown.

“George says a foreigner can legally own property in Paraguay. All you need is a passport and an address. If you buy property in your own name, among other costs, you pay a 1.5% value-added tax; if you take title in a corporate name, that tax goes to 18%.

“A reasonable house for a retiree in a good neighborhood in Asuncion might sell for US$120,000. Apartments in the same or a similar neighborhood, because so few apartments come on the market, might sell for $160,000.

“You could rent a house in Asuncion–two or three bedrooms, yard, patio, swimming pool, garage–starting at $700 a month. That can go up to as much as $3,000 a month for super places. Apartments cost more, again, because there are so few of them, starting at $1,000 and up–way up.

“Vicki and I have visited Asuncion and other cities in Paraguay perhaps a dozen times. We lived in neighboring Argentina for years and traveled to all the Southern Cone countries–Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile, as well as Paraguay. Compared with the others, Paraguay enjoys excellent housing stock. Even the middle class seem to have large, comfortable houses with spacious grounds.

“Why do I like Paraguay so much? Downtown Asuncion, although a bit rundown, has colonial charm, with the huge Paraguay River running alongside. Bars in Asuncion welcome you with wooden bar stools, snacks on the counter, and old-fashioned mirrors. Stop in at one, and the barman greets you with a friendly smile.

“Outlying neighborhoods appear comfortable and spiffy, with “the club” (foreigners welcome) around the corner or down the street. City and suburban buses and taxis make getting around a snap.

“Interior cities remain a Wild West. At the central market in Concepcion, Paraguay’s second-largest city, I saw a sign saying (in Spanish), ‘Don’t tie oxen here.’

“Some complain about Paraguay’s heat, especially in the peak summer months of January and February. I’ve never been bothered by it or found it any more oppressive than summer in the other Southern Cone capitals. But if you can’t stand the heat, get out–that is, head somewhere else during the hot months.

“If you go, stay at the old Gran Hotel Paraguay, less than a hundred bucks a night and set in one of the neighborhoods you might want to live in. The Gran has a 1930s feel to it, and the German/Paraguayan owners keep it immaculately clean. Ask for a room in the older wing, facing a large, Spanish-style courtyard. The restaurant is fit for a palace.

“Americans now need a visa to visit Paraguay, by the way. Pick one up before you travel, or go to the Paraguayan consulate in Buenos Aires with your ticket, pictures, money–the usual hassle…”

Much obliged, Paul. My travel plan is made. All I need now is a few free days…

Kathleen Peddicord