So, I'm in a bit of a dilemma: I don't know where to go next.
In a few months' time I'll be leaving my base in Lima and heading back to Canada for a wedding. After that, my plans are wide open.
And I can't seem to shake the idea of Asuncion. It's a place that not many people seem to know much about. Even the Internet has bafflingly little information on Paraguay's capital.
I've spent the last couple days researching Asuncion to decide if living in the capital of one of South America's poorest countries is as stupid as it sounds.
Here's what I've found out about it so far.
Asuncion: Preliminary Research
- Asuncion has a population of about 500,000 people. That's roughly the same as Sacramento, California or Tucson, Arizona. So it ain't big.
- The Internet is shit. Apparently it's slow and unreliable. This is a huge con for me because I need the Internet to make money. I read that I can get a fiberoptic connection from TIGO that allegedly is good enough, but it would cost $100+ a month. The price of a cell phone data plan seems to be on par with most Latin American countries.
-ATM fees are horrendous. I've read that the ATMs in Asuncion charge $5 for every transaction, plus an addition 3-5%, depending on what bank you're with. This could mean around $50 extra a month added to my expenses...just for withdrawing money.
-Rent seems to be about the same as Mexico City or Bogota, although furnished places seem to go at a premium (I used this site for reference). After pricing things out, I discovered it would probably be cheaper to rent an unfurnished place for 6 months and buy the furniture.
-Crime is a bit of an issue. Murder rates are low, but it seems that petty crime is rampant. Child gangs, motorcycle robberies and snatch and grabs, pickpocketing and street crime all seem to occur here. By the sounds of it, it's safer than Rio de Janeiro but not as safe as, say, Buenos Aires.
-It's ridiculously easy to get residency here. All it takes is a few documents, a lawyer to show you what to do and a deposit of $5000.00 in a Paraguayan bank (which you can withdraw once your application is approved). I've look into this, and it really does appear to be that easy. There aren't many reasons one would want Paraguayan residency, but it's kind of cool nonetheless.
-It can get hot. Summer temperatures can regularly reach 38 °C (100 °F). I do better in the heat than any other white man I know, but even this may be too much for me.
-Food seems to be decent. Lots of meat, selection of fruits and vegetables, reasonably priced local restaurants.
-It will be more expensive than I thought. Expatisan suggests that it's 6% more expensive than living in Medellin. After independently comparing some prices of goods and services, this seems to be accurate.
Some Videos Showcasing Paraguay/Asuncion
New Year's Eve Paraguay
The Streets Of Asuncion
A Short Film
Latina Showing Off In Asuncion
Driving Tour Of Downtown
...Another Driving Tour Of Downtown
A Walking Tour
Bird's Eye View Of Asuncion (Drone Footage)
Random Facts About Paraguay
Random Facts About Paraguay
Anthony Bourdain: Paraguay
Reasons Why I might choose Asuncion
1) It's unexplored.
I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a motivating factor to do some time in Asuncion. No one seems to go! I want to see what it's like. I mean, it doesn't seem to be that dangerous and third-world. As long as I get the Internet thing sorted out, I reckon I could make a go of it.
...plus I could absolutely dominate the Google rankings for "Asuncion" on my blog.
The fact that it's so easy to get residency here without having to actually live in Paraguay (I think you just have to visit once every three years) is pretty fucking cool. It's a mere two hour flight to both Sao Paulo and Buenos Aires. If Asuncion doesn't turn out to be an utter shit hole, it would be nice to live in a country longterm without the need to border hop and have quick and easy access to Brazil and Argentina.
3) The Economy.
The economy of Paraguay is said to be where Colombia was 10 years ago. And it's growing fast. In fact, it's one of the fasting growing economies in Latin America. And president Horacio Cartes is right-wing and very business-friendly (Paraguay's 10% corporate tax rate is among the lowest in Latin America). If Paraguay continues to draw foreign investment it could very well drag itself out of the backwater. As a tourist, you probably couldn't give much of a fuck about the local economy, but if you're thinking about investing or establishing connections in an up and coming economy, Paraguay seems a solid choice at the moment.
As I'm getting older, I can feel myself getting a bit more frustrated with massive Latin American cities. The noise, the pollution and the fact that many parts of them look like cookie-cutter versions of American cities. Maybe Asuncion can offer a nice balance.
I'm sure pollution and noise will be just as bad, but a man can dream...
I'm still somewhat of a dirtbag. Women do play a role, albeit not a huge one, when I consider where I'd like to hang my hat. I dropped a Tinder location pin in Asuncion one time. My small online sample exceeded my every expectation. Maybe not quite as good as Colombia or Argentina, but certainly as good if not better than Mexico. I'm confident that there are more than enough good looking, young women in Asuncion.
Reasons Why I Might Not Choose Asuncion
This is the main reason I wouldn't choose Paraguay. It's in the heart of South America, and there isn't much air traffic to Asuncion. Flights from my city in Canada are very long and very expensive.
My parents are old, retired and living off small pensions. This isn't a place they could come visit me, nor it is a place from which I could easily go visit them. If I had more money, it wouldn't be an issue, but unfortunately I'm not at that point yet. I still have to factor in flight costs when I'm thinking about a place to live. And Asuncion would seriously break the bank.
I hate how dependant I am on the Internet, but it's a fact of life. Without the Internet, I essentially won't have an income. I can get by on a slow connection, but I won't be able to manage if I'm without it for days at a time. I haven't yet been able to get much information on just how bad things are in this respect, but from what I've read the Internet seriously sucks here. This alone could mean that Paraguay simply isn't an option for me right now.
I'm not going to bullshit. I like a certain level of infrastructure. I enjoy nice roads, sidewalks and parks. The YouTube videos and pictures I've come across don't paint a very rosy picture. I think I could handle the lack of development in Asuncion - I'd be sure to get a place in a nice area - but it appears to be right on the border of what I'd be willing to put up with.
Also, logistics. I've read that many good nightlife spots are spread out and/or located far away from downtown, and I've also read that taxis cost a fortune. I wouldn't have a car here and I'm going to assuming public transit is pretty bad, so this could make going out more expensive.
This is a big question mark. I can't seem to get a handle on how bad the security situation here is here. Some say it's perfectly safe, others say that every tourist will get robbed at some point. I've accepted the fact that I won't know until if/when I arrive, so I won't let it concern me too much. But I'd be rattled if this isn't the kind of city where you can walk around without feeling like a potential victim of crime.
Cities of 500,000 people can get boring fast. Although Asuncion is a capital city, we have to remember that this is Paraguay, and there probably isn't too much shit going on. Expat groups on the Internet reveal that most foreigners living here are older. Facebook suggests that young locals are just trying to get the fuck out. I'm not the type of person that gets bored easy - I can usually find something to do or something to work on...but I have a funny feeling that Asuncion could test me in this regard.
As you can probably tell, I'm wary. Everything is telling me that trying to do a 3 to 6 month stint in Asuncion is one of the worst ideas I've ever had. But I can't seem to shake it. I know that if I don't do it soon, I'll probably move semi-permanently to a more developed county in LATAM and never, ever get around to it.
So...should I do it?
Until next time,
PS: If any reader is looking to drop off the map for awhile and check out Asuncion, hit me up - it might just be the push I need.